The first European attempt to exploit North America was when the London Company sent out its expedition to begin colonizing Virginia on December 20, 1606.
Meanwhile, Basque, English, and French fishing fleets became regular visitors to the coasts from Newfoundland to Cape Cod. Some of these fishing fleets set up camps on the coasts to trade with local Indians, exchanging furs for manufactured goods. For the next two decades, Europeans’ presence in North America was limited to these incursions.
In the 1580s, the English tried to plant a permanent colony on Roanoke Island (on the the coast of present-day North Carolina), but their effort did not last.
In the early 1600s, in rapid succession, the English began a colony (Jamestown) in Chesapeake Bay in 1607, the French built Quebec in 1608, and the Dutch began their interest in the region that is now New York.
Afterwards, English, French and Dutch trade companies began to send thousands of colonists, including families, to North America. The interest in North America started to mean contest among European powers to exploit these lands.
The European colonization and settlement of North America was an invasion of territory where Native Americans had been living for centuries. Indian groups perceived the Europeans’ arrival as an intrusion and tried to resist that invasion. But they were then defeated and chased both because of European diseases and of superior force of arms.
The third group of people that must be considered that played an active role in the European invasion is the Africans..
From the very beginning, Europeans had problems in their attempts to establish colonies because of the lack of labourers to do the hard work of colony-building.
The process of European colonization of America was a complex one, as the members of these very diverse peoples confronted situations that they had not chosen.
Until the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, colonists in British America obtained many benefits from the British imperial system at low costs. Indeed, until the early 1760s, the British mostly left their American colonies alone. The victory of the English in the Seven Years’ War (known in America as the French and Indian War) cost a lot: a great war debt influenced British policy in colonies over the next decade. The English reinforced tax laws, and placed troops in America. This situation led directly to conflict with colonists and , by the mid-1770s, relations between Americans and the British administration had become tense and hostile.
The so called American independence burst out in April 1775. General Thomas Gage, commander of British forces around Boston was cautious; he did not wish to provoke the Americans. In April, however, Gage received orders to arrest several patriot leaders near Lexington.
When the British arrived in Lexington, however, colonial militia were waiting for them. American opinion was split: some wanted to declare independence immediately; others hoped for a quick reconciliation.
In June 1775, the Continental Congress created, on paper, a Continental Army and appointed George Washington as Commander. Washington’s first task, when he arrived in Boston, was to create an army in fact.
During the first two years of the Revolutionary War, most of the fighting between the patriots and British took place in the north. At first, the British generally showed their superiority on the sea until France signed treaties of alliance and commerce with the United States.
Between 1778 and 1781, British military operations focused on the south because the British thought that a large percentage of Southerners could help them submit the other part ofthe new continent. The Americans and their French allies together defeated the British in Yorktown
The Americans and British signed the final treaty, known as the Peace of Paris, on September 10, 1783. The treaty was generally quite favourable to America in terms of national boundaries and other concessions.
Even so, British violations of the agreement would become an almost constant source of irritation between the two nations far into the future
After winning their independence, Americans governed themselves under the Articles of Confederation. Bur some influential groups found the Confederation government inadequate. Representatives of these groups came together in Philadelphia to create a newer form of government, a new constitution. The ratification of the document produced many disagreements as not all Americans embraced this new Constitution.
However, the Constitution was ratified, and the Americans once again turned to George Washington for leadership, this time as President of the new republic.
Under the presidency of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) America nearly doubled its size by purchasing the Louisiana Territory from France.
Jefferson’s successor as President, James Madison (1809-1817), one of authors of the constitution, led the new nation through another war with Great Britain. This, of course, was the unpopular War of 1812. This war ended in 1815 and established the role of America in the world.
Americans began to develop a culture and way of life that was truly their own and no longer that of mere colonials.
During this period, the small republic founded by George Washington’s generation became the world’s largest democracy. All adult, white males received the right to vote. The period also saw the emergence of a number of significant political parties, including the Democratic, the Whig, the American, the Free Soil, and the Republican Parties.
Meanwhile, the young republic expanded geographically from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Texas, Oregon, California, and the Southwest became part of the Union. This new expansion, on one hand, gave many white settlers new opportunities in the West; on the other hand their settlement displaced other groups including Indian tribes and Mexicans. In addition, territorial expansion increased the number of African-American slaves and subsequently led to the conflict between North and South.
Democracy and territorial expansion focussed most Americans’ attention on social reforms such as the creation of public school systems, the improvement of the treatment of prisoners, the insane, and the poor, the abolition of slavery, and the request of equal rights for women.
The political climate supporting reform declined in the 1850s, as conflict grew between the North and South over the slavery question.
In 1861, the United States faced their first great crisis. The North had become increasingly industrial and commercial while the South had remained largely agricultural.
More important than these differences, however, was African-American slavery.
Northerners generally wanted to limit the spread of slavery; some wanted to abolish it altogether. Southerners generally wanted to maintain and even expand the institution. Thus, slavery became the focal point of a political crisis.
When the Republican Abraham Lincoln became president in 1860, 11 southern states seceded from the Federal Union in 1861. They wanted to establish an independent Confederacy of states in which slavery would be maintained. Northern Unionists, on the other hand, were ready to use military force to keep the South in the Union.
The result was a costly and bloody civil war.
After four years of fighting, the Union was restored through the force of arms. As most of the war was fought in the South, the region was devastated physically and economically.
The most immediate and difficult problems were to help ex-slaves and to create state governments loyal to the Union
In the decades following the Civil War, the United States emerged as an industrial giant. Old industries expanded and many new ones, including petroleum refining, steel manufacturing, and electrical power, emerged. Railroads expanded significantly, connecting remote parts of the country into a national market economy.
The industrial growth produced a new class of wealthy industrialists, a prosperous middle class and a vastly expanded proletarian working class.
Millions of newly arrived immigrants and even larger numbers of migrants from rural areas formed the new labour force.
American society became was radically changing.
Of couse not everyone shared in the economic prosperity of this period. Many workers were unemployed at least part of the year and the wages were relatively low so many workers to support and join labour unions
Farmers had to face hard times as technology and increasing production led to more competition and falling prices for farm products.
Many young people to move to rapidly growing cities in search of better job opportunities.
The industrial revolution radically changed the ways millions of people worked and where they lived.
The early 20th century was an era of business expansion and progressive reform in the United States.
The so called progressives hoped to make the world a more democratic place.
In the U.S. this meant expanding the right to vote to women and a number of election reforms such as the recall, referendum, and direct election of Senators. Abroad, it meant trying to make the world safe for democracy.
In 1917, the United States joined Great Britain and France in their war against autocratic Germany and Austria-Hungary.
In the 1920s, also known as the “roaring twenties” or “the new era,” America continued its economic growth and prosperity. The numeber of immigrants increased along with those of middle class and wealthier Americans. The major growth industry was automobile manufacturing. The automobile radically changed the American way of life.
On the other hand, the 1920s saw the decline of many reforms that had been so widespread after 1900.
The great prosperity of the 1920s ended abruptly with the stock market crash in October 1929 and the great economic depression that followed.
The depression had consequences on people’s jobs, savings, and even their homes and farms. Over one-quarter of the American workers became unemployed.
The New Deal, as the first two terms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency were called, became a time of hope and optimism. Although the economic depression continued throughout the New Deal era, the darkest hours of despair seemed to have passed.
Unfortunately, the economic troubles of the 1930s led to economic instability and consequently to political instability in many parts of the world. This situation gave rise to dictatorial regimes such as Adolf Hitler’s in Germany and the military’s in Japan, totalitarian regimes in the Soviet Union and in Italy.
These regimes pushed the world to war in the 1930s.
When Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, the United States found itself in the war it had tried to avoid for more than two years.
The entry of the United States into World War II cured the depression: millions of men and women joined the armed forces and others went to work in defence jobs causing millions more Americans to move to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts and see place otherwise they could not know.
When World War II ended, the United States was in better economic condition than any other country in the world.
Public policy, like the so-called GI Bill of Rights passed in 1944, provided money for veterans to attend college, to purchase homes, and to buy farms.
Unfortunately groups as African Americans, Hispano Americans, and American women were still excluded from the American Dream and became more aggressive in trying to win their full freedoms and civil rights as guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution during the post-war era.
The post-war world also presented Americans with a number of problems and issues.
By 1948, a new form of international tension had emerged–Cold War–between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies, a war that lasted almost 20 years.
After the United States intervened militarily in Vietnam in the mid-1960s a strident debate among American about the Vietnam War started.
The end of the Vietnam War helped to end debates about that war.
The Iran Hostage Crisis and the failure of the Presidency of Jimmy Carter helped Americans to realize the dangers of the Islamic world and the how dependent they had become on foreign oil.
During Ronald Reagan’s presidency the Cold War saw its end
George Bush moved a war to helped to liberate the nation of Kuwait from the Iraqi aggression in 1990-1991.
President Clinton was the promoter of a successful economy.
As the 21st century was born, the United States came to realize that battling Islamic terrorism, at home and abroad, was their newest raison d’être.