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USA - History

Native Americans
15111836Spanish America
15241803French America
15581754 English Colonial Period
1754 1776 The Road to Revolution
1776 1800 The New Republic
1800 1850 Westward Expansion
1820 1860 The Irrepressible Conflict
1860 1877 Civil War and Reconstruction
1877 1898 The Gilded Age
1898 1914 The Age of Reform
1914 1932 The Jazz Age
1932 1945 New Deal and World War
1945 1960 The Age of Conformity
1960 1980 The Age of Non-Conformity
1980 2000 The New World Order
2000 The Second Gilded Age

Political history is part of the basic knowledge resident in the United States need, if only as part of their civic education. But more and more college graduates have no idea what Reconstruction is, or how the Constitution was written and why. If some historians are prepared to live with that type of historical illiteracy, other Americans are not.

No other historian in the 19th century did more than George Bancroft (1800-1891) to establish the view of an American “national” history that was both unique and inevitable. A New Englander by birth, Bancroft earned his doctorate in 1820 at the University of Göttingen (in present-day Germany), where he absorbed the philosophical, literary, and historical writings of leading Romantics. Upon his return to the United States, Bancroft attempted to write a comprehensive History of the United States that viewed 19th-century developments such as democracy, capitalism, and centralization as the inevitable outcome of a unique “national spirit”.

Ellen Fitzpatrick's History's Memory: Writing America's Past, 1880-1980, demonstrates that social and cultural history, including the history of minorities and women, and even terms such as the new history have been endemic in American historical writing since the late nineteenth century. Always these new initiatives were poised against political history -- and yet it survived.

The entire American history profession is in some turmoil, along with the traditional historiographical "schools" of Progressive, Consensus, and New Left. The 1990s job crunch, the rise of a new professional organization, The Historical Society, as a viable rival to the venerable American Historical Association, and the seeming rejection of the "New Left" and "Linguistic Turn" paradigm that had dominated historiography since the late 1960s, in addition to the tremendous technological changes daily changing the face of research, writing, and teaching, all forebode a major restructuring of the entire discipline.

The first inhabitants of continental North America arrived after the ice age from Asia across what is now the Bering Strait. These nomadic hunters eventually settled and developed into distinct groups. Their descendants were Native American cultures such as the Pueblos in the South West, Navajo in Arizona, Apache in Texas, Cherokee in North Carolina, Crow in Montana and Mohawk and Iroquois in New York State.

Norse explorers were the first Europeans to reach North America in the 10th century, establishing a settlement in Newfoundland. But it was Columbus who took the credit for the discovery of America in 1492. His arrival sparked a series of European visitors, including the Spanish, French, Dutch and British and the first settlement was set up by the Spanish at St Augustine in Florida in 1565.

The British presence in North America began with Walter Raleigh's Atlantic Coast explorations in the late 16th century, and in 1607 the first permanent colony was established by the Virginia Company at Jamestown, Virginia. In 1620 the English Puritan Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts in their boat, The Mayflower. The Puritans wanted to establish a new society free from religious persecution and drew up the Mayflower Compact, a declaration of self-government. Shortly after, in 1629, another Puritan colony was set up in Boston.

By the mid 18th century, the inhabited parts of North America were largely divided between the French, the British and the Spanish. The French were effectively removed from the equation by the British during the French and Indian War, but victory had a high price, and England attempted to recoup its war costs by raising taxes levied on the colonies.

Violent demonstrations and boycotts by the colonists stamped out many of the unpopular taxes, but the British continued to charge a levy on tea. The colonies began to turn back shipments or refuse to distribute them and the protests reached their height in 1773 with the Boston Tea Party, when a cargo of tea was dumped in the sea. The revolutionary war began in 1775 in Concord, Massachusetts, when colonials fired on British troops searching for a hidden colonial weapons cache. In the middle of the war, the Articles of Confederation were drawn up to unite the states and Declaration of Independence was signed by all 13 colonial representatives on 4th July 1776, thenceforth known as Independence Day.

The colonists won the revolutionary war in 1781 and the new United States Constitution was written in 1786 and ratified a year later. During the 19th century the country expanded through a combination of land purchases, conflicts and negotiations that created a number of new states. However, tensions developed as the north and south grew further apart, with the Northern States abolishing slavery, while the Southern States continued their support of slave labor. The Northern States claimed victory in the American Civil War which ended in 1865, slavery was abolished and the South lay in tatters. For the next 50 years, America steamed ahead into the industrial age, with a massive growth in its economy and population. Hawaii was annexed in 1898, thus bringing together the 50 states of the USA.

The growth of this country occurred around a series of violent upheavals and that each one has thrust the nation forward. The Boston Tea Party was an attempt by a few to alter an oppressive system of taxation without representation. The validation of these men rested on their attempts to effect needed social change. If the Boston Tea Party is viewed historically as a legitimate method of producing such change, then later-day militancy, whether by blacks or students, can claim a similar legitimacy.


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Page last modified: 16-01-2022 21:00:14 ZULU