History of the United States
Introduction

The history of the United States is the story of a great nation that was carved out of a wilderness by a brave and freedom-loving people. The men and women who built the United States came from almost every part of the world. They represented many different nationalities, and religions. Through the years, the people and their descendants learned to live and work together, and to take pride in being Americans. This spirit of cooperation and pride helped make the United States the huge, powerful, and wealthy nation it is today. It also helped the country and its people survive many challenges and hardships--including dangers in the wilderness, wars, social turmoil, and economic depressions.

Background

As late as the 1400's, Indians and Eskimos were the only inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere. During the next 200 years, people from several European countries sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to North and South America. Among them were colonists--chiefly British--who settled along the eastern coast of North America between what are now Maine and Georgia. These colonists built up a series of thriving settlements. They lived under British rule for many years. But their dedication to liberty led them to declare their independence and form the United States of America in 1776.

Growth and expansion

The American people dedicated their new nation to the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, and opportunity for all. From the start, the United States welcomed immigrants to its shores. Attracted by the opportunity for freedom and a chance for a better life, new-comers from many lands poured into the United States by the millions. Immigration and natural growth caused the nation's population to mount steadily--from fewer than 3 million people in 1776 to more than 250 million people today.

As the population grew, the American people spread out across North America. Wherever they went, these pioneers worked hard to turn the wilderness into a place where they could earn a living. They formed thriving farms in places where the soil was good. They searched for minerals and other valuable resources, and established towns where they found resources. Cities grew up along the main transportation routes and business and industry prospered there. America's rapid growth made it one of the largest nations in the world in terms of both size and population. The country's bustling economic activity turned it into a land of enormous wealth.

Today, the United States ranks as the world's leading producer of farm products and manufactured goods, and its people have one of the the highest standards of living in the world. The United States also became a world leader in many other fields, including science, medicine, technology, and military strength.

Challenges and hardships

The United States grew and prospered in spite of many challenges and hardships. At the start, the very survival of the new nation was in doubt. The colonists who founded the United States had to defeat the mighty British Empire in the American Revolution to establish their claim to independence. They succeeded despite great odds against them.

Both the colonists and the pioneers who moved westward across the country faced many dangers, including disease, starvation, and attacks by Indians. In the 1860's--less than 100 years after the American Revolution--the survival of the United States was threatened once again. Eleven Southern states withdrew from the Union and tried to establish an independent nation. The tragic, bloody American Civil War between the North and the South followed. The North won the war and the country remained united.

The American ideals of equality and opportunity for all did much to help the United States grow and prosper. Yet the ideals have not always been followed in practice. From colonial times until the end of the American Civil War, many black Americans were slaves. In addition, some Americans have suffered from discrimination in employment and other areas because they were immigrants, or because of their race or religion.

America's economic growth, though amazingly rapid, has not always been smooth. Periodically, severe depressions have brought the economy to a near standstill. At such times, large numbers of Americans lost their jobs and lived in poverty.

During the 1900's, the United States became one of the strongest military powers in the world. As such, it took on the role of defending democracy throughout the world. This role led the United States into two world wars and into other conflicts. During the mid-1900's, many Americans began protesting against their country's military role, while others defended it. The question of what that role should be led to bitter disputes among the people.

Today, as always, the United States faces many problems. They include the existence of poverty amid great wealth, recurring slumps in the economy, disputes over foreign policy, and pollution of the environment. But Americans retain deep pride in their country and the belief and hope that they can overcome their difficulties as their ancestors did.