Palaeo-Indians migrated to what is now the United States mainland from Asia around 12,000 years ago. They eventually adopted a maize-based agriculture from modern-day Mexico; this supported population growth and specialization in crafts. After European explorers and traders first made contact in the 16th century, the local population greatly declined, mostly due to diseases such as smallpox and measles to which indigenous Americans had no natural immunities.
The first successful British settlement, Jamestown, was founded in 1607 in what is now Virginia. In time, 13 colonies were founded, and numbers were boosted by large-scale immigration from Britain, Ireland and later Germany and other European countries. Slowly the Colonies gained in strength and self-reliance. To pay for the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), which ensured the protection of the colonies from French incursions, the British government raised taxes. A rebellious spirit started to foment, particularly in Boston, a city with a high proportion of Irish immigrants who had not forgotten the often brutal English rule in Ireland. In comparison, however, government in the Thirteen Colonies was not brutal. Despite their stated accusations of ‘tyranny’, American Colonists were treated much better by their home country than those in nearby French and Spanish colonies.
Nevertheless, the rebellion gained ground, and following the Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776, the American Revolution began in earnest. Thanks to substantial aid and military assistance from the French, Spanish and Dutch – and some spectacular blunders by British generals – the colonists eventually forced the British to surrender at Yorktown in 1781. Britain officially recognised the independence of the United States on 3rd September 1783. This was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial empire. The current US Constitution was adopted in 1787; its first ten amendments, collectively known as the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791.
The Declaration of Independence and US Constitution are almost entirely noble documents and have inspired people all over the world. To some extent, while the Europeans were still dreaming of Enlightenment ideals, the Americans were putting them into practice. Millions were attracted by these ideals and by the great opportunities for personal betterment that the newly independent country presented. The guarantees of personal freedoms helped lead to a high degree of integration, which is one of the main factors behind the great success of the country.
Immigration increased exponentially in the 19th century. Initially most immigrants came from Europe, but later from all over the world. This fuelled enormous expansion, economic growth and development. Free of the infrastructural problems that constrained European countries, the US rapidly industrialised and, by the end of the 19th century, had transformed itself into a significant power.
However, 'progress' was granted to some and not others. The country's westward expansion eventually deprived the native Americans of all their lands; nearly all of them lost their lives too. Neither did black Americans see any benefits of the country's great prosperity. The Southern states refused to end slavery, leading to their secession from the USA and the Civil War. After great losses to both sides, The North was victorious in 1865 and slavery was abolished. Nevertheless, ethnic tensions have never been fully resolved and remain to this day.
The United States remained neutral for most of World War I, and by 1918 had overtaken the leading European nations. Its power further increased and, after Europe had immolated itself in another World War, the USA was the greatest power in the world. After 1945, tensions between the USA and the USSR escalated. As the resulting Cold War progressed, the USA's self-appointed role of international moral guardian was increasingly at variance with the facts. Communism was to be contained, no matter what the human cost - almost invariably borne by other nations.
Eventually, when the USSR was disbanded in 1991, the USA was left as the world’s only superpower, and in 2000 the 21st century seemed as likely to be American as the last. However, the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington shook the country's self-confidence, and the reckless borrowing and speculation that led to the 2008 crash reduced its financial might. The increasing influence and commercial strength of China has put paid to notions of US supremacy, though America remains the most powerful country in the world overall.
Coordinates: 40.4230° N, 98.7372° W
Capital: Washington D.C
Capital Coordinates: 38°53'N 77°01'W
Other Main Cities: New York, Chicargo, Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Diago, Dallas
Official Language(s): English
Ethnic Group(s): white 79.96%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61%
Currency: Dollar, $
GDP: $15.685 trillion
Time Zone: (UTC-5 to -10), Summer (DST) (UTC-4 to -10[e])
International Dialling Code: 1
Internet TLD: .us
Electricity Voltage: 120 Volts AC (60HZ)