History does not exist for us until and unless we dig it up, interpret it, and put it together. Then the past comes alive, or, more accurately, it is revealed for what it has always been – a part of the present.
– Frederick W. Turner III, 1971
History is the study of the human past. Historians study records of conditions or events of a particular time and place. The United States of America is at once a very new nation and a very old nation. The first settlers – Asian hunters and nomads – reached North America about 30,000 years ago. However, the United States of America did not come into being until 1776 with the Declaration of Independence. The history of the United States is the story of many different peoples who together compose the United States of America. Since the first Europeans arrived in 1492, millions of people from many different countries have entered the United States and made the country their new home.
The first people to reach North America were Asian hunters and nomads. Following game along the Siberian coast, they crossed the land bridge that connected the two continents about 30,000 to 34,000 years ago.
The Colonial Period
The early 1600s saw the beginning of a great tide of emigration from Europe to North America. Emigration from England often was not directly sponsored by the government but by private groups of individuals whose chief motive was profit.
Revolutionary Period and New Nation (1770s to 1800s)
Although some believe that the history of the American Revolution began long before the first shots were fired in 1775, England and America did not begin an overt parting of the ways until 1763, more than a century and a half after the founding of the first permanent settlement at Jamestown, Virginia.
Slavery, Civil War and Westward Expansion
In the early 19th century, slavery began to assume greater importance as a national issue. In the early years of the republic, many leaders had supposed that slavery would die out.
Growth and Transformation
At the end of the war, the South was a region devastated by war, burdened by debt and demoralized by racial warfare.
War, Prosperity and the Big Crash (1900s to 1929)
The Progressive Era lasted from about 1890 to the outbreak of World War I. In response to the excesses of 19th-century capitalism and political corruption, a reform movement arose called “progressivism.” Almost all the notable figures of the period were connected, at least in part, with the reform movement.
The Great Depression and the New Deal (1929 to 1941)
In October 1929 the stock market crashed, wiping out 40 percent of the paper values of common stock and triggering a worldwide depression.
World War II (1941 – 1945)
Before Roosevelt’s second term was well under way, his domestic program was overshadowed by a new danger little noted by average Americans: the expansionist designs of totalitarian regimes in Japan, Italy and Germany.
On April 25, 1945, representatives of 50 nations met in San Francisco to erect the framework of the United Nations. The U.S. Senate promptly ratified the U.N. Charter by an 89 to 2 vote.
Decades of Change
By 1960 government had become increasingly powerful. The number of civilians employed by the federal government stabilized at 2.5 million throughout the 1950s.
Towards the 21st Century
Shifts in the structure of American society, begun years or even decades earlier, had become apparent by the time the 1980s arrived.
The 21st Century
On January 20, 2001, George Walker Bush took the oath of office to become the 43rd president of the United States, succeeding William Jefferson Clinton and giving the Republican Party control of the White House after two terms of Democratic rule.