Introduction

Christopher Columbus is depicted landing in the West Indies, on an island that the natives called Guanahani and he named San Salvador, on October 12, 1492. He raises the royal banner, claiming the land for his Spanish patrons, and stands bareheaded, with his hat at his feet, in honor of the sacredness of the event. The captains of the Niña and Pinta follow, carrying the banner of Ferdinand and Isabella. The crew displays a range of emotions, some searching for gold in the sand. Natives watch from behind a tree. John Vanderlyn (1775-1852) had studied with Gilbert Stuart and was the first American painter to be trained in Paris, where he worked on this canvas for ten years with the help of assistants.
Landing of Columbus

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.

See also:
About the USA > U.S. Government

Abridged from U.S. State Department IIP publications and other U.S. government materials.