An American History Overview for Students to Study

An American History Overview for Students to Study
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America the Beautiful

Over the years, America has fought through tough times and basked in the glory of the good times and has now come to be one of the most powerful countries in the world. Americans have a sense of unity that cannot be broken, no matter how many times people, organizations and other countries have tried. This country possesses a certain strength that, while challenged, is never weakened, and we have our founding fathers, explorers, inventors, and government figureheads and military to thank for their efforts.

“America the Beautiful” was not a term coined overnight, however. Men and women fought to make this a wonderful country through many tactics. Battles, wars, conferences, treaties, government hearings, and other events have all shaped our country’s policies and how we live today. Many tragic events have occurred and adversity has been overcome on more than one occasion.

Let’s take a more detailed look at some of the events and happenings that have had a hand in establishing this great nation.

1600-1799: Colonial Times and the Revolutionary War

While we are still not sure who really discovered America - Columbus, Vespucci or the Chinese - we do know that beginning in the 1600s, many more English settlers came to America including the ever popular pilgrims of Plymouth Rock. By 1650, the colonial population reached over 50,000, but fighting broke out between the British and the French over territorial gain in power. The war lasted from 1756-1763 with the British gaining control of Canada and the territory east of the Mississippi.

The years following, there were several incidents causing a power struggle between Great Britain and the thirteen colonies. The Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party and several other violent outcries resulting from levied taxes, eventually led to the beginning of the American Revolution which lasted from 1775-1783. Below you will find information on how the colonies came about, events that led up to and occurred during the Revolutionary War, how the Declaration of Independence came to pass and other colonial era facts.

1800-1899: Westward Expansion, Slavery and the Civil War

The early 1800s were a time for new beginnings for America and therefore the desire to purchase and acquire new land in order to expand was inevitable. With the help of the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark, the Missouri Compromise, and construction of major railroads, America began its westward expansion and the phrase “manifest destiny” was coined. The British, however, were not thrilled with this and still tried to control it, hence the War of 1812. Eventually, through the Monroe Doctrine, European powers were ordered not to interfere with America’s plans going forward. The Mexican War (1846-1868) was also an attempt for the U.S. to claim California and much of the Southwest as their territory.

Beginning in 1831, the idea of slavery was brought to the forefront and rebelled against by many. Nat Turner, William Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Harriet Tubman, whom we have come to know as the women who began the Underground Railroad, were just some of the abolitionists. By 1861, states south of the Mason-Dixon line seceded from the Union creating the Confederacy led by Jefferson Davis. The Union wanted to abolish slavery and the Confederacy didn’t; therefore, the Civil War began and ended with the surrendering of the Confederate Army to the Union. By 1865, slavery was prohibited in the Constitution.

The period after the war was overseen by several presidents and involved continued expansion and acquisition of land further west and north, and is known as the Reconstruction Era as attempts to introduce the once Confederate states to Union policies and continued freedom for African-American former slaves carried on. Following this time period was the Gilded Age where immigrants continued to come over to America, woman’s suffrage was initiated, and many inventions were introduced creating industrialization and economic boom. The Progressive Era began with the Spanish-American War and would set the tone for the rest of the 1900s.

Below you will find several articles addressing some of these events and issues and there is even a quiz to test your knowledge.

1900-Today: World Wars, Economic Struggles, Terrorist Attacks, Scandals and More

The 20th Century was a time for a variety of presidential elections, several wars, a stock market crash, a great economic depression and much rebuilding and economic reconstruction. It was one of the most influential time periods in American history. The U.S. was involved in six major wars including WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam, the Cold War (which was never a true military war of action) and the Persian Gulf War. As a result, America overcame its once position of neutrality and is now seen by the world as a dominating international powerhouse.

In 1914, the United States declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary helping the Allies achieve victory in World War I. In 1929, however, our beloved nation suffered one of its darkest days in history - the stock market crashed and resulted in a loss of more than a quarter of the nation’s job force by 1933 leaving many to deal with famine, unemployment, and homelessness. President Roosevelt’s New Deal enforced price and economic regulations and provided additional support such as job assistance and social security.

Then in 1939, a second world war began and the U.S. became officially involved in 1941 after Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. After the United States drops two atomic bombs on Japan, they finally surrender in 1945. In addition to the wars, several important organizations were created including the FBI, CIA, United Nations and NATO.

In the years to follow, two more wars were fought - The Korean and the Vietnam - both civil wars regarding communism of which the U.S. was involved. The Korean went from 1950-1953 and the Vietnam lasted from 1950-1975, both violent wars with many American casualties. The Cold War itself was really more of a relationship status between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that lasted from approximately 1947-1991 in which the two countries had political conflict and great distrust for one another.

The 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s were a time of great achievements in U.S. history including walking on the moon, the civil rights movement, equal rights for women, developing a diplomatic relationship with China all events initiated by great leaders such as JFK, Rev. Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, Carter, Nixon, and Reagan to name a few.

In 1990, Iraqis invade Kuwait and in 1991, the Persian Gulf War begins with the U.S. military operation called Desert Storm. The rest of the 90s involved presidential scandal, a tragedy in space, riots in LA, and several U.S. bombings that may have been a foreshadowing of more war and economic and national security struggles. Below you will find some information regarding some of these significant historic events.

The 2000s

The 2000s are considered a time of continued war, threatened homeland security, and economic struggles. On September 11th, 2001, the U.S. suffered its attack by foreign terrorists on U.S. soil in the bombings of the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. A national tragedy, this incident led to eventual retaliation attacks against Afghanistan targeting the Taliban and their leader and mastermind behind the attacks - Osama bin Laden. Eventually, many Taliban leaders were taken down, but the hunt for bin Laden continued until U.S. Navy SEALs tracked him down and killed him in 2011. In 2003, President Bush along with Britain waged war with Iraq as he pronounced that the U.S. would not tolerate countries that developed and manifested weapons of mass destruction. Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein was captured in 2003 and tried and sentenced to death by hanging in 2006. U.S. troops remain stationed there to help establish their new democratic government.

In addition to war, the 2000s so far, have endured several tragic hurricanes, including Katrina in New Orleans, another space explosion, a major stock scandal, two major mass shootings, a swine flu epidemic, a major oil spill, and another major stock market plummet in 2008. Here you will find more information on some of these happenings.

What Next?

A travel through time via this American history overview is a great way to help us understand our past and will provide us with insight into our future. What is in store for America’s youth going forward? Considering how far we have come as a nation, it is hopeful that we continue to maintain our stance as a world power while economically achieving prosperity and providing our nation’s citizens with the peace and security needed to live comfortably as once coined by our founding fathers as “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”