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History of the United States

1492 - 2022

History of the United States

Words: nono umasy

The European colonization of the Americas began in the late 15th century, however most colonies in what would later become the United States were settled after 1600. By the 1760s, the thirteen British colonies contained 2.5 million people and were established along the Atlantic Coast east of the Appalachian Mountains. After defeating France, the British government imposed a series of taxes, including the Stamp Act of 1765, rejecting the colonists' constitutional argument that new taxes needed their approval. Resistance to these taxes, especially the Boston Tea Party in 1773, led to Parliament issuing punitive laws designed to end self-government. Armed conflict began in Massachusetts in 1775.


In 1776, in Philadelphia, the Second Continental Congress declared the independence of the colonies as the "United States". Led by General George Washington, it won the Revolutionary War. The peace treaty of 1783 established the borders of the new nation. The Articles of Confederation established a central government, but it was ineffectual at providing stability as it could not collect taxes and had no executive officer. A convention wrote a new Constitution that was adopted in 1789 and a Bill of Rights was added in 1791 to guarantee inalienable rights. With Washington as the first president and Alexander Hamilton his chief adviser, a strong central government was created. Purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 doubled the size of the United States.


History of the United States Timeline




1492 Jan 1 - 1776

Colonial history of the United States

New England, USA

Colonial history of the United States


The colonial history of the United States covers the history of European colonization of North America from the early 17th century until the incorporation of the Thirteen Colonies into the United States of America, after the War of Independence. In the late 16th century, England, France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic launched major colonization programs in North America. The death rate was very high among early immigrants, and some early attempts disappeared altogether, such as the English Lost Colony of Roanoke. Nevertheless, successful colonies were established within several decades.


European settlers came from a variety of social and religious groups, including adventurers, farmers, indentured servants, tradesmen, and a very few from the aristocracy. Settlers included the Dutch of New Netherland, the Swedes and Finns of New Sweden, the English Quakers of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English Puritans of New England, the English settlers of Jamestown, Virginia, the English Catholics and Protestant Nonconformists of the Province of Maryland, the "worthy poor" of the Province of Georgia, the Germans who settled the mid-Atlantic colonies, and the Ulster Scots of the Appalachian Mountains. These groups all became part of the United States when it gained its independence in 1776. Russian America and parts of New France and New Spain were also incorporated into the United States at later times. The diverse colonists from these various regions built colonies of distinctive social, religious, political, and economic style.


Over time, non-British colonies East of the Mississippi River were taken over and most of the inhabitants were assimilated. In Nova Scotia, however, the British expelled the French Acadians, and many relocated to Louisiana. No civil wars occurred in the Thirteen Colonies. The two chief armed rebellions were short-lived failures in Virginia in 1676 and in New York in 1689–91. Some of the colonies developed legalized systems of slavery, centered largely around the Atlantic slave trade. Wars were recurrent between the French and the British during the French and Indian Wars. By 1760, France was defeated and its colonies were seized by Britain.


On the eastern seaboard, the four distinct English regions were New England, the Middle Colonies, the Chesapeake Bay Colonies (Upper South), and the Southern Colonies (Lower South). Some historians add a fifth region of the "Frontier", which was never separately organized. A significant percentage of the native Americans living in the eastern region had been ravaged by disease before 1620, possibly introduced to them decades before by explorers and sailors (although no conclusive cause has been established).


1513 Jan 1

Spanish Florida

Florida, USA

Spanish Florida
Spanish Florida
Spanish Florida


Spanish Florida was established in 1513, when Juan Ponce de León claimed peninsular Florida for Spain during the first official European expedition to North America. This claim was enlarged as several explorers (most notably Pánfilo Narváez and Hernando de Soto) landed near Tampa Bay in the mid-1500s and wandered as far north as the Appalachian Mountains and as far west as Texas in largely unsuccessful searches for gold. The presidio of St. Augustine was founded on Florida's Atlantic coast in 1565; a series of missions were established across the Florida panhandle, Georgia, and South Carolina during the 1600s; and Pensacola was founded on the western Florida panhandle in 1698, strengthening Spanish claims to that section of the territory.


Spanish control of the Florida peninsula was much facilitated by the collapse of native cultures during the 17th century. Several Native American groups (including the Timucua, Calusa, Tequesta, Apalachee, Tocobaga, and the Ais people) had been long-established residents of Florida, and most resisted Spanish incursions onto their land. However, conflict with Spanish expeditions, raids by the Carolina colonists and their native allies, and (especially) diseases brought from Europe resulted in a drastic decline in the population of all the indigenous peoples of Florida, and large swaths of the peninsula were mostly uninhabited by the early 1700s. During the mid-1700s, small bands of Creek and other Native American refugees began moving south into Spanish Florida after having been forced off their lands by South Carolinan settlements and raids. They were later joined by African-Americans fleeing slavery in nearby colonies. These newcomers – plus perhaps a few surviving descendants of indigenous Florida peoples – eventually coalesced into a new Seminole culture.


1524 Jan 1

French colonization of the Americas

Gaspé Peninsula, La Haute-Gasp

French colonization of the Americas
Portrait of Jacques Cartier by Théophile Hamel, arr. 1844
French colonization of the Americas


France began colonizing the Americas in the 16th century and continued on into the following centuries as it established a colonial empire in the Western Hemisphere. France established colonies in much of eastern North America, on a number of Caribbean islands, and in South America. Most colonies were developed to export products such as fish, rice, sugar, and furs. The first French colonial empire stretched to over 10,000,000 km2 at its peak in 1710, which was the second largest colonial empire in the world, after the Spanish Empire.As they colonized the New World, the French established forts and settlements that would become such cities as Quebec and Montreal in Canada; Detroit, Green Bay, St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, Mobile, Biloxi, Baton Rouge and New Orleans in the United States; and Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haïtien (founded as Cap-Français) in Haiti, Cayenne in French Guiana and São Luís (founded as Saint-Louis de Maragnan) in Brazil.


1602 Jan 1

Dutch colonization of the North America

New York, NY, USA

Dutch colonization of the North America
Purchase of the Island of Mannahatta for $24 1626
Dutch colonization of the North AmericaDutch colonization of the North America


In 1602, the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands chartered a young and eager Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or "VOC") with the mission of exploring North America's rivers and bays for a direct passage through to the Indies. Along the way, Dutch explorers were charged to claim any uncharted areas for the United Provinces, which led to several significant expeditions and, over time, Dutch explorers founded the province of New Netherland. By 1610, the VOC had already commissioned English explorer Henry Hudson who, in an attempt to find the Northwest Passage to the Indies, discovered and claimed for the VOC parts of the present-day United States and Canada. Hudson entered the Upper New York Bay by sailboat, heading up the Hudson River, which now bears his name.


Like the French in the north, the Dutch focused their interest on the fur trade. To that end, they cultivated contingent relations with the Five Nations of the Iroquois to procure greater access to key central regions from which the skins came.


The Dutch encouraged a kind of feudal aristocracy over time, to attract settlers to the region of the Hudson River, in what became known as the system of the Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions. Further south, a Swedish trading company that had ties with the Dutch tried to establish its first settlement along the Delaware River three years later. Without resources to consolidate its position, New Sweden was gradually absorbed by New Holland and later in Pennsylvania and Delaware.


The earliest Dutch settlement was built around 1613, and consisted of a number of small huts built by the crew of the "Tijger" (Tiger), a Dutch ship under the command of Captain Adriaen Block, which had caught fire while sailing on the Hudson. Soon after, the first of two Fort Nassaus was built, and small factorijen or trading posts went up, where commerce could be conducted with the Algonquian and Iroquois population, possibly at Schenectady, Esopus, Quinnipiac, Communipaw, and elsewhere.


1607 Jan 1 - 1630

Early British Colonization

Jamestown, VA, USA

Early British Colonization
Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America, was established during the reign of King James I of England
Early British Colonization


The British colonization of the Americas was the history of establishment of control, settlement, and colonization of the continents of the Americas by England, Scotland and, after 1707, Great Britain. Colonization efforts began in the late 16th century with failed attempts by England to establish permanent colonies in the North. The first permanent English colony was established in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. Approximately 30,000 Algonquian peoples lived in the region at the time. Over the next several centuries more colonies were established in North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Though most British colonies in the Americas eventually gained independence, some colonies have opted to remain under Britain's jurisdiction as British Overseas Territories.


1620 Jan 1 - 1640

Puritan migration to New England

New England, USA

Puritan migration to New England
Pilgrims Going to Church by George Henry Boughton (1867)


The Puritan migration to New England was marked in its effects from 1620 to 1640, declining sharply afterwards. The term Great Migration usually refers to the migration in the period of English Puritans to Massachusetts and the Caribbean, especially Barbados. They came in family groups rather than as isolated individuals and were mainly motivated for freedom to practice their beliefs.


1638 Jan 1 - 1655

New Sweden

Fort Christina Park, East 7th

New Sweden
New Sweden
New SwedenNew Sweden


New Sweden was a Swedish colony along the lower reaches of the Delaware River in the United States from 1638 to 1655, established during the Thirty Years' War when Sweden was a great military power. New Sweden formed part of the Swedish efforts to colonize the Americas. Settlements were established on both sides of the Delaware Valley in the region of Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, often in places where Swedish traders had been visiting since about 1610. Fort Christina in Wilmington, Delaware, was the first settlement, named after the reigning Swedish monarch. The settlers were Swedes, Finns, and a number of Dutch. New Sweden was conquered by the Dutch Republic in 1655 during the Second Northern War and incorporated into the Dutch colony of New Netherland.


1754 May 28 - 1763 Feb 10

French and Indian War

North America

French and Indian War
A British expedition sent to invade Canada was repulsed by the French at the Battle of Carillon in July 1758.
French and Indian WarFrench and Indian WarFrench and Indian War


The French and Indian War (1754–1763) was a theater of the Seven Years' War, which pitted the North American colonies of the British Empire against those of the French, each side being supported by various Native American tribes. At the start of the war, the French colonies had a population of roughly 60,000 settlers, compared with 2 million in the British colonies. The outnumbered French particularly depended on their native allies.


Two years into the French and Indian War, in 1756, Great Britain declared war on France, beginning the worldwide Seven Years' War. Many view the French and Indian War as being merely the American theater of this conflict.


1765 Mar 22 - 1784 Jan 12

American Revolution

New England, USA

The Revolutionary War | ©American Battlefield Trust
American RevolutionAmerican RevolutionAmerican RevolutionAmerican Revolution


The American Revolution was an ideological and political revolution that occurred in British America between 1765 and 1791. The Americans in the Thirteen Colonies formed independent states that defeated the British in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), gaining independence from the British Crown, establishing the constitution that created the United States of America, the first modern constitutional liberal democracy.


1781 Jan 1 - 1789

Confederation period

United States

Confederation period
The 1787 Constitutional Convention by Junius Brutus Stearns, 1856.


The Confederation period was the era of United States history in the 1780s after the American Revolution and prior to the ratification of the United States Constitution. In 1781, the United States ratified the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union and prevailed in the Battle of Yorktown, the last major land battle between British and American Continental forces in the American Revolutionary War. American independence was confirmed with the 1783 signing of the Treaty of Paris. The fledgling United States faced several challenges, many of which stemmed from the lack of a strong national government and unified political culture. The period ended in 1789 following the ratification of the United States Constitution, which established a new, more powerful, national government.


1788 Jan 1 - 1800

Federalist Era

United States

Federalist Era
President George Washington


The Federalist Era in American history ran from 1788 to 1800, a time when the Federalist Party and its predecessors were dominant in American politics. During this period, Federalists generally controlled Congress and enjoyed the support of President George Washington and President John Adams. The era saw the creation of a new, stronger federal government under the United States Constitution, a deepening of support for nationalism, and diminished fears of tyranny by a central government. The era began with the ratification of the United States Constitution and ended with the Democratic-Republican Party's victory in the 1800 elections.


1801 Jan 1 - 1817

Jeffersonian democracy

United States

Jeffersonian democracy
Jefferson's thoughts on limited government were influenced by the 17th century English political philosopher John Locke (pictured)


Jeffersonian democracy, named after its advocate Thomas Jefferson, was one of two dominant political outlooks and movements in the United States from the 1790s to the 1820s. The Jeffersonians were deeply committed to American republicanism, which meant opposition to what they considered to be artificial aristocracy, opposition to corruption, and insistence on virtue, with a priority for the "yeoman farmer", "planters", and the "plain folk". They were antagonistic to the aristocratic elitism of merchants, bankers, and manufacturers, distrusted factory workers, and were on the watch for supporters of the Westminster system.


The term was commonly used to refer to the Democratic-Republican Party (formally named the "Republican Party"), which Jefferson founded in opposition to the Federalist Party of Alexander Hamilton. At the beginning of the Jeffersonian era, only two states (Vermont and Kentucky) had established universal white male suffrage by abolishing property requirements. By the end of the period, more than half of the states had followed suit, including virtually all of the states in the Old Northwest. States then also moved on to allowing white male popular votes for presidential elections, canvassing voters in a more modern style. Jefferson's party, known today as the Democratic–Republican Party, was then in full control of the apparatus of government – from the state legislature and city hall to the White House.


1803 Jul 4

Louisiana Purchase

Louisiana, USA

Louisiana Purchase
Flag raising in the Place d'Armes of New Orleans, marking the transfer of sovereignty over French Louisiana to the United States, December 20, 1803, as depicted by Thure de Thulstrup
Louisiana PurchaseLouisiana PurchaseLouisiana Purchase


The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition of the territory of Louisiana by the United States from the French First Republic in 1803. In return for fifteen million dollars, or approximately eighteen dollars per square mile, the United States nominally acquired a total of 828,000 sq mi (2,140,000 km2; 530,000,000 acres). However, France only controlled a small fraction of this area, most of it inhabited by Native Americans; for the majority of the area, what the United States bought was the "preemptive" right to obtain "Indian" lands by treaty or by conquest, to the exclusion of other colonial powers. The total cost of all subsequent treaties and financial settlements over the land has been estimated to be around 2.6 billion dollars.


The Kingdom of France had controlled the Louisiana territory from 1699 until it was ceded to Spain in 1762. In 1800, Napoleon, the First Consul of the French Republic, regained ownership of Louisiana as part of a broader project to re-establish a French colonial empire in North America. However, France's failure to put down a revolt in Saint-Domingue, coupled with the prospect of renewed warfare with the United Kingdom, prompted Napoleon to consider selling Louisiana to the United States. Acquisition of Louisiana was a long-term goal of President Thomas Jefferson, who was especially eager to gain control of the crucial Mississippi River port of New Orleans. Jefferson tasked James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston with purchasing New Orleans. Negotiating with French Treasury Minister François Barbé-Marbois (who was acting on behalf of Napoleon), the American representatives quickly agreed to purchase the entire territory of Louisiana after it was offered. Overcoming the opposition of the Federalist Party, Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison persuaded Congress to ratify and fund the Louisiana Purchase.


The Louisiana Purchase extended United States sovereignty across the Mississippi River, nearly doubling the nominal size of the country. At the time of the purchase, the territory of Louisiana's non-native population was around 60,000 inhabitants, of whom half were enslaved Africans. The western borders of the purchase were later settled by the 1819 Adams–Onís Treaty with Spain, while the northern borders of the purchase were adjusted by the Treaty of 1818 with Britain.


1812 Jun 18 - 1815 Feb 14

War of 1812

North America

War of 1812 | ©Knowledgia
War of 1812War of 1812War of 1812War of 1812War of 1812


The War of 1812 was fought by the United States of America and its indigenous allies against the United Kingdom and its allies in British North America, with limited participation by Spain in Florida. It began when the US declared war on 18 June 1812 and, although peace terms were agreed upon in the December 1814 Treaty of Ghent, did not officially end until the peace treaty was ratified by Congress on 17 February 1815.


1817 Jan 1 - 1825

Era of Good Feelings

United States

The Era of Good Feelings Explained | © Mr. Beat


The Era of Good Feelings marked a period in the political history of the United States that reflected a sense of national purpose and a desire for unity among Americans in the aftermath of the War of 1812. The era saw the collapse of the Federalist Party and an end to the bitter partisan disputes between it and the dominant Democratic-Republican Party during the First Party System. President James Monroe strove to downplay partisan affiliation in making his nominations, with the ultimate goal of national unity and eliminating political parties altogether from national politics. The period is so closely associated with Monroe's presidency (1817–1825) and his administrative goals that his name and the era are virtually synonymous.


1825 Jan 1 - 1849

Jacksonian democracy

United States

Jacksonian democracy
Portrait by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl, c. 1835


Jacksonian democracy was a 19th-century political philosophy in the United States that expanded suffrage to most white men over the age of 21, and restructured a number of federal institutions. Originating with the seventh U.S. president, Andrew Jackson and his supporters, it became the nation's dominant political worldview for a generation. The term itself was in active use by the 1830s.


This era, called the Jacksonian Era or Second Party System by historians and political scientists, lasted roughly from Jackson's 1828 election as president until slavery became the dominant issue with the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act in 1854 and the political repercussions of the American Civil War dramatically reshaped American politics. It emerged when the long-dominant Democratic-Republican Party became factionalized around the 1824 United States presidential election. Jackson's supporters began to form the modern Democratic Party. His political rivals John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay created the National Republican Party, which would afterward combine with other anti-Jackson political groups to form the Whig Party.


Broadly speaking, the era was characterized by a democratic spirit. It built upon Jackson's equal political policy, subsequent to ending what he termed a monopoly of government by elites. Even before the Jacksonian era began, suffrage had been extended to a majority of white male adult citizens, a result which the Jacksonians celebrated. Jacksonian democracy also promoted the strength of the presidency and the executive branch at the expense of the United States Congress, while also seeking to broaden the public's participation in government. The Jacksonians demanded elected, not appointed, judges and rewrote many state constitutions to reflect the new values. In national terms, they favored geographical expansionism, justifying it in terms of manifest destiny. There was usually a consensus among both Jacksonians and Whigs that battles over slavery should be avoided.


Jackson's expansion of democracy was largely limited to European Americans, and voting rights were extended to adult white males only. There was little or no change, and in many cases a reduction of the rights of African Americans and Native Americans during the extensive period of Jacksonian democracy, spanning from 1829 to 1860.


1830 Jan 1 - 1847

Trail of Tears

Fort Gibson, OK, USA

Trail of Tears | ©Weird History
Trail of TearsTrail of TearsTrail of TearsTrail of Tears


The Trail of Tears was a series of forced displacements of approximately 60,000 American Indians of the "Five Civilized Tribes" between 1830 and 1850 by the United States government. Part of the Indian removal, the ethnic cleansing was gradual, occurring over a period of nearly two decades. Members of the so-called "Five Civilized Tribes"—the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations (including thousands of their black slaves)—were forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands in the Southeastern United States to areas to the west of the Mississippi River that had been designated Indian Territory. The forced relocations were carried out by government authorities after the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830. The Cherokee removal in 1838 (the last forced removal east of the Mississippi) was brought on by the discovery of gold near Dahlonega, Georgia, in 1828, resulting in the Georgia Gold Rush.


The relocated peoples suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while en route to their newly designated Indian reserve. Thousands died from disease before reaching their destinations or shortly after. According to Native American activist Suzan Shown Harjo of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, the event constituted a genocide, although this label has been rejected by historian Gary Clayton Anderson.


1846 Apr 25 - 1848 Feb 1

Mexican–American War

Texas, USA

The Mexican-American War | ©Knowledgia
Mexican–American WarMexican–American WarMexican–American WarMexican–American WarMexican–American War


The Mexican–American War was an armed conflict between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848. It followed the 1845 U.S. annexation of Texas, which Mexico considered Mexican territory because it did not recognize the Velasco treaty signed by Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna when he was a prisoner of the Texian Army during the 1836 Texas Revolution. The Republic of Texas was de facto an independent country, but most of its citizens wished to be annexed by the United States. Domestic sectional politics in the U.S. were preventing annexation since Texas would have been a slave state, upsetting the balance of power between Northern free states and Southern slave states. In the 1844 United States presidential election, Democrat James K. Polk was elected on a platform of expanding U.S. territory in Oregon and Texas. Polk advocated expansion by either peaceful means or armed force, with the 1845 annexation of Texas furthering that goal by peaceful means. However, the boundary between Texas and Mexico was disputed, with the Republic of Texas and the U.S. asserting it to be the Rio Grande and Mexico claiming it to be the more-northern Nueces River. Both Mexico and the U.S. claimed the disputed area and sent troops. Polk sent U.S. Army troops to the area; he also sent a diplomatic mission to Mexico to try to negotiate the sale of territory. Mexican forces attacked U.S. forces, and the United States Congress declared war.


1861 Apr 12 - 1865 May 9

American Civil War

United States

The Civil War | © American Battlefield Trust
American Civil WarAmerican Civil WarAmerican Civil WarAmerican Civil War


The American Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 9, 1865; also known by other names) was a civil war in the United States between the Union (states that remained loyal to the federal union, or "the North") and the Confederacy (states that voted to secede, or "the South"). The central cause of the war was the status of slavery, especially the expansion of slavery into territories acquired as a result of the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican–American War. On the eve of the Civil War in 1860, four million of the 32 million Americans (~13%) were enslaved black people, almost all in the South.


The Civil War is one of the most studied and written about episodes in the history of the United States. It remains the subject of cultural and historiographical debate. Of particular interest is the persisting myth of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. The American Civil War was among the earliest to use industrial warfare. Railroads, the telegraph, steamships, the ironclad warship, and mass-produced weapons saw wide use. In total the war left between 620,000 and 750,000 soldiers dead, along with an undetermined number of civilian casualties. The Civil War remains the deadliest military conflict in American history. The technology and brutality of the Civil War foreshadowed the coming World Wars.


1865 Jan 1 - 1877

Reconstruction era

United States

Reconstruction era
Winslow Homer's 1876 painting A Visit from the Old Mistress


The Reconstruction era was a period in American history following the American Civil War (1861–1865); it lasted from 1865 to 1877 and marked a significant chapter in the history of civil rights in the United States. Reconstruction, as directed by Congress, abolished slavery and ended the remnants of Confederate secession in the Southern states. It proclaimed the newly freed slaves (freedmen; black people) citizens with (ostensibly) the same civil rights as those of whites; these rights were nominally guaranteed by three new constitutional amendments: the 13th, 14th, and 15th, collectively known as the Reconstruction Amendments. Reconstruction also refers to the general attempt by Congress to transform the 11 former Confederate states and refers to the role of the Union states in that transformation.


1870 Jan 1 - 1900

Gilded Age

United States

Gilded Age
Sacramento Railroad Station in 1874


In United States history, the Gilded Age was an era extending roughly from 1870 to 1900. It was a time of rapid economic growth, especially in the Northern and Western United States. As American wages grew much higher than those in Europe, especially for skilled workers, and industrialization demanded an ever-increasing unskilled labor force, the period saw an influx of millions of European immigrants.


The rapid expansion of industrialization led to real wage growth of 60% between 1860 and 1890, and spread across the ever-increasing labor force. Conversely, the Gilded Age was also an era of abject poverty and inequality, as millions of immigrants—many from impoverished regions—poured into the United States, and the high concentration of wealth became more visible and contentious.


Railroads were the major growth industry, with the factory system, mining, and finance increasing in importance. Immigration from Europe, and the Eastern United States, led to the rapid growth of the West, based on farming, ranching, and mining. Labor unions became increasingly important in the rapidly growing industrial cities. Two major nationwide depressions—the Panic of 1873 and the Panic of 1893—interrupted growth and caused social and political upheavals.


The "Gilded Age" term came into use in the 1920s and 1930s and was derived from writer Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner's 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, which satirized an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding. The early half of the Gilded Age roughly coincided with the mid-Victorian era in Britain and the Belle Époque in France. Its beginning, in the years after the American Civil War, overlaps the Reconstruction Era (which ended in 1877). It was followed in the 1890s by the Progressive Era.


1896 Jan 1 - 1916

Progressive Era

United States

Progressive Era
Manhattan's Little Italy, Lower East Side, circa 1900.


The Progressive Era (1896–1916) was a period of widespread social activism and political reform across the United States of America that spanned the 1890s to World War I. The main objectives of the Progressive movement were addressing problems caused by industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and political corruption. Social reformers were primarily middle-class citizens who targeted political machines and their bosses. By taking down these corrupt representatives in office, a further means of direct democracy would be established. They also sought regulation of monopolies through methods such as trustbusting and corporations through antitrust laws, which were seen as a way to promote equal competition for the advantage of legitimate competitors. They also advocated for new government roles and regulations, and new agencies to carry out those roles, such as the FDA.


1898 Apr 21 - 1898 Aug 10

Spanish–American War

Cuba

The Spanish-American War | © Knowledgia


The Spanish–American War (April 21 – August 13, 1898) was a period of armed conflict between Spain and the United States. Hostilities began in the aftermath of the internal explosion of USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba, leading to United States intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. The war led to the United States emerging predominant in the Caribbean region, and resulted in U.S. acquisition of Spain's Pacific possessions. It led to United States involvement in the Philippine Revolution and later to the Philippine–American War.


The main issue was Cuban independence. Revolts had been occurring for some years in Cuba against Spanish colonial rule. The United States backed these revolts upon entering the Spanish–American War. There had been war scares before, as in the Virginius Affair in 1873. But in the late 1890s, American public opinion swayed in support of the rebellion because of reports of concentration camps set up to control the populace. Yellow journalism exaggerated the atrocities to further increase public fervor and to sell more newspapers and magazines.


The defeat and loss of the Spanish Empire's last remnants was a profound shock to Spain's national psyche and provoked a thorough philosophical and artistic reevaluation of Spanish society known as the Generation of '98. The United States meanwhile not only became a major power, but also gained several island possessions spanning the globe, which provoked rancorous debate over the wisdom of expansionism.


1917 Apr 6 - 1918 Nov 8

World War I

Europe

The US in World War I | ©HISTORY
World War IWorld War IWorld War IWorld War IWorld War I


The United States declared war on the German Empire on April 6, 1917, nearly three years after World War I started. A ceasefire and Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918. Before entering the war, the U.S. had remained neutral, though it had been an important supplier to the United Kingdom, France, and the other powers of the Allies of World War I.


The U.S. made its major contributions in terms of supplies, raw material, and money, starting in 1917. American soldiers under General of the Armies John Pershing, Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), arrived at the rate of 10,000 men a day on the Western Front in the summer of 1918. During the war, the U.S. mobilized over 4 million military personnel and suffered the loss of 65,000 men. The war saw a dramatic expansion of the United States government in an effort to harness the war effort and a significant increase in the size of the U.S. Armed Forces.


After a relatively slow start in mobilizing the economy and labor force, by spring 1918, the nation was poised to play a role in the conflict. Under the leadership of President Woodrow Wilson, the war represented the climax of the Progressive Era as it sought to bring reform and democracy to the world. There was substantial public opposition to U.S. entry into the war.


1920 Jan 1 - 1929

Roaring Twenties

United States

The Roaring Twenties | ©Captivating History
Roaring TwentiesRoaring TwentiesRoaring TwentiesRoaring TwentiesRoaring Twenties


The Roaring Twenties, sometimes stylized as Roarin' 20s, refers to the 1920s decade in music and fashion, as it happened in Western society and Western culture. It was a period of economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge in the United States and Europe, particularly in major cities such as Berlin, Buenos Aires, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York City, Paris, and Sydney. In France, the decade was known as the années folles ("crazy years"), emphasizing the era's social, artistic and cultural dynamism. Jazz blossomed, the flapper redefined the modern look for British and American women, and Art Deco peaked. In the wake of the military mobilization of World War I and the Spanish flu, President Warren G. Harding "brought back normalcy" to the United States.


The social and cultural features known as the Roaring Twenties began in leading metropolitan centres and spread widely in the aftermath of World War I. The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was marked by a general feeling of novelty associated with modernity and a break with tradition, through modern technology such as automobiles, moving pictures, and radio, bringing "modernity" to a large part of the population. Formal decorative frills were shed in favour of practicality in both daily life and architecture. At the same time, jazz and dancing rose in popularity, in opposition to the mood of World War I. As such, the period often is referred to as the Jazz Age.


The 20s decade saw the large-scale development and use of automobiles, telephones, films, radio, and electrical appliances in the lives of millions in the Western world. Aviation soon became a business. Nations saw rapid industrial and economic growth, accelerated consumer demand, and introduced significant new trends in lifestyle and culture. The media, funded by the new industry of mass-market advertising driving consumer demand, focused on celebrities, especially sports heroes and movie stars, as cities rooted for their home teams and filled the new palatial cinemas and gigantic sports stadiums. In many major democratic states, women won the right to vote.


1929 Jan 1 - 1941

Great Depression

United States

Great Depression
Unemployed men outside a soup kitchen in Chicago, 1931
Great DepressionGreat DepressionGreat DepressionGreat DepressionGreat Depression


In the United States, the Great Depression began with the Wall Street Crash of October 1929. The stock market crash marked the beginning of a decade of high unemployment, poverty, low profits, deflation, plunging farm incomes, and lost opportunities for economic growth as well as for personal advancement. Altogether, there was a general loss of confidence in the economic future.


The usual explanations include numerous factors, especially high consumer debt, ill-regulated markets that permitted overoptimistic loans by banks and investors, and the lack of high-growth new industries. These all interacted to create a downward economic spiral of reduced spending, falling confidence and lowered production. Industries that suffered the most included construction, shipping, mining, logging and agriculture (compounded by dust-bowl conditions in the heartland). Also hard hit was the manufacturing of durable goods like automobiles and appliances, whose purchase consumers could postpone. The economy hit bottom in the winter of 1932–1933; then came four years of growth until the recession of 1937–1938 brought back high levels of unemployment.


The Depression also resulted in an increase of emigration for the first time in American history. Some immigrants went back to their native countries, and some native U.S. citizens went to Canada, Australia and South Africa. There were mass migrations of people from badly hit areas in the Great Plains (the Okies) and the South to places such as California and the cities of the North (the Great Migration). Racial tensions also increased during this time. By the 1940s, immigration had returned to normal, and emigration declined.


1941 Dec 7 - 1945 Aug 15

World War II

Europe

World War II
American troops approaching Omaha Beach
World War IIWorld War IIWorld War IIWorld War II


The military history of the United States in World War II covers the victorious Allied war against the Axis Powers, starting with the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. During the first two years of World War II, the United States had maintained formal neutrality as made official in the Quarantine Speech delivered by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, while supplying Britain, the Soviet Union, and China with war materiel through the Lend-Lease Act which was signed into law on 11 March 1941, as well as deploying the US military to replace the British forces stationed in Iceland. Following the "Greer incident" Roosevelt publicly confirmed the "shoot on sight" order on 11 September 1941, effectively declaring naval war on Germany and Italy in the Battle of the Atlantic. In the Pacific Theater, there was unofficial early US combat activity such as the Flying Tigers.


During the war some 16,112,566 Americans served in the United States Armed Forces, with 405,399 killed and 671,278 wounded. There were also 130,201 American prisoners of war, of whom 116,129 returned home after the war.


The war in Europe involved aid to Britain, her allies, and the Soviet Union, with the US supplying munitions until it could ready an invasion force. US forces were first tested to a limited degree in the North African Campaign and then employed more significantly with British Forces in Italy in 1943–45, where US forces, representing about a third of the Allied forces deployed, bogged down after Italy surrendered and the Germans took over. Finally the main invasion of France took place in June 1944, under General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Meanwhile, the US Army Air Forces and the British Royal Air Force engaged in the area bombardment of German cities and systematically targeted German transportation links and synthetic oil plants, as it knocked out what was left of the Luftwaffe post Battle of Britain in 1944. Being invaded from all sides, it became clear that Germany would lose the war. Berlin fell to the Soviets in May 1945, and with Adolf Hitler dead, the Germans surrendered.


1947 Mar 12 - 1991 Dec 26

Cold War

Europe

Cold War
With her brother on her back, a Korean girl trudges by a stalled American M46 Patton tank, at Haengju, South Korea, 1951


Following World War II, the United States emerged as one of the two dominant superpowers, the Soviet Union being the other. The U.S. Senate on a bipartisan vote approved U.S. participation in the United Nations (UN), which marked a turn away from the traditional isolationism of the U.S. and toward increased international involvement.


The primary American goal of 1945–1948 was to rescue Europe from the devastation of World War II and to contain the expansion of Communism, represented by the Soviet Union. U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War was built around the support of Western Europe and Japan along with the policy of containment, stopping the spread of communism. The U.S. joined the wars in Korea and Vietnam and toppled left-wing governments in the third world to try to stop its spread.


In 1989, the fall of the Iron Curtain after the Pan-European Picnic and a peaceful wave of revolutions (with the exception of Romania and Afghanistan) overthrew almost all communist governments of the Eastern Bloc. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union itself lost control in the Soviet Union and was banned following an abortive coup attempt in August 1991. This in turn led to the formal dissolution of the USSR in December 1991, the declaration of independence of its constituent republics and the collapse of communist governments across much of Africa and Asia. The United States was left as the world's sole superpower.


1991 Jan 1 - 2020

21st century

United States

21st century
U.S. military aircraft flying over Iraq during the Gulf War


The history of the United States from 1991 to 2008 began after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The dissolution signaled the end of the Cold War and left the U.S. unchallenged as the world's sole superpower. The U.S. took a leading role in military involvement in the Middle East. The U.S. expelled an Iraqi invasion force from Kuwait, a Middle Eastern ally of the U.S., in the Persian Gulf War. On the domestic front, the Democrats won a return to the White House with the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. In the 1994 midterm election, the Republicans won control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Strife between Clinton and the Republicans in Congress initially resulted in a federal government shutdown following a budget crisis, but later they worked together to pass welfare reform, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and a balanced budget. Charges from the Lewinsky scandal led to the 1998 impeachment of Clinton by the House of Representatives but he was later acquitted by the Senate. The U.S. economy boomed in the enthusiasm for high-technology industries in the 1990s until the NASDAQ crashed as the dot-com bubble burst and the early 2000s recession marked the end of the sustained economic growth.


In 2000, Republican George W. Bush was elected president in one of the closest elections in U.S. history. Early in his term, his administration approved education reform and a large across-the-board tax cut aimed at stimulating the economy. Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, the U.S. embarked on the Global War on Terrorism, starting with the 2001 war in Afghanistan. In 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq, deposing Saddam Hussein and resulting in a prolonged conflict that would continue over the course of the decade. The Homeland Security Department was formed and the controversial Patriot Act was passed to bolster domestic efforts against terrorism. In 2006, criticism over the handling of the disastrous Hurricane Katrina (which struck the Gulf Coast region in 2005), political scandals, and the growing unpopularity of the Iraq War helped the Democrats gain control of Congress. Saddam Hussein was later tried, charged for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and executed by hanging. In 2007, President Bush ordered a troop surge in Iraq, which ultimately led to reduced casualties.


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Further Reading



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