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Main Article: Pre-Columbian Era - Native Americans in the United States

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Pre-Columbian eraMain article: Pre-Columbian era

See also: Native Americans in the United States

It is not definitively known how or when the Native Americans first settled the Americas and the present-day United States. The prevailing theory proposes that people migrated from Eurasia across Beringia, a land bridge that connected Siberia to present-day Alaska, and then spread southward throughout the Americas. This migration might have begun as early as 30,000 years ago[1] and continued through to about 10,000 years ago, when the land bridge became submerged by the rising sea level caused by the ending of the last glacial period.[2] These early inhabitants, called Paleoamericans, soon diversified into many hundreds of culturally distinct nations and tribes.

The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during the Early Modern period. While technically referring to the era before Christopher Columbus' voyages of 1492 to 1504, in practice the term usually includes the history of American indigenous cultures until they were conquered or significantly influenced by Europeans, even if this happened decades or even centuries after Columbus' initial landing.

[edit] Colonial period

The Spanish conquistador Coronado explored parts of the American Southwest from 1540 to 1542.Main article: Colonial history of the United States

After a period of exploration by people from various European countries, Spanish, Dutch, English, French, Swedish, and Portuguese settlements were established. In the 16th century, Europeans brought horses, cattle, and hogs to the Americas and, in turn, took back to Europe maize, potatoes, tobacco, beans, and squash. The disease environment was very unhealthy for explorers and early settlers. The Native Americans became exposed to new diseases such as smallpox and measles and died in very large numbers, usually before large-scale European settlement began.

[edit] Spanish, Dutch, and French colonizationSpanish explorers were the first Europeans to arrive in what is now the United States with Christopher Columbus' second expedition, which reached Puerto Rico on November 19, 1493; others reached Florida in 1513.[3] Quickly Spanish expeditions reached the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon[4] and the Great Plains. In 1540, Hernando de Soto undertook an extensive exploration of Southeast. Also in 1540 Francisco Vázquez de Coronado explored from Arizona to central Kansas.[5] The Spanish sent some settlers, creating the first permanent European settlement in the continental United States at St. Augustine, Florida in 1565, but it attracted few permanent settlers. Much larger and more important Spanish settlements included Santa Fe, Albuquerque, San Antonio, Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.[6]

European territorial claims in North America, c. 1750


Kingdom of Great Britain

SpainNew Netherland was the 17th century Dutch colony centered on New York City and the Hudson River Valley, where they traded furs with the Native Americans to the north and were a barrier to Yankee expansion from New England. The Dutch were Calvinists who built the Reformed Church in America, but they were tolerant of other religions and cultures. The colony was taken over by Britain in 1664. It left an enduring legacy on American cultural and political life, including a secular broadmindedness and mercantile pragmatism in the city, a rural traditionalism in the countryside typified by the story of Rip Van Winkle, and politicians such as Martin Van Buren, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt.[7]

New France was the area colonized by France from 1534 to 1763. There were few permanent settlers outside Quebec, but Indian tribes often became military allies in France's wars with Britain. After 1750 the Acadians--French settlers who had been expelled by the British from Acadia (Nova Scotia)--resettled in Louisiana, where they developed a distinctive rural Cajun culture that still exists. They became American citizens in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase.[8] Other French villages along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers were absorbed when the Americans started arriving after 1770.

[edit] British colonizationFurther information: British colonization of the Americas

The Mayflower, which transported Pilgrims to the New World. During the first winter at Plymouth, about half of the Pilgrims died.[9]The strip of land along the eastern seacoast was settled primarily by English colonists in the 17th century, along with much smaller numbers of Dutch and Swedes. Colonial America was defined by a severe labor shortage that employed forms of unfree labor such as slavery and indentured servitude, and by a British policy of benign neglect (salutary neglect) that permitted the development of an American spirit distinct from that of its European founders.[10] Over half of all European immigrants to Colonial America arrived as indentured servants.[11]

The first successful English colony was established in 1607, on the James River at Jamestown. It languished for decades until a new wave of settlers arrived in the late 17th century and established commercial agriculture based on tobacco. Between the late 1610s and the Revolution, the British shipped an estimated 50,000 convicts to their American colonies.[12] One example of conflict between Native Americans and English settlers was the 1622 Powhatan uprising in Virginia, in which Native Americans had killed hundreds of English settlers. The largest conflict between Native Americans and English settlers in the 17th century was King Philip's War in New England,[13] although the Yamasee War may have been bloodier.[14]

New England was initially settled primarily by Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, although there was a small earlier settlement in 1620 by a similar group, the Pilgrims, at Plymouth Colony. The Middle Colonies, consisting of the present-day states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, were characterized by a large degree of diversity. The first attempted English settlement south of Virginia was the Province of Carolina, with Georgia Colony the last of the Thirteen Colonies established in 1733.[15]



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