After one or two false starts, the eastern seaboard of the present-day United States began to be settled by European colonists from the early 1600s. Eight colonies have now been founded, six of which are English: Virginia (by a company owned by English courtiers and merchants, 1607), Massachusetts (by Purtians seeking freedom to practice their faith, 1620), New Hampshire (by a group of fishermen, 1623; New Hampshire is temporarily controlled by Massachussetts at the moment), Maryland (as a place where Catholics could practice their faith, 1634), Connecticut (an offshoot of Massachusetts, 1635) and Rhode Island (another offshoot of Massachusetts, 1636). There was also one Dutch colony (New Netherlands, founded by Dutch merchants, 1624) and one Swedish (Delaware, 1638, as a trading post). Each colony is governed according to its own principles and under its own laws. The population is increasing rapidly, with most of the “English” colonists coming not only from England, but also from Scotland, Ireland and Germany.
The French have settled in areas of eastern Canadaclick to view Canada 1648AD
The full compliment of 13 original colonies was attained with the founding of New Jersey (by private endeavour, 1660), Pennsylvania (where Quakers and others could enjoy religious freedom, 1682), the Carolinas (as a royal grant to various English noblemen, 1663; later divided into North and South Carolina, 1712), and Georgia (by the British crown as a buffer against Spanish aggression, 1733). The British also took over New York and Delaware from the Dutch (1664 - Delaware had initially been Swedish).
The strategic position of the British colonies was transformed with the elimination of the powerful French threat in the War of 1754-63. Ironically, this served to increase friction between the colonists and the mother-country, which tried to make the colonists contribute more towards the costs of their defence. The resulting protests led in a straight line to the successful War of Independence (1775-83) and the founding of the United States (1781).
Canada is a part of the British empireclick to view Canada 1789AD
The dominating theme of these years has been the westward expansion of the USA, aided by the acquisition from France of vast new lands in the "Louisiana Purchase" of 1804 and the strong, steady migration of settlers into these regions. Land hunger from whites has led to the Federal Government starting to remove Native American peoples to west of the Mississippi (from 1830).
This period has also seen the early stages of industrialization, and a transportation revolution with the construction of thousands of miles of turnpikes, canals and railroads. Most notably, the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 makes a massive contribution to opening up the interior.
The southern states have developed a distinctive economic and social structure, based on the institution of black slavery and the growing of cotton on large plantations. This is causing rising tensions with the much more egalitarian, non-slave states in the north.
Canadians have a measure of self-government, but would like more!click to view Canada 1837AD
The USA has continued to acquire vast new territories, by war and purchase, taking the nation right to the Pacific. The construction of the railroads plays a vital part in this expansion (the transcontinental line is opened in 1869). By 1850, most Native Americans have been relocated west of Mississippi, and as whites encroach across the great river into Indian lands, the conflicts continue, with the US army constantly on alert and in action.
After the 1830s, tensions between the “slave” states in the south and “free” states in the north caused political compromise to break down, and led eventually to a bitter Civil War (1861-5) which convulsed the nation. The North’s victory leads to an end to slavery, but for the south, the Civil War has been followed by a difficult period of reconstruction, which will leave lasting resentments. The southern states have little share in the dramatic economic expansion which the rest of the country experiences.
Canada now has complete self-rule under a federal system of governmentclick to view Canada 1871AD
This period has seen unprecedented industrial expansion. The demand for labour has sucked in millions of new immigrants, and new cities have arisen, and older ones expanding out of all recognition.
Railroad, telegraph and telephone networks now cross the country. An important effect of the railroad is to properly settle the Mid-West, hitherto little more than a staging post to the west coast (where the discovery of gold led to a massive influx of migrants from the late 1840s). Native Americans have continued to be dispossessed of their land, gradually being confined to reservations.
The USA has now acquired an overseas empire. As a result of a short war with Spain (1898), she gained Puerto Rico, the Philippines and a controlling interest in Cuba. Hawaii has also been annexed (1898). The US now has huge influence in Central America, and in 1914, the Panama Canal is opened, with the US controlling the Canal Zone through which it has been cut.
Canada's population and economy has greatly expanded.click to view Canada 1914AD
The USA played an important part in winning World War 1, after which it adopted an isolationist stance towards the rest of the world. At home, the 1920s were years of prosperity, technological advance and continued industrial expansion. These years also saw Prohibition, organized crime and corruption scandals at high levels.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 ushered in the Great Depression. President Roosevelt’s New Deal aimed at relieving poverty, but recovery only really came with the coming of World War 2 (1941-5). The USA played a pivotal role in defeating the Axis powers, and in the post-war years the USA has led the Western nations in the Cold War, meeting the challenge of global communism.
The final two states, Alaska and Hawaii, are added to the Union in 1959.
Canada now has complete independence from Britain.click to view Canada 1960AD
The 1960's and 70's saw the assassination of President Kennedy (1963), the Civil Rights movement and the assassination of Martin Luther King (1968), the Vietnam War (1965-73), the sending of a man to the moon (1969 - one of the most astonishing feats in world history), and the Watergate Scandal (1974).
In the 1980's, President Ronald Reagan escalated the arms race with the Soviet Union, which led directly to the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The US was left as the world’s only superpower. Since the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th 2001, the US has had to realign its foreign policy and defensive stance to meet new threats. As a result, she has found herself at war in distant Afghanistan and Iraq.
Two referendums have been held on independence for Quebec.click to view Canada 2005AD
Hover MAP for summary and tap to zoom. MAP < and > buttons change date. TIMELINE icons jump to date. See below for historical summary.