History of America
American History is the name given to the study of all historical events that are related to America and its people. Thus, the History of America encompasses the entire human trajectory on the continent, starting with studies on the arrival of humans to America, passing through the pre-Columbian peoples and their respective characteristics, the colonization of the continent by Europeans and, from the 18th century onwards, addressing particular histories of each country after the independence processes.
By History of America, we understand all historical events directly related to the American continent. Unlike a common vision consolidated among many people, the teaching and study of the History of America comprises the human occupation of the continent, the development of pre-Columbian civilizations (generic name to refer to the civilizations that inhabited America before the arrival of Europeans) , American colonization and its contemporary history.
With the arrival of Europeans from 1492 onwards, the history of the continent moved towards the processes of colonization, which were carried out on the continent by different European nations. England, France, Portugal, Spain, Holland and Russia were the nations that had some colonies on the American continent. These processes gradually ended in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the first nations became independent. From that moment on, each country followed its own story.
America’s human occupation
The occupation of America by humans is a subject hotly debated by historians and archaeologists. There are some theories about how humans settled on the American continent. The first – and most accepted – theory suggests that human occupation took place approximately 15,000 to 25,000 years ago, when humans crossed the Bering Strait – the strait that separates Alaska (USA) and Russia.
This theory suggests that human groups took advantage of the lowering of the oceans and crossed the strait, through a large ice corridor that had appeared there during the period commonly known as the Ice Age. After crossing the Bering Strait, humans spread across the American continent.
Other theories suggest that the occupation of America took place differently. Some historians and archaeologists believe that the occupation took place from navigation in the Pacific Ocean. Others suggest that humans crossed the Atlantic Ocean to reach America.
The development of different civilizations in America is studied from the point of view of human settlement on the continent. These civilizations are commonly known as pre-Columbian peoples, a generic name that uses the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the continent in 1492 as a landmark. Depending on the region where they settled, these peoples may become known as Mesoamericans (from Mesoamerica, Central America) and Andean (from the Andes, South America region).
When it comes to pre-Columbian civilizations, three peoples generally stand out: Incas , Mayans and Aztecs . The first inhabited the Andean region and formed a vast empire that dominated territories ranging from Colombia to northern Chile. The Mayans and the Aztecs were two peoples of Mesoamerica and, like the Incas, were known for their large buildings and a very sophisticated way of life.
America was inhabited by other civilizations, in addition to the three that have been mentioned. Other pre-Columbian peoples were the Zapotecs , Olmecs , Chavín , Guaranis , Toltecs , Moches (or Mochicas), etc.
The arrival of Europeans to America
The establishment of the date of 1492 was agreed as a mark to refer to the arrival of Europeans to the American continent. On October 12, 1492 , Christopher Columbus ‘ expedition arrived at the island of Guanahani, located in the Caribbean, which currently corresponds to the Bahamas.
However, nowadays, historians know that the first Europeans set foot on American soil in the year 1000, therefore, almost 500 years before the arrival of Columbus’ expedition. Viking Age Scandinavians, simply known as Vikings , were in North America around the year 1000 and created short-lived colonies on the continent, the colony of L’Anse aux Meadows in Canada being an example.
From the arrival of Europeans in 1492, the colonization process was progressively organized in the different regions of America. The emphasis is given to Spain, which colonized much of the continent. Spanish colonization took place mainly after the conquest of the Aztecs and Incas. The Spaniards dominated vast territories of North, Central America, the Caribbean and South America.
Subsequently, the English established themselves in North America, with the Thirteen Colonies . They also settled in the Caribbean and South America (Guyana). The French obtained colonies in North America (part of Canada and the United States), in the Caribbean (especially Haiti) and in South America, with French Guiana, which today is an overseas territory of France.
The Dutch held some islands in the Caribbean, in addition to Suriname, and for 24 years they also dominated the Pernambuco region. Finally, the Russians carried out a small colonization of Alaska. Nor can we forget the Portuguese , who colonized the lands that gave rise to our country.
History of Contemporary America
From the 18th century onwards, in the case of the United States and Haiti , and from the 19th century onwards, in other places, the processes of independence took place that put an end to the colonial relations that existed. From that point on, each place on the American continent was organized in a different way, with several relevant facts happening in each place on the American continent.
In the case of the United States, the process of territorial growth of the nation can be highlighted with the “ March to the West ”, which took place throughout the 19th century. A landmark moment in American history throughout the 19th century was the Civil War, also known as the American Civil War . In the case of North American relations with the rest of the continent, the Monroe and Big Stick Doctrines stand out .
In the case of Latin America, subjects such as the Haitian Revolution stand out , in addition to the independence revolutions in Spanish America. As these nations organized, key themes such as the Mexican Revolution , the Sandinista Revolution , the Cuban Revolution , etc.
In the 20th century, the Peronist period is also relevant in the Argentine case. At the height of the Cold War , the military dictatorships that took place in countries such as Argentina, Chile and Uruguay stand out. These regimes were marked by authoritarianism, state terror, censorship, etc. From the 1980s onwards, these nations underwent redemocratization processes. After redemocratization, the existing dictatorships in several American nations were replaced by democratic regimes.