US History Overview Part 1

Am casually documenting what I know from/about US History for my own edification…


If I have learned anything about history, it is this – bad things happen.  

Take, for example, the Native Americans.  100 million people had lived for 1000s of years in the Americas.   In 1453, they lived their lives in sophisticated tribal socieites (as they had done for generations since before the kings were building their pyramids in Egypt), not knowing that halfway across the world a young and ambitious Ottomon emperor was sending his armies to sack Constantinople.  When the Ottomons emerged victorious following a brief but bloody battle, and the Europenns would go scurrying across the seas in search of new ways to find their beloved silks and spices.

You see, Constannople sat atop the Spice Routes, a series of trails that joined Asia and its fine goods with Europe and its insatiable kings and queens.  When Constantinople fell into the hands of the Ottomans in 1453 (39 years before Columbus’s journey), they could  — and did — begin charging enormous fees for the use of the Silk Road.  This made the cost of these goods prohibitively expensive, and not surprisingly the Europeans began searching for new ways to Asia.  The way that made the most sense to try was by sea.

In the beginning, the Porugese sailed south and east, around Africa and into India, and they got a head start on the rest of Europe. But as Portugal found new ways to India, king Ferdinand and queen Isabella were completing their quest to create a unified Spain (before Ferdinand and Isabella spain was a collection of independent fiefdoms).  Once Spain was united, Isabella could begin her own search for new routes to the spices, and she funded Christopher Columbus’s ambktious plan to sail West to China.

This was 40 years after the fall of Constantinople.  And life for the Native Americans was about to change…

Columbus almost literally stubmled upon the Carribean, and his return in 1493 ignited a SPanish desire for gold and treasure in the new lands. It took just over 50 years of conquest by largely violent men who lived largely violent lives, but when the dust settled nearly all of South and Central AMerica had been conquered and plundered, with most of its peoples killed or enslaved.

 Spreading To The Northwest

It was nearly a century later before Europe turned its attention towards North America in earnest.

In 1513, Ponce de Leon foujnd Florida during his quest for eternal youth and during the 15th century fishermen from Europe fished off the waters of New England in search of cod, but it was not another for another 50 years (1563) that the French established a short-lived colony in the Carolinas and 1566 that Spain established the first permanent colony (St. Augustine) in the future US.  

With Spain controling Florida and expanding up through the future Mexico to Texas, New Mexico and other parts of the future southwest, England, France, the Dutch and even the Swedes postured back and forth for control over the rest of North America during the 17th century (1600s).  In 1607, England established colonies in Virginia and New England, the French controlled the Great Lakes along the MIssissipi River down to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Dutch and later Sweden controlled small portions along the Hudson River up into Albany (New York).  

By 1620, after years of near extinction, Virginians had discovered the black gold that was tobacco, and grew rich and powerful and began exporting slaves from Africa to provide the required labor.  In the north, the Beaver fur trade largely fueled the economies of the various players.  

Finally, after 50 years of posturing in the Northeast, the Dutch expelled the Swedes then England expelled the Dutch, so most of the future US and Canada were controlled by England and France.  The French were largely furriers, trapping and trading for beaver pelts that they could export back to Europe, whereas the English largely used settlers and expansion to gain more control of the area.  

Although the various Indian nations often helped and traded with the colonists, there were still many battles fought between the Native Americans and the colonists.

US History Overview Part 1

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