The USA extends on more than one third of North American continent, being the fourth largest country of the world. It borders Canada and Russia in the North and Mexico in the South. The total area of the US is over 9 million square kilometres and it is home of more than 240 million people mostly of European origin and also of Afro-American, American Indian, Japanese, Chinese and other origin. The official language is American English and the second most widespread language is Spanish. The continental part of the US consists of two highland and two lowland regions. The highland regions are the Appalachian Mountains in the east and the Rocky Mountains in the west. The highest point of the USA is Mount McKinley (6194 m) in Alaska. Between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains are the central lowlands, which are called the prairie and the eastern lowlands, called Mississippi Valley with the most famous valley – Death Valley. Part of the USA is Alaska in the north of the American continent and the Hawaiian Islands 3,200 km south-west from California.
The USA has many rivers. The biggest river system is that of the Mississippi and the Missouri. The Mississippi is the third longest river in the world being 6,212 km long. In the west we should mention the Colorado, the Columbia and the Rio Grande on the Mexican border. The biggest river in Alaska is the Yukon. The most important river in the east is the Hudson, connected with the Great Lakes on the US – Canada border make up the biggest reservoir of fresh water in the world. They are Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The Niagara River – part of The St. Lawrence River – connects Lake Erie and Lake Ontario forming the world-known Niagara Falls 51m high.
The climate of the USA is varied – from the Arctic climate in the north to the subtropical climate in the south. But the temperate climate prevails. Of course in the vast areas of the USA the climate cannot be the same everywhere. As difference between the climate on the Atlantic coast and the Pacific coast, where the summer and winter are not very different. The most agreeable climate is on the Hawaii Islands. The coldest climate is in the Alaska, which is covered by the snow and ice. Florida has subtropical climate which often brings hurricanes – hot winds. The region around great Lakes is known for its changeable climate.
History: The American continent was discovered by Vikings around the year 1000 A.D. The existence of the American continent wasn’t known in Europe until the voyage of Columbus in 1492. He made his historic voyage from Spain. Columbus called the native people ”Indians“ because he thought that he had reached the coast of Asia. He never realised that he had discovered a continent between Europe and Asia.
In 1620 the Puritans discriminated in England by King James I who was a Protestant came from England in their ship the Mayflower and reached North America. Their first colonies were called New England and they were called Pilgrim Fathers. During their first winter, over one half of the settlers died. The rest survived and learned from local “Indians” how to farm and catch fish. The following November, after their first successful harvest, they celebrated with a special “Thanksgiving” dinner.
The first 13 colonies were formed under the British control. The colonies were mostly agricultural, especially in the South, where tobacco and cotton plantations were worked by African slaves. They were transported from West Africa during the 17th and 18th centuries. Today’s African Americans are the descendants of these slaves. Colonies wanted to reduce their dependence on Britain. British Parliament wasn’t willing to let the colonies go their own way and the result was one of the most famous events, the Boston Tea party in 1773. A group of Americans dressed as Indians and threw bags of tea into the Boston Harbour in protest of unfair taxes. The Party was one of the significant events to the American Revolutionary War against England.
The War began in 1775 and a year later colonial representatives declared independence from the King George III. The Declaration of independence belongs to the most important documents. It was signed on July 4, 1776 by all 13 colonies in Philadelphia. This day was called Independence Day. The result was six year of war which ended in victory for the Americans led by George Washington who later became the first president of the USA. The War ended in 1781 but it wasn’t until 1783 that England officially recognized the independence of the USA.
The new United States of America rapidly expanded. In 1803 it bought 2 million square kilometres of land from France. The territories gained by this Louisiana Purchase stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and doubled the size of the young nation.
After winning a war against Mexico in the 1840’s, America gained even more territory. This included California. That same year gold was discovered near “Frisco“ and thousands of pioneers rushed across America to make their fortune. The era of the Wild West had begun.
New and new settlers were coming from Europe, new states were set up and sharp differences arose between the Southern part, which was mainly agricultural, using slaves transported from West Africa to work on cotton fields, and Northern part, which was mainly industrial. The American Civil War broke out in 1861. The Southern states, organized as the Confederacy under President Jefferson Davis fought against the Union of the Northern states under President Abraham Lincoln. The Union states wanted to make slavery illegal. In 1865 the American Civil War also called the war between the North and the South ended in victory for the North. The slavery was abolished in 1863. Lincoln was assassinated at a theatre in Washington only one week after the surrender of the south.
After the Civil War the USA became the world’s leading industrial power. The first American military mobilization on foreign soil was in 1917 when the US entered the World War against Germany and helped France and England. US President Woodrow Wilson helped negotiate a peace treaty in 1918.
In period which followed the West was open for mining, cattle ranching and grain production. New immigrants from European countries were coming to the USA. The 1930s were the years of the great economical crisis because in 1929, the value of shares on Wall Street unexpectedly collapsed or crashed. Thousands of banks and companies were ruined and America’s economy entered a period of crisis. Millions of people also lost their jobs. This period in American history is called the Great Depression and lasted until beginning of World War II The USA remained neutral and didn’t enter the War till Japanese attacked a Pearl Harbour in December 1941. Two years later, a team of US scientists developed the first atomic bomb. At the command of president Harry S. Truman, this devastating new weapon was dropped first on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and on Nagasaki three days later.
The post war period was a time of economic expansion. The US continued as a world leader in scientific, medical and technological achievements.
Political system: The USA is a federation of fifty states. The system of American Government is based on the principal established in the Constitution written in 1787 and in the Bill of Rights. The Constitution divides the power of the government into 3 branches – the Executive Branch, the Legislative ranch and the Judicial Branch. Every state has its own governor, its own police and its own laws. The Federal Government responsible for foreign affairs, defence and finance. It is situated in Washington, D.C. his is where the Congress is seated. The Congress consists of two parts – the Senate and the Hose of Representatives there are 100 members in the Senate – two from each state. The House of Representatives has 435 members (depends on density of population in states).
The Executive Branches headed by the President. He is a head of the state, chef executive and commander in chef (head of army, navy and air force). He is elected in national election for four and may be re-elected for another four years.
Washington D.C. has the 10th largest population in the country. It was the finest city in the world especial planned and built as the capital and the centre of the government. In the city, along the Potomac River, there are the most important buildings in the USA – White House – the residence of the American President, the Capitol – the seat of the Congress, the Pentagon – the centre of military forces.
There are no factories and industry in Washington and no building can be higher than the Capitol that is why we can’t see any skyscrapers there. There is a large airport and Georgetown University. Some famous monuments stand there: the Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorial.
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