Famous Events in American History

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Despite being just over 300 years old, the USA has a number of world-changing events in its history. To most, American history is the Revolution / War of Independence, the Civil War and its involvement in a number of conflicts in the 20th century. Its history is far richer than that though. The following list is a summary of some of the most pivotal events in the history of the USA ‘ some you will have heard of, some you might not


1. 1620 ‘ Plymouth Colony


Though the first American colony (Jamestown, Virginia ‘ named in honour of both King James I and Queen Elizabeth I) was founded in 1607, it has in history books become far less talked about than the foundation of Plymouth Colony and the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers. Arrival of the Puritans in America, fleeing the religious turmoil in England, led to the event known as the first ‘Thanksgiving’. Plymouth is in modern day Massachusetts and is now the longest continually occupied settlement in the USA

2. 1655 – Battle of the Severn


The final battle of the English Civil War did not take place in England. The most notable was this at modern Providence, Maryland and it came about when the colony received two ships from England ‘ one carrying a letter from Cromwell (The Golden Fortune) and the other a merchant of royalist sympathies. The command of The Golden Fortune seized colony records and deposed the governor and the ensuing hostilities and battle led to the capture of the colony by Puritan forces until the Restoration of the monarchy

3. 1754 ‘ The Albany Congress


The notion that the colonies could become unified began several decades before the War of Independence; this pact was signed between all 13 British colonies to pursue better relations with the Native American tribes (and to unite them against common enemies) and of a joint defence pact against French colonists. Though previous discussions had taken place about treaties of alliance, this was the first to begin to set an agenda for a formal union based on common interests and not involving the British government.

4. 1773 ‘ The Boston Tea Party


Considered the beginning of the War of Independence, colonists still largely loyal to the crown felt that their growing importance in the empire was being ignored. They wanted representation in Parliament “No taxation without representation’. The political protest dumped a large shipment of tea from England into Boston Harbour. A harsh response from the colonial authorities led to mass protests and armed resistance that would lead to war between the authorities and the colonists. Initially, the leaders wanted King George III to repeal a number of harmful acts and laws but he refused to back down and the rest is history

5. 1783 ‘ The Treaty of Paris


Effectively ended the war between the British Empire and the American colonies and her allies: France, Spain and the Dutch Republic. There were separate treaties between the empire and each of the other powers (because Britain had also been fighting The Seven Years War with France) but each treaty granted a number of provisions and interests in North America to the USA and Canada to the British. Its signatories were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay of the United States and David Hartley a representative of the British government. An extra provision to sign modern Quebec to the USA was refused

6. 1787 ‘ A Written Constitution


The foundation of American Law is based on the document known as the United States Constitution. It grants a number of laws and provisions that permits the national and state governments a number of rights with regard to governance. Many amendments have been made in the 220+ years since its writing but it still forms the basis of the law today. A Bill of Rights followed in 1791 ‘ granting specific rights and responsibilities to Citizens of the USA

7. 1863 ‘ Emancipation Proclamation


While the USA fought with itself over a number of political issues (not least of all over slavery) President Lincoln issued this important ruling ‘ it released from slavery all legal slaves within the rebel states ‘ the so-called ‘Confederacy’ ‘ constituting ten states at the time and some 3-4 million slaves. Lincoln knew that it could not be enforced until the rebellion was subdued so effectively, it affected some 50,000 men and women who lived in servitude in those states that had already been defeated

8. 1929 ‘ Wall Street Crash


The 20th century saw the beginning of the truly modern global marketplace ‘ a period of sustained growth and economic boom following the end of the first world war led to renewed industrial optimism and inevitably, a slow whittling away of confidence and panic selling of shares. With such a surplus, prices fell through the floor leading to the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the world. It signalled the beginning of The Great Depression that would last for the next ten years

9. 1941 ‘ Attack on Pearl Harbor


Until this date, the USA had largely kept out of the war, choosing to aid the Allied Powers by other means ‘ financial loans and rental of equipment. That was until the Empire of Japan declared war on the USA, attacking its main naval base in the west as a preventive measure against Japanese expansion plans. It was a surprise attack and a disaster for the American forces who had felt that the natural harbour was the perfect defence. Public support for non-intervention in what was seen as a ‘European’ war dried up overnight

10. 1969 ‘ Moon Landing

moon landing

In 1961 and just two years before his death, President John F. Kennedy set out plans to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. With just five and a half months remaining, Apollo 11 landed on the satellite leading to Neil Armstrong uttering those immortal words ‘that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. A number of other manned missions took place over the following years but that first landing in 1969 is seen as pivotal to the space programme.



This is just a small selection of some of the most pivotal and interesting events from American history from its foundation to the ultimate triumph of human achievement, arrival on another world. With the 21st century fully under way, what world-changing events will the decades up to 2100 bring us? How will the USA change?

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