History of the Americas
The history of the Americas (North, South, and Central America, and the Caribbean) begins with people migrating to these areas from Asia during the height of an Ice Age. These groups are generally believed to have been isolated from peoples of the "Old World" until the coming of Europeans in the 10th and 15th centuries.
The ancestors of today's American Indigenous peoples were the Paleo-Indians; they were hunter-gatherers who migrated into North America. The most popular theory asserts that migrants came to the Americas via the Bering Land Bridge, Beringia, the land mass now covered by the cold ocean waters in the Bering Strait. Small lithic stage peoples followed megafauna like bison, mammoth (now extinct), and caribou, thus gaining the modern nickname "big-game hunters." Groups of people may also have traveled into North America on shelf or sheet ice along the northern Pacific coast.
Cultural traits brought by the first immigrants later evolved and spawned such cultures as Iroquois on North America and Pirahã of South America. These cultures later developed into civilizations. In many cases, these cultures expanded at a later date than their Old World counterparts. Cultures that may be considered advanced or civilized include: Norte Chico, Cahokia, Zapotec, Toltec, Olmec, Maya, Aztec, Purepecha, Chimor, Mixtec, Moche, Mississippian, Puebloan, Totonac, Teotihuacan, Huastec people, Tarascan, Izapa, Mazatec, Muiscas, and the Inca.
Migration into the continents 
The specifics of Paleo-Indian migration to and throughout the Americas, including the exact dates and routes traveled, are subject to ongoing research and discussion. The traditional theory has been that these early migrants moved into the Beringia land bridge between eastern Siberia and present-day Alaska around 40,000 – 17,000 years ago, when sea levels were significantly lowered due to the Quaternary glaciation. These people are believed to have followed herds of now-extinct pleistocene megafauna along ice-free corridors that stretched between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets. Another route proposed is that, either on foot or using primitive boats, they migrated down the Pacific Northwest coast to South America. Evidence of the latter would since have been covered by a sea level rise of a hundred meters following the last ice age.
Archaeologists contend that the Paleo-Indian migration out of Beringia (eastern Alaska), ranges from 40,000 to around 16,500 years ago. This time range is a hot source of debate. The few agreements achieved to date are the origin from Central Asia, with widespread habitation of the Americas during the end of the last glacial period, or more specifically what is known as the late glacial maximum, around 16,000 – 13,000 years before present.
The American Journal of Human Genetics released an article in 2007 stating "Here we show, by using 86 complete mitochondrial genomes, that all Indigenous American haplogroups, including Haplogroup X (mtDNA), were part of a single founding population." Amerindian groups in the Bering Strait region exhibit perhaps the strongest DNA or mitochondrial DNA relations to Siberian peoples. The genetic diversity of Amerindian indigenous groups increase with distance from the assumed entry point into the Americas. Certain genetic diversity patterns from West to East suggest, particularly in South America, that migration proceeded first down the west coast, and then proceeded eastward. Geneticists have variously estimated that peoples of Asia and the Americas were part of the same population from 42,000 to 21,000 years ago.
Lithic stage (before 8000 BCE) 
The Lithic stage or Paleo-Indian period, is the earliest classification term referring to the first stage of human habitation in the Americas, covering the Late Pleistocene era. The time period derives its name from the appearance of "Lithic flaked" stone tools. Stone tools, particularly projectile points and scrapers, are the primary evidence of the earliest well known human activity in the Americas. Lithic reduction stone tools are used by archaeologists and anthropologists to classify cultural periods.
Archaic stage (8000 BCE — 1000 BCE) 
Several thousand years after the first migrations, the first complex civilizations arose as hunter-gatherers settled into semi-agricultural communities. Identifiable sedentary settlements began to emerge in the so-called Middle Archaic period around 6000 BCE. Particular archaeological cultures can be identified and easily classified throughout the Archaic period.
Formative stage (2000 BCE — 500 CE) 
Civilizations were established long after migration. Several large, centralized civilizations developed in the Western Hemisphere: Norte Chico, Chavin, Nazca, Moche, Huari, Quitus, Cañaris, Chimu, Pachacamac, Tiahuanaco, Aymara and Inca in the Central Andes (Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia); Muisca in Colombia ; Taínos in Dominican Republic (Hispaniola, Española) and part of Caribbean; and the Olmecs, Maya, Toltecs, Mixtecs, Zapotecs, Aztecs and Purepecha in southern North America (Mexico, Guatemala).
Cities of the Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas were as large and organized as the largest in the Old World, with an estimated population of 200,000 to 350,000 in Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire. The market established in the city was said to have been the largest ever seen by the conquistadors when they arrived. The capital of the Cahokians, Cahokia - located near modern East St. Louis, Illinois may have reached a population of over 20,000. At its peak, between the 12th and 13th centuries, Cahokia may have been the most populous city in North America. Monk's Mound, the major ceremonial center of Cahokia, remains the largest earthen construction of the prehistoric New World.
These civilizations developed agriculture as well, breeding maize (corn) from having ears 2–5 cm in length to perhaps 10–15 cm in length. Potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, beans, avocados, and chocolate are now the most popular of the pre-Columbian agricultural products. The civilizations did not develop extensive livestock as there were few suitable species, although alpacas and llamas were domesticated for use as beasts of burden and sources of wool and meat in the Andes. By the 15th century, maize was being farmed in the Mississippi River Valley after introduction from Mexico. The course of further agricultural development was greatly altered by the arrival of Europeans.
Classic stage (800 CE — 1300 CE) 
- Pueblo people
The Pueblo people of what is now the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico, living conditions were that of large stone apartment like adobe structures. They live in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and possibly surrounding areas.
Chichimeca was the name that the Mexica (Aztecs) generically applied to a wide range of semi-nomadic peoples who inhabited the north of modern-day Mexico, and carried the same sense as the European term "barbarian". The name was adopted with a pejorative tone by the Spaniards when referring especially to the semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer peoples of northern Mexico.
The Olmec civilization emerged around 1200 BCE in Mesoamerica and ended around 400 BCE. Olmec art and concepts influenced surrounding cultures after their downfall. This civilization was thought to be the first in America to develop a writing system. After the Olmecs abandoned their cities for unknown reasons, the Maya, Zapotec and Teotihuacan arose.
The Purepecha civilization emerged around 1000 AD in Mesoamerica . They flourished from 1100 AD to 1530 AD. They continue to live on in the state of Michoacán. Fierce warriors, they were never conquered and in their glory years, successfully sealed off huge areas from Aztec domination.
Maya history spans 3,000 years. The Maya may have collapsed due to changing climate in the end of the 10th century.
The Toltec were a nomadic people, dating from the 10th - 12th century, whose language was also spoken by the Aztecs.
Teotihuacan (4th century BCE - 7/8th century CE) was both a city, and an empire of the same name, which, at its zenith between 150 and the 5th century, covered most of Mesoamerica.
The Aztec having started to build their empire around 14th century found their civilization abruptly ended by the Spanish conquistadors. They lived in Mesoamerica, and surrounding lands. Their capital city Tenochtitlan was one of the largest cities of all time.
South America 
- Norte Chico
The oldest known civilization of the Americas was established in the Norte Chico region of modern Peru. Complex society emerged in the group of coastal valleys, between 3000 and 1800 BCE. The Quipu, a distinctive recording device among Andean civilizations, apparently dates from the era of Norte Chico's prominence.
The Chavín established a trade network and developed agriculture by as early as (or late compared to the Old World) 900 BCE according to some estimates and archaeological finds. Artifacts were found at a site called Chavín in modern Peru at an elevation of 3,177 meters. Chavín civilization spanned from 900 BCE to 300 BCE.
Holding their capital at the great city of Cusco, the Inca civilization dominated the Andes region from 1438 to 1533. Known as Tahuantinsuyu, or "the land of the four regions", in Quechua, the Inca culture was highly distinct and developed. Cities were built with precise, unmatched stonework, constructed over many levels of mountain terrain. Terrace farming was a useful form of agriculture. There is evidence of excellent metalwork and even successful trepanation of the skull in Inca civilization.
European colonization 
Around 1000, the Vikings established a short-lived settlement in Newfoundland, now known as L'Anse aux Meadows. Speculations exist about other Old World discoveries of the New World, but none of these are accepted by scholars. See also Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact.
Spain sponsored a major exploration led by Christopher Columbus in 1492; it quickly led to extensive European colonization of the Americas. The Europeans brought Old World diseases which are thought to have caused catastrophic epidemics and a huge decrease of the native population. Columbus came at a time in which many technical developments in sailing techniques and communication made it possible to report his voyages easily and to spread word of them throughout western Europe. It was also a time of growing religious, imperial and economic rivalries that led to a competition for the establishment of colonies.
Colonial period 
15th to 19th century colonies in the New World:
- Spanish colonization of the Americas (1492)
- Viceroyalty of New Spain (1535 to 1821)
- Viceroyalty of Peru (1542–1824)
- Spanish Main
- Spanish West Indies
- Captaincy General of Guatemala
- British North America / Thirteen Colonies
- Danish West Indies
- New Netherland
- New France
- Colonial Brazil (1500–1815)
The Spanish colonies won their independence in the first quarter of the 19th century, in the Spanish American wars of independence. Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín, among others, led their independence struggle. Although Bolivar attempted to keep the Spanish-speaking parts of the continent politically allied, they rapidly became independent of one another as well, and several further wars were fought, such as the Paraguayan War and the War of the Pacific. (See Latin American integration.) In the Portuguese colony Dom Pedro I (also Pedro IV of Portugal), son of the Portuguese king Dom João VI, proclaimed the country's independence in 1822 and became Brazil's first Emperor. This was peacefully accepted by the crown in Portugal, upon compensation.
Effects of slavery 
Slavery has had a significant role in the economic development the New World after the colonization of the Americas by the Europeans. The cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane harvested by slaves became important exports for the United States and the Caribbean countries.
20th century 
North America 
As a part of the British Empire Canada immediately entered World War I. Canada bore the brunt of several major battles during the early stages of the war including the use of poison gas attacks at Ypres. Losses became grave, and the government eventually brought in conscription, despite the fact this was against the wishes of the majority of French Canadians. In the ensuing Conscription Crisis of 1917, riots broke out on the streets of Montreal. In neighboring Newfoundland, the new dominion suffered a devastating loss on July 1, 1916, the First day on the Somme.
The United States stayed apart from the conflict until 1917, joining the Entente powers. The United States was then able to play a crucial role at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 that shaped interwar Europe. Mexico was not part of the war as the country was embroiled in the Mexican Revolution at the time.
The 1920s brought an age of great prosperity in the United States, and to a lesser degree Canada. But the Wall Street Crash of 1929 combined with drought ushered in a period of economic hardship in the United States and Canada. From 1936 to 1949, this was a popular uprising against the anti-Catholic Mexican government of the time, set off specifically by the anti-clerical provisions of the Mexican Constitution of 1917.
Once again, Canada found herself at war before her neighbours, however even Canadian contributions were slight before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The entry of the United States into the war helped to tip the balance in favour of the allies. Two Mexican tankers, transporting oil to the United States, were attacked and sunk by the Germans in the Gulf of Mexico waters, in 1942. The incident happened in spite of Mexico's neutrality at that time. This led Mexico to declare war to the Axis nations and entered the conflict. The destruction of Europe wrought by the war vaulted all North American countries to more important roles in world affairs. The United States especially emerged as a "superpower".
The early Cold War era saw the United States as the most powerful nation in a Western coalition of which Mexico and Canada were also a part. In Canada Quebec was transformed by the Quiet Revolution and the emergence of Quebec nationalism. Mexico experienced an era of huge economic growth after World War II, a heavy industrialization process and a growth of its middle class, a period known in Mexican history as the "El Milagro Mexicano" (Mexican miracle). The Caribbean saw the beginnings of decolonization, while on the largest island the Cuban Revolution introduced Cold War rivalries into Latin America.
The Civil Rights Movement ended Jim Crow and empowered black voters in the 1960s, which allowed blacks to move into high government offices. However, the dominant New Deal coalition collapsed in the mid 1960s in disputes over race and the Vietnam War, and the conservative movement began its rise to power, as the once dominant liberalism weakened and collapsed.. Canada during this era was dominated by the leadership of Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Eventually in 1982 at the end of his tenure, Canada received a new constitution.
Canada's Brian Mulroney not only ran on a similar platform but also favored closer trade ties with the United States. This led to the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement in January 1989. Mexican presidents Miguel de la Madrid, in the early 1980s and Carlos Salinas de Gortari in the late 1980s, started implementing liberal economic strategies that were seen as a good move. However, Mexico experienced a strong economic recession in 1982 and the Mexican peso suffered a devaluation. In the United States president Ronald Reagan attempted to move the United States back towards a hard anti-communist line in foreign affairs, in what his supporters saw as an attempt to assert moral leadership (compared to the Soviet Union) in the world community. Domestically, Reagan attempted to bring in a package of privatization and regulation to stimulate the economy.
The end of the Cold War and the beginning of the era of sustained economic expansion coincided during the 1990s. On January 1, 1994, Canada, Mexico and the United States signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, creating the world's largest free trade area. In 2000, Vicente Fox became the first non-PRI candidate to win the Mexican presidency in over 70 years. The optimism of the 1990s was shattered by the 9/11 attacks of 2001 on the United States, which prompted military intervention in Afghanistan, which also involved Canada. Canada did not support the United States' later move to invade Iraq, however.
In the U.S. the Reagan Era of conservative national policies, deregulation and tax cuts took control with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. By 2010, political scientists were debating whether the election of Barack Obama in 2008 represented an end of the Reagan Era, or was only a reaction against the bubble economy of the 2000s (decade), which burst in 2008 and became the Late-2000s recession with prolonged unemployment.
Central America 
Despite the failure of a lasting political union, the concept of Central American reunification, though lacking enthusiasm from the leaders of the individual countries, rises from time to time. In 1856–1857 the region successfully established a military coalition to repel an invasion by United States adventurer William Walker. Today, all five nations fly flags that retain the old federal motif of two outer blue bands bounding an inner white stripe. (Costa Rica, traditionally the least committed of the five to regional integration, modified its flag significantly in 1848 by darkening the blue and adding a double-wide inner red band, in honor of the French tricolor).
In 1907, a Central American Court of Justice was created. On December 13, 1960, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua established the Central American Common Market ("CACM"). Costa Rica, because of its relative economic prosperity and political stability, chose not to participate in the CACM. The goals for the CACM were to create greater political unification and success of import substitution industrialization policies. The project was an immediate economic success, but was abandoned after the 1969 "Football War" between El Salvador and Honduras. A Central American Parliament has operated, as a purely advisory body, since 1991. Costa Rica has repeatedly declined invitations to join the regional parliament, which seats deputies from the four other former members of the Union, as well as from Panama and the Dominican Republic.
South America 
In the 1960s and 1970s, the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay were overthrown or displaced by U.S.-aligned military dictatorships. These dictatorships detained tens of thousands of political prisoners, many of whom were tortured and/or killed (on inter-state collaboration, see Operation Condor). Economically, they began a transition to neoliberal economic policies. They placed their own actions within the United States Cold War doctrine of "National Security" against internal subversion. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Peru suffered from an internal conflict (see Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement and Shining Path). Revolutionary movements and right-wing military dictatorships have been common, but starting in the 1980s a wave of democratization came through the continent, and democratic rule is widespread now. Allegations of corruption remain common, and several nations have seen crises which have forced the resignation of their presidents, although normal civilian succession has continued.
International indebtedness became a notable problem, as most recently illustrated by Argentina's default in the early 21st century. In recent years, South American governments have drifted to the left, with socialist leaders being elected in Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela, and a leftist president in Argentina and Uruguay. Despite the move to the left, South America is still largely capitalist. With the founding of the Union of South American Nations, South America has started down the road of economic integration, with plans for political integration in the European Union style.
territory with flag
(km²) (per sq mi)
(July 2009 est.)
|Argentina||2,766,890 km2 (1,068,300 sq mi)||40,482,000||14.3/km² (37/sq mi)||Buenos Aires|
|Bolivia||1,098,580 km2 (424,160 sq mi)||9,863,000||8.4/km² (21.8/sq mi)||La Paz|
|Brazil||8,514,877 km2 (3,287,612 sq mi)||191,241,714||22.0/km² (57/sq mi)||Brasília|
|Chile||756,950 km2 (292,260 sq mi)||16,928,873||22/km² (57/sq mi)||Santiago|
|Colombia||1,138,910 km2 (439,740 sq mi)||45,928,970||40/km² (103.6/sq mi)||Bogotá|
|Ecuador||283,560 km2 (109,480 sq mi)||14,573,101||53.8/km² (139.3/sq mi)||Quito|
|Falkland Islands (United Kingdom)||12,173 km2 (4,700 sq mi)||3,140||0.26/km² (0.7/sq mi)||Port Stanley|
|French Guiana (France)||91,000 km2 (35,000 sq mi)||221,500||2.7/km² (5.4/sq mi)||Cayenne|
|Guyana||214,999 km2 (83,012 sq mi)||772,298||3.5/km² (9.1/sq mi)||Georgetown|
|Paraguay||406,750 km2 (157,050 sq mi)||6,831,306||15.6/km² (40.4/sq mi)||Asunción|
|Peru||1,285,220 km2 (496,230 sq mi)||29,132,013||22/km² (57/sq mi)||Lima|
| South Georgia and
South Sandwich Islands (United Kingdom)
|3,093 km2 (1,194 sq mi)||20||0/km² (0/sq mi)||Grytviken|
|Suriname||163,270 km2 (63,040 sq mi)||472,000||3/km² (7.8/sq mi)||Paramaribo|
|Uruguay||176,220 km2 (68,040 sq mi)||3,477,780||19.4/km² (50.2/sq mi)||Montevideo|
|Venezuela||916,445 km2 (353,841 sq mi)||26,814,843||30.2/km² (72/sq mi)||Caracas|
See also 
- History of the west coast of North America
- History of the Caribbean
- History of Latin America
- History of the Southern United States
- American Old West
- History of New England
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- La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia;
- Includes Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean, a Chilean territory frequently reckoned in Oceania. Santiago is the administrative capital of Chile; Valparaíso is the site of legislative meetings.
- Claimed by Argentina.
- Falkland Islands: July 2008 population estimate. CIA World Factbook.
- (January 2009) (French) INSEE, Government of France. "Population des régions au 1er janvier". Retrieved 2009-01-20.
- Claimed by Argentina; the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean are commonly associated with Antarctica (due to proximity) and have no permanent population, only hosting a periodic contingent of about 100 researchers and visitors.
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