United States of America (U. S. A. or Usa), commonly known as the United States

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United States of America
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The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a transcontinental country located primarily in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major unincorporated territories, nine minor outlying islands,[j] and 326 Indian reservations. It is the third-largest country by total area.[d] The United States shares land borders with Canada to its north and with Mexico to its south. It has maritime borders with the Bahamas, Cuba, Russia, and other nations.[k] With a population of over 331 million,[e] it is the third most populous country in the world. The national capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city and financial center is New York City. Paleo-aboriginals migrated from Siberia to the North American mainland at least 12,000 years ago, and advanced cultures began to appear later on. These advanced cultures had almost completely declined by the time European colonists arrived during the 16th century. The United States emerged from the Thirteen British Colonies established along the East Coast when disputes with the British Crown over taxation and political representation led to the American Revolution (1765–1784), which established the nation's independence. In the late 18th century, the U.S. began expanding across North America, gradually obtaining new territories, sometimes through war, frequently displacing Native Americans, and admitting new states. By 1848, the United States spanned the continent from east to west. The controversy surrounding the practice of slavery culminated in the secession of the Confederate States of America, which fought the remaining states of the Union during the American Civil War (1861–1865). With the Union's victory and preservation, slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment. By 1900, the United States had become the world's largest economy, and the Spanish–American War and World War I established the country as a world power. After Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. entered World War II on the Allied side. The aftermath of the war left the United States and the Soviet Union as the world's two superpowers. During the Cold War, both countries engaged in a struggle for ideological dominance but avoided direct military conflict. They also competed in the Space Race, which culminated in the 1969 American spaceflight that first landed humans on the Moon. Simultaneously, the civil rights movement led to legislation abolishing state and local Jim Crow laws and other codified racial discrimination against African Americans. The Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991 ended the Cold War, leaving the United States as the world's sole superpower. The September 11 attacks in 2001 resulted in the United States launching the war on terror, which included the War in Afghanistan (2001–2021) and the Iraq War (2003–2011).
The United States is a federal republic with three separate branches of government, including a bicameral legislature. It is a liberal democracy and market economy; it ranks high in international measures of human rights, quality of life, income and wealth, economic competitiveness, and education; and it has low levels of perceived corruption. It has high levels of incarceration and inequality, allows capital punishment, and lacks universal health care. As a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, the U.S. has been shaped by centuries of immigration. It has a highly diverse climate and geography and is officially recognized as one of the 17 ecologically megadiverse countries.
The United States is a highly developed country, and its economy accounts for approximately a quarter of global GDP and is the world's largest by GDP at market exchange rates. By value, the United States is the world's largest importer and second-largest exporter. Although it accounts for just over 4.2% of the world's total population, the U.S. holds over 30% of the total wealth in the world, the largest share held by any country. The United States is a founding member of the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization of American States, NATO, and is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The country makes up more than a third of global military spending and is the foremost military power in the world and a leading political, cultural, and scientific force.
Further information: Names of the United StatesNames for United States citizensNaming of the AmericasAmericas § Terminology, and American (word)
The first known use of the name "America" dates to 1507, when it appeared on a world map produced by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in Saint DiéLorraine (now northeastern France). On his map, the name is shown in large letters on what would now be considered South America, honoring Amerigo Vespucci. The Italian explorer was the first to postulate that the West Indies did not represent Asia's eastern limit but were part of a previously unknown landmass.[26][27] In 1538, the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator used the name "America" to refer to the entire Western Hemisphere. Each of the 50 states has a high level of local autonomy under the system of federalism.The United States was born as a nation with the Declaration of Independence made by the 13 colonies on July 4, 1776. It was recognized internationally by the Treaty of Paris (1783) after the defeat of British forces in the Revolutionary War. Its roots, however, begin in the seventeenth century, when British, Dutch, and German colonists began migrating to North America seeking freedom and economic opportunity. They included Puritans, Quakers, and others who wanted to freely practice their religion; many of these devout men and women thought of America as God's "new Israel," a place to build a godly society that would become a beacon of hope to the world. This can be called America's Protestant root, one which has had a lasting impress on its identity. Equally important were the motives and hopes of people seeking economic freedom in a new land without the restrictions of European class society; they came, from the colonists of Jamestown (1609) to the later waves of immigrants in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The frontier would encourage this love of freedom and its endless possibilities; anyone, regardless of his or her background, could become wealthy by self-reliance and hard work under a system of free-market capitalism. America's identity is thus rooted in the power of these two universal ideas – the exemplary society and the land of freedom and opportunity. In this it is unique among nations, which by and large base their identity on ethnicity or tribe: Germany for Germans, Japan for Japanese, and so on. The idea of America transcending ethnicity made it a successful multi-ethnic society.
From the beginning, slavery and racism have been the nemesis of the United States. Slavery, considered essential by plantation owners in the South, was reluctantly permitted in the Constitution, even though it contradicted the universal rights that were enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and violated the Protestant conscience (as expressed in the Abolitionist movement). The struggle to establish full rights for all Americans would lead to a bloody Civil War (1861–1865) that abolished slavery, and a hundred years later the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. finally ended legal racial discrimination and set the U.S. on the course to becoming a genuinely color-blind society.
In the nineteenth century, the U.S. became an industrial power. The nation became a center for invention and technological development; major technologies that America either developed or was greatly involved in improving are electricity, the telephone, the automobile, television, computers, the Internet, nuclear power, air travel, space travel, and genetic engineering. With its new-found might and its native idealism, in the twentieth century America took a major role on the world stage as a defender of democracy in World War I, World War II, and the Cold War (which included the Korean and the Vietnam Wars). In the twenty-first century, following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States has been acting as the world's only superpower, and yet in the face of new challenges like the ambiguities of the War on Terrorism it is unsure of how to define its role in the world.
The European colonization of the Americas began after Christopher Columbus (re)discovered them in 1492. There is speculation that Norwegian expeditions to North America led by Leif Eriksson c. 1000 C.E. and the Chinese to South America c. 1421 predated Columbus. Yet the saga of the United States began with Columbus's European discovery.
In the seventeenth century, many British, Dutch, and German colonists began migrating to North America seeking freedom and economic opportunity. In the North, many colonists included Puritans, Quakers, and others who wanted to freely practice their religion. Some thought of it as God's new Israel and set out to build the Kingdom of God in America. In the South, many plantations were built to export agricultural products to Europe. In 1754, at the Albany Congress, Benjamin Franklin made the first serious proposal for a union of British colonies in North America. However, the colonists became increasingly frustrated by British rule and, in 1776, 13 colonies issued the Declaration of Independence. They formed a confederation of states in 1777, which was ratified in 1781 as the Articles of Confederation. This government failed because it was unable to raise revenues to pay for the Revolutionary War (1775–1783). George Washington called the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and after long debate, the United States Constitution was adopted in 1789, forming the world's first constitutional federal republic. The young republic was confirmed after it survived British invasion in the War of 1812.
From the beginning, slavery has been the nemesis of the United States. The practice of slavery, considered essential by plantation owners in the South, was inherited from colonial rule. At the founding, it was reluctantly allowed by northerners with the hope that the practice would eventually be phased out. Some viewed it as denying people rights that were enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. However, the practice continued in the South, and when efforts were made to expand the practice into new territories, and supported by the Supreme Court with the Dred Scott decision, it became an issue that helped precipitate the Civil War (1861–1865).During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, people seeking freedom and prosperity poured into the United States from Europe. New states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent, obtaining territories held by Spain, France, Mexico, Britain, and Russia. Many Native American nations were destroyed and resettled in the process. The U.S. became an industrial power as trade protection, banking reforms, and corporate legislation helped domestic companies expand. The country flexed its naval muscle in the Spanish-American War (1898), which led to the acquisition of overseas territories in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.
The twentieth century has been termed "the American Century," despite the hardships of the Great Depression (1929–1939). The nation became a center for invention and technological development; major technologies that America either developed or was greatly involved in improving are electricity, the telephone, the automobile, television, computers, the Internet, nuclear power, air travel, space travel, and genetic engineering.
The United States took a major role on the world stage as the defender of democracy in World War I, World War II, the Cold War (which included the Korean and the Vietnam Wars), and the Gulf War. After World War II the United States emerged as one of two superpowers, the other being the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States was left as the world's leading military power. It became involved in police actions and peacekeeping beginning in the 1990s, through United Nations actions in Kosovo, Haiti, Somalia, and Liberia, and NATO actions in Libya.
After terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the U.S. started a war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and later a war in Iraq. These attempts to reign in Islamic fundamentalism and bring democracy and political stability to the Middle East by the use of military force have met with only limited success. They challenge the United States to rethink its role in the world and how it can best deal with an increasingly pluralistic world and an unlimited budget.
The 13 colonies which formed the United States were based on different philosophies and religions within Western Civilization. Puritans settled in New England, Baptists in Rhode Island, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Roman Catholics in Maryland, Dutch Reformed in New York, and Episcopalians in Virginia. Unity among these religious faiths could only be achieved through a national philosophy that was general and tolerant.
Benjamin Franklin's own philosophy paralleled that of the American founding. Born to a candlemaker in Puritan Boston, he became a wealthy self-made publisher, philosopher, and world-renowned scientist in Philadelphia, the most cosmopolitan city in the colonies, where free religious expression was cherished. Franklin personally donated money to every church in Philadelphia, to the revivalist preacher George Whitefield, and to the Jewish synagogue, under the philosophy that religion by whatever name promotes the moral rectitude and spiritual self-discipline required of a free people. Franklin also founded the American Philosophical Society. When Thomas Paine wanted to publish his manuscript on the errors and contradictions in Christianity and the Bible, Franklin told him to burn it because it was not constructive and could undermine the morality of the people.
While fighting a common enemy in the English crown, most people in the United States, regardless of religion, agreed that certain truths were universal and self-evident: that human beings were created equal and they desired life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This was the sacred bedrock of their philosophy enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. They believed in a Creator whose laws governed the universe and they attempted to create a more perfect system of justice that reflected these universal laws. Based on their study of history, philosophy, and literature (the Bible, ancient Greece, Rome, and modern European philosophy), they developed a constitution that also emphasized personal freedom and responsibility, equal justice and checks and balances on power.
In the philosophy of the founders, families and religions in the private sphere, not the government, were responsible for the cultivation of citizens capable of self-governance and democracy. Checks and balances on power prevented anyone from abusing power and becoming a tyrant (like the king in England). No earthly authority was entitled to absolute power; that was left to the Creator. The Constitution also prevented any faith from being established as a national religion. This led to a very lively free market in religion.
The Constitution gave the president the authority to conduct foreign policy. In his Farewell Address, George Washington stated that the United States should form no alliances and should seek good trade relations with all nations. Except for expansion within North America, the United States adhered to this policy until the 1890s. At that time the United States began to build up a navy for the purpose of guaranteeing secure trade routes overseas. Shortly thereafter the U.S. began to exercise its muscle in "gunboat diplomacy," taking Puerto RicoCuba, and the Philippines in the Spanish-American War (1898). The United States has had peaceful relations with Canada, its largest trading partner, throughout its history.
At the end of the nineteenth century, many Americans began to support international institutions for world peace. Andrew Carnegie donated funds to build a house for the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Theodore Roosevelt supported the use of the Court to settle a dispute between Japan and Russia. However, Roosevelt refused to allow the Hawaiians to bring the United States to the Court to discuss the occupation of Hawaii. The United States eventually allied with France and Britain in World War I, motivated by the ideal of safeguarding democracy. After World War I, President Woodrow Wilson lobbied Europe for fairer treatment of Germany and support for a League of Nations; however, the country returned to isolationism until Hitler had taken much of Europe and Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. After World War II, the United States was a key player in the formation of the United Nations. It was a time when America was at the peak of influence around the world, as the exemplar of democracy and freedom, and having demonstrated generosity even to its former enemies Germany and Japan.
During World War II the United States developed a large military supply industry that it continued to expand as an arms race with the Soviet Union continued through the Cold War. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States emerged as the world's sole superpower. However, rather than enjoying its status, perceived unilateralism and inconsistency in U.S. foreign policy has led to growing suspicion around the world.
With the Declaration of Independence, the 13 colonies were for a brief time each nation-states modeled after the European states of the time. However, with the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, they surrendered certain powers to the federal government but retained the majority of legislative authority for themselves. In the following years, the number of states within the U.S. grew steadily due to Western expansion, the conquest and purchase of lands by the national government, and the subdivision of existing states, resulting in the current total of 50. By the end of the Civil War, the Union had become a nation-state in its own right, while the states had lost most of their autonomy. The states are generally divided into smaller administrative regions, including counties, cities, and townships. Several autonomous territories, or reservations, have been set aside for Native Americans by treaty.
The United States also holds several other territories, districts and possessions, notably the District of Columbia, which is the nation's capital, and several overseas possessions, the most significant of which are Puerto RicoAmerican SamoaGuamNorthern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The United States has held a Naval Base at an occupied portion of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 1898. The United States government claims a lease to this land, which only mutual agreement or U. S. abandonment of the area can terminate. The Cuban government disputes this arrangement.
United States is located primarily in central North America. It has land borders with Canada and Mexico, as well as several territorial water boundaries with Canada, RussiaCuba, and The Bahamas. It is otherwise bounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea, the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Straits of Florida. Two of the 50 states, Alaska and Hawaii, are not contiguous with any of the other states. The United States also has several territories and possessions around the world.
As the world's third-largest country (by total area), the U.S. landscape varies greatly: temperate forestland and rolling hills on the East Coast, mangrove in Florida, the Great Plains in the center of the country, the MississippiMissouri river system, the Great Lakes which are shared with Canada, the Rocky Mountains west of the plains, deserts and temperate coastal zones west of the Rocky Mountains and temperate rain forests in the Pacific Northwest. Alaska's tundra and the volcanictropical islands of Hawaii add to the geographic and climatic diversity.
The climate varies along with the landscape, from tropical in Hawaii and southern Florida to tundra in Alaska and atop some of the highest mountains. Most of the North and East experience a temperate continental climate, with warm summers and cold winters. Much of the American South experiences a subtropical humid climate with mild winters and long, hot, humid summers. Rainfall decreases markedly from the humid forests of the eastern Great Plains to the semiarid shortgrass prairies on the High Plains abutting the Rocky Mountains. Arid deserts, including the Mojave, extend through the lowlands and valleys of the American Southwest from westernmost Texas to California and northward throughout much of Nevada. Some parts of the American West, particularly Southern California, have a Mediterranean climate. Rain forests line the windward mountains of the Pacific Northwest from Oregon to Alaska.
The political geography is notable as well, with the Canadian border being the longest undefended border in the world, and with the country being divided into three distinct sections: The continental United States, also known as the lower 48; Alaska, which is physically connected only to Canada; and the archipelago of Hawaii in the central Pacific Ocean.
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