In 1877, the United States of America was reeling under the pressure and aftermath of reconstruction. Relations between the northern and the southern states had become polarized and ethnic animosity was rife. America, from this period to date has gone through both smooth and turbulent times. Majority of those historical events have played a role in shaping the United States seen today.
The westward migration can be traced to the period when the colonists began their settlement in America, it continued later and for long and has been the source of many queries from many historians who have wondered what it is that drew people west. The answers lie in the immense opportunities available in the west then. The later part of the 19th century was characterized by conflicts between farmers and ranchers especially after the passing of the 1862 Homestead Act that was seeking to give land to those who were devoted to tilling it. It had taken a racial turn especially with the entrance of foreigners in the migration. Americans of Africa descent were not given land in the prime territories in addition to the other marginalized groups such as Mexicans. Many of the people were hoping to try their luck in the west rather than in the rapidly expanding and industrializing East. There was over a 20% population increase by 1900.
Increase in population had been fuelled by immigration of more than 9 million people from across the globe. This was unlike before where majority of immigrant were drawn from Western Europe. This resulted to a cause for alarm by most of Americans who believed that the increase in civil and in industrial strife exhibited then was as a result of these immigrants. Laws were enacted to restrict this. An example is the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.By 1902;Chinese were indefinitely banned from immigrating to America.
As far as industrialization is concerned, east was the first to industrialize. This process started with the mechanization of farming. By the close of the 19th century, the United States was fourth in manufacturing but the process speeded up in the 20th century that saw it become the largest industrialized nation in the world. This process was fuelled by presidents who supported business, which accelerated wealth accumulation in the gilded age.
Wealth amassed during this period would be invested heavily in the extraction of natural resources. Discovery of telephone by Graham Bell and the light bulb by Edison in 1879 was the first sign that industrialization was being felt in the households.
Major figures and industrialists started to emerge in the various industries. The likes of, Morgan J.P. John, John Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, representing the key industries such as banking, steel industry and in the oil industry.
The expansion of railroad facilitated the growth of industries in America as well as the cheap labor from Chinese immigrants.
From the close of the 19th century, the United States initiated a mission of expansionism. This period is known as the Age of Imperialism. This is a period that would witness the acquisition of territories. This would range from Puerto-rico in 1898, Guam, Cuba American Samoa, U.S Virgin Islands, and Panama Canal Zone among others. By the turn of the 20th century the United States had acquired huge territories that would have likened it to the British Empire. The post second world war period also witnessed rapid economic and political imperialism that characterized the cold war period. This was a period that saw the United States interfere in the internal politics of various nations as it sought to put a stop the spread of communism.
The United States involvement in the Second World War had been rather tentative; it had stuck to its isolationist policy only to make an entry later. The end of the war would see the emergence of the Soviet Union and the United States as the two super powers. The rivalry between there nations would see the start of cold war, a war of words over differences in ideology.
Before the Second World War, the United States had taken an isolationist stance as it was reeling from the effects of the great depression that almost brought the nation to its knees. However, a period characterized by prosperity was to resume after the Second World War that would uplift it to the position of a superpower in rivalry of with the Soviet Union. The cold war ended in the early 1990s with the crumble of the soviet bloc.
The period of the cold war was characterized by the disrespect of civil rights in the foreign countries by the United States. This was so in most countries in Asia and Africa. This is also a period that would see the rise of enactment of civil rights legislation to out low any forms of discrimination. It was a culmination of century’s efforts to curb discrimination based on gender, class and race. A fight initiated by women during the rise of feminism in the early part of the century.
Throughout the history of the United States, in all those economic hurdles, conservatism has triumphed, as Gabriel Kolko puts it (1977). The United States has pursued the ideals of capitalism based on laissez faire. There has been minimal involvement of the government in business. Although progressivism was taking root the early part of the 20th century, laissez faire survived and has continued to do so. The destiny of the economy through out the history of the United States remains in the hands of market forces.
Gabriel Kolko, 1977. The triumph of conservatism: a re interpretation of American history, 1900-1916. The free press.