History of the World in Objects and Art

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History of the World in Objects and Art Timeline

The Development of Socialist Ideas

The Spring of Nations

The Spring of Nations


The Crimean War

The Pottawatomie Massacre

The Battle of Solferino

The Unification of Italy

At the time of the founding of the United States, most of North America was occupied by Native peoples who sustained themselves by hunting, fishing, or farming. These American Indians reacted to the growing influx of European settlers in varied ways, from alliance to armed resistance.
When Europeans arrived at the end of the 15th century, North America was occupied by hundreds of different tribes speaking many different languages, practicing distinctive cultural traditions. Their world was radically disrupted by the Europeans, who brought different ways of using the land and diseases such as smallpox. Introduction of the horse by the Spanish in the southwest transformed the Plains; people could travel longer distances to find bison, for their meat and hides and then transport them to trade centers. At the same time, European traders introduced firearms in the northeast, which soon became essential for hunting and defending territory. These changes brought increased warfare as tribes sought to protect their traditional lands or to gain access to trade resources. By the 18th century, the horse and gun frontiers met and overlapped, supporting new tribal ways of life.

During the colonial era, many tribes were able to negotiate successfully with the different foreign governments that needed them as trading allies. However, that all changed when the English defeated the French, followed by American independence from England. A powerful unified government was formed, interested in claiming land for white settlement. Although the sovereignty of Indian nations was legally acknowledged, most transfers were forced on tribes by this new government.


In the War of 1812, the Iroquois Confederation—the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca— joined together under a spiritual and political alliance to resist treaties forced upon them and forged a strategic alliance with the British. They were forced to remove to Canada following British defeat. The Shawnee Chief Tecumseh similarly sought to unite all Indian nations in the Midwest into a powerful confederacy. He was killed by American forces; the confederacy was smashed and those involved lost their lands.

Many European practices were blended into Indian cultural traditions especially by the Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole, known as the Five Civilized Tribes. By the 1820s, the Cherokee had towns with two-story houses, a written language, a police force, a judiciary, and, from 1827, a written constitution. But this availed them nothing, as was the case with the armed resistance of the Creek and the Seminole. Under the United States' Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Civilized Tribes were dispossessed of their lands. They were forcibly relocated in reservations far to the west, treading what was eloquently named "the Trail of Tears".

Conflicts arose with the Plains tribes, such as the Sioux, Cheyenne, Comanche, and Kiowa, as Americans pushed roads and railroads into the Great Plains. Despite notable victories, especially at Little Bighorn in 1876, these tribes were defeated by superior firepower and the destruction of the bison herds upon which they relied. Government agents continued to fear Indian resistance and forbid gatherings for ceremonies such as the Ghost Dance. When a group of Lakota gathered in 1890 for a dance at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, they were massacred.

The fate of the Canadian native peoples was less harsh than that of American Indians in the US. The tribes of the Pacific Northwest coast, such as the Haida and Tlingit, maintained effective independence through the 19th century, withstanding the effect of European diseases and pressure to adopt Christianity. Further north, the Inuit were protected to a large degree by geographical remoteness well into the 20th century.

Born of an uprising against British rule in 1776, the United States was a bold political experiment, a new kind of state embodying the principles of individual rights and democracy-although at first exclusively for white people. In the first century of its existence, the country experienced enormous growth in territory and population, transforming itself into the world's largest industrial power.
North America was an arena of conflict between British and French colonialism in the mid-18th century. The British victory in the French and Indian War of 1754-63 settled this issue in Britain's favor, but disagreements between Britain and its 13 North American colonies mounted in the aftermath of the war. Colonists disputing the right of the British Parliament to impose taxes and duties on them staged rebellious acts that provoked a repressive response. Escalating conflict led the colonists to unite in declaring independence in 1776 and, with French help, they defeated British efforts to suppress the rebellion. Most colonists who had remained loyal to Britain left the country, many moving to Canada, which remained in British hands.


The new US had an initial population of around 4 million, similar in size to the population of Ireland at that time. They were farmers, merchants, lawyers, seafarers, and black slaves. American society differed from that
of contemporary Europe in having no mass of peasantry or formal aristocracy, as well as no monarch. This made it, in European eyes, singularly democratic long before voting rights were extended even to the entire white male population, which did not begin to happen until the 1820s. The country's reputation as a land of freedom and opportunity led to increasing immigration through the 19th century.


The territorial expansion of the US more than matched its population growth. In the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the US paid France $15 million for a vast swathe of territory from New Orleans to Montana. To the south, Florida was obtained from the Spanish, and Mexico was forced by war to cede large areas from Texas to California. Meanwhile, settlers pressed into the Midwest, with devastating effects on Native Americans.

By the mid-19th century, this territorial expansion, along with economic growth, had brought to the fore fundamental political and social divisions. While the northern states, in which slavery had been abolished, became a center of manufacturing, the cotton produced by slave labor in the South grew into a major export crop. Whereas the Founding Fathers of the US had imagined that slavery would fade away, it in fact expanded rapidly through the first half of the 19th century. In 1861, a block of southern states seceded from the Union, precipitating a Civil War. The Union victory in 1865 ensured that the country remained united. Slavery was ended nationwide.


The war was followed by a burst of economic growth that radically changed the nature of the US. Cities such as New York and Cincinnati were largely peopled with immigrants from non-English-speaking countries. Their poverty contrasted with the fortunes of industrialists and railroad builders. Industry and agriculture flourished everywhere except in the depressed South. By 1900, the US was the largest industrial producer in the world, with a population of 76 million.
The American Civil War

The January Insurrection in Poland
In the 19th century, most of Central and South America-as well as Haiti in the Caribbean—achieved independence from colonial rule and slavery was abolished. But these victories left behind unsolved problems of political instability, social inequality, and economic exploitation.
The catalyst for change in the European colonies was upheaval in Europe itself. The French Revolution of 1789 triggered a slave uprising in France's West Indian colony of St. Domingue. The territory gained independence as Haiti in 1804, becoming the first black-ruled state in the Americas.

While Spain and Portugal were engulfed in the Peninsular War in Europe in 1807-08, their colonies in Central and South America were in tumult. The local elite Creoles (ethnic Europeans born in the Americas) began a struggle for independence in the Spanish colonies. Simon Bolivar led the pro-independence forces in Colombia and Venezuela, and Jose de San Martin did the same in Argentina, Chile, and Peru. After tortuous and prolonged conflicts, all the Spanish colonies had become independent republics by 1826. Brazil split from Portugal peacefully in 1822 and appointed a scion of the Portuguese royal family as its emperor.

In Brazil and on the Caribbean islands, a large majority of the population was of African origin. Most were slaves working on plantations, producing crops such as sugar and coffee for European consumers. Although Britain outlawed trade in slaves in 1807, slavery continued in British West Indian colonies.


Slavery was abolished gradually and in a piecemeal way over the next 80 years, with Brazil being the last country to outlaw slavery, in 1888. After abolition, freed slaves often joined the lower strata of hierarchical societies in which poverty and inequality were made worse by unfair land redistribution.
In Latin America, independence did not lead to widespread prosperity or good government, merely to vacuums of power and economic inequality. Military dictatorships were common, as were wars and civil conflicts. However, there were areas of successful development—Argentina, for example, achieved rapid growth in the late 19th century, attracting a large influx of European settlers. Meanwhile, Brazil experienced a "rubber boom" from the 1880s. But development was entirely based on investment from Europe and North America, and was designed to serve the needs of the industrialized countries, not the local people.

The Execution of Maximilian of Habsburg in Mexico