Wikipedia 10K Redux by Reagle from Starling archive. Bugs abound!!!

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The United States were founded from 13 colonies established in NorthAmerica by the BritishEmpire.

Because NorthAmerica at the time was occupied by the NativeAmericanPeople, much of the US history is preoccupied with the wresting of the land from these inhabitants.  This was done with a variety of means including broken treaties and forced resettlement, such as the Trail of Tears.  

In the middle of the 19th century, the nation was wracked with a massive Civil War.  The war was fought for economic and political purposes, but one of the most profound and long lasting effects of this war was ending the governmental support of slavery and the freeing of the AfricanAmericanPeople from bondage.  This was done more for the purpose of undermining the Confederate economy than any desire to eliminate class and racial distinctions in the US; indeed, following the Civil War a number of harsh repressive laws were put into effect to control and limit these people.  These laws have vanished, but some believe the sentiments and practices still exist in many areas of the US.  

At the end of the 19th century, the United States engaged in an extremely one-sided war with Spain, and gained control of Guam, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.  The US also acquired the Philippines, however only after a very bloody three year war, in which GenocidE was first used to describe the killings of 600,000 Filipinos by armed forces of the United States.

In the 20th century, as the amount of uncontested land in NorthAmerica was settled, the USA was forced to engage in more traditional mechanisms for continuing their political and economic growth.  Empires previously had used the policy of ColonialisM as the basis for establishing and protecting their foreign economic interests.  Since the US had been originally been a colony of England, obviously it would be considered hypocritical for the US to be known as a colonial empire, and so thus the US's "New World Order" was established and maintained through much more subtle events and mechanisms, many of which are not well known.  There have been a number of "Police Actions" or "Limited Engagements" in various third world countries, used to topple governments working at odds with US interests.  

Following the stock market crash in 1929 and years of virtually unlimited credit during the RoaringTwenties, the US was lost in a deep depression, that took most of a decade to emerge from.  Just as it emerged from this crisis, they were drawn into the Second World War, which had unofficially begun in Spain in 1934 and officially with the invasion of Poland by NaZi GermanY in 1939.  The UnitedStates entered the war in 1941 with the bombing of PearlHarbor by the Japan.  After four long years of war, GermanY and Japan were defeated, and (with its newly developed AtomicBomb) the UnitedStates emerged as the most powerful nation in the world.

During the second half of the 20th century, under the guise of defeating the TotalitarianisM of the CommunisT SovietUnion, the US engaged in a long and expensive ColdWar.  Coupling NaZi technologies with the AtomicBomb, the US and Soviets developed a vast arsenal of WeaponsOfMassDestruction, theoretically able to cause a nuclear detonation anywhere in the world.  The fear this ingrained into the US (and, probably) Soviet citizenry was extreme.  In the US, under SenatorJosephMcCarthy, a WitchHunt was undertaken to expose and publically denegrate anyone with beliefs that expoused anything resembling CommunisM, or who even merely associated with people believing in communism.  

At the end of the 20th century, the US finally succeeded in outlasting the SovietUnion, and was surprised by the sudden fall of communist countries around the world.  Yet the US remains committed to "full engagement" in the world.  At the start of the 21st century, the US is embracing the new globalization.

Source for much of the above is taken from the Encyclopedia Britannica website's article on the United States, 
by William M. Brinton, 1996.  I left out a lot of the negative stuff.  Yeesh, US history is depressing...