The United States of America (also called the United States, the U.S., the USA, America, and the States) is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal. The country is situated mostly in central North America, where its forty-eight contiguous states and Washington, D.C., the capital district, lie between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, borderedby Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The state ofAlaska is in the northwest of the continent, with Canada to the east and Russia to the west, across the Bering Strait. The state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also possesses several territories in the Pacific and Caribbean.
The land area of the contiguous United States is approximately 1,900 millionacres (7,700,000 km2). Alaska, separated from the contiguous United States by Canada, is the largest state at 365 million acres (1,480,000 km2). Hawaii, occupying an archipelago in the central Pacific, southwest of North America, has just over 4 million acres (16,000 km2). The United States is the world's third or fourth largest nation by total area (land and water), ranking behind Russia and Canadaand just above or below China. The ranking varies depending on how two territories disputed by China and India are counted and how the total size of the United States is measured: calculations range from 3,676,486 square miles (9,522,055 km2) to 3,717,813 square miles (9,629,091 km2) to 3,794,101 square miles (9,826,676 km2). Including only land area, the United States is third in size behindRussia and China, just ahead of Canada.
Native American and European settlement
The indigenous peoples of the U.S. mainland, including Alaska Natives, are believed to have migrated from Asia, beginning between 12,000 and 40,000 years ago. Some, such as the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture, developed advanced agriculture, grand architecture, and state-level societies. After Europeans begansettling the Americas, many millions of indigenous Americans died from epidemics of imported diseases such as smallpox.
The Mayflower transported Pilgrims to the New World in 1620, as depicted in William Halsall's The Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, 1882.
In 1492, Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus, under contract to the Spanish crown, reached several Caribbean islands, making firstcontact with the indigenous people. On April 2, 1513, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León landed on what he called "La Florida"—the first documented European arrival on what would become the U.S. mainland. Spanish settlements in the region were followed by ones in the present-day southwestern United States that drew thousands through Mexico. French fur traders established outposts of New France aroundtheGreat Lakes; France eventually claimed much of the North American interior, down to the Gulf of Mexico. The first successful English settlements were the Virginia Colony in Jamestown in 1607 and the Pilgrims' Plymouth Colony in 1620. The 1628 chartering of the Massachusetts Bay Colonyresulted in a wave of migration; by 1634, New England had been settled by some 10,000 Puritans. Between the late1610s and the American Revolution, about 50,000 convicts were shipped to Britain's American colonies. Beginning in 1614, the Dutch settled along the lower Hudson River, including New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island.
In 1674, the Dutch ceded their American territory to England; the province of New Netherland was renamed New York. Many new immigrants, especially to the South, were indenturedservants—some two-thirds of all Virginia immigrants between 1630 and 1680. By the turn of the 18th century, African slaves were becoming the primary source of bonded labor. With the 1729 division of the Carolinas and the 1732 colonization of Georgia, the thirteen British colonies that would become the United States of America were established. All had local governments with elections open to...