The Map as History

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Westward Expansion (1790-1861)

The Westward Trails

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États-Unis : histoire territoriale

See also:

History of Europe 1815-1914

History of Europe 1918-1942

History of Europe 1945-2005

Home The Map as History > The United-States : a territorial history

The United-States : a territorial history

The 1803 Louisiana Purchase effectively doubled the size of the young American republic, just 20 years after winning independence from Great Britain.
Native American territory decreased as colonists moved westward.
In the middle of the century, the concept of Manifest Destiny provided justification for further territorial expansion, and encouraged pioneers to “spread civilization” across the entire continent.
However, the slavery issue divided the nation.

The United-States : a territorial history - History of the United States - Treaty of Paris in 1763 - Treaty of Paris in 1783 - War of Independence - Declaration of Independence - the 13 colonies - Lewis and Clark expedition Admission of New States and the Slavery Issue - The Indian Removal Programme - Manifest Destiny - Immigration and the ‘Melting Pot’ - Reconstruction and the End of the “Frontier”

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Birth of the United States    

Following the first Treaty of Paris signed in 1763, the entire territory between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi came under British rule.

With the second Treaty of Paris in 1783, the United Kingdom recognized the 13 colonies as ‘free and sovereign states’ and handed over all its territories east of the Mississippi.


The War of Independence

The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, thus breaking all ties between the 13 colonies and Great Britain.

The first conflicts involving British troops and American militiamen had taken place a year earlier in the Boston area.


Westward Expansion (1790-1861)

The search for new territories to conquer and the need to defend its territory against attacks from other countries, the new American state quickly sought to extend its borders.


Admission of New States and the Slavery Issue

Two Ordinances signed in 1787 and 1789 established rules covering the admission of new States to the Union.

However, the slavery issue divided the nation.  With the development of the West, the fragile political equilibrium between free states and slave states was broken, resulting in the secession of southern states and Civil War.


The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806)

Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, President Jefferson sent Lewis, his personal secretary, and Captain Clark on a scientific, political and commercial mission of exploration westwards to the Pacific Ocean.


The Northern Frontier and the Oregon Territory

Oregon’s rich natural resources, and in particular the opportunities it offered for the fur trade, created lively competition between Canadians from the Hudson Bay Company and American settlers over control of the territory.


The Westward Trails

To fulfil the concept of Manifest Destiny, which encouraged the expansion of US territory to the Pacific Ocean, several transcontinental trails enabled settlers to move westward from the Missouri.


The Indian Removal Programme

Pressure from settlers gradually reduced the territories where the Indians lived.

In 1830, the Indian Removal Act authorized the removal of native tribes to reservations West of the Mississipi River.


Texan Independence

Following independence, Mexico opened up a part of its territory to settlers.  American and European pioneers moved to Texas and there set up ranches where they grew cotton and raised cattle.


Reconstruction and the End of the “Frontier” 

The Union’s victory over the Confederates brought an end to four years of Civil War, but resulted a period of intense controversy on how to re-establish the unity of the nation.


The Transcontinental Railroad 

Following strong controversy over where the railroad should be built, the Pacific Railroad Act 1862 awarded contracts for a first track between Ohama and Sacramento to two railroad companies: the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific.


Immigration and the ‘Melting Pot’

During the first half of the 19th century, a growing number of immigrants in search of liberty and a better economic future arrived in the United States, mainly from Northern Europe.


The Plains Indians

The Indian tribes roamed the Great Plains of the Midwest in the wake of migrating herds of bison, which were their main source of wealth. 


The Lure of Imperialism

Once the Civil War was over and the nation was reunited, the desire for conquest re-emerged and the United States began to look beyond its frontiers for new opportunities.



History of the United States - Treaty of Paris in 1763 - Treaty of Paris in 1783 - War of Independence - Declaration of Independence - the 13 colonies - Lewis and Clark expedition Admission of New States and the Slavery Issue - The Indian Removal Programme - Manifest Destiny - Immigration and the 'Melting Pot' - Reconstruction and the End of the "Frontier"

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