We take it for granted that the United States is the most powerful country right now, and maybe ever. It’s a long, complicated, and exciting story often misunderstood. The following maps, taken in part from “70 maps that describe America,” show some of the critical events and forces that led to the United States becoming the only global superpower.
The American Civil War left North America open to British rule, which set the stage for the US to settle there.
America has a lot of power because it has the most people and the land of any country on Earth. It also has a lot of natural resources and human capital. In many ways, it is also an island nation that is freer to show its power worldwide because it doesn’t have any significant threats inside its borders.
North America’s Shifting Borders
As they are now, North America’s borders were never meant to be this way. As a break from the Seven Years’ War in Europe, the French and Indian War had a significant effect on how it turned out. After the war ended, Britain and Spain took control of most of France’s continent. Napoleon would sell Louisiana back to the United States in 1803, but New France would be lost forever. Spain’s decline made it easier for the United Kingdom and, later, the United States to take over the continent. There have been many states within USA since the inception. Kentucky, Kansas are some of the names.
When European explorers and settlers came to North America, there were already a lot of different communities there that had been there for a long time. Instead of kicking them out of their homes, denying them self-government, and eventually taking them and their land over when they were a small minority, the US tried to kill them all. These acts are the building blocks of North American dominance and American power worldwide.
Annexation of Texas
The United States could only spread its influence so far. When Mexico got its independence in 1821, the area from Texas to Northern California that was owned by Spain but not incorporated or controlled by Spain became part of Mexico’s territory. In Mexico’s Texas region, the number of American settlers overtook the number of Spanish speakers in 1829. In 1835, a small group of American colonists rose against the government. This led to a full-scale war of independence. The settlers won, and as a result, the Texas Republic was formed. In 1845, the Texas Republic voluntarily joined the United States.
But the US and Mexico were still fighting over the border of Texas, and President James K. Polk wanted to expand slavery even further west. He was especially interested in the California area of Mexico, where there were a lot of Americans at the time. In 1846, fights broke out between Texas and Mexico, and they quickly spread to the rest of the country. After a hard-line Mexican general took power and fought to the end, the United States invaded Mexico City and took a third of Mexico’s land. This included what are now the states of California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. If Polk hadn’t tried to get these Mexican territories, the war might have turned out differently, and the US would be much less influential in the world and the Pacific today.