School in a Book: History of North and Central America


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

Overview of the settlement of North and Central America: People came to North America overland from Asia during the Ice Age when the sea level was lower using a land bridge that connected Asia and modern-day Alaska. By 7000 B.C., natives had reached Mesoamerica. Here, they grew corn, beans, pumpkins and more. Mesoamerica was home to the first North and Central American civilizations, including the Mayans and the Aztecs. Meanwhile, smaller tribes across the area formed hunter-gatherer and permanent-village cultures. [By the 1500s there were about six million native Americans grouped into hundreds of unique tribes with different food, art, governmental styles and ways of life (for example, totems, tepees, tribal councils, wigwams, masks, etc.). Some of these tribes formed confederations. Some fought wars.]

Mesoamerica: The area which is now Mexico and Central America

The Olmecs: The people who built the first North American cities in Mesoamerica around 1500 BCE. Olmec cities featured earth and stone pyramids for religious worship and sculptures (including some of enormous heads).

The Zapotecs: The neighboring people to the Olmecs from around 800 BCE on, who became the first Americans to develop writing

The Mayans: The people who created the first great civilization of the Americas around 600 BCE and flourished till around 800 CE. At their height, they encompassed most of Mexico and beyond, building advanced cities with temples and pyramids, including the influential city of Teotihuacan. They were a peaceful people led by priests. Class system: nobles, priests, rules, officials, servants (in cities) and ordinary people (in countryside and went to cities for needs). Had about 800 hieroglyphs, advanced math, science; calendar; astronomy, intricate roads, crafts. Blood sacrifice. all were independent city-sttaes, as in greece. they fought each toher. declined when lost many farmers due to war (farmers taken hostage and many killed as blood sacrifices.)

Teotihuacan: The largest city in the Americas from approximately 1 to 500 CE, which was built by the Mayans. With a population of about 125,000 at its height, Teotihuacan began as a religious center and featured multi-floor apartment compounds, a planned grid system, temple complexes, and a trading system.

Teotihuacan/Teotihuacano): The people and culture of Teotihuacan

The Moche: The people who settled modern-day Ecuador (in Central America) toward the end of ancient times (around 300 AD) and through the beginning of the Middle Ages (around 700 AD). They made pottery, wove textiles, and did metalwork.

The Hopewell culture: The Native culture that formed in what is now Ohio around 300 CE.

The Middle Ages (500 to 1500 CE)

The Temple Mound cultures: The native cultures that formed along what are now the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers around 700 CE. They were known for their towns with central plazas surrounded by rectangular mounds with temples for the dead on top. They lived in adobe longhouses and grew corn, sunflowers, beans, pumpkins and more.

The Hopi: The Native culture that formed in what is now the southwestern U.S. around 700 CE. They were known for their effective irrigation systems, unique art, rain dances and other complex ceremonies, and the Cliff Palace. They grew corn, beans, squash, cotton and more.

The Inuits: The Native people of the far north in what is now Alaska and Canada, who traded with the Vikings. – middle ages

The Anasazi: The Native people of what is now Colorado, who lived in pueblos. – middle ages

The Cree, Chippewa and Algonquin: The Native peoples of what is now Canada. – middle ages

The Sioux: The Native people of what is now the American Midwest. – middle ages

The Iroquois: The Native people of what is now New York State. – middle ages

The Mohawks: The Native people of what is now New England. – middle ages

The Toltecs: The people that replaced the peaceful Mayans in Mesoamerica around 800 CE, establishing a militaristic city-state featuring temples guarded by stone warriors, warrior chiefs and more. During their dominance, the quality of poetry, art and literature declined.

The Aztecs: The people that replaced the Toltecs in Mesoamerica around 1200 CE. This warlike people is well-known for their pyramids, their unique calendar, their advanced governmental and economic structure and their tiered social structure. They built the city of Tenochitlan and traded throughout Mexico. By the 1500s, their empire stretched coast to coast. It was conquered quickly by the Spanish in the 1500s (In one instance, conquistadores led by Cortez pretended he was a god that Montezuma had been waiting for and tricked him into welcoming him.)

Tenochitlan: The central city of the Aztecs, which was built on an island in Lake Texcoco near present-day Mexico City. The city featured garden islands for growing food and was one of the world’s best-planned cities.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE through 1900 CE)

Colonization: The forceful takeover of a nation or people by a foreign nation

Christopher Colombus: The first European to come to the Americas. Colombus, an Italian-born Spaniard who sailed for England, landed on the Carribean Islands in 1492. Believing it to be India (which had been his destination) he named the islands the West Indies. Colombus may never have known he had located the Americas, even after several successive visits.

Amerigo Vespucci: The Italian explorer who sailed to the Americas in 1497 and 1504 and was the first to realize that a New World had been located. By publishing popular writings about his travels, he sealed his credibility and inspired cartographers to name the area after him.

John Cabot: The Italian explorer who sailed for England to the Americas and located Newfoundland, then set up a colony at Quebec in 1497

Ponce de Leon: The Spanish explorer who located Florida in 1513 at claimed it for Spain

Jacques Cartier: The French explorer who located parts of Canada, including Montreal, in 1534 and claimed them for Spain

Roanoke: One of many failed American colonies settled during the 1500s, which became known as the Lost Colony since none of its inhabitants made it back to their home country. Because all attempts to colonize the Americas during that century failed, most Europeans considered the continent unimportant.

Jamestown: The first permanent English colony in the Americas, located in Virginia near the Powhatan River

John Smith: The leading founder of Jamestown, Virginia

Pocahontas: A native American woman who facilitated trade between her people and the people of Jamestown and saved John Smith’s life twice after he was threatened by her people. Later in life, she was captured and imprisoned by colonists, then converted to Christianity and married a colonist–John Rolfe, who introduced tobacco to the colonies.

Plymouth Plantation: The first name of the first permanent North American settlement, which was founded in 1620 by the English. The first winter, Plymouth Plantation saw the death of over half its settlers. In 1621, however, they shared the first Thanksgiving meal with Squanto and other Native Americans. Over the following 20 years, about 20,000 new settlers arrived to Plymouth and surrounding areas. Without the help of the natives in the area, survival was unlikely. Less than a decade later, they began flourishing by growing tobacco on lands taken from the natives and selling it to Europe. Fur trading became popular as well.

Pilgrims: The original settlers of Plymouth Plantation, numbering about 100, some of whom were religious separatists, rejecting the Church of England, and some of whom were mercenaries. The term is also used for the other settlers of this area throughout the 1620s until the Puritans blended with them in the 1630s.

The Mayflower: The ship that brought the original pilgrims to North America

Plymouth Rock: Reportedly, the first landmark noted by the pilgrims at the place where they landed and settled

Puritans: The group of American colonists who founded the Massachussets Bay Colony and went on to settle many other parts of North America. Unlike some of the Pilgrims, the Puritans were not religious separatists, but considered themselves part of the reformed Church of England.

Squanto: A nickname for Tisquanto, a Native American who is known for helping the Puritans survive their first winter at the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Squanto learned English after escaping a slave ship and settling in England for a time. He returned to America, then served as an interpreter for the Puritans and Native Americans, helping them make alliances and helping the newcomers grow crops. During his time as interpreter, Squanto displayed manipulative behavior that led his people to attempt his capture. William Bradford protected him, but he died of disease not long after.

The first Thanksgiving: The three-day feast of 1621 during which the Pilgrims invited Squanto to celebrate their first successful harvest.

The Massachussets Bay Colony: The second successful American colony, which was established near Plymouth in 1630

New Amsterdam: The original name of New York, one of the original thirteen colonies, established by the Dutch then later taken over by the English and renamed

Pennsylvania: The area given to a group of Quakers by the English king

William Penn: The founder of Pennsylvania and a strong proponent of religious freedom in the New World, whose ideas were a precursor to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

Early French colonies in North America: The French settlements, which included the Great Lakes, the Mississippi river area and the St. Lawrence river area in Canada

Early Spanish colonies in North America: The Spanish settlements, which included Mexico and parts of California, Arizona and New Mexico. The Spanish took Native Americans as slaves to work in mines and Spanish missionaries destroyed native temples and idols.

Native American reactions to colonists: The various ways natives responded to the colonists. At first, the Native Americans in these areas were friendly to the Europeans. Then they began to suffer from smallpox, measles and other European diseases; to be killed; and to be driven off their lands. Until Europeans introduced them to horses, wheeled transportation and guns, they fought only with wood and stone tools, bows, slingshots and spears. The late 1600s saw many violent wars with the native peoples.

The American slave trade: The importing of Africans to the Americas by force, which began in 1619. Soon after, the majority of the people living in some areas were slaves.

Salem witch trials: The trials held in Salem, Massachusetts around 1700 in which men and women were found guilty of witchcraft due to Puritan fears. The trials led to the death of fourteen women and six men.

French and Indian War: The war between the French and British, along with each side’s native American allies, for American territory. It was part of the larger Seven Years’ War between European colonizing nations.

The original thirteen colonies: The American colonies that fought the American Revolution, which included: Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia

The Sugar Act and the Stamp Act: The exhorbitantly high taxes on sugar and stamp imports [exports?], imposed by the king of England on the American colonies.

“No taxation without representation”: The slogan used by American colonists to protest their lack of representation in the Enlish government in spite of the high taxes imposed on them by that government.

The Boston Tea Party: A protest by the American colonies against Great Britain over taxation of British imports in which a group of colonists snuck into the Boston Harbor at night and threw tea imports overboard.

The Declaration of Independence: The statement made by the American colonies declaring independence from Great Britain, which marked the beginning of the American Revolution. It was written mostly by Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson: The main author of the Declaration of Independence and the third U.S. president

The Articles of Confederation: The document that held the American colonies together during the American Revolution, prior to the creation of the U.S. Constitution, which gave most of the power to the states

The American Revolution: The war between Britain and the thirteen American colonies that led to American independence. Partly, it was sparked by unfair English taxes and other laws. It occurred in the mid-1700s and is also called the American War of Independence or the Revolutionary War. The final battle took place in Yorktown, where the British surrendered to America.

The Treaty of Paris: The treaty between the American colonies and Great Britain that ended the American Revolution and formally recognized the United States as an independent nation

The Constitutional Convention: The 1787 Pennsylvania gathering in which the founding father of the U.S. wrote the U.S. Constitution

Yorkstown: George Washington led the colonists to victory, the British finally surrendering at Yorktown in 1781. Two years later, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war.

The Constitutional Convention: In 1787, at the Constitutional Convention in Pennsylvania, the founding fathers created the United States Constitution. (Prior to this time, America was held together by the Articles of Confederation, which gave almost all power to the states.)

The U.S. Constitution: The document stating the supreme law of the U.S. that provides the framework of the U.S. system of government

George Washington: The first president of the United States, elected in 1789, and the heroic general that led the Americans to victory in the American Revolution

Bill of Rights: The first ten amendments (additions) to the U.S. Constitution, which provide for various individual freedoms, including freedom of speech, press, religion, the right to bear arms and more

U.S. expansion: The acquisition of U.S. territory and population during the 1800s, including European immigrants attracted to American freedom; the Louisiana Purchase; the annexation of Texas; the gaining of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico after a brief war of expansion against Mexico; and more

Upper and Lower Canada: The two parts of Canada after Britain split the English-speaking north (the Ontario area) from the French-speaking south (the Quebec are) to reduce tensions between these areas, who both wanted control

The Louisiana Purchase: The buying of 530 million acres of land, which included Louisiana, from France in the early 1800s–a purchase that doubled the size of the recently-created nation. It occurred because of Napolean’s extravagant spending and his desire to fund a war of expansion against [need fact check].

Lewis and Clark: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the explorers assigned by President Thomas Jefferson to map and report about the Louisiana Purchase and beyond. Their journey took about a year and a half, and they reached the Pacific Ocean at [where?].

Sacajawea: A native American who helped Lewis and Clark navigate across America

The War of 1812: The war between the U.S. and Great Britain over Britain’s continued involvement in U.S. trade. After it, Britain agreed to no longer have military posts on U.S. soil or block U.S. trade with Europe. The treaty of Ghent, which ended the war, helped establish the U.S. as a world power.

Nat Turner: The leader of a violent and unsuccessful slave revolt in Virginia in the 1830s that resulted in the deaths of 50 to 60 White people and the deaths and convictions of many Black participants and led to harsher penalties for slaves

The Alamo: The decisive battle in Texas’ war of independence from Mexico that occurred in the 1830s. In the 1840s, Texas, the Lone Star Republic, joined the U.S.

Davy Crockett: The most well-known defender of the Alamo

The Trail of Tears: The path that Cherokee and other Native Americans took after being forced out of Oklahoma by President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. Thousands died on the trail.

The American Civil War: The war that took place from 1861 to 1865 that divided the United States in two—the Northern States versus the Southern States. While the northerners had already banned slavery, partly because their economy was based on manufacturing, the southerners maintained its legality, using slaves on their tobacco, cotton and other plantations. The North also wanted a stronger national government, while the South wanted more power for individual states. After the North won, slavery ended and the U.S. reunited.

Abraham Lincoln: The U.S. president of the mid-1800s who presided over the American Civil War. Lincoln opposed slavery and was in favor of a stronger national government.

The Confederate States of America: The name the southern states took for their union after seceding from the U.S., an act which started the Civil War.

Ulysses S. Grant: The military commander of the North during the Civil War

Robert E. Lee: The military commander of the South during the Civil War

Fort Sumter: The fort in South Carolina where the Civil War fighting began

Gettysburg: A decisive Civil War victory for the North

The Gettysburg Address: A speech made by Lincoln arging for equality and national unity

The Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln’s announcement of the end of slavery in the U.S.

The thirteenth amendment: The constitutional amendment that ended slavery

John Wilkes Booth: The man who assassinated Lincoln five days after General Lee surrendered to General Grant in the courthouse at Appomattox, Virginia

Reconstruction: The process of rebuilding after the Civil War and transitioning away from slavery

Indentured servants: Servants that remain perpetually indebted to their masters, creating a type of slavery, in spite of being lawfully free

Harriet Tubman: A escaped slave who made trips through southern territory, helping others escape to the North

Canadian independence: The political independence of Canada, which was gained shortly after the U.S. Civil War. Soon, they folded in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario. They declared both French and English their official languages. Before the turn of the century, the Northwest Territories (a very large portion of modern-day Canada) as well as the Yukon Territory were also added. (These areas were previously owned by the Hudson Bay Company.)

Canadian gold rush: The 1800s discovery of gold in Canada’s Yukon Territory that led to a population expansion there

Canadian Pacific Railway: The railway completed in the late 1800s that united Canada from the St. Lawrence River to the Pacific Ocean

The Modern Era (The 1900s through the Present)

U.S. industrialization: From the late 1800s through the early 1900s, the U.S. quickly modernized, became an industrial power, and made significant inventions.

Wilbur and Orville Wright: The inventors of the Wright Flyer, considered to be the first airplane, which they first flew in 1903

Henry Ford: The inventor of the assembly line and the owner of the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. His company led the car sales industry, one of the hallmarks of modern life, and revolutionized factory production methods, which led to greater mass production, another hallmark of modern life.

Albert Einstein: The German physicist who developed the Special Theory of Relativity and other key theories centered around gravity in the early 1900s’ in the U.S.

The U.S. during the first World War: After a time of limited involvement in international affairs, the U.S. entered World War I after German submarines attacked their cargo ships.

President Wilson: The U.S. president at the end of World War I and the developer of the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations. Though advocated for by Wilson, the U.S. government voted not to join the League and resume non-interventionalist policies.

The Roaring Twenties: The decade after the end of World War I and a boom time for the U.S. economy. During this time, city populations swelled, jazz music and movies were popular, the flapper style of dress came into fashion, car ownership increased and skyscrapers and elevators were invented.

Prohibition: The constitutional law against the sale and use of alcohol. Prohibition was granted by the 18th Amendment in the 1920s and ended by the 21st Amendment in the 1930s. During the time of prohibition, mafia and other crime organizations led by people like Al Capone set up bootlegging operations, increasing overall rates of crime.

The 19th Amendment: The constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote, which followed nearly 100 years of protests

Ku Klux Klan: A group of violent

The Scopes Trial: A trial that took place in the 1920s after teacher John Scopes was convicted and fined for teaching evolution in a public school in Tennessee. It was also called the “Monkey Trial.” Scopes was convicted but his sentence was set aside.

Black Friday: The stock market crash of 1929, which started the Great Depression worldwide. It occurred because stock market speculators had overvalued many companies. Unemployment was extremely high, and a massive drought in the Great Plains (the Dust Bowl) and resulting crop failures exacerbated the problems.

NBC: The National Broadcasting Channel, the first company to put out an official network television broadcast, which they did in 1940

The New Deal: The set of government-sponsored programs initiated in the early 1930s by President Roosevelt to increase employment rates and reduce poverty during the Depression. These programs included infrastructure expansions, subsidized farming, a federal minimum wage and more.

Pearl Harbor: The Hawaiian military facility that Japan attacked on December 7, 1941, which led to the U.S. joining World War II the next day. 2400 soldiers were killed in the attack. Japan was motivated in part by U.S. pressure to stop attacking China.

U.S. involvement in World War II: During World War II, the U.S. sided with the Allies to stop the advance of Germany into Europe and beyond and the advance of Japan into China and beyond. They contributed troops and supplies to the European fronts and led the attack on Japan. They ended the war with Japan by dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, purportedly in order to avoid an estimated million deaths from further attacks. President Truman made the decision to do so.

Enola Gay: The plane that dropped Little Boy,

Little Boy: The nickname for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, which killed 130,000 people and more later from fallout

Fat Man: The nickname for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, which killed 750,000 people and more later from fallout

Kamikaze: Japanese suicide bomber planes, which attacked Allied ships during a push for Okinawa

Relocation centers: Prison camps inhabited by Japanese and Japanese Americans starting in 1942 after Roosevelt ordered it. Many stayed for the remainder of the war.

The U.S. during the 1950s: In the decade following World War II, the U.S. led the nuclear arms race and prospered, partly due to wartime advances in industrial production. Americans enjoyed new in-home technologies; the highway and road system greatly expanded; and the television came to dominate home entertainment.

McCarthyism: An anti-communist ideology led by Senator Joseph McCarthy characterized by false accusations of communist allegiance to one’s countrymen

African American Civil Rights movement: The collection of protests that took place during the 1950s and 1960s in the U.S. south and elsewhere that brought an end to racial segregation and discrimination through the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act

Brown vs. the Board of Education: The 1950s U.S. Supreme Court case between the Brown family and the Board of Education of Topeka that banned a Black child from a public school. The court unanimously favored Brown and banned racial segregation in public schools.

The “Little Rock Nine”: The nine students that integrated an Arkansas high school, to violent protest. The students were supported by the National Guard.

Statehood of Alaska and Hawaii: The 1959 creation of these U.S. states

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: The most prominent leader of the Civil Rights movement, who delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in the 1960s and was assassinated in 1968. He promoted non-violence and civil disobedience.

John F. Kennedy: The U.S. president who was assassinated in Texas in the 1960s

Malcolm X: A black-nationalist leader who was assassinated in New York City at a rally

Thurgood Marshall: The first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice

The nuclear arms race: The race between the U.S., the U.S.S.R. and other countries to develop atomic weapons after World War II. (Though Russia fought on the side of the Allies during the war, they soon merged with communist countries in Eastern Europe, including East Germany, forming the U.S.S.R.)

The space race: The race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War to advance space exploration

Apollo II: The U.S. mission that took place in 1969 and resulted in the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin

NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This alliance of western nations formed against communist powers to promote democracy

The Korean War: The war between North Korea and South Korea that took place from 1950 to 1953. It occurred after the communist-led North Korea attacked the democratic South Korea in spite of their recent border agreement. The U.N. sent troops (including many American troops) to defend democracy, believing that any extension of communist-allied countries could lead to further communist military action around the world. No side won, and in the end, the border returned to the 38th parallel, where it had been at the start of the war.

The Vietnam War: The Vietnamese civil war that took place during the 1960s and 1970s between the Viet Cong in the south and the communists in the north (the two parties that took over after Vietnam claimed independence from France in the 1950s). The U.S. sent troops to aid the south to decrease the spread of communism, but no side won and millions died in this long-running conflict.

The draft: The practice of lawfully compelling people to join the army, a practice that took place in the U.S. during the Vietnam War

Space shuttle Colombia: The first reusable space plane, which the U.S. launched in 1981

Hubble Space Telescope: The first telescope in space, which brought pictures of deep space to the world

The U.S. during the 1980s and 1990s: During this decade of rapid modernization, the U.S. brought the personal computer and the internet to the world and continued to lead the world in G.D.P.

Barack Obama: The first African American to be elected president of the United States, who took office in 2008

September 11, 2001: The date of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. that led to war in Afghanistan


Babies come. But babies don't go. Get Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Story on Amazon now.