The territory was occupied first by the Native Americans since prehistoric times and then also by European colonists who followed the voyages of Christopher Columbus starting in 1492. The largest settlements were by the English on the East Coast, starting in 1607.
By the 1770s the Thirteen Colonies (Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations) contained two and half million people, were prosperous, and had developed their own political and legal systems. The British government's threat to American self-government led to war in 1775 and the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, declared the independence of "the United States of America" in the Declaration of Independence. July 4 is celebrated as the nation's birthday.
The United States includes a wide variety of climate types due to its large size, range of geographic features, and non-contiguous arrangement.
The southern tip of Florida is tropical. The Great Plains west of the 100th meridian are semi-arid. Much of the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, and the Cascade Range are alpine. The climate is arid in the Great Basin, desert in the Southwest, Mediterranean in coastal California, and oceanic in coastal Oregon and Washington.
The state of Alaska—on the north-western corner of the North American continent—is largely subarctic, with an oceanic climate in its southern edge and a polar climate in the north. The archipelago state of Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is tropical.
Extreme weather is not uncommon—the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico are prone to hurricanes, and tornadoes regularly occur in the area of the Midwest referred to as Tornado Alley. The United States has more tornadoes than the rest of the countries of the world combined.
The culture of the United States is a Western culture, having been originally influenced by European cultures. It has been developing since long before the United States became a country with its own unique social and cultural characteristics. Today, the United States of America is an ethnically and racially diverse country as result of large-scale immigration from many different countries throughout its history.
American culture includes both conservative and liberal elements, military and scientific competitiveness, political structures, risk taking and free expression, materialist and moral elements. American culture has a variety of expressions due to its geographical scale and demographic diversity. The flexibility of U.S. culture and its highly symbolic nature lead some researchers to categorize American culture as a mythic identity; others see it as American exceptionalism.
The cultural affiliations an individual in the United States may have commonly depend on social class, political orientation and a multitude of demographic characteristics such as religious background, occupation and ethnic group membership.
Religion in the United States is characterized by both a wide diversity in religious beliefs and practices. According to recent surveys, 83% of Americans claim to belong to a religious denomination.
A majority of Americans report that religion plays a "very important" role in their lives, a proportion unusual among developed nations. Many faiths have flourished in the United States, including both later imports spanning the country's multicultural immigrant heritage, as well as those founded within the country; these have led the United States to become one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world.
The majority of Americans (76%) identify themselves as Christians. Non-Christian religions (including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism etc.), collectively make up about 3.9% to 5.5% of the adult population. Another 15% of the adult population identifies as having no religious belief or no religious affiliation.
The economy of the United States is the world's largest national economy & has maintained a stable overall GDP growth rate, a low unemployment rate and high levels of research and capital investment funded by both national and foreign investors. It has been the world's largest national economy and remains the world's largest manufacturer.
About 30% of the entire world's millionaire population resides in the United States. Furthermore, 34% of the world's billionaires are American. It also boasts the world's largest gold reserves and the world's largest gold depository, the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The United States is also home to 139 of the world's 500 largest companies, which is almost twice that of any other country.
A large contributor to the country's success has also been a very strong and stable currency. The US dollar holds about 60% of world reserves, as compared to its top competitor, the euro, which controls about 24%.
The American labour market has attracted immigrants from all over the world. The country is one of the world's largest and most influential financial markets, home to major stock and commodities exchanges like NASDAQ, NYSE, AMEX, CME, and PHLX.
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