Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 5: History and Cultures of the United States and Canada

Chapter Overviews

Native Americans are North America’s earliest inhabitants. In the late 1400s, Europeans explored the world and set up colonies in the Americas. France and Great Britain established colonies in North America, until the British defeated the French and took over its colonies. However, colonists in the British colonies that would become the United States declared independence in 1776 and established a separate country in 1783, after several years of fighting. For the next two centuries, the United States grew both physically, as the result of annexations and treaties, and economically. By the 1900s, the United States was a major industrial power.

Like the United States, Canada eventually won independence from British rule. A region of Canada called New France, located in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River area, was under French rule until the 1760s, when Great Britain won control of it. In 1867, Canada became one dominion when most of the separate colonies joined together. At the country’s founding, the new government promised to protect the French language and culture, especially in Quebec, though some French speakers still want to secede from the rest of the country.

Both countries formed and maintained representative democracies as their government. The United States has a strong central government that still gives some control and responsibilities to the states. Canada has a parliamentary democracy, in which voters elect representatives to a lawmaking body called Parliament. The cultures of both countries have been shaped by immigrants from around the world. Foods and pastimes in Canada reflect the regional life; in the United States, most people live in urban and suburban areas. Nature and natural themes have been a part of the art and literature of both nations, and people in both countries enjoy leisure activities such as watching and playing sports. Unlike the United States, however, Canadians lack a strong sense of national identity, perhaps because of the vast physical distances between some of its regions and cities.

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