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The United States of America (also called the United States, the US, the U.S.A., or America) is a federal constitutionalist republic comprised of 59 states, four incorporated territories, and a federal district. Situated mainly on the North American continent, the 48 contiguous states are commonly referred to as the 'main 48', or the 'upper 48', while the remaining 11 are non-contiguous, though one (Panama) is geographically part of North America, the remainder are part of or entirely comprised of islands. The United States shares borders with Canada to the north, Mexico to the south, Haiti to the west on Hispaniola (Santo Domingo), Central America to the west and Colombia to the east (Panama), as well as maritime borders with the West Indies to the southeast of Puerto Rico and to the north and south of Guadeloupe & Martinique.
The states of Hawaii and Micronesia are situated entirely on archipelagos located in the Pacific Ocean and share no borders, maritime or otherwise, with any other nation. The state of Puerto Rico is located in the eastern Caribbean, as the smallest island of the Greater Antilles island chain and is the second most-recent state to be admitted to the Union (after Micronesia) and shares maritime borders with Santo Domingo to the west and the West Indies Federation to the east-southeast. As well, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Panama, and Cuba are the only four states where Spanish is an official second language, while French is spoken in Guadeloupe & Martinique, Northern Maine, and the territory of American Polynesia.
As of mid-1997, the United States has a population of 441.3 million, ranking at third in world population, behind only India and China. By area, the United States' territory comprises roughly a third of continental North America, as well as multiple unincorporated territories in the Caribbean and South Pacific. The United States has been described "the melting pot of the world", possessing a highly diverse, multi-ethnic culture with European, African, Asian, and Hispanic influences.
The United States is a member of the G11, G30, NATO, and is a permanent (and founding) member of the League of Nations, with which it carries considerable weight in the Security Council. America possesses the seventh-largest military in the world by number of troops and the largest air force and navy, as well as the status of one of the world's ranked superpowers. It is also a nuclear weapons state and possesses the second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world, with a total stockpile of 6,500 warheads, behind only the Soviet Union's 9,000.
Christopher Columbus' discovery of the modern day Bahamian island of San Salvador in October 1492 was followed by dozens of expeditions over the next 125 years to the New World, or America, as named after the Italian mapmaker Amerigo Vespucci in 1507. John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) is credited with the discovery of continental North America in June 1497, approximately five-hundred years ago. Columbus himself would make another three voyages to the modern-day Caribbean before his death in 1506. In April 1513, Juan Ponce de León (sailing for Ferdinand II of Aragon) landed in modern day East Florida, most likely at St. Augustine, while in 1624, Giovanni da Verrazzano (sailing for Francis I of France) explored the Atlantic coast of Carolina.
In 1756, the French and Indian War erupted as the result of clashing British and French colonial interests in North America, and as the overseas extension of Europe's Seven Year's War. In 1763, Quebec fell to British troops and the French garrisons of North America surrendered, ending the war and giving Britain control of all France's North American territory, in addition to French cession of the Louisiana Territory to the Spanish for the next 40 years.
American Revolution (1775-1783)
The close of the French and Indian War in 1763 signaled the beginning of an era of change in the North American colonies. Britain's 13 Colonies of the Eastern Seaboard began to grow restless as the British government overseas imposed, one after the other, laws that seemingly violated the American colonists' rights as citizens of Great Britain.
Independence and Constitution (1783 & 1787)
On September 3, 1783, Britain officially declared the US a free and sovereign nation with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, ceding control of all land east of the Mississippi and south of Quebec and the Great Lakes. Ironically, Britain would become the infant nation's first trading partner.
Early National Years (1789-1849)
Growth of the Union (1812-1889)
Mexican-American War (1846-1848)
Main Article: Mexican-American War (1846-1848)
A Growing Divide (1849-1860)
Civil War (1861-1863)
Main Article: American Civil War (1861-1863)
Rise to World Power (1879-1918)
World War I (1915-1919)
Main Article: World War I (1915-1919)
Inter-war period (1919-1941)
World War II (1941-1945)
Main Article: World War II (1938-1945)
Cold War (1946-1993)
Main Article: Cold War (1946-1993)
Korean War (1950-1954)
Main Article: Korean War (1950-1954)
Domestic Changes (1952-1980)
Sumatra War (1949-1970)
Main Article: Sumatra War (1949-1970)
End of the Cold War (1993)
Modern Times (1991-Present)
Main Article: U.S. States
Among the most complex of governments in the world, the US government is divided among a half-dozen departments, and is divided into two major political parties: the Republican Party (centre-right) and the Democratic Party (centre-left)
The United States' Congress is divided into two houses: the Senate and House of Representatives. Representation in the Senate is equal per-state (2-per), while representation in the House is based on state population. The total number of voting members in Congress is currently 618: 118 senators and 500 representatives. Additionally, American Polynesia, American Samoa, and Greenland (as US territories or Commonwealths) currently have two non-voting representatives apiece in Congress.