National Histories: North America

English heritage
Figure 1.--These Canadian school children await the arrival King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939. As Europe moved toward war, the young King and Queen made a visit to America and Canada in the last fleeting months of peace. There are three major North American countries. Two (America and Canada) are prosperous modern countries. The third (Mexico) is still a Third World country where millions of its citizens have to migrate north to find decent paying jobs. The quesion a historian has to ask is, Why? How is it that America and Canada are so prosperous and Mexico so poor. This is a very complicated question, but we believe an essential part of the answer is the heritage of English law and free enterprise that America and Canada share.

North America is one of the most successful and prosperous of the world regions, especially Canada and the United States. There are a number of reasons for this, including raw materials, productive agricultural lands, and the ability to draw from the European experience and technology as the result of emigration. And the United States had a governing philosophy that discouraged government restrictions on individual enterprise. The American experience was blighted by the institition os slavery. These are elements that North America shares with South America. The basic historical question is why North America has developed so differently from South America. In many ways North and South America are similar. A key and often ignored factor is the impact of English law and political values. The key difference is in North America the English were the dominant colonial power. While in South America it was the Spanish and Portuguese. Marxists during the Cold War claimed that American success was based on exploiting South America and other Third World countries. The problem with this assessment, is that the United States began its industrial development years before it began to make investments in the Third World. And it is not just America that that has been enormously successful, but Cabnada as well--another British-dominated country. And Canada does not have the overseas involvement of America. Here are the national histories we have compiled on North American countries.

America

The United States was founded by English colonists (17th century). This firmly planted English culture and law on America. The principles of representative governmenr were even more instilled with the Ebglish Civil War cut off the American colonists from royal rule. America fought two wars with Btitain and for a time the British underpinnings of Americam life were obscured. America developed differently from Europe in large measure because of the Frontier which gave virtually every individual the opportunity to own property. This resulted in a very different class structure than in Europe. The American Republic was based on a government structure established by the Constitution (1789). It and a small number of amendments have proved to be a remarkly successful structure for addressing major issues in national life. The sole exception proved to be slsavey which was only resolved by a terrible Civil War (1861-65). America in the 19th century evolved from a largely agricultural to the world's most important industrial power. Bountiful natural resources, a foundation of English law, a free enterprise system, an effective public education system, and immigration combined to make America potentially the most powerful country in the world. America in the early 20th century was an exceptional country in that it was the only important Industrial power that had no military conscription and large army. England since the 16th century had played a role in maintaining the European ballance of power. Britain no longer had this capability by the 20th century because of the rising power of Russia and Germany. The balance of power took on increasing importance in the 20th century because of the increasing spread of democracy and a desire for national self determinsation. This resulted in the appearance of many small European states without the ability to maintain their independence in the face of the massive resources which could be mobilized by Russia and Germany. The United States which had persued an isolationist policy during the 19th century finally entered world politics. The United States prevented authoritarian Imperial Germany from dominating the Contindent in World War I. Next America pervented totalitarian NAZI Germany from dominating the Continent in World war II. And then after the War prevented the totalitarian Soviet Union from dominating Western Europe. It was under the umbrella of American power that today even the smallest European state can enjoy its national identity and indeopendence in unprecsented security. Domestically America in the 20th century gradually implemented a series of progressiveand lineral reforms designed to widen the opportunity of all americans. The Civil Rights movement finally opened up opportunities for black Americans.

Bermuda

Bermuda is well enough off the coast of North America that native amnericans nevere reached it and unlike the Caribbean islands to the south was unihabited when the Europeans arrived. The island is named after its discoverer, Spainard, Juan de Bermüdez (1515). The Spanish did not settle cthe island, in part because of the dangerous reefs. Settlement began when English colonists led by Sir George Somers headed for the North American mainland were ship wrecked (1609). The Bermuda population is primarily Afro-American, but the history is different than tht of the Cribbean because the climate and agricultural capacity did not support sugar plantations. The English settlers did import Africans as well as indentured servants. The absence of plantation agriculture, however, meant that slavery was never as haesh or as extensive as in the Cribbean. Much of the rest of the population is of English and Scotts-Irish ancestry.

Canada

Canada was settled by a diverse group of Native Americans, some adapting to extrodinarily difficult climatic conditions. The country was colonized by the French as New France and to a lesser extent around Hudson Bay the English. The French sent te first large group of settlers (17th century). The French lost Canada, however, during the French and Indian Wars and in the peace neogitiations were more concerned with Caribbean sugar islands (1760s). The Canadians including the still strongly French populatin stayed loyal to Britain during the American Revolution (1770s). The status of Canada was a question in the War of 1812 between America and Britain. That was the last time invading armies crossed the border. The American and Canadian border developed into thelongest de-militarized border in the world. The British administered Canada as a group of separate colonies. The separate colonies were federated and achieved dominin status (19th century). British Candians gradually dominated the colony and the French became second-class citzens even in Quebec. Canada played an important role in both World Wars, loyally supporting Britain. After Dunkirk the First Canadian Division was the only fullu equipped division prepared to resist a NAZI invasion. The Canadians played a major role in the Battle of the Atlantic gauarding convoy. The Canadian Army played an important role in the liberation of France. Despite Canada's role in liberating France, French Canadians were not enthusistic about the war effort. Cnada was a staunch American ally in the Cold War. Canada in the post-War era has addressed the grevinces of the French minority. It is today a respected independent bilingual, multicultural federation.

Greenland

The first humans settlers on Greeland were Native Americans Archeologists are uncertain as to just when Native Americans first reached Greeland, but apparently occurred at a very late point (about 2500 BC). The people are known as the Inuit. This was the furthest eastern advance of Native Americans in North America. Native Anericans reached southern South America several millenia earlier. Native American settlement has been intetminent since that time. They subsisted on fisheries and hunting marine mammals. European settlement began with the Vikings led by Eric the Red (982 AD). The Vikings attempted to continue a European life style with sheep. This failed when the climate turned colder and they eventually abandoned the settlement. Modern settlment began with a Norwegian missiony (1721). The Inuit living on marine mammalals and fish were able to survive even with colder temperatures. Greenland became a Danish colony. It olayed a role in World War II, mostly as an important site for weather stations. The island was also of strategic importance in the Cold War.

Mexico

The Toltec people of the Central Valley of Mexico developed corn. Although not immediately a important as the potato, it is today with the 20th century develooment of synthetic fertilizer the single most important food crop. This made possible the moderbn expansion of the world population. The Native Americans the Spanish Conquistadores encountered were the Maya and Aztec. The Aztec in oparticilar were a chillingly blood thirsty people, exceeduing the Spanish in their lust for war, but not in their abiity to make war. The Spanish Conquistadores wanted gold, but it was corn that was Mexico's great contribution to human society. European diseases descimated Native American populations. Mexico languished as a Spanish colony for over 300 years. It achieved independence from Spain (19th century), but its Revolution came a century later (20th century). The Mexican Revolution brought the Partido Rvolucinario Institucional (PRI) to power. The PRI brought a degree of social justice, but not economic prosperity. Mexico held its first truly democratic election and the PRI was voted out of power (2000). Today millions of Mexicans can not make a decent living in their oiwn country and instrad cross the northern border to work illegally in the United States. There does not seem to be a serious discussion in Mexico of why the country cannot prosper economically. Many Mexicans seem nore intent on blameing America and free enterprise on their economic failure.








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Created: 11:55 PM 10/7/2007
Last updated: 5:46 AM 8/17/2012