History of the Modern United States
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The history of the modern Unites begins at the turn of the 20th century, when the United States surpassed Great Britain to become the world’s greatest industrial power. This was due to a heady burst of innovation and industrialization and the arrival of millions of immigrant workers to provide industry with abundant cheap labor, and farmers to cultivate an empty continent. A national railroad network was built and factories and commerce thrived. With the advent of the 20th century, Progressivism arose to remedy workforce abuses in child and women employment, the political corruption of city “bosses”, unsafe food, and the rapacious greed of corporate titans like John D. Rockefeller. This led to reforms that included the income tax, the direct election of Senators, Prohibition, and the right to vote for women. Despite its determination to remain neutral, the United States declared war on Germany in World War I. It armed the Allies and bankrolled their victory. The Roaring Twenties ended badly with the stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression. To help distressed Americans, President Franklin D. Roosevelt brought the New Deal into existence that provided relief for the jobless, support for farmers whose crops had become worthless, Social Security, and the federal minimum wage. It defined future American expectations from government.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States entered World War II and spearheaded the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. It later dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing Japan to defeat in the Pacific War. The Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States was an outgrowth of World War II, and it lasted until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. It is known as “cold war” because there was no actual fighting between the two antagonists. Instead, they each supported allies who waged proxy wars on their behalf in Korea and Vietnam. The conflict was a struggle for global influence by the two superpowers in the postwar world. It played out in nuclear arsenal development, massive military build-ups, foreign aid competitions, propaganda campaigns, espionage, embargoes, and even in sports events and the Space Race. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the United States as the world’s sole superpower. American policy has since focused on the endless conflicts of the Middle East (especially in response to the September 11 attacks) and the rise of the Islamic State on one hand and China on the other.
Encouraged by the Civil Rights Movement, social reform sought to enforce the voting and civil rights for African Americans and other minorities. At the beginning of the 21st century, the United States experienced the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, and was brought to a reassessment of civil rights by the Black Lives Matter movement.
1877-1900 | 1900 – 1920 | 1920-1932 | 1932-1945 | 1945 – 1960 | 1960-1973 | 1973-2000 | 2000-Present | Civil Rights Movement | Women | Native Americans
1877 – 1900
1900 – 1920
1920 – 1932
1932 – 1945
1945 – 1960
1960 – 1973
1973 – 2000
2000 – Present
Civil Rights Movement