Рефераты. The USA: its history, geography and political system

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Note: world's fourth-largest country (after Russia, Canada, and China)

Traditionally the USA is divided into several regions:

2. New England, made up of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts,

Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

3. The Middle Atlantic, comprising New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,

Delaware, and Maryland.

4. The South, which runs from Virginia south to Florida and west as far

as central Texas. This region also includes West Virginia, Kentucky,

Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama,

Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and parts of Missouri and Oklahoma.

5. The Midwest, a broad collection of states sweeping westward from Ohio

to Nebraska and including Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois,

Minnesota, Iowa, parts of Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota,

Kansas, and eastern Colorado.

6. The Southwest, made up of western Texas, portions of Oklahoma, New

Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and the southern interior part of California.

7. The West, comprising Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, California,

Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii.

Note that there is nothing official about these regions; many other lineups

are possible. These groupings are offered simply as a way to begin the

otherwise daunting task of getting acquainted with the United States.


How much sense does it make to talk about American regions when practically

all Americans can watch the same television shows and go to the same fast-

food restaurants for dinner? One way to answer the question is by giving

examples of lingering regional differences.

Consider the food Americans eat. Most of it is standard wherever you go. A

person can buy packages of frozen peas bearing the same label in Idaho,

Missouri, and Virginia. Cereals, candy bars, and many other items also come

in identical packages from Alaska to Florida. Generally, the quality of

fresh fruits and vegetables does not vary much from one state to the next.

On the other hand, it would be unusual to be served hush puppies (a kind of

fried dough) or grits (boiled and ground corn prepared in a variety of

ways) in Massachusetts or Illinois, but normal to get them in Georgia.

Other regions have similar favorites that are hard to find elsewhere.

While American English is generally standard, American speech often differs

according to what part of the country you are in. Southerners tend to speak

slowly, in what is referred to as a "Southern drawl." Midwesterners use

"flat" a's (as in "bad" or "cat"), and the New York City patois features a

number of Yiddish words ("schlepp," "nosh," "nebbish") contributed by the

city's large Jewish population.

Regional differences also make themselves felt in less tangible ways, such

as attitudes and outlooks. An example is the attention paid to foreign

events in newspapers. In the East, where people look out across the

Atlantic Ocean, papers tend to show greatest concern with what is happening

in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and western Asia. On the West Coast,

news editors give more attention to events in East Asia and Australia.

To understand regional differences more fully, let's take a closer look at

the regions themselves.


The smallest region, New England has not been blessed with large expanses

of rich farmland or a mild climate. Yet it played a dominant role in

American development. From the 17th century until well into the 19th, New

England was the country's cultural and economic center.

The earliest European settlers of New England were English Protestants of

firm and settled doctrine. Many of them came in search of religious

liberty. They gave the region its distinctive political format -- the town

meeting (an outgrowth of meetings held by church elders) in which citizens

gathered to discuss issues of the day. Only men of property could vote.

Nonetheless, town meetings afforded New Englanders an unusually high level

of participation in government. Such meetings still function in many New

England communities today.

New Englanders found it difficult to farm the land in large lots, as was

common in the South. By 1750, many settlers had turned to other pursuits.

The mainstays of the region became shipbuilding, fishing, and trade. In

their business dealings, New Englanders gained a reputation for hard work,

shrewdness, thrift, and ingenuity.

These traits came in handy as the Industrial Revolution reached America in

the first half of the 19th century. In Massachusetts, Connecticut, and

Rhode Island, new factories sprang up to manufacture such goods as

clothing, rifles, and clocks. Most of the money to run these businesses

came from Boston, which was the financial heart of the nation.

New England also supported a vibrant cultural life. The critic Van Wyck

Brooks called the creation of a distinctive American literature in the

first half of the 19th century "the flowering of New England." Education is

another of the region's strongest legacies. Its cluster of top-ranking

universities and colleges -- including Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth,

Wellesley, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Williams, Amherst, and Wesleyan -- is

unequaled by any other region.

As some of the original New England settlers migrated westward, immigrants

from Canada, Ireland, Italy, and eastern Europe moved into the region.

Despite a changing population, much of the original spirit of New England

remains. It can be seen in the simple, woodframe houses and white church

steeples that are features of many small towns, and in the traditional

lighthouses that dot the Atlantic coast.

In the 20th century, most of New England's traditional industries have

relocated to states or foreign countries where goods can be made more

cheaply. In more than a few factory towns, skilled workers have been left

without jobs. The gap has been partly filled by the microelectronics and

computer industries.


If New England provided the brains and dollars for 19th-century American

expansion, the Middle Atlantic states provided the muscle. The region's

largest states, New York and Pennsylvania, became centers of heavy industry

(iron, glass, and steel).

The Middle Atlantic region was settled by a wider range of people than New

England. Dutch immigrants moved into the lower Hudson River Valley in what

is now New York State. Swedes went to Delaware. English Catholics founded

Maryland, and an English Protestant sect, the Friends (Quakers), settled

Pennsylvania. In time, all these settlements fell under English control,

but the region continued to be a magnet for people of diverse


Early settlers were mostly farmers and traders, and the region served as a

bridge between North and South. Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, midway

between the northern and southern colonies, was home to the Continental

Congress, the convention of delegates from the original colonies that

organized the American Revolution. The same city was the birthplace of the

Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the U.S. Constitution in 1787.

As heavy industry spread throughout the region, rivers such as the Hudson

and Delaware were transformed into vital shipping lanes. Cities on

waterways -- New York on the Hudson, Philadelphia on the Delaware,

Baltimore on Chesapeake Bay -- grew dramatically. New York is still the

nation's largest city, its financial hub, and its cultural center.

Like New England, the Middle Atlantic region has seen much of its heavy

industry relocate elsewhere. Other industries, such as drug manufacturing

and communications, have taken up the slack.


The South is perhaps the most distinctive and colorful American region. The

American Civil War (1861-65) devastated the South socially and

economically. Nevertheless, it retained its unmistakable identity.

Like New England, the South was first settled by English Protestants. But

whereas New Englanders tended to stress their differences from the old

country, Southerners tended to emulate the English. Even so, Southerners

were prominent among the leaders of the American Revolution, and four of

America's first five presidents were Virginians. After 1800, however, the

interests of the manufacturing North and the agrarian South began to


Especially in coastal areas, southern settlers grew wealthy by raising and

selling cotton and tobacco. The most economical way to raise these crops

was on large farms, called plantations, which required the work of many

laborers. To supply this need, plantation owners relied on slaves brought

from Africa, and slavery spread throughout the South.

Slavery was the most contentious issue dividing North and South. To

northerners it was immoral; to southerners it was integral to their way of

life. In 1860, 11 southern states left the Union intending to form a

separate nation, the Confederate States of America. This rupture led to the

Civil War, the Confederacy's defeat, and the end of slavery. (For more on

the Civil War, see chapter 3.) The scars left by the war took decades to

heal. The abolition of slavery failed to provide African Americans with

political or economic equality: Southern towns and cities legalized and

refined the practice of racial segregation.

It took a long, concerted effort by African Americans and their supporters

to end segregation. In the meantime, however, the South could point with

pride to a 20th-century regional outpouring of literature by, among others,

William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Robert Penn Warren, Katherine Anne Porter,

Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O'Connor.

As southerners, black and white, shook off the effects of slavery and

racial division, a new regional pride expressed itself under the banner of

"the New South" and in such events as the annual Spoleto Music Festival in

Charleston, South Carolina, and the 1996 summer Olympic Games in Atlanta,

Georgia. Today the South has evolved into a manufacturing region, and high-

rise buildings crowd the skylines of such cities as Atlanta and Little

Rock, Arkansas. Owing to its mild weather, the South has become a mecca for

retirees from other U.S. regions and from Canada.


The Midwest is a cultural crossroads. Starting in the early 1800s

easterners moved there in search of better farmland, and soon Europeans

bypassed the East Coast to migrate directly to the interior: Germans to

eastern Missouri, Swedes and Norwegians to Wisconsin and Minnesota. The

region's fertile soil made it possible for farmers to produce abundant

harvests of cereal crops such as wheat, oats, and corn. The region was soon

known as the nation's "breadbasket."

Most of the Midwest is flat. The Mississippi River has acted as a regional

lifeline, moving settlers to new homes and foodstuffs to market. The river

inspired two classic American books, both written by a native Missourian,

Samuel Clemens, who took the pseudonym Mark Twain: Life on the Mississippi

and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Midwesterners are praised as being open, friendly, and straightforward.

Their politics tend to be cautious, but the caution is sometimes peppered

with protest. The Midwest gave birth to one of America's two major

political parties, the Republican Party, which was formed in the 1850s to

oppose the spread of slavery into new states. At the turn of the century,

the region also spawned the Progressive Movement, which largely consisted

of farmers and merchants intent on making government less corrupt and more

receptive to the will of the people. Perhaps because of their geographic

location, many midwesterners have been strong adherents of isolationism,

the belief that Americans should not concern themselves with foreign wars

and problems.

The region's hub is Chicago, Illinois, the nation's third largest city.

This major Great Lakes port is a connecting point for rail lines and air

traffic to far-flung parts of the nation and the world. At its heart stands

the Sears Tower, at 447 meters, the world's tallest building.


The Southwest differs from the adjoining Midwest in weather (drier),

population (less dense), and ethnicity (strong Spanish-American and Native-

American components). Outside the cities, the region is a land of open

spaces, much of which is desert. The magnificent Grand Canyon is located in

this region, as is Monument Valley, the starkly beautiful backdrop for many

western movies. Monument Valley is within the Navajo Reservation, home of

the most populous American Indian tribe. To the south and east lie dozens

of other Indian reservations, including those of the Hopi, Zuni, and Apache


Parts of the Southwest once belonged to Mexico. The United States obtained

this land following the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. Its Mexican

heritage continues to exert a strong influence on the region, which is a

convenient place to settle for immigrants (legal or illegal) from farther

south. The regional population is growing rapidly, with Arizona in

particular rivaling the southern states as a destination for retired

Americans in search of a warm climate.

Population growth in the hot, arid Southwest has depended on two human

artifacts: the dam and the air conditioner. Dams on the Colorado and other

rivers and aqueducts such as those of the Central Arizona Project have

brought water to once-small towns such as Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix,

Arizona; and Albuquerque, New Mexico, allowing them to become metropolises.

Las Vegas is renowned as one of the world's centers for gambling, while

Santa Fe, New Mexico, is famous as a center for the arts, especially

painting, sculpture, and opera. Another system of dams and irrigation

projects waters the Central Valley of California, which is noted for

producing large harvests of fruits and vegetables.


Americans have long regarded the West as the last frontier. Yet California

has a history of European settlement older than that of most midwestern

states. Spanish priests founded missions along the California coast a few

years before the outbreak of the American Revolution. In the 19th century,

California and Oregon entered the Union ahead of many states to the east.

The West is a region of scenic beauty on a grand scale. All of its 11

states are partly mountainous, and the ranges are the sources of startling

contrasts. To the west of the peaks, winds from the Pacific Ocean carry

enough moisture to keep the land well-watered. To the east, however, the

land is very dry. Parts of western Washington State, for example, receive

20 times the amount of rain that falls on the eastern side of the state's

Cascade Range.

In much of the West the population is sparse, and the federal government

owns and manages millions of hectares of undeveloped land. Americans use

these areas for recreational and commercial activities, such as fishing,

camping, hiking, boating, grazing, lumbering, and mining. In recent years

some local residents who earn their livelihoods on federal land have come

into conflict with the land's managers, who are required to keep land use

within environmentally acceptable limits.

Alaska, the northernmost state in the Union, is a vast land of few, but

hardy, people and great stretches of wilderness, protected in national

parks and wildlife refuges. Hawaii is the only state in the union in which

Asian Americans outnumber residents of European stock. Beginning in the

1980s large numbers of Asians have also settled in California, mainly

around Los Angeles.

Los Angeles -- and Southern California as a whole -- bears the stamp of its

large Mexican-American population. Now the second largest city in the

nation, Los Angeles is best known as the home of the Hollywood film

industry. Fueled by the growth of Los Angeles and the "Silicon Valley" area

near San Jose, California has become the most populous of all the states.

Western cities are known for their tolerance. Perhaps because so many

westerners have moved there from other regions to make a new start, as a

rule interpersonal relations are marked by a live-and-let-live attitude.

The western economy is varied. California, for example, is both an

agricultural state and a high-technology manufacturing state.


One final American region deserves mention. It is not a fixed place but a

moving zone, as well as a state of mind: the border between settlements and

wilderness known as the frontier. Writing in the 1890s, historian Frederick

Jackson Turner claimed that the availability of vacant land throughout much

of the nation's history has shaped American attitudes and institutions.

"This perennial rebirth," he wrote, "this expansion westward with its new

opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive

society, furnish the forces dominating American character."

Numerous present-day American values and attitudes can be traced to the

frontier past: self-reliance, resourcefulness, comradeship, a strong sense

of equality. After the Civil War a large number of black Americans moved

west in search of equal opportunities, and many of them gained some fame

and fortune as cowboys, miners, and prairie settlers. In 1869 the western

territory of Wyoming became the first place that allowed women to vote and

to hold elected office.

Because the resources of the West seemed limitless, people developed

wasteful attitudes and practices. The great herds of buffalo (American

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