Timeline: United States of America - A chronology of key events:

A chronology of key events:

1565 - First permanent European settlement in North America - St Augustine, present-day Florida - founded by the Spanish.

Detail of engraving depicting Battle of Trenton, 1776
Revolution: The Continental Army fought against British rule

1607 - Jamestown, Virginia, founded by English settlers, who begin growing tobacco.

1620 - Plymouth Colony, near Cape Cod, is founded by the Pilgrim Fathers, whose example is followed by other English Puritans in New England.

17th-18th centuries - Hundreds of thousands of Africans brought over and sold into slavery to work on cotton and tobacco plantations.

1763 - Britain gains control of territory up to the Mississippi river following victory over France in Seven Years' War.

War of Independence

1774 - Colonists form First Continental Congress as Britain closes down Boston harbour and deploys troops in Massachusetts.

1775 - American Revolution: George Washington leads colonist Continental Army to fight against British rule.

1776 4 July - Thomas Jefferson's American Declaration of Independence endorsed by Congress; colonies declare independence.

1781 - Rebel states form loose confederation, codified in Articles of Confederation, after defeating the British at the Battle of Yorktown.

Abraham Lincoln - 16th US president
16th president preserved Union, emancipated slaves
Born in Kentucky, 1809
Known as 'Honest Abe' and the 'Great Emancipator'
His Gettysburg Address honoured the Union dead, set out the principles they died for
Assassinated in 1865

1783 - Britain accepts loss of colonies by virtue of Treaty of Paris.

1787 - Founding Fathers draw up new constitution for United States of America. Constitution comes into effect in 1788.

1789 - George Washington elected first president of USA.

1791 - Bill of Rights guarantees individual freedom.

1803 - France sells Louisiana territories to USA.

1808 - Atlantic slave trade abolished.

1812-14 - Dispute over blockade rights during Napoleonic Wars leads to war with Britain.

19th century - Residual resistance by indigenous people crushed as immigration from Europe assumes mass proportions, with settlers moving westwards and claiming "manifest destiny" to control North America; number of states in the union rises from 17 to 45.

1846-48 - US acquires vast tracts of Mexican territory in wake of Mexican War including California and New Mexico.

Civil War

1854 - Opponents of slavery, or abolitionists, set up Republican Party.

1860 - Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln elected president.

1860-61 - Eleven pro-slavery southern states secede from Union and form Confederate States of America under leadership of Jefferson Davis, triggering civil war with abolitionist northern states.

1863 - Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation, declaring slaves in Confederate states to be free.

1865 - Confederates defeated; slavery abolished under Thirteenth Amendment. Lincoln is assassinated.

1876 - Sioux Indians defeat US troops at Little Big Horn.

1890 - US troops defeat Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee.

1898 - US gains Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines and Cuba following the Spanish-American war. US annexes Hawaii.

World War I and the Great Depression

1917-18 - US intervenes in World War I, rejects membership of League of Nations.

Franklin D Roosevelt, 1941
FDR led the US through the Great Depression and World War II

1920 - Women given the right to vote under the Nineteenth Amendment.

1920 - Sale and manufacture of alcoholic liquors outlawed. The Prohibition era sees a mushrooming of illegal drinking joints, home-produced alcohol and gangsterism.

1924 - Congress gives indigenous people right to citizenship.

1929-33 - 13 million people become unemployed after the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929 triggers what becomes known as the Great Depression. President Herbert Hoover rejects direct federal relief.

1933 - President Franklin D Roosevelt launches "New Deal" recovery programme which includes major public works. Sale of alcohol resumes.

World War II and the Cold War

1941 - Japanese warplanes attack US fleet at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii; US declares war on Japan; Germany declares war on US, which thereafter intervenes on a massive scale in World War II, eventually helping to defeat Germany.

1945 - US drops two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrenders.

1947 - US enunciates policy of aid for nations it deems threatened by communism in what became known as the Truman Doctrine. Cold War with Soviet Union begins.

1948 - America's programme to revive ailing post-war European economies - the Marshall Plan - comes into force. Some $13bn is disbursed over four years and the plan is regarded as a success.

1950-54 - Senator Joseph McCarthy carries out a crusade against alleged communists in government and public life; the campaign and its methods become known as McCarthyism. In 1954 McCarthy is formally censured by the Senate.

1950-53 - US forces play leading role against North Korean and Chinese troops in Korean War.

Desegregation and the Vietnam war

1954 - Racial segregation in schools becomes unconstitutional; start of campaign of civil disobedience to secure civil rights for Americans of African descent.

John F Kennedy
Killed by an assassin's bullet in Dallas, 1963

1960 - Democratic Party candidate John F Kennedy elected president, narrowly defeating his rival Richard Nixon.

1961 - Bay of Pigs invasion: an unsuccessful attempt to invade Cuba by Cuban exiles, organised and financed by Washington.

1962 - US compels Soviet Union to withdraw nuclear weapons from Cuba in what has become known as the Cuban missile crisis.

1963 - President John F Kennedy assassinated; Lyndon Johnson becomes president.

1964 - US steps up its military intervention in Vietnam. Civil Rights Act signed into law; it aims to halt discrimination on grounds of race, colour, religion, nationality.

1968 - Black civil rights leader Martin Luther King assassinated.

1969 - Republican Party candidate Richard Nixon elected president amid growing public opposition to Vietnam war. US military presence in Vietnam exceeds 500,000 personnel. US astronaut Neil Armstrong becomes the first person to walk on the Moon.

Martin Luther King
Civil rights leader was renowned for his stirring oratory

1972 - Nixon re-elected and makes historic visit to China.

1973 - Vietnam ceasefire agreement signed. The campaign had claimed some 58,000 American lives.

1974 - In a TV address, Nixon announces his resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal, over a 1972 break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters. Gerald Ford is sworn-in as his successor.

1976 - Democratic Party candidate Jimmy Carter elected president.

1979 - US embassy in Tehran, Iran, seized by radical students. The 444-day hostage crisis - including a failed rescue attempt in 1980 - impacts on Carter's popularity and dominates the 1980 presidential election campaign.

Global assertiveness

1980 November - Republican Party's Ronald Reagan elected president. Reagan goes on to adopt a tough anti-communist foreign policy and tax-cutting policies which lead to a large federal budget deficit.

1981 January - Iran frees the 52 US embassy hostages, on the same day as President Reagan's inauguration.

Ronald Reagan in 1992
Former president, said to have restored US self-confidence

1983 - US invades Caribbean nation of Grenada, partly prompted by its concerns over the island's ties with Cuba.

1984 - Ronald Reagan re-elected president, beating Democratic Party candidate Walter Mondale.

1986 January - Space shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after take off from Cape Canaveral. All seven crew members are killed. Manned space flights are suspended until September 1988.

1986 - US warplanes bomb Libyan cities. "Irangate" scandal uncovered, revealing that proceeds from secret US arms sales to Iran were used illegally to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

1988 - Reagan's vice-president, George Bush, elected president.

1989 - US troops invade Panama, oust its government and arrest its leader, one-time Central Intelligence Agency informant General Manuel Noriega, on drug-trafficking charges.

1991 - US forces play dominant role in war against Iraq, which was triggered by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and ended with the expulsion of Iraqi troops from that country.

The Clinton years

1992 - Democratic Party candidate Bill Clinton elected president.

1992 - Congress passes North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, intended to create free-trade bloc among US, Canada and Mexico.

1994 - Congress defeats Clinton's flagship legislation intended to reform health care system.

Space shuttle Atlantis
Shuttle programme goes on despite losses of two craft

1994 - Investigations into Whitewater scandal, over the Clintons' financial dealings in Arkansas, where he had been governor before becoming president. Sexual harassment charges are filed against Clinton by a former Arkansas employee. Mid-term elections result in Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.

1995 - Oklahoma bomb kills more than 160 people in worst ever incident of its kind in US.

1996 - Clinton re-elected, beating Republican rival Bob Dole.

1998 - Scandal over Clinton's purported sexual impropriety with White House worker Monica Lewinsky dominates domestic political agenda and leads to impeachment proceedings in Congress.

1999 February - Clinton acquitted in Senate impeachment trial.

1999 March-June - US plays leading role in Nato bombardment of Yugoslavia in response to Serb violence against ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo.

Democrats lose

2000 November - Vice-president and Democrat candidate Al Gore and the Republican Party's George W Bush contest one of the closest presidential election races ever. Bush is initially declared the winner in the crucial state of Florida, but the margin is so small that there is an automatic recount. The Democrats mount a series of legal challenges which eventually involve the Supreme Court. Bush is finally declared the winner in Florida, which enables him to take the presidency, albeit with a smaller share of the national vote than Gore.

Bill Clinton plays the saxophone
Former Democrat president shows off his musical talent

2001 January - George W Bush sworn in as 43rd president of the US.

2001 April - US reconnaisance plane forced to land in China after mid-air collision with Chinese fighter jet; crew held by Chinese authorities for 11 days. Angry diplomatic exchanges take place between Washington and Beijing.

2001 July - US tests its controversial missile defence shield, or "Son of Star Wars".

11 September attacks

2001 11 September - Four passenger aircraft are hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the US Defence Department - the Pentagon - in Washington DC and into a field in Pennsylvania; 3,025 people are killed in the attacks.

2001 8 October - US leads massive campaign of air strikes against Afghanistan and later sends in special forces to help opposition forces defeat the Taleban regime and find Saudi-born dissident Osama Bin Laden, who is suspected of masterminding the 11 September attacks.

2001 October - USA Patriot Act approved by the Senate, giving the government greater powers to detain suspected terrorists, eavesdrop on communications and counter money-laundering. In November, President Bush signs a directive to try suspected terrorists in military tribunals rather than the courts.

2001 December - Energy giant Enron declared bankrupt after massive false-accounting comes to light.

2002 January - State of the Union address: President George W Bush includes Iraq, Iran and North Korea in what he describes as an "axis of evil".

Site of destroyed World Trade Center towers, New York 2004
Ground Zero: Hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center towers

2002 June/July - Telecoms giant WorldCom's multi-billion dollar accounting fraud is revealed, eclipsing the Enron scandal to become the biggest business failure in US history.

2002 November - President Bush signs into law a bill creating a Department of Homeland Security, the biggest reorganisation of federal government in more than 50 years. The large and powerful department is tasked with protecting the US against terrorist attacks.

2003 February - Space shuttle Columbia's 28th mission ends in tragedy when the craft breaks-up while re-entering the atmosphere. The seven astronauts on board are killed.

Iraq war

2003 20 March - Missile attacks on targets in Baghdad mark the start of a US-led campaign to topple the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. US forces advance into central Baghdad in early April.

George W Bush addressing crew of USS Abraham Lincoln
2003: President George W Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln

2003 1 May - Speaking on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, President Bush declares that the main part of the war in Iraq is over.

2003 14 August - Biggest power blackout in North American history hits cities in the north and east, including New York, as well as Canadian cities.

2004 May - Furore over pictures showing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in US custody. President Bush and Defence Secretary Rumsfeld - who is questioned by Congress about the scandal - apologise for the mistreatment.

2004 June - Former President Ronald Reagan dies, aged 93. He is accorded a state funeral.

2004 July - Senate report says US and allies went to war in Iraq on "flawed" information. Independent report into 11 September 2001 attacks highlights deep institutional failings in intelligence services and government.

Bush second term

2004 2 November - Presidential elections: George W Bush wins a second term. He is inaugurated on 20 January 2005.

2005 July - Space shuttle Discovery completes the first manned Nasa space mission since the Columbia accident in February 2003.

2005 August - Hundreds of people are killed when Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive storm to hit the US in decades, sweeps through gulf coast states. Much of the city of New Orleans is submerged by flood waters.

2006 March - Congress renews the USA Patriot Act, a centrepiece of the government's fight against terrorism, after months of debate about its impact on civil liberties. The government agrees to some curbs on information gathering.

2006 April-May - Millions of immigrants and their supporters take to the streets to protest against plans to criminalise illegal immigrants.

2006 May - The only man to be charged over the September 11 attacks, self-confessed al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, is sentenced to life in jail.

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