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The Great Transformation

The history of American nation is unique and contradictory. Seeking for independence and wealth, immigrants of differrent races, ethnicities, cultures and religions arrived in America. United by shared hopes, they have built a progressive state where freedom is the core value. The timeline from 1607 to 1865 is truly considered to be the significant period in American history - the Great Transformation, which marked the profound development from colonies to free nation.

The term “transformation” means “a change or alternation, especially a radical one” ( The Free Dictionary). Having unique historical background, the above-mentioned huge changes can be observed in three aspects: economic, social and national ones.

Economic Aspect

Becoming independent, American colonists have developed their enterprise “from a marginally successful colonial economy to a small, independent farming economy and, eventually, to a highly complex industrial economy” (The U.S. Economy). The first colonist settlement, Jamestown, was funded by British Joint-Stock Companies that hoped to multiply their capital through the discovery and mining of gold and silver. During the first years the immigrants faced severe hardships of starvation, illnesses and death. So, the enterprise was considered to be a failure and was neglected by Great Britain. Later, when the settlers discovered that the real American wealth was the fertile land, the increase of economy could be observed. In the southern colonies the climate appeared to be favorable for agriculture, fostering a booming trade. The North, where the land was scarce, created boats for the British Navy.

In the second half of the 18th century Industrial revolution made a profound impact on the economy of the United States. Mechanization of agricultural process, development of transportation system positively influenced the trade development, enhanced internal and external trade. For example, the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 encouraged the production and export of cotton in the South and boosted manufacturing sector in the North. On the other hand, these factors increased domestic slave trade and urbanization.

National Aspect

 Early American history is related to three major cultures: European, Native American and African. Various waves of settlers from Europe had a variety of reasons for immigration. Many settlements were founded as business ventures, the pilgrims expected to find religious freedom, many criminals from the Old World escaped persecution. In the first half of the 18th century, during the Great Awakening, colonists began to consider themselves as a nation, finding common interests and a common character. Declaring themselves independent from the Great Britain in 1776, the 13 colonies established the United States of America. Marking the great development of the world’s political thought, the supreme law of the country embodies American Dream of Freedom and the idea of the social contract. Americans fought and won independence. On the other hand, the gross drawback was the policy as for Native Americans and slaves from Africa. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and Lewis and Clark expeditions, being deprived of any rights, the Native Americans were made to leave the land of their ancestors and removed into the reservations. Slavery was abolished only in 1865.

Social Aspect

 Seeking for independence and wealth, immigrants of different social levels arrived in America: adventurers, pilgrims, prisoners, indentured servants and slaves transported from the Caribbean. Apparently, “…men outnumbered women by a significant margin in the early southern colonies, life there, especially family life, was relatively unstable” (Sage). Colonists kept their strong religious values and considered a woman be subordinate to her husband. Women could not “vote, hold public office,…participate in legal matters on their behalf…” (Sage). Further, feminization is observed. In the 18th century women played an active role in all spheres of life.

To sum up, the Great Transformation (1607-1865) was a difficult and contradictory way towards independence. Adoption and expansion of slavery in southern colonies was the key factor of economic growth. Industrial Revolution boosted the revival of economy, at the same time increasing the domestic slave trade and industrialization. After the Louisiana Purchase, that doubled the size of the country, the Native Americans had to leave the land of their ancestors and were removed into the reservations. All these drawbacks are valuable lessons for the American society. Nobody has a right to succeed at the expense of slave labor of other individuals and all the territory is to be inhabited fairly. On the other hand, the American experience is unique, shaping people of different races, cultures, religions into one glorious nation. The Great Transformation brought the world the first Constitution, the idea of independence and women’s emancipation. At some instant, the society grew apart and Americans killed Americans, enduring the bloody Civil War (1861-1865). Nevertheless, the nation has passed this severe test and has built progressive society where the keys to national wealth are work ethics and Freedom.

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