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Review of Key Trends, Events, and Supreme Court Cases

Key Events in U.S. History

The AP Test wants you to know the grand picture of U.S. history, but every history picture consists of little pixels usually known as facts. Trends are important, but events are the proof that trends have arrived, the champagne-cork pop after years of social and economic ferment. Chapters 6 through 20 provide the details that may crop up on the test; this chapter offers a quick review of the main events that contain those details.


Obviously you don't want to confuse Andrew Jackson with Michael Jackson. Make sure you have the big events in order, complete with a few facts to drop into essays and to help you avoid simple mistakes in multiple-choice questions.


Putting together the American colonies took time, effort, and some often-desperate action. As you can see from this timeline, the years from Columbus to the Revolution is almost 100 years longer than the time that has passed from the Revolution until now. Here's the sequence of events you need to remember from this period:

- American Indians were doing just fine without European culture for 15,000 or more years before Columbus. You get a pass on most of those 10,000 years because the New World Indians were too busy inventing the Aztec, Mayan, and Incan empires in Mesoamerica to write much down.

- The Spanish jaunted around Mexico and south looking for treasure and setting up colonies in the 1500s.

- By 1607, the British got around to founding Jamestown; the Pilgrims, blown off course, started New England a few years later. It was no party; half the colonists at both Jamestown and Plymouth died in the first six months.

- The colonists got early help from the American Indians:

- The Pilgrims were greeted by Tisquantum, an American Indian they called Squanto, who, incredibly enough, had already been to Europe twice with passing explorers and spoke fluent English. Tisquantum (1621) taught the Pilgrims how to catch fish and build warmer houses.

- In Jamestown, the settlers had the help of Pocahontas, who not only brought food but also actually married Englishman John Rolfe. The wives of Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan were her descendants.

- The American Indians shared gold, silver, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, squash, and tobacco — products that helped Europe become rich and powerful after their discovery of the New World.

- When the American Indians realized that the Europeans were more like hungry wolves than friendly dogs, they fought back in the mid-1600s. Too late; the colonists managed to hang on through King Philip's War (1675) in New England and similar battles in Virginia and New York.

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