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July 4, 2016
The United States of America (USA), commonly referred to as the United States (U.S.) or America, is a federal republic composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major territories and variouspossessions.[fn 1][fn 2] The 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is in the northwestern part of North America and the state ofHawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. At 3.8 million square miles (9.842 million km2) and with over 320 million people, the country is the world’s third or fourth-largest by total area[fn 3] and the third most populous. It is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The geography and climate of the United States are also extremely diverse, and the country is home to a wide variety of wildlife.
Paleo-Indians migrated from Eurasia to what is now the U.S. mainland at least 15,000 years ago, with European colonization beginning in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British coloniesalong the East Coast. Disputes between Great Britain and the colonies led to the American Revolution. On July 4, 1776, as the colonies were fighting Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, delegates from the 13 colonies unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence. The war ended in 1783 with recognition of the independence of the United States by the Kingdom of Great Britain, and was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial empire. The country’s constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, and ratified by the states in 1788. The first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and designed to guarantee many fundamental civil liberties.
Driven by the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, the United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century. This involved displacing American Indian tribes, acquiring new territories, and gradually admitting new states, until by 1848 the nation spanned the continent. During the second half of the 19th century, the American Civil War ended legal slavery in the country. By the end of that century, the United States extended into the Pacific Ocean, and its economy, driven in large part by the Industrial Revolution, began to soar. The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country’s status as a global military power. The United States emerged from World War II as a global superpower, the first country to develop nuclear weapons, the only country to use them in warfare, and apermanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the United States as the world’s sole superpower.
The United States is a developed country and has the world’s largest national economy by nominal and real GDP, benefiting from an abundance of natural resources and high worker productivity. While the U.S. economy is considered post-industrial, the country continues to be one of the world’s largest manufacturers. Accounting for 34% of global military spending and 23% of world GDP, it is the world’s foremostmilitary and economic power, a prominent political and cultural force, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovations.