Simple English Listening

The Story of AMERICA part. 1 - How the USA Began + The WILD WEST (Pre-intermediate)

May 16, 2021 Tristan Palumbo
Simple English Listening
The Story of AMERICA part. 1 - How the USA Began + The WILD WEST (Pre-intermediate)
Show Notes Transcript

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Hello everyone, welcome to a new episode of Simple English Listening, giving you interesting listening practice. Learn English, and learn about the world at the same time. Today we will learn about the story, the birth, the history of the USA!

Sit down, make yourself comfortable. It took many hours of research to make today's episode, I hope you enjoy it.

How did it all begin? The USA has a very unique history, it's a very NEW country, only 250 years old. A multi-cultural country, a country made of immigrants, from all over the world.  People leaving their old countries, to start something new.  English, German, African, Italian, Irish, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Arab, everyone! Everyone under the sun is in America, somewhere. 

400 years ago, there was nothing there - just beautiful nature, some native American tribes, about 10 million native American people. And, lots of buffalo, and clean rivers.

20,000 years ago, humans walked from Asia, across Alaska and down into the Americas to make the first native American tribes. These were tribes such as the Navajo, the Mohawk, the Cherokee. They were nomads, nomads, meaning, they didn't live in one place but moved around freely, usually following food sources, such as buffalo. Moving north in the summer, south in the winter. Native American spirituality is a beautiful thing, they had many different gods, believed animals had spirits and all of nature was their brother, was their equal. 

English people, first started arriving in America around 1585. They tried to make new settlements in this new, wild and beautiful land - a settlement is a small town or village. The first settlements failed, they were not a success. It was difficult in this new land. The winters were cold and the first settlers were adventurers, soldiers and artists but not good at farming. The first English settlement was abandoned after one year! And everyone returned to England. The second English settlement, everyone in it just disappeared. Maybe they died of disease, sickness or disappeared into the forests. All that remains of the second settlement is just one name, written on a post.

King James of England wanted to make a successful settlement in America, so, he sent 100 men and boys and they made a settlement called Jamestown in 1607. Life was difficult here and actually, 90% of these early settlers died of diseases, died of hunger or died fighting against native American tribes nearby. But King James kept sending more and more settlers to Jamestown, determined to make it a success!

Maybe you know the story of Pocahontas? It's a Disney movie. Well, Pocahontas was real - she was a princess of the native Powhaten tribe. She fell in love with one of the leaders of Jamestown, captain John Smith. John Smith was an adventurer and a very famous soldier. This romance helped bring some peace between the Jamestown settlers and the native Americans but, the real Pocahontas died from diseases on a visit to England (this isn't in the Disney movie). Fights continued and the peace did not last. 

People started to hear about a new land called America in England. Some more English people sailed there in ships in 1621 because they wanted to escape from England. In England, they were bullied and punished for their religion. They wanted to move away from the Church of England, and to be free to worship God, in their own way and start their own church - these were the Pilgrims.  These people were not interested in gold and adventure like previous English settlers. These people had come to America to find freedom. Many people since moved to America to start a new life, a new beginning. This is what America represented for many people - a new beginning!  We'll come back to this idea later.

Over the next 100 years, many other Europeans started to settle all around America, as well as from the UK, from France, Spain, the Netherlands. There were many battles and wars between these countries in America, especially between the UK, France and Spain, to expand their empires.

You can see this in the names of towns.  Before New York was called New York (York being the name of an English town), New York was called New Amsterdam! Amsterdam, which is the capital of the Netherlands. A very big, massive, fat tour guide told me that when I visited New York, on a bus going over the Brooklyn bridge about 10 years ago. French American city names include New Orleans, named after Orleans, in France and St. Louis, names after the French king, King Louis 9th. Los Angeles and San Francisco used to be Spanish cities.

Native American tribes started losing their land and many were dying from diseases, sicknesses brought to America by the Europeans such as smallpox, the flu, measles. You see, native Americans had no natural immunity to these diseases, no natural defense, because they had always lived in very small communities.

According to Business Insider, 90% of all native North and South Americans and Mexicans died between 1492 and 1600, mostly from disease from Europe and Africa, and also from violence. This was about 10% of the whole world's population at the time. Wiped out. Gone. You think Covid19 is bad? Imagine diseases that killed 10% of the whole world!

At this time, the East side of America was split into 13 colonies. After lots of fighting with France, these 13 colonies all became British. They were  New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The people there spoke English, and had culturally, had a more British lifestyle. But, they were fed up! They were not happy. Not happy about paying a high tax back to the UK government. 

There were small fights between the local people and the British, in Boston, British soldiers shot and killed five locals in a protest, and the Boston locals pretended to be native Americans and secretly went onto the British ships, and destroyed $15,000 of British tea, which was millions of dollars back then. So the British made new laws for Boston which made the locals even angrier.

The leaders of the 13 colonies united together, to fight the British! They wanted to make a new country!

These leaders were the founding fathers of America, and these leaders are still on American paper money to this day - some famous ones are Benjamin Franklin, on the 100 dollar bill, and Thomas Jefferson, on the 2 dollar bill, and of course George Washington - who is on the 1 dollar bill! George Washington was of course, the first American president and he was also the leader of the American military. All together, they fought the the UK for 8 years. France and Spain helped, and in the end, they won, and kicked out the UK from the 13 colonies, and WON their independence. After 8 long years of fighting and about 700,0000 deaths. This was the American Revolutionary War. 

The UK kept Canada, which is why today, on Canadian dollars, you have a picture of Queen Elizabeth, but on American dollars, you have a picture of George Washington. From the end of the war in 1783, everything below Canada was now a new country - The United States of America! 

And the 13 colonies became the first 13 American states.  Slowly more and more states were added, and now there are 50 states.  Don't you notice, on the American flag, there are 50 stars - one for each state.

So, America was started in the spirit of freedom, this is why the idea of freedom is so important to Americans. And, you can see this in The Bill  of Rights. To unite the 13 states together under one president, they made The Bill  of Rights, which are rules for all 13 states to follow. The bill of rights are, to summarized them - 

There is no religion of the government, you are free to practice any religion you like in the USA.

You have freedom of speech, freedom to protest and march, (as long as they are not violent and there's no fighting), freedom of the press - so the newspapers can write whatever they like about the government, the freedom to complain and write to the government any problems they have, the freedom to own guns! To protect yourself against the government and whoever. Criminals must always be tried in front of a jury and a court, the government cannot search your house without a good reason, and many other rights. 

And this bill of rights, these rules - The USA follows them. Still to the present day.

With all 13 colonies united under these rights, George Washington became the first president of the USA.

Many more states were added to the USA in 1803. America purchased, they bought all of France's land in North America, which made the USA double in size, twice as big in 1803. This pushed the native Americans further west.  By the 1840s, many Americans started moving further west, to Oregon, to California, all the way to the west coast of North America, to find gold! The great gold rush, where thousands of Americans were quickly moving west to get gold, but also to find oil, free or cheap land. 

In the west of America, people started new settlements - people living right on the edge, of known civilization. This area was lawless, life was hard. And life was cheap. And the land was tough. 

This time and place was the wild west! The wild west, that you see in the movies - with cowboys, indians, bandits, thieves, gun fights. A lawless land.

There were famous cowboy bandits such as Billy The Kid, who killed 8 men before he was 21, and was shot and killed in a wild gun fight. There were complicated relationships with Mexicans and the native American tribes. The poor native Americans who did NOT understand why the white man was so obsessed with gold, gold, gold, pearls, oil and kept on walking across their lands to find it! It all seemed insane to the natives. The natives were quickly losing land to these new settlers and also to the Mexicans. Life was difficult and uncertain for everyone at this time. Native Americans were forcibly moved to different parts of the USA, eventually losing 90% of their land to the new Americans.

Over the 1840s and 1850s, there were many battles with native Americans and Mexicans and the USA had a two-year war with Mexico from 1846 to 1848! 

Mexico used to own the south west of the modern day USA, states such as California and Texas used to be Mexican.

Americans and Mexicans started fighting over WHO should have Texas? The USA, or Mexico? After the war, cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco became American, as well as the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming all became part of the USA too. Also, Mexico was given 15 million dollars and Texas, finally became part of the USA. Mexico, lost lots of land in this war.

After the Mexican war, the modern day land mass of the USA was complete The last two states were Alaska, which was purchased from Russia for 7.2 million dollars, and the tropical pacific island of Hawaii, which became the 50th state in 1959.

America became a new opportunity for many people. A new beginning! A place you were free to live how you want to live, a place you could become a success if you worked hard. Over about 50 years from about 1860-1910, 25 MILLION people moved to America,  - mass immigration, from all over Europe mostly, from Ireland, Italy, Germany, Norway, the UK, also from Mexico, China, India, from everywhere!

Next time - we'll look at part 2! Slavery - Africans being brought to America to work as slaves, and we'll look at the civil war! When the northern American states went to war against the southern American states!

If you enjoyed that, please, please, please give us a comment or review the podcast or Apple or Sticher so more people can enjoy these lessons. Listen to it again, because you will pick up much more new language the more you listen to the same episode. And you'll remember more about the story of America. It's important to know history. Have a beautiful day everyone, and take care!