What Date Does American History Start?

When it comes to American history, the question of when it actually began can be a bit complicated. While many people may point to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World in 1492 as the starting point, others argue that this ignores the rich and complex histories and cultures of the Indigenous peoples who already lived on these lands.

So when did American history truly begin? The answer may depend on who you ask and what perspective they bring to the table. Here are a few different ways to consider this question:

The Arrival of Europeans: For many people, European exploration and colonization mark the beginning of American history. This would mean looking back to Columbus’s arrival in 1492, as well as subsequent voyages by explorers like John Cabot, Pedro Álvares Cabral, and Amerigo Vespucci. It would also involve examining the early settlements established by European powers like Spain, France, England, and the Netherlands.

The Role of Indigenous Peoples: However, as mentioned earlier, focusing solely on Europeans overlooks the rich histories and cultures of the Indigenous peoples who have lived on these lands for thousands of years. For this reason, some historians argue that American history should be traced back to much earlier periods. This could involve exploring topics like:

  • The complex societies and civilizations that existed in North America long before European contact
  • The impact of colonialism on Indigenous communities
  • The ways in which Indigenous peoples have been marginalized and oppressed throughout American history

Slavery and African American History:

Another way to approach this question is to focus on slavery and African American history. While slavery existed long before Europeans arrived in North America (and indeed was practiced by many different societies throughout history), it played a central role in shaping early American society. Examining topics like:

  • The transatlantic slave trade
  • The experiences of enslaved Africans in the Americas
  • The abolitionist movement and the Civil War
  • The ongoing legacy of slavery and racism in American society today


Ultimately, the question of when American history started is complex and multifaceted. Depending on your perspective, it could involve looking back to the arrival of Europeans, exploring the rich histories of Indigenous peoples, or examining the role of slavery and African Americans throughout American history. Regardless of where you choose to begin, though, it’s clear that American history is a rich and fascinating topic with many different threads to follow.