Americans around the world are gearing up to celebrate Independence Day on 4th July – the 242nd in US history.
The national holiday marks a huge celebration for the country – with many holding parties or flocking to see firework displays.
Tradition dictates that an Independence Day event is held at the White House to mark the special holiday.
But what does Independence Day actually celebrate?
Let’s go back to European colonization…
Since Christopher Columbus led a Spanish expedition to the “New World” in 1492, much of what is modern day America was under European rule.
Most of North and South America was divided up between the Spanish, English, French, Portuguese and Dutch governments.
In 1606, King James I decided to establish permanent settlements in the Americas and formed Colony and Dominion of Virginia the following year.
At around the same time, the Dutch, Swedish, and French also established successful North American colonies – but these eventually came under the English crown.
In 1732 the Province of Georgia was established and became the 13th colony ruled by the British Empire.
The group, known as the Thirteen Colonies, were:
The British Empire exported resources in these colonies, such as tobacco and tea and they became part of the British trade network.
The population of the colonies grew dramatically between 1625 and 1775 with many immigrants moving there from other European countries.
The colonies established effective local government and electoral process and were increasingly resistant to rule from London.
The American Revolution:
The 18th century was a period of conflict in Europe with several wars, including the Seven Years War, taking place.
This conflict spread across the countries’ colonised states, including the Thirteen Colonies in America.
Between 1754 and 1763 the French and Indian War took place across North America which emphasised a feeling of patriotism in these colonies.
Efforts by UK parliament to reduce import taxes and restrict the power of self-governance increased tensions between patriots – who wanted independence from British rule – and loyalists – who wanted to keep it.
In 1775, the Thirteen Colonies declared a war of independence against the Empire and stopped paying taxes to the British.
Britain sent troops to defend its rule but France, Spain and the Netherlands sided with those in the colonies.
On July 4th 1776 the colonies, who were still at war with the British, announced the US Declaration of Independence which announced that they regarded themselves as 13 independent states that are not ruled by the British.
The majority of the declaration was written by Thomas Jefferson. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert L Livingston also comprised the committee that drafted the declaration.
The day is celebrated as a public holiday (Shutterstock / avarand)
In 1782 the British Parliament finally agreed to end all offensive operations in North America and the following year all parties signed the Treaty of Paris in which Great Britain agreed to recognize the sovereignty of the United States and formally end the war.
In 1938, July 4 became a national paid holiday.
There are many firework displays around the country, accompanied by parties and parades. Some choose to make the most of not being at work to spend it with their families and friends.
Bristol in Rhode Island has the nation’s longest running Independence Day celebrations.
The festivities there start mid June and conclude with a 2.5 miles military parade on July 4, followed by a ball.
The White House stages a large fireworks celebration and Macy’s fireworks in New York are famously screened across the country.
This year, Kelly Clarkson, Keith Urban and Ricky Martin are set to perform at the Macy’s show. According to department store, 8,000 worth of planning has gone into the celebrations.