The United States of America is the world's biggest economic, military and political power. Consisting of 50 states and 316 million people, the country is also one of the most diverse in the western world.
Independence from Britain was declared in 1776, and the War of Independence followed, giving the modern United States a well-documented and distinct history. The USA was formally recognised in 1783 after the constitution was set forth in 1787 along with the Bill of Rights. Few countries enjoy such a profound respect for the treaties of state as the USA.
The American Civil War formed the next most important chapter in the country's history, when the confederate states were defeated by Abraham Lincoln, one of the prevailing giants of American politics, alongside Founding Fathers such as George Washington - the first president of the USA.
America has a constant place in our minds due to its dominance in popular film, music, the arts and the mainstream media in general. Even those of us who may not have been to the US can identify with the changing scenery of the federal states via TV series and films.
The sheer geographical distance between states such as New York, Washington, Texas, Florida and California means that climate, geography, economy and culture can differ dramatically between one state and the next.
Because the USA is the fourth-largest country in the world, the average temperature even in neighbouring states can differ dramatically; for instance northern New York is distinctly colder than southern Texas whatever the time of year.Places like New York, Las Vegas and New Orleans are ingrained in popular culture worldwide, and the USA is famously home to some of the most renowned landmarks in the world: the White House, the Grand Canyon, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and the Empire State Building to name but a few.
Many foreign tourists come to the USA to visit Florida, Las Vegas and San Francisco having been captivated by images on TV and film. The American entertainment industries keep the country firmly in the world's eye through various festivals, events and releases.
Last updated: 14 March 2014