If you could be transported back in time 400 years, you would find most of the concentrations of population - China, India, the Muslim world, Western Europe, and Russia - very familiar. But the North America of 1600 looked vastly different from today. Today America represents 5% of the world's population, 25% of its economic production, and 50% of its military capacity. By shedding light on mass movements of people to and within the U.S. over the last few centuries, SHAPING OUR NATION tells the fascinating story of the rise of American people and power.
- In the early nineteenth century, two migrations - Yankees moving westward and plantation slavery expanding from the coast - put Northerners and Southerners in competition for control of the country's interior, leading to the culture clash that would become the Civil War.
- The Irish migration to the U.S., after the 1845 potato blight, was the first surge to end in cities rather than the countryside. As Irish Catholics populated places like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, their presence came to characterize the politics and pop culture of urban America - effects of which are still felt today.
- The opening of the Ellis Island immigration station in 1892 was followed by a vast and unanticipated surge of migration from Eastern and Southern Europe which was only stopped by the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and by restrictive immigration laws in the 1920s.
- German and Scandinavian migration to Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas resulted in a distinctive politics that still exists today - this area has been the most pacifist and isolationist part of the nation for more than a century.
- Despite the fervor surrounding border patrols, immigration from Latin America to the U.S. has actually plummeted since the early 2000s.