The American Revolution ended two centuries
of British rule over most of the North American Colonies, resulting
in the formation of the United States of America.
The various causes of the American Revolution can be traced to the
end of the French and Indian War, when Britain had succeeded in gaining
territory from France at the expense of increasing its already enormous
national debt. In an attempt to relieve Britain of its financial burden,
Parliament decided that the American Colonists would have to help
pay for their own defense, despite the fact that a French invasion
was no longer a real threat.
Toward this end, Parliament passed the first
of several tax laws, the Stamp Act, which taxed all paper products
in the colonies. The Americans declared it was unfair to tax them
when they had no representation in Parliament, and protests eventually
escalated to open hostilities in 1775, when the British Regulars fired
on the Minutemen of Lexington, Massachusetts.
This conflict contributed to the formation of the Continental Congress
(which directed the American war effort) and to the signing of the
Declaration of Independence in 1776. The first years of the war saw
major defeats for American forces, who were outnumbered 3-1 by the
British army, but the tide soon turned as nations such as France,
Spain and the Netherlands offered troops and assistance, elevating
the conflict to the status of an international war.
Eventually, George Washington's army and a force under the French
Count de Rochambeau trapped Lord Cornwallis, the leader of the British
army, in Yorktown. After a siege, Cornwallis surrendered his army
of more than 7,000 men on October 19, 1781. However, it wasn't until
the Treaty of Paris in 1783 -- a full eight years after the initial
outbreak of violence -- that Great Britain signed the formal peace
treaty recognizing the former colonies as an independent nation.