Bicentennial Essay: America: Our Byproduct Nation

Since 1776 the U.S. has grown from a sliver of colonies along the Atlantic coast into a colossus whose shores are also washed by the Pacific and even the Arctic oceans, from a population of 2.5 million into one nearly 90 times larger, from a simple agrarian society into the world's most technologically sophisticated civilization. How did we get from there to here? How have we changed in our 200 years? And what do these changes portend for our future?

The following TIME Bicentennial Essay is the first in a series that will appear...

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