The History of the Americas begins later than the other regions of the world because the Americas are one of the last regions to be settled by humans.  Most history courses (like the AP World History course) separate the history of the Americas into three different geographical regions.  The North American region in including today's Canada and the United States is often studied as its own section since North American history is so different than Central and South American history.  The Latin American cultures of Central and South America are often put together although their cultures are definitely different from each other in many important ways.  Each of these regions had civilized tribes living in them by 1000bce but because they did not develop a written language until much later we know very little about these early civilizations.  In fact, even the Inca had only a very rudimentary written language.  Only recently have historians been able to correctly translate Mayan and Aztec script and thus have a much more complete understanding of their cultures.  The native people were conquered by invaders from the Iberian peninsula about 1500.  The Spanish were able to conquer both the Aztec and Inca nations although they were helped by the devestating inpact of the European diseases on native American people.  The Europeans are also responsible for forcing African slaves to work in Americans plantations which added a third significant world culture group to the American continent.  Today, the native American, African and European cultures have built strong cultures and countries.  Although the United States is the most influential of these nations, Brazil, Canada, Venezuela and other states are becoming important on the world stage as well.  The AP World History Course is designed to test your knowledge of Latin American history from the Olmec Civilization to the currnet age and it  tends to divide its information in six categories to think about.  These categories are politics, economics, religion, social life, intellectual life, and art.  Often the AP exam also expects students to know how the geography of a place influences the historical developments over time. 

South America and central America are dominated by geography.  The Amazonian river and rain forest and the Andes mountains are formidable barriors to human settlement and civilization.  Also, the desert along the Pacific coast and the extremely hot and humid climate of central America are important to keep in mind.