The Turner Thesis: A Problem in Historiography
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Like an echo from the fears expressed by the East at the close of theeighteenth century come the words of an eminent Eastern man of letters at theend of the nineteenth century, in warning against the West; "Materialized intheir temper; with few ideals of an ennobling sort; little instructed in thelessons of history; safe from exposure to the direct calamities and physicalhorrors of war; with undeveloped imaginations and sympathies--they form acommunity unfortunate and dangerous from the possession of power without a duesense of its corresponding responsibilities; a community in which the passionfor war may easily be excited as the fancied means by which its greatness maybe convincingly exhibited, and its ambitions gratified....Some chance spark mayfire the prairie."
"The emergence of western history as an important field of scholarship can best be traced to the famous paper Frederick Jackson Turner delivered at a meeting of the American Historical Association in 1893. It was entitled "The Significance of the Frontier in American History." The "Turner thesis" or "frontier thesis," as his argument quickly became known, shaped both popular and scholarly views of the West (and of much else) for two generations. Turner stated his thesis simply. The settlement of the West by white people - "the existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward" - was the central story of American history. The process of westward expansion had transformed a desolate and savage land into modem civilization. It had also continually renewed American ideas of democracy and individualism and had, therefore, shaped not just the West but the nation as a whole. "What the Mediterranean Sea was to the Greeks, breaking the bonds of custom, offering new experiences, calling out new institutions and activities, that, and more, the ever retreating frontier has been to the United States." The Turner thesis shaped the writing of American history for a generation, and it shaped the writing of western American history for even longer. " (quoted from "Where Historians Disagree: The 'Frontier' and the West" in Alan Brinkley, 1999)FRONTIER THESIS, TURNER'S. Frederick Jackson Turner's "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" is arguably one of the most influential interpretations of the American past ever espoused. Delivered in Chicago before two hundred historians at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, a celebration of the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America, Turner's thesis discounted the then-dominant "germ theory" of American history, which argued that American political and social character evolved directly from European antecedents. Turner instead contended that Europeans had been transformed by the settlement of North America, a process that produced a distinct American mentality and culture far different from European precedents. Turner outlined progressive stages of settlement, dominated by the taming of the frontier from exploration through urban development, all the while maintaining that the experience of westward movement across the American continent was responsible for creating the independence and resourcefulness that comprised the heart of American character. The Turner thesis became the dominant interpretation of American history for the next century, although after the early 1980s "new western historians," who rejected Turner's grand theory for its lack of racial inclusiveness and overly triumphant paradigm, emphasized a more inclusive approach to frontier history. Nonetheless, the Turner thesis remained a popular albeit widely debated assessment of American development.Turner's insistence that the frontier experience explained the development of democracy in the United States made sense to historians and the general public, generating a popular sense of American exceptionalism and promoting a highly cultural valuation of the frontier. Although the Turner Thesis has received ongoing criticism over the last fifty years, it remains extremely influential with scholars and popular culture.Finally, there is also the issue of the nature of the frontier itself. In Turner's thesis, the American frontier is portrayed as the line between settled and Indian lands, which runs roughly north to south and which continually recedes westward. Apart from his self-contradicting idea of Indian lands being unsettled yet inhabited, Turner greatly oversimplifies the character of the frontier in several important ways. There were actually at least three frontiers that played a critical role in American history. While it is true that one frontier line ran from the north to the south, the New England colonies had a northern frontier running from east to west. It was across this frontier that French troops and their Indian allies put pressure on colonial Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, which ended only with the defeat of France in the Seven Years War. English settlement along this frontier was uncertain at best, and Indians like the Abenakis used their alliance with the French to restrain England's land-hungry colonists. Far from receding, this frontier remained a permanent feature of New England until the 1760s.In the course of the seventeenth century the frontier was advanced up the Atlantic river courses, just beyond the "fall line," and the tidewater region became the settled area. In the first half of the eighteenth century, another advance occurred. Traders followed the Delaware and Shawnese Indians to the Ohio as early as the end of the first quarter of the century. Governor Spotswood, of Virginia, made an expedition in 1714 across the Blue Ridge. The end of the first quarter of the century saw the advance of the Scotch-Irish and the Palatine Germans up the Shenandoah Valley into the western part of Virginia, and along the Piedmont region of the Carolinas. The Germans in New York pushed the frontier of settlement up the Mohawk to German Flats. Gilbert Frederick jackson Turners Thesis Essays Turners Thesis Essays turners frontier thesisDifferent expository essay topics. Start reading Toefl Ibt Mind Mapping Essay Skills on Turners Thesis Essays your Kindle in under a minute. Frederick jackson turners frontier thesis 2015.