Frederick Jackson Turners Frontier Thesis

Lee, Everett S. “The Turner Thesis Reexamined” American Quarterly vol 13

The Turner Theses - History RFD

Taylor, George Rogers., ed. The Turner Thesis: Concerning the Role of the Frontierin American History. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath and Company, 1972. E169.1.P897

Turners Thesis

Turner Thesis Summary Essay - 656 Words - StudyMode

Turner agrees with Thoreau in that nature is somewhere where all individuals should consistently return to in order to gain back their individualism and self-identity that they may have lost in the newly industrialized societies throughout the late 19th centuries and beyond. It is a place, as it has been from the beginning, where one can escape to find inner-peace and the practical use of the mind. Turner would also agree with Elliot West and his ideas on “invaders of the West.” Turner would argue that the government is an invader on the Western frontiers and are destroying the foundations of America by providing less open-land for humans to be able to return to their basic beings.

A British view of Lincoln Logs, and how they represented Americans' urge torecapture the frontier in times of growing urbanization.

Just a few months prior to the publication of Malone's ,two young American historians, James W. Davidson and Mark H. Lytle, published a collection of essays thatalso includes evidence that the Turner Thesis "lives on." However, althoughboth books are collections of essays, they are, in several ways, quite different. For example, whereas each essay in the collection edited by MichaelMalone has been written by a different historian, Davidson and Lytle are the authors of all 13 essays (and aPrologue) in their volume. A second difference is that the essays in the Malone volume concentrate exclusively onthe American West whereas those of Davidson and Lytle concern American history in general.


"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) Historian Frederick Jackson Turner believed that the strength and the vitality of the America identity lay in its land and vast frontier. In 1893, Turner spoke at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, where millions of Americans had flocked to Chicago for this 1893 multi-month event to experience displays of new technologies, new products, and new tastes. In the pavilions and halls of the Exposition, the electric light bulb, the moveable sidewalk, the Ferris wheel, diet carbonated soda, and Cream of Wheat were a few of the many exciting things unveiled. Amidst the excitement, Frederick Jackson Turner offered his listeners at a American historians seminar, a new idea. His thesis "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" mournfully proclaimed that the once vast American western frontier was closed. "American energy," Turner maintained, "will continually demand a wider field for its exercise." In a discussion of the Spanish-American War and the birth of U.S. imperialism, Frederick Jackson Turner's thesis is significant because it connects two important forces of the 1890s. By articulating the end of the American frontier and calling for new frontier abroad, Turner laid the intellectual groundwork for a new kind of U.S. foreign policy—one that led the United Stated into Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam during the Spanish-American War.
"The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward explain American development." With these words, Frederick Jackson Turner laid the foundation for modern historical study of the American West and presented a "frontier thesis" that continues to influence historical thinking even today.Turner offered his frontier thesis as both an analysis of the past and a warning about the future. If the frontier had been so essential to the development of American culture and democracy, then what would befall them as the frontier closed? It was on this forboding note that he closed his address: "And now, four centuries from the discovery of America, at the end of a hundred years of life under the Constitution, the frontier has gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history."Three years before Turner's pronouncement of the frontier thesis, the U.S. Census Bureau had announced the disappearance of a contiguous frontier line. Turner took this "closing of the frontier" as an opportunity to reflect upon the influence it had exercised. He argued that the frontier had meant that every American generation returned "to primitive conditions on a continually advancing frontier line." Along this frontier -- which he also described as "the meeting point between savagery and civilization" -- Americans again and again recapitulated the developmental stages of the emerging industrial order of the 1890's. This development, in Turner's description of the frontier, "begins with the Indian and the hunter; it goes on with the disintegration of savagery by the entrance of the trader... the pastoral stage in ranch life; the exploitation of the soil by the raising of unrotated crops of corn and wheat in sparsely settled farm communities; the intensive culture of the denser farm settlement; and finally the manufacturing organization with the city and the factory system."Where Turner told the triumphalist story of the frontier's promotion of a distinctly American democracy, many of his critics have argued that precisely the opposite was the case. Cooperation and communities of various sorts, not isolated individuals, made possible the absorption of the West into the United States. Most migrant wagon trains, for example, were composed of extended kinship networks. Moreover, as the 19th century wore on, the role of the federal government and large corporations grew increasingly important. Corporate investors headquartered in New York laid the railroads; government troops defeated Indian nations who refused to get out of the way of manifest destiny; even the cowboys, enshrined in popular mythology as rugged loners, were generally low-level employees of sometimes foreign-owned cattle corporations.