Frederick turner thesis frontier

Turner's Thesis

Turner taught at the University of Wisconsin until , when he accepted an appointment to a distinguished chair of history at Harvard University. Poor health forced his early retirement from Harvard in Turner moved to the Huntington Library in San Marino, California , where he remained as senior research associate until his death.

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By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. Evidently, the belief that free political institutions of the United States spawned in ancient Germanic forests endured well into the s. A similarly race-based interpretation of Western history also occupied the intellectual sphere in the United States before Turner. The racial warfare theory was an emerging belief in the late nineteenth century advocated by Theodore Roosevelt in The Winning of the West.

Turner and Roosevelt diverged on the exact aspect of frontier life that shaped the contemporary American. Each side, the Westerners and the native savages, struggled for mastery of the land through violence. Whereas Turner saw the development of American character occur just behind the frontier line, as the colonists tamed and tilled the land, Roosevelt saw it form in battles just beyond the frontier line.

Turner set up an evolutionary model he had studied evolution with a leading geologist, Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin , using the time dimension of American history, and the geographical space of the land that became the United States. They adapted to the new physical, economic and political environment in certain ways—the cumulative effect of these adaptations was Americanization. Successive generations moved further inland, shifting the lines of settlement and wilderness, but preserving the essential tension between the two. European characteristics fell by the wayside and the old country's institutions e.

Every generation moved further west and became more American, more democratic, and more intolerant of hierarchy. They also became more violent, more individualistic, more distrustful of authority, less artistic, less scientific, and more dependent on ad-hoc organizations they formed themselves. In broad terms, the further west, the more American the community. Turner saw the land frontier was ending, since the U.

FRONTIER THESIS, TURNER'S

Census of had officially stated that the American frontier had broken up. He sounded an alarming note, speculating as to what this meant for the continued dynamism of American society as the source of U. Historians, geographers, and social scientists have studied frontier-like conditions in other countries, with an eye on the Turnerian model.

South Africa, Canada, Russia, Brazil, Argentina and Australia—and even ancient Rome—had long frontiers that were also settled by pioneers. The question is whether their frontiers were powerful enough to overcome conservative central forces based in the metropolis. In Australia, "mateship" and working together was valued more than individualism. Turner's thesis quickly became popular among intellectuals. It explained why the American people and American government were so different from their European counterparts.

It was popular among New Dealers—Franklin Roosevelt and his top aides [19] thought in terms of finding new frontiers. This is the great, the nation-wide frontier of insecurity, of human want and fear. This is the frontier—the America—we have set ourselves to reclaim. Chandler, Jr. Many believed that the end of the frontier represented the beginning of a new stage in American life and that the United States must expand overseas.

However, others viewed this interpretation as the impetus for a new wave in the history of United States imperialism. William Appleman Williams led the "Wisconsin School" of diplomatic historians by arguing that the frontier thesis encouraged American overseas expansion, especially in Asia, during the 20th century.

Williams viewed the frontier concept as a tool to promote democracy through both world wars, to endorse spending on foreign aid, and motivate action against totalitarianism. Other historians, who wanted to focus scholarship on minorities, especially Native Americans and Hispanics, started in the s to criticize the frontier thesis because it did not attempt to explain the evolution of those groups. Turner never published a major book on the frontier for which he did 40 years of research. Mode in , argued that churches adapted to the characteristics of the frontier, creating new denominations such as the Mormons , the Church of Christ , the Disciples of Christ , and the Cumberland Presbyterians.

The frontier, they argued, shaped uniquely American institutions such as revivals, camp meetings, and itinerant preaching.

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This view dominated religious historiography for decades. Micheaux promoted the West as a place where blacks could experience less institutionalized forms of racism and earn economic success through hard work and perseverance. Slatta argues that the widespread popularization of Turner's frontier thesis influenced popular histories, motion pictures, and novels, which characterize the West in terms of individualism, frontier violence, and rough justice.

Disneyland 's Frontierland of the mid to late 20th century reflected the myth of rugged individualism that celebrated what was perceived to be the American heritage. The public has ignored academic historians' anti-Turnerian models, largely because they conflict with and often destroy the icons of Western heritage.

However, the work of historians during the s—s, some of whom sought to bury Turner's conception of the frontier, and others who sought to spare the concept but with nuance, have done much to place Western myths in context. American democracy was born of no theorist's dream; it was not carried in the Susan Constant to Virginia, nor in the Mayflower to Plymouth. It came out of the American forest, and it gained new strength each time it touched a new frontier. Not the constitution but free land and an abundance of natural resources open to a fit people, made the democratic type of society in America for three centuries while it occupied its empire.

He asked why the Turnerian American character was limited to English settlements in the New World, and why the frontier did not produce that same character among Native Americans and Spaniards. Indeed, his influence was felt in American classrooms until the s and 80s. Subsequent critics, historians, and politicians have suggested that other 'frontiers,' such as scientific innovation, could serve similar functions in American development.


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Historians have noted that John F. Kennedy in the early s explicitly called upon the ideas of the frontier.

Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier Thesis ()

My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age—to the stout in spirit, regardless of party. Limerick points out that Kennedy assumed that "the campaigns of the Old Frontier had been successful, and morally justified.


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The frontier thesis is one of the most influential documents on the American west today. Kolb and Hoddeson argue that during the heyday of Kennedy's "New Frontier," the physicists who built the Fermi Labs explicitly sought to recapture the excitement of the old frontier. They argue that, "Frontier imagery motivates Fermilab physicists, and a rhetoric remarkably similar to that of Turner helped them secure support for their research.

A small herd of American bison was started at the lab's founding to symbolize Fermilab's presence on the frontier of physics and its connection to the American prairie. The bison herd still lives on the grounds of Fermilab. Instead Fermilab's planners sought to return to Turnerian themes.

They emphasized the values of individualism, empiricism, simplicity, equality, courage, discovery, independence, and naturalism in the service of democratic access, human rights, ecological balance, and the resolution of social, economic, and political issues. Milton Stanley Livingston, the lab's associate director, said in , "The frontier of high energy and the infinitesimally small is a challenge to the mind of man.

If we can reach and cross this frontier, our generations will have furnished a significant milestone in human history.

Frederick Jackson Turner ' S Frontier Thesis

John Perry Barlow , along with Mitch Kapor , promoted the idea of cyberspace the realm of telecommunication as an "electronic frontier" beyond the borders of any physically based government, in which freedom and self-determination could be fully realized. Wikipedia is a major presence on the electronic frontier, and the Wikipedia editors have been explicitly compared to the pioneers of Turner's American frontier in terms of their youth, aggressiveness, boldness, equalitarianism and rejection of limitations.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Works by, Frederick Jackson Turner.

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