Frederick Jackson Turner Frontier Thesis Summary

The crucible of the frontier forged the American character as independent, rugged, and democratic.

The frontier experience, Turner maintained, explains America's departure from its European roots. The second essay, Richard White's "When Frederick Jackson Turner and Buffalo Bill Cody Both Played Chicago in 1893," carries the introductory question, "How has the idea of the frontier shaped our imagination?

"He offered a sophisticated holistic interpretation of American history and provided a unifying hypothesis around which to organize the study of the United States in the nineteenth century" (81).

The next essay in the volume is Donald Worster's oft-reproduced, and oft-quoted, "New West, True West: Interpreting the Region's History." Worster raises the now well-worn debate among western historians: Should the West be considered as a place, more or less definable on a map (region), or as a process (frontier)?

For example, students are asked: "Judging from the content of these essays and from what you know about the history of the United States, do you think the exceptionalist argument is valid? " And, "Exceptionalism is a slippery and sometimes badly used concept.

Should it be abandoned, or is it valuable in understanding American society and culture?Playing off Abigail Adams's famous exhortation to her husband to "remember the ladies," Glenda Riley makes an airtight case that "Frederick Jackson Turner Overlooked the Ladies." Students are asked to ponder the question of "Whose frontier is it?" The strength of Riley's piece lies not in its observation that Turner excluded women from his narrative, but in her detailed analysis of why he did so.In a review article in , Hacker argued that "the historical growth of the United States, in short, was not unique.... returned." Hacker blamed Turner for what he perceived as the stagnation in American historical inquiry. Nonetheless, the volume, which is well-organized and masterfully edited by Richard Etulain, should prove useful to students in a course on the history of the American West. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at [email protected]"The unhappy results, for forty years," Hacker maintained, "were the following: a turning inward of American historical activity at exactly the time when all trained eyes should have been on event s going on beyond the country's physical borders; an accumulation of supposed evidences of the development of American institutions entirely in nativistic terms without an understanding of how closely American institutional growth paralleled the European; an almost complete disregard of the basic class antagonisms in American history; and a profound ignorance of the steps by which monopolistic capitalism and imperialism were being developed in the country."[2] Because of its specialized focus, the volume is of limited usefulness in a U. Perhaps it might have been titled "Does the Frontier Thesis Adequately Explain the History of the American West? One problem is that all of the historians included in the volume are specialists in the American West and their works have a different historiographical focus.Contributions from a few non-western historians would have both rounded out the volume and allowed it to more directly address the issue of exceptionalism.A fine discussion of the trend in western history known as the "New Western History" follows, but by now the organizing question of American exceptionalism has all but been abandoned, with the possible exception of portions of Thompson's contribution.At the end of the volume students are given certain question for "Making Connections." Yet, the works on which they must base their conclusions do not allow them to address several of the questions.By looking at the larger historical forces at play in the region, Worster's essay verges on addressing the exceptionalism question, but his purpose lies elsewhere.Limerick is especially adept at chipping away at the Turnerian monolith.


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