1893, When Frederick Jackson Turner Gave His Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

1893, when Frederick Jackson Turner gave his landmark speech "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," it laid the foundation for future discussion relative to the American frontier. After more than one hundred years later, it is still a piece of comparison for new theories. Turner's work was followed by different other famous frontier theories throughout the first three-quarters of the twentieth century. Although few historians would call this thesis pertinent, it still remains the most widely discussed interpretation of the American past. Invoking fascination, criticism and heaps of speculation from viewers, the thesis sheds light on a topic that has, notably in the last decade, stirred flaming controversy. The thesis is a comparison amongst those who view the West's development as a natural outgrowth of the pioneering spirit, and the New Western historians, who see a sad legacy of racism, greed and violence in the horizons of extended western cities.

Historian Richard Etulain has made a sound and sensible overview of Western American culture from frontier times to the present. The author does an admirable job of epitomizing the major historical trends of the past century. He positions each artistic movement in Western history, pointing to cause and effect and always, considering the perspective of women and minority groups. The frontier has long been an important mark of American culture. The thesis questions what exactly does it say about the American culture, and what exactly was the frontier. These questions, along with the myth of the frontier, spark attention in the subject of the frontier. Turner's thesis marked the significance the frontier had in shaping the American character. It continues to address the questions of national identity and shared attributes, which can be connected to the frontier. It explores both how the frontier experience can and can not account for the extensive deceptive American character. Apprehension on the frontier really was caused not by the closing of the frontier, but by the perception that the frontier was closing. As early as the 1880s and through the 1930s, many Americans believed a significant era had ended and worried about how this closure would influence society and democracy. The book maintains that individualism, democracy, personal initiative, and a realistic alertness character that Turner saw as typically American, all evolved from successive strife between Euro-Americans and a ruthless wilderness. The thesis also implied that American development was, at root, peculiar in comparison with the evolution of western civilization generally.

The perceived expiration of a uniquely American way of life had an impact not only on the literature of the day but on public policy as well. Frederick Jackson Turner lamented nostalgically about the end of an era dominated by the rugged individualist and westward expansion. Turner's thesis argues that what made Americans matchless and exceptional was the frontier's clear…

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The criticism is of several varieties. Richard Etulain emphasizes the weaknesses of the frontier school in confirming the large contributions of racial and ethnic minorities to the history of the frontier and the West. He asserts that Turner's thesis disappoint to deal with the significant discussion of gender and class. He also criticizes the Turner thesis for ignoring the post-1900 West and vital urban and detailed subjects. For Etulain, the thesis implies a viewpoint as shaky as it could be the basis for a tenable interpretation of American culture. Then the thesis fails to illustrate just how the perceived demise of the frontier brought about a longing for wilderness and the pioneer spirit. He emphasizes how it inspired debate on public land and immigration policy, expansionism and the merits of individualistic and cooperative political systems. In addition, he relates how it influenced and was affected by several social and political issues as racism, industrialization, irrigation, tenant farming, class struggle, government intervention, and the naturalist movement.

He argues that Frederick Jackson Turner clearly overlooked women from his story of the frontier. In overlooking women's important roles in pioneer history, Turner was ironically exceptionalist, progressing a frontier story devoted entirely to men's actions. Rather than follow the process idea central to the frontier thesis, Etulain argues that Turner's thesis fail to depict the American West as a separate, evolving place. Since Turner placed so much importance on the shaping power of the frontier experience, people might discuss the implications of his claim that the frontier line had disappeared in the 1890's census.

Summary: Despite all its criticism, this thesis is an in indispensable analysis of an essential part of the national psyche. As a committed social and cultural evolutionist, the Fredrick Jackson Turner studied the expansion of western experiences that had, over time, been laminated into a consolidated American reputation. Turner pointed to several important factors that he saw arising from unique frontier experience. One such was the composite nationality, which others later called the growth of democracy, an independent individualism, and economic and physical mobility. One of the most important books of recent years in the history of American ideas. All American historians should read this provocative and well-written study. he discusses just enough writers, historians and artists to qualify the book as an overview without bringing on reader meltdown.

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