An Examination of the “Frontier Thesis” and the Revisionists Arguments
Fredrick Jackson Turner delivered his “Frontier Thesis” or also known as the “Turner Thesis” in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. It was in this essay, Turner delivered a thesis that would shape the interpretation of American history. “The frontier is the line of most rapid and effective Americanization," Turner declared. “American social development has been continually beginning over again on the frontier. This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of American life, this expansion westward with its new opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnish the forces dominating American character.”(Turner) “Stand at Cumberland Gap and watch the procession of civilization, marching single file – the buffalo following the trail to the salt springs, the Indian, the fur-trader and hunter, the cattle-raiser, the pioneer farmer – and the frontier has passed by.”(Turner) Turner thought there was such a thing as an American character, and that that character was distinctive, concrete, militarily-accomplished, and formed by economic opportunity and social progress. He believed that westernized American character helped secure our democracy. “In the crucible of the frontier the immigrants were Americanized, liberated, and fused into a mixed race, English in neither nationality nor characteristics.”(Turner) At the end of his essay, Turner said that the census of 1890 had declared that the frontier was closed and that we would need to find new frontiers.
Turner’s thesis quickly became a nationwide sensation. Groups of students memorized Turner’s account of the frontier’s significance in American history. However over time many have come to argue against Turner’s essay and have formed other theses and opinions. In the 1990’s a group of historians who rejected Turners thesis got together and became the “New Western Historians”. These...
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