Frederick Turner Thesis

Frederick Turner Thesis-18
"The frontier thesis became the most familiar model of American history, the one learned in school, extolled by politicians, and screened each Saturday afternoon at the Bijou." So what is Turner's frontier thesis?

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As the quotes above show, Turner believed there was a sort of evolution, visible at Cumberland Gap: from the buffalo to the Indian to the fur-trader, cowboy, and then farmer.

He believed that the force of westward expansion forged the American character.

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Turner doesn't seem to be speaking about Asian-Americans or Mexican-Americans or African-Americans, only about what we would now call Ethnic European Americans.

In 1893, Turner was worried because the 1890 census had declared the frontier closed.“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....It’s in every Marlboro Man ad, every western movie, every Boy Scouts meeting, every wilderness campground.The myth is still with us, whether we are fans of John Wayne, fans of the anti-Wayne “Deadwood,” or bored by our culture's continual re-creation of westerns.Turner's frontier thesis helped him become a professor at Harvard, the president of the American Historical Association, and the leading trainer of at least a generation of American historians."Turner's essay is the single most influential piece of writing in American history," John Mack Faragher wrote in Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner.He also proposed that there were three waves to settling the West. Critics of this paper emphasize that this "free land" was not free.Prior to westward expansion, Native Americans, Hispanics, and mixed race people inhabited the West and had their own cultures.“In the crucible of the frontier the immigrants were Americanized, liberated, and fused into a mixed race, English in neither nationality nor characteristics...." By "race," here, Turner means a general white American, instead of a British-American, French-American, or Irish-American.Turner lived at a time when "Irish" and "French" were considered races.


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