The Significance of the Frontier in American History

by Frederick Jackson Turner
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What was Frederick Jackson Turner's "frontier thesis" and what are the criticisms of it?

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Turner's frontier thesis, perhaps the most famous theory in American history, argued that the closing of the American frontier in the 1890 census, which stated that there no longer was a frontier boundary line in the US, marked the end of the first phase of United States' history. More importantly, this thesis argued that the frontier was the single defining element in the development of the US spirit or character. Turner described this character, formed he argued by the existence of a frontier wilderness into which white Americans could throw their energies and talents, as one of

strength combined with acuteness and acquisitiveness ... practical inventive turn of mind ... restless, nervous energy ... [and] dominant individualism.

Without the outlet of the frontier for restless individuals, Turner worried about what the future of the country would hold.

Most historians now reject Turner's thesis that conquering the frontier was the master narrative defining the US experience up until 1890....

(The entire section contains 5 answers and 1004 words.)

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