To What Extent Is The Turner Thesis Valid

The first, "The Significance of History," reiterated his belief in what historians call "multiple causation"; to understand man's complex' nature, he insisted, one needed not only a knowledge of past politics, but a familiarity with social, economic, and cultural forces as well.

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The most unusual features of that environment were "the existence of an area of free land its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward." This free land served as a magnet to draw men westward, attracted by the hope of economic gain or adventure.

They came as Europeans or easterners, but they soon realized that the wilderness environment was ill-adapted to the habits, institutions, and cultural baggage of the stratified societies they had left behind.

An "Americanization" of men and their institutions had taken place.

Turner believed that many of the characteristics associated with the American people were traceable to their experience during the three centuries required to settle the continent, of constantly "beginning over again." Their mobility, their optimism, their inventiveness and willingness to accept innovation, their materialism, their exploitative wastefulness-these were frontier traits; for the pioneer, accustomed to repeated moves as he drifted westward, viewed the world through rose-colored glasses as he dreamed of a better future, experimented constantly as he adapted artifacts and customs to his peculiar environment, scorned culture as a deterrent to the practical tasks that bulked so large in his life, and squandered seemingly inexhaustible natural resources with abandon.

Gradually, however, newcomers drifted in, and as the man-land ratio increased, the community began a slow climb back toward civilization.

Governmental controls were tightened and extended, economic specialization began, social stratification set in, and cultural activities quickened.There he mingled with pioneers who had trapped beaver or hunted Indians or cleared the virgin wilderness; from them he learned something of the free and easy democratic values prevailing among those who judged men by their own accomplishments rather than, those of their ancestors.At the University of Wisconsin Turner's faith in cultural democracy was deepened, while his intellectual vistas were widened through contact with teachers who led him into that wonderland of adventure where scientific techniques were being applied to social problems, where Darwin's evolutionary hypothesis was awakening scholars to the continuity of progress, and where searchers after truth were beginning to realize the multiplicity of forces responsible for human behavior.Among these Turner believed that the most important was the need for institutions to "adapt themselves to the changes of a remarkably developing, expanding people."This was the theory that was expanded into a full-blown historical hypothesis in the famous essay on "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," read at a conference of historians held in connection with the World Fair in Chicago in 1893.The differences between European and American civilization, Turner stated in that monumental work, were in part the product of the distinctive environment of the New World.But the new society that eventually emerged differed from the one from which it had sprung.The abandonment of cultural baggage during the migrations, the borrowings from the many cultures represented in each pioneer settlement, the deviations natural in separate evolutions, and the impact of the environment all played their parts in creating a unique social organism similar to but differing from those in the East.The American was a new man, he held, who owed his distinctive characteristics and institutions to the unusual New World environment-characterized by the availability of free land and an ever-receding frontier in which his civilization bad grown to maturity.This environmental theory, accepted for a generation after its enunciation, has been vigorously attacked and vehemently defended during the past two decades. Is it still a valid key to the meaning of American history?Turner also ascribed America's distinctive brand of individualism, with its dislike of governmental interference in economic functions, to the experience of pioneers who wanted no hindrance from society as they exploited nature's riches.Similarly, he traced the exaggerated nationalism of the United States to its roots among frontiersmen who looked to the national government for land, transportation outlets and protection against the Indians.

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Comments To What Extent Is The Turner Thesis Valid

  • How the Frontier Shaped the American Character
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    The young Wisconsin historian Frederick Jackson Turner presented his “frontier thesis,” one of the most influential theories of American history, in his essay.…

  • How The Frontier Shaped The American Character.
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    Is it still a valid key to the meaning of American history. historical hypothesis in the famous essay on “The Significance of the Frontier in American History. realized felt the frontier's impact, but that does not minimize the extent of the impact.…

  • Revisiting the Vanishing Frontier The Legacy of Frederick.
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    With JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Western Historical Quarterly. No less familiar than the Turner thesis itself, of course, are the com-. Valid Interpretation of American History? New York, 1966;.…

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  • The Significance of the Frontier in American History.
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    Historian Frederick Jackson Turner presented this paper to a special meeting of the American Historical Association at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in.…

  • The Significance of Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis
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