IN less than ten years, American historians undoubtedly will be observing in an appropriate manner the centennial of the "Turner Thesis." It was on 12 luly 1893, at an annual meeting of the American Historical Association, that Frederick Jackson Turner first presented his frontier thesis in the now-famous paper on "The Significance of the Frontier in American History.'' During the following two decades, in a series of articles, papers, and addresses, he elaborated on and refined the thesis, and in 1920 selected thirteen of these essays for republication in one volume.' 1 .
During the 90 years since Turner first proposed the thesis, it has generated a variety of responses that have become quite astonishing in number. Not only has criticism of the thesis ''become a minor industry," as British historian Howard Temperley recently pointed out, 2 but even more so has its defense, at least if neo-Turnerians (those Richard Hofstadter aptly described as "friendly revisionists") are included with Turner's disciples. 3 In 1947, in a Foreword to the second edition of the collection of Turner's frontier essays, Ray Allen Billington, Turner's biographer and, at the time of his death, the most active and influential of the neo-Turnerians, 4 summarized the reception and influence of the thesis during the previous half century as follows:
No one volume has done more to reshape the writing of American history or to recast the popularly held image of the American past than this collection of thought-provoking essays. They have, since their initial appearance, stirred usually placid historians into bitter controversy, radically altered the teaching of the nation's history, inspired a tidal wave of publication that still bulges from library shelves. offered a justification to diplomats for such divergent doctrines as imperialism and internationalism. and supplied statesmen with the arguments needed to popularize such irreconcilable objectives as the ''welfare state'' and ''rugged individualism"... 5