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


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  1. Frontier thesis - Wikipedia

    The Frontier Thesis or Turner's Thesis (also American frontierism) is the argument advanced by historian Frederick Jackson Turner in 1893 that a settler colonial exceptionalism, under the guise of American democracy, was formed by the appropriation of the rugged American frontier.

  2. Frederick Jackson Turner | Biography, Works, & Influence

    Turner’s “frontier thesis” rose to become the dominant interpretation of American history for the next half-century and longer. In the words of historian William Appleman Williams, it “rolled through the universities and into popular literature like a tidal wave.”

  3. 17.9: The West as History- the Turner Thesis - Humanities ...

    The young Wisconsin historian Frederick Jackson Turner presented his “frontier thesis,” one of the most influential theories of American history, in his essay “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.”.

  4. The Turner Thesis: An Annotated Bibliography for Students

    The Turner Thesis: Concerning the Role of the Frontier in American History. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath and Company, 1972. E169.1 .P897 A collection of essays, by major frontier scholars, debating Turner's thesis and its impact on twentieth-century America. Turner, Frederick Jackson. "The Significance of the Frontier in American History."

  5. Frontier Thesis, Turner's |

    FRONTIER THESIS, TURNER'S. Frederick Jackson Turner 's "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" is arguably one of the most influential interpretations of the American past ever espoused. Delivered in Chicago before two hundred historians at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, a celebration of the four hundredth anniversary of ...

  6. Crucible of Empire - PBS Online

    In a discussion of the Spanish-American War and the birth of U.S. imperialism, Frederick Jackson Turner's thesis is significant because it connects two important forces of the 1890s.

  7. CONTENTdm

    Description. The Turner Thesis, A Historian's Controversy: This essay opens by reviewing the argument made by Frederick Jackson Turner (1861-1932) in his seminal 1893 essay, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," that argued that the repeated transformation of the westward-moving wilderness gave unique features to American ...

  8. The West as History: The Turner Thesis | US History II ...

    The West as History: The Turner Thesis. In 1893, the American Historical Association met during that year’s World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The young Wisconsin historian Frederick Jackson Turner presented his “frontier thesis,” one of the most influential theories of American history, in his essay, “The Significance of the ...

  9. Digital History

    In 1893, three years after the superintendent of the Census announced that the western frontier was closed, Frederick Jackson Turner, a historian from the University of Wisconsin, advanced a thesis that the conquest of the western frontier had given American society its special character.

  10. The Turner Thesis: After Ninety Years it Still Lives On

    Davidson's and Lytle's summary of Turner's thesis and perceptions of Jackson is a classic illustration of a major problem that has plagued the thesis since the 1930s-the frequent tendency of scholars, especially critics, to oversimplify or distort it.