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Frederick Jackson Turner

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Katharina Stengaard

on 10 June 2016

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Transcript of Frederick Jackson Turner

Frederick Jackson Turner
- The Frontier Thesis

Free Land
American Democracy
Safety Valve
The Frontier Thesis
Frederick Jackson Turner
• 1861-1932

• Born in Wisconsin, where he also studies History

• Teaches History at Wisconsin university and later at Harvard

• Known for his focus on the Frontier and its importance in american history

• Who was F.J. Turner?

• What is the Frontier Thesis?

• The elements of the thesis explored

Things not included

• What did the Thesis teach us?

• Conclussion
The Background
The Superintendent of the Census: the Frontier is dead (1890)
All of America is, according to them, populated to an extent where Frontier life is no longer in existence

The 400th year anniversary of the Discovery of America (1892)
A lot of focus on this. It encourages american nationalism.

The Frontier Thesis
First presented in 1893 in “
The Significance of the Frontier for American History

Key Argument:
The Frontier shaped American Democracy and Identity

Main Elements:
Safety Valve
Free Land
But when American History comes to be rightly viewed it will be seen that the slavery question is an incident
Turner Continued
Turner continues to be discussed to this day
Developed theories
The Frontier replaced by migration patterns?
Where Turner Was Right
Bringing the west into focus
The ideas of sectionalism
Creating a myth of history (nationalism)
Creating a foundation on which much research stand
Interdisciplinary thinking
Where Turner Was Wrong
Lack of human agency
Safety valve and free land too simplified
Weak definition, contradictions and scrambled argument
Narrow focus (white male, pioneer society)
Bias and Idealism

Most important of all has been the fact that an area of free land has continually lain on the western border of the settled area of the united states.

Turner; Contributions of the West to american democracy

The Existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession , and the advancement of American settlements westward, explain American development
Turner; The Significance of The Frontier for American History
Free Land Concept
• Social mobility opened up

• Dependency, interdependency and Individualism

• Drawing the people onwards

while waves of migrants were drawn west by a frontier "safety valve" holding forth the promise of escape from eastern economic hardship and urban pressures.
Block; "Frederick Jackson Turner and American Geography"
Safety Valve Concept
The West as an escape from economic pressures of the East (and Europe)

Changes in ideals away from a focus on wealth and to a focus of social interdependence and hard work
"It [Jacksonian democracy] was based on the good fellowship and genuine social feeling of the frontier, in which classes and inequalities of fortune played little part."

Turner; The west and American ideals
Sectionalism Concept
The East/West divide
The East tied to the old World. The West move away from that
The Industrialist v. the Pioneer
Turner points to cleavage in political, economic and social thinking
Also within this decade, political scientist Richard F. Bensel has maintained that sectionalism has indeed been a major force in determining the nature of modem American political development
Bogue; "Frederick Jackson Turner reconsidered"

From the beginning of the settlement of America, the frontier regions have exercised a steady influence toward Democracy.

Turner; contributions of the West on American Democracy
Why the West Was important in the shaping of American Democracy
The balance of independence and interdependency in Frontier life
The ties between east and West
Individualism, opportunism and the pioneer
Free land, free opportunity
Neglected areas in Turner's Thesis
Turner; the significance of the frontier in American History
Later Turner does write that Slavery and abolition has some significance in Frontier history, but more as a defence of his heroes (Jackson, Lincoln) than as important for frontier history.
The thesis deals badly with other Cultures than that of Turner's white pioneer society.

By assuming that the Frontier, as either a place or a process, must be "culture free," Turner students and their critics reveal a cultural chauvinism and egotism, which, while diminishing somewhat in recent years, remains a barrier to seeing successive American "frontiers" in their true cultural aspects.
Woolfolk; The Safety-valve and Free Negro Westward Migration.
Turner gives Natives no agency
Mentions very peripheral
Does not reflect recent study

One of the greatest ironies of all, however, is that by trying to bury Turner they have resuscitated him.
Tuck, "The NEw American Histories"
Foundation laid for future research
The borderland theory
Most of the effects, desirable and undesirable, that were attributed by Turner to the frontier can, with equal or better logic, be attributed to migration.

Lee; The Turner Thesis Reexamined
For Consideration
What did Turner mean for the development of historical research and American history?
Why is Turner still important?
What is the problem with Turner?

Faults in Turner's Thesis
Land not actually Free
Safety valve not actually operational (indentured servants)
Cleavages not clear cut East/West
Dependency/interdependency more complex
Reflections on Turner and his Legacy

Bogue, Allan G. “Frederick Jackson Turner reconsidered” The History Teacher vol. 27 (1994
Calloway, Colin G. The Scratch of a pen (Oxford, 2006)
Lee, Everett S. “The Turner Thesis Reexamined” American Quarterly vol 13
Tuck, Stephen “The New American Histories” The Historical Journal vol 48 (2005
Turner, Frederick J. and Robert H. Block “Frederick JAckson Turner and American Geography” Annales of the Association of American Geographers vol.70 (1980)
Turner, Frederick J. “The West and American Ideals”(1914) in F.J. Turner, The Frontier in American History (1996)
Turner, Frederick J. “Contributions of the West to American Democracy ” (1903) in F.J. Turner The Frontier in American History (1996)
Turner, Frederick J. “The significance of the frontier in American History” (1893) in F.J. Turner The Frontier in American History (1996
Woolfolk, George R. “The Safety-valve and Free Negro Westward Migration” The Journal of Negro History vol 50 (1965)
http://www.denstoredanske.dk/Geografi_og_historie/Historieteori_og_-videnskab/Historikere,_1800-t./Frederick_Jackson_Turner (accessed on 02.10.2013)
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