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Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner

Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner: "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" and Other Essays

FREDERICK JACKSON TURNER
WITH COMMENTARY BY John Mack Faragher
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 276
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32bv5g
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  • Book Info
    Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner
    Book Description:

    "The best assembly of Turner's essays now available. Faragher's introductory and concluding commentaries add considerably to the import of the book."-Stephen Aron, University of California, Los Angeles

    "Still ranks as the most influential piece of writing on American history."-Carlin Romano,Philadelphia Inquirer, A Notable Book of 1994

    "Faragher's invaluable afterword . . . provides a judicious introduction to the issues that divide the revisionist New Western Historians from Turner and his disciples."-Michael Kammen,FanFare

    Frederick Jackson Turner is often considered to be the most influential American historian of the century, and his views continue to shape the controversial field of Western American history. In this book, John Mack Faragher introduces and comments on ten of Turner's most significant essays, concluding with a comment on the recent debate over Turner's legacy and his effect on Americans' understanding of their national character.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14725-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[xii])
  3. INTRODUCTION “A NATION THROWN BACK UPON ITSELF”: FREDERICK JACKSON TURNER AND THE FRONTIER
    (pp. 1-10)

    It has been more than a century since Frederick Jackson Turner first read his paper “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” before an audience of some two hundred historians assembled in Chicago for the “World’s Columbian Exposition,” the celebration of the four hundredth anniversary of Europeans’ discovery of the Americas. Yet Turner’s essay remains the classic expression of the “frontier thesis”: that “the existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development”; that this frontier accounted for American democracy and character, and that at the end of...

  4. ONE THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HISTORY (1891)
    (pp. 11-30)

    The conceptions of history have been almost as numerous as the men who have written history. To Augustine Birrell history is a pageant; it is for the purpose of satisfying our curiosity. Under the touch of a literary artist the past is to become living again. Like another Prospero the historian waves his wand, and the deserted streets of Palmyra sound to the tread of artisan and officer, warrior gives battle to warrior, ruined towers rise by magic, and the whole busy life of generations that have long ago gone down to dust comes to life again in the pages...

  5. TWO THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FRONTIER IN AMERICAN HISTORY (1893)
    (pp. 31-60)

    In a recent bulletin of the Superintendent of the Census for 1890 appear these significant words: “Up to and including 1880 the country had a frontier of settlement, but at present the unsettled area has been so broken into by isolated bodies of settlement that there can hardly be said to be a frontier line. In the discussion of its extent, its westward movement, etc., it can not, therefore, any longer have a place in the census reports.” This brief official statement marks the closing of a great historic movement. Up to our own day American history has been in...

  6. THREE THE PROBLEM OF THE WEST (1896)
    (pp. 61-76)

    The problem of the West is nothing less than the problem of American development. A glance at the map of the United States reveals the truth. To write of a “Western sectionalism,” bounded on the east by the Alleghanies, is, in itself, to proclaim the writer a provincial. What is the West? What has it been in American life? To have the answers to these questions is to understand the most significant features of the United States of to-day.

    The West, at bottom, is a form of society, rather than an area. It is the term applied to the region...

  7. FOUR CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE WEST TO AMERICAN DEMOCRACY (1903)
    (pp. 77-100)

    Political thought in the period of the French Revolution tended to treat democracy as an absolute system applicable to all times and to all peoples, a system that was to be created by the act of the people themselves on philosophical principles. Ever since that era there has been an inclination on the part of writers on democracy to emphasize the analytical and theoretical treatment to the neglect of the underlying factors of historical development.

    If, however, we consider the underlying conditions and forces that create the democratic type of government, and at times contradict the external forms to which...

  8. FIVE PIONEER IDEALS AND THE STATE UNIVERSITY (1910)
    (pp. 101-118)

    The ideals of a people, their aspirations and convictions, their hopes and ambitions, their dreams and determinations, are assets in their civilization as real and important as per capita wealth or industrial skill.

    This nation was formed under pioneer ideals. During three centuries after Captain John Smith struck the first blow at the American forest on the eastern edge of the continent, the pioneers were abandoning settled society for the wilderness, seeking, for generation after generation, new frontiers. Their experiences left abiding influences upon the ideas and purposes of the nation. Indeed the older settled regions themselves were shaped profoundly...

  9. SIX SOCIAL FORCES IN AMERICAN HISTORY (1910)
    (pp. 119-139)

    The transformations through which the United States is passing in our own day are so profound, so far-reaching, that it is hardly an exaggeration to say that we are witnessing the birth of a new nation in America. The revolution in the social and economic structure of this country during the past two decades is comparable to what occurred when independence was declared and the constitution was formed, or to the changes wrought by the era which began half a century ago, the era of Civil War and Reconstruction.

    These changes have been long in preparation and are, in part,...

  10. SEVEN THE WEST AND AMERICAN IDEALS (1914)
    (pp. 140-158)

    True to American traditions that each succeeding generation ought to find in the Republic a better home, once in every year the colleges and universities summon the nation to lift its eyes from the routine of work, in order to take stock of the country’s purposes and achievements, to examine its past and consider its future.

    This attitude of self-examination is hardly characteristic of the people as a whole. Particularly it is not characteristic of the historic American. He has been an opportunist rather than a dealer in general ideas. Destiny set him in a current which bore him swiftly...

  11. EIGHT MIDDLE WESTERN PIONEER DEMOCRACY (1918)
    (pp. 159-180)

    In time of war, when all that this nation has stood for, all the things in which it passionately believes, are at stake, we have met to dedicate this beautiful home for history.

    There is a fitness in the occasion. It is for historic ideals that we are fighting. If this nation is one for which we should pour out our savings, postpone our differences, go hungry, and even give up life itself, it is not because it is a rich, extensive, well-fed and populous nation; it is because from its early days America has pressed onward toward a goal...

  12. NINE SECTIONS AND NATION (1922)
    (pp. 181-200)

    We are apt to think of the United States as we might think of some one of the nations of the Old World, but the area of the Union is almost that of all Europe, and this vast country is gradually becoming aware that its problems and its difficulties are not altogether unlike those of Europe as a whole.

    It may readily be admitted that bigness is not greatness. But room for population and ample resources for development are important in the life of all nations. England, France, and Italy could be placed within the boundaries of the old thirteen...

  13. TEN THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SECTION IN AMERICAN HISTORY (1925)
    (pp. 201-224)

    A generation ago I published in theProceedingsof this Society a paper, which I had read at the summer meeting of the American Historical Association, on “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” The Superintendent of the Census had just announced that a frontier line could no longer be traced, and had declared: “In the discussion of its extent, its westward movement, etc., it cannot therefore any longer have a place in the census reports.”

    The significance in American history of the advance of the frontier and of its disappearance is now generally recognized. This evening I wish...

  14. AFTERWORD THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FRONTIER IN AMERICAN HISTORIOGRAPHY: A GUIDE TO FURTHER READING
    (pp. 225-242)

    In the 1990s, a century after Frederick Jackson Turner first delivered “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” western history is in the news once more. The cover story in a leading national news magazine announced that historians had now concluded that the American West was not “some rough-hewn egalitarian democracy, where every man had a piece of land and the promise of prosperity, but a world quickly dominated by big money and big government”; not a land “where the sodbuster might dwell in sweet harmony with nature, but a nearly unmitigated environmental catastrophe”; not a society of close-knit...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 243-255)