Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 27

Frederick Jackson Turner - Secondary Sources

american history frontier ‘the

Historian, born in Portage, Wisconsin, USA. Taking his PhD from Johns Hopkins (1890), he taught at the University of Wisconsin (1889–1910) and at Harvard (1910–24). When he delivered a paper, ‘The Significance of the Frontier in American History’, at the American Historical Association's meeting at Chicago World's Columbian Exposition (1893), he gained almost overnight prominence among his colleagues as well as the subject of his life's work. His paper was printed in 1894, and after he had spent his career developing and supporting it, he presented its final form in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Significance of Sections in American History (1932). His thesis, simply stated, is that Americans' history, culture, and psychology derived less from their European heritage and more from their distinctive frontier - the free land and its resources that allowed for new kinds of interactions among the emerging nation's inhabitants. He spent the next 40 years exploring and teaching his thesis, and won several generations of specialists and observers over to it. Although it would eventually come under attack from revisionists, ‘the frontier’ remains one of the touchstones of American history and indissolubly associated with Turner.

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