Frederick Jackson Turner: “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”

(1893)

In the 1893 Report of the American Historical Association, Frederick Jackson Turner published “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” Although some of Turner's assertions were perhaps a little overstated, the essay remains important because it essentially defined the frontier character of American life and how the frontier shaped American values and characteristics. It was an example of a new approach to historiography that historians and social scientists were beginning to take in the nineteenth century; rather than focusing on kings and popes, wars and treaties, historians were taking a closer look at economic and social factors and how those factors influenced historical events. Still in the twenty-first century, Americans tend to trace American individualism and enterprise to the “frontier thesis” Turner articulated just three years after the U.S. Census Bureau declared the American frontier closed.


Turner's essay picks up two themes that were...

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Allegorical female figure of America leading pioneers westward (Library of Congress)

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