The Frontier in American History

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  •  11-10-2018
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Автор:Frederick Jackson Turner
Издателство:Holt, Rinehart, and Winston
ISBN:9780030114250 Тегло (гр.): Формат: 165 / 245 Състояние: Добро
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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 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.” Here indeed is a book to be not only read but pondered, for its message is as pertinent in today’s trouble-haunted world as it was in 1893 when the first of its chapters was written.

Frederick Jackson Turner was a young professor at the University of Wisconsin when he penned the essay that sets the tone for this volume, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” Rebelling against both the current concept of history as past politics and the “germ theory” that traced all institutions to their origins in the forests of medieval Germany, he advanced the then-startling thesis that the differences between American and European civilization could be explained by the unique environment of the New World. The most distinctive feature of that environment, Turner held, was the ever-advancing frontier of settlement. “The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American de
velopment.” The institutions of the United States were not pale imitations of their Old World counterparts; they had been radically altered by nearly three hundred years of pioneering needed to occupy the continent. “The wilderness masters the colonist. It finds him a European in dress, industries, tools, modes of travel, and thought. It takes him from the railroad car and puts him in the birch canoe. It strips off the garments of civilization and arrays him in the hunting shirt and moccasin. ... The fact is, that here is a new product that is American.”

From this process there emerged a unique people, radically altered by the frontiering experience. “In the crucible of the frontier the immigrants were Americanized, liberated, and fused into a mixed race, English in neither nationality nor characteristics.” Stamped upon them was a lusty faith in the new nation that provided them with unaccustomed prosperity, a faith expressed in a brash nationalism that was translated into an aggresive foreign policy. Instilled into the American character was an abiding belief in the grass-roots democracy that flourished in each pioneer hamlet. To the frontier, too, Turner believed, “the American intellect owes its most striking characteristics”: a “coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness,” a “practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients,” a “masterful grasp of material things,” a “restless, nervous energy,” a “dominant individualism,” and above all a “buoyancy and exhuberance which comes from freedom.” His final words challenged those who would look to Europe for the roots of American civilization: “What the Mediterranean Sea was to the Greeks, breaking the bond of custom, offering new experiences, calling out new institutions and activities, that, and more, the ever retreating frontier has been to the United States directly, and to the nations of Europe more remotely.”.......

Frederick Jackson Turner (1861-1932) graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1885 and completed his master of arts degree there in 1887. He received his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1890, only three years before his essay on "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" began a controversy among historians which has yet to be stilled.

As an assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Turner supplemented his new course on the economic and social history of the United States with a study of westward expansion. His research in that area suggested a strikingly new interpretation of the American past.

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