Essay Frontier History Thesis

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Because this process of going back to primitivism, experiencing a rebirth, being offered new opportunities, and furthering progress and expansion keeps repeating itself, the frontier makes the American past exceptional.

In other words, demonstrating that it was the frontier that gave an identity to America, the Turner thesis amounts to a justification of American exceptionalism.

First, Turner rejects the "germ theory", which claimed that American institutions and customs had been imported from Europe, therefore stressing the continuity of institutions and de-emphasizing the significance of American experience.

Second, Turner’s explanation runs counter to the Eastern Establishment, and its colonial and Atlantic coastal emphasis.

Rejecting the notion of frontier altogether, New Historians suggested a rewriting of the Western past that focused on the West as a region, with geographical limits and specific characteristics distinguishing it from the other American regions.

While Turner’s thesis was national in scope and glorified an American identity, the New Historians’ regionalism, stressing the uniqueness of the West, promoted a Western identity.C’est en participant au peuplement de l’Ouest, au contact de la Frontière, loin de l’Est et de l’Europe, que l’Américain se serait construit.Cette "exception américaine" ("exceptionalism") est mise à mal par les générations suivantes d’historiens.It was a long time before historians started questioning Turner’s "frontier thesis", so strong was the appeal to Americans’ imagination generated by this justification of American exceptionalism.Criticism culminated in the emergence of "New Western History", in the late 1980s.In the late nineteenth century, Frederick Jackson Turner, the founding father of Western history, attributed the unique American character to the experience of the frontier.According to Turner, the westward movement Americanized the pioneer, shaped American institutions, and promoted democracy.The aim of this article is to assess the significance given to the West at different periods.Focusing, first, on Turner’s interpretation, with its justification of American exceptionalism, it will then analyse the regionalism of the New Western History, which has resulted in the isolation of the West from the rest of the nation.Finally, as scholars have been quick in criticizing the regionalist perspective of New Western History, it will try and assess how historians have started giving Western history a new orientation over the last decade, one that aims at reconciling the concepts of region and frontier, thus giving back to the West its significance at the national level.Considered as the founding father of Western history, Frederick Jackson Turner is famous for a lecture he gave in 1893, entitled "The Significance of the Frontier in American History".


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