Turner Thesis Arguments

8 But, as Hofstadter acknowledged, by 1968 he had changed his mind.

In contrast to his earlier blanket criticism of the thesis, which he labeled one of his ''parricidal forays'' and admitted had been destructive,9 he now based his assessment of the thesis ''on the assumption that there is indeed something of substantial merit at the core of Turner's views.'' Rather than trying "to have sport with his marginal failings''' Hofstadter suggested that the ''most valid procedure" was "to rescue whatever is viable by cutting out what is proved wrong, tempering what is overstated, tightening what is too loosely put. The great merit of Turnerism, for all its elliptical and exasperating vagueness, was to be open-ended.

Another important characteristic of this collection of essays, however, as Paul points out, is the fact that 'criticism of Turner is especially prevalent." Although, as he goes on to report, the authors of these essays do not regard Turner "with the scorn shown by some critics of a generation ago, most find serious lacks now that western history has produced a whole congeries of subfields that seem to demand attention."21 Certainly the major criticism of Turner in these essays is his failure to mention, or at least adequately to discuss important features of or influences on frontier and Western history.

Among those specifically mentioned are mining, territorial administration, frontier politics, conflict and violence within the West, urbanization, women, racial and ethnic minorities, and culture.

Just a few months prior to the publication of Malone's Historians and the American West, two young American historians, James W. Lytle, published a collection of essays that also includes evidence that the Turner Thesis "lives on."25 However, although both books are collections of essays, they are, in several ways, quite different.

A second difference is that the essays in the Malone volume concentrate exclusively on the American West whereas those of Davidson and Lytle concern American history in general.

IN less than ten years, American historians undoubtedly will be observing in an appropriate manner the centennial of the "Turner Thesis." It was on 12 luly 1893, at an annual meeting of the American Historical Association, that Frederick Jackson Turner first presented his frontier thesis in the now-famous paper on "The Significance of the Frontier in American History.'' During the following two decades, in a series of articles, papers, and addresses, he elaborated on and refined the thesis, and in 1920 selected thirteen of these essays for republication in one volume.'1.

During the 90 years since Turner first proposed the thesis, it has generated a variety of responses that have become quite astonishing in number.

A third and particularly significant contrast between the two collections of essays is the purpose or objective for which they have been written.

According to Malone, the purpose of the essays in his volume is to provide ''a better understanding of what several generations of western historians have accomplished and failed to accomplish, and of the legacy and tasks they have left to this and to future generations" of historians.


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