Frontier Thesis Questions Essay

1.What is the frontier thesis? What role does Turner argue the frontier has played in American history?

The frontier thesis is the argument advanced by historian Frederick Jackson Turner in 1893 that expresses how the idea of the frontier, as the meeting point between savagery and civilization, influenced the American culture by promoting individualistic democracy. He explains that expansion to the American West changed people’s views on their own culture.

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2.Trace the process which turner identifies as “Americanization.” How does that process proceed? What are the steps and stages along the way?

“Americanization” is the emergence of a distinct industrialized American culture out of primitiveness and savagery.

First, the disintegration of savagery occurs when a trader enters the land of the “Indian and the hunter,” then the pastoral stage occurs and fails, leading to manufacturing organization with the city and factory system.

3.Turner is often identified as a “progressive” historian, meaning that he views history as the inevitable proves from chaos to improvement, with the underlying assumption that change is usually for the better.

What “progressive” assessments of history appear in Turner’s thesis? Does he identify any threats to that process?

Turner expresses the progressive idea that with the frontier’s existence, the process of Americanization is inescapable and perpetual and that individualism will continue to flourish. He also explains, however, that with the end of the frontier’s existence, the first period of American history had come to a close, which was a majorly controversial statement.

4.Think about America in the 1890s. What are the major social changes shaping peoples’ lives during this era? How does Turner’s thesis reflect these changes, try to make sense of them, or sound a warning call for ways in which America might be losing its way as a result of the changes?

During the 1890s, industrialization, immigration, unionization, and calls for reform in many areas swept the nation. Turner’s thesis echoed these changes in the nation by discussing the evolution of the “savage” to the “civilized” American. He warns Americans that the future would be cloudy, and maybe even doomed, with the frontier’s collapse.

5.What makes it possible for Turner to argue that the land on the other side of the frontier is empty despite Native American and Spanish settlement in the region?

In spite of Native American and Spanish settlement, it could be argued that since there was no industrial prosperity in the frontier, the land was “empty.” Even though the land was populated, the lack of urbanization in the region made it possible for Turner to argue the emptiness of the land.

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