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Turner+-+The+Significance+of+the+Frontier+in+American+History

Turner+-+The+Significance+of+the+Frontier+in+American+History

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"The Significance of the Frontier in American History: Frederick Jackson Turner 12/10/08 12:45 PM print window 1 close window Page 1 .2. Frederick Jackson Turner, liThe Significance of the Frontier in American History" 1893 Consider These Questions Background Historian Frederick Jackson Tumer presented this paper to a special meeting of the American Historical Association at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. His assessment of the frontier's significance was the first of its kind and revolutionized American intellectual and historical thinking. This brief official statement marks the closing of a great historic movement. Up to our own day American history has been in a large degree the history of the colonization of the Great West. The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward explain American development. Behind institutions, behind constitutional forms and modifications lie the vital forces that call these organs into life and shape them to meet changing conditions. Now the peculiarity of American institutions is the fact that they have been compelled to adapt themselves to the changes of an expanding people - to the changes involved in crossing a continent, in winning a wilderness, and in developing at each area of this progress out of the primitive economic and political conditions of the frontier into the complexity of city life. Said Calhoun in 1817, "We are great, and rapidly --I was about to say fearfully -- growing I" So saying, he touched the distinguishing feature of American life. All peoples show development: the germ theory of politics has been sufficiently emphasized. In the case of most nations, however, the development has occurred in a limited area; and if the nation has expanded, it has met other growing peoples whom it has conquered. But in the case of the United States we have a different phenomenon. limiting our attention to the Atlantic Coast, we have the familiar phenomenon of the evolution of institutions in a limited area, such as the rise of representative government; the differentiation of Simple colonial governments into complex organs; the progress from primitive industrial society, without division of labor, up to manufacturing civilization. But we have in addition to this a recurrence of the process of evolution in each western area reached in the http://www.learner.org/workshops/prlmarysources/corporatlons/docs/turner.html Page 1 of 7
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"The Significance of the Frontier in American History,· Frederick Jackson Turner process of expansion. Thus American development has exhibited not merely advance along a single line but a return to primitive conditions on a continually advancing frontier line, and a new development for that area.
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