The existence of an area of free thesis american culture, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward explain American development. Turner was born in Portage, Wisconsin, in 1861. His father, a journalist by trade and local historian by avocation, piqued Turner’s interest in history.
After his graduation from the University of Wisconsin in 1884, Turner decided to become a professional historian, and received his Ph. He served as a teacher and scholar at the University of Wisconsin from 1889 to 1910, when he joined Harvard’s faculty. Turner’s contribution to American history was to argue that the frontier past best explained the distinctive history of the United States. He most cogently articulated this idea in “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” which he first delivered to a gathering of historians in 1893 at Chicago, then the site of the World’s Columbian Exposition, an enormous fair to mark the four-hundredth anniversary of Columbus’ voyage. Three years before Turner’s pronouncement of the frontier thesis, the U. Census Bureau had announced the disappearance of a contiguous frontier line. Turner took this “closing of the frontier” as an opportunity to reflect upon the influence it had exercised.
He argued that the frontier had meant that every American generation returned “to primitive conditions on a continually advancing frontier line. For Turner, the deeper significance of the frontier lay in the effects of this social recapitulation on the American character. The frontier,” he claimed, “is the line of most rapid Americanization. Turner’s essay reached triumphalist heights in his belief that the promotion of individualistic democracy was the most important effect of the frontier.
Individuals, forced to rely on their own wits and strength, he believed, were simply too scornful of rank to be amenable to the exercise of centralized political power. Turner offered his frontier thesis as both an analysis of the past and a warning about the future. If the frontier had been so essential to the development of American culture and democracy, then what would befall them as the frontier closed? More than a century after he first delivered his frontier thesis, historians still hotly debate Turner’s ideas and approach.