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In 1893, historian Frederick Jackson Turner made an historic speech at the Columbian Exhibition.
Citing the Census of 1890, Turner is writing to announce the end of the frontier, and consequently, according to Turner, the end of the most crucial instrument in creating a sense of a unique American identity.
“The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development,” (1) he asserts.
The dominant theme in Turner’s thesis is that of social evolution.
Turner believes that civilization has an orderly evolutionary cycle that starts in the savage state, moves to pastoralism, and ends with cities and industry.
This is what differentiates Americans from their European ancestors.
Turners Frontier Thesis Histographical Essay
Other historians have faulted the thesis, successive rounds of criticism left Western history without a center.
Turner quickly began to assess the importance of the frontier to America’s past and to question the impact that such a change would have on the country in the future.
The American frontier is sharply distinguished from the European frontier — a fortified boundary line running through dense populations.
They were written between September 2011 and July 2012. “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” or the Frontier Thesis as it is more popularly referred to as, was originally presented as a paper to the American Historical Association at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.
The timing of the paper is essential to understanding the core of Turner’s argument.