FREDERICK JACKSON TURNER (November 14, 1861 – March 14, 1932) was
an American historian in the early 20th century, based at the
University of Wisconsin until 1910, and then at Harvard. He trained
many PhDs who came to occupy prominent places in the history
profession. He promoted interdisciplinary and quantitative methods,
often with a focus on the Midwest. He is best known for his essay "The
Significance of the Frontier in American History ", whose ideas formed
* 1 Early life, education, and career
* 2 Works
* 2.1 Frontier thesis * 2.2 Sectionalism
* 3 Influence and legacy * 4 Marriage, family, and death * 5 See also * 6 Bibliography * 7 Notes * 8 Sources * 9 Further reading * 10 External links
EARLY LIFE, EDUCATION, AND CAREER
Portage, Wisconsin , the son of
Andrew Jackson Turner and
Mary Olivia Hanford Turner, Turner grew up in a middle-class family.
His father was active in Republican politics, an investor in the
railroad, and was a newspaper editor and publisher. His mother taught
school. Turner was very much influenced by the writing of Ralph Waldo
Emerson , a poet known for his focus on nature; so too was Turner
influenced by scientists such as
He earned his
Although he published little, he did more research than almost anyone and had an encyclopedic knowledge of American history, earning a reputation by 1910 as one of the two or three most influential historians in the country. He proved adept at promoting his ideas and his students, whom he systematically placed in leading universities, including Merle Curti and Marcus Lee Hansen . He circulated copies of his essays and lectures to important scholars and literary figures, published extensively in highbrow magazines, recycled favorite material, attaining the largest possible audience for key concepts, and wielded considerable influence within the American Historical Association as an officer and advisor for the American Historical Review. His emphasis on the importance of the frontier in shaping American character influenced the interpretation found in thousands of scholarly histories. By the time Turner died in 1932, 60% of the leading history departments in the U.S. were teaching courses in frontier history along Turnerian lines.
Annoyed by the university regents who demanded less research and more
teaching and state service, Turner sought out an environment that
would support research. Declining offers from California, he accepted
a call to Harvard in 1910 and remained a professor there until 1922,
being succeeded in 1924 by
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. . In 1911 he was
elected a fellow of the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
As a professor of history at Wisconsin (1890–1910) and Harvard (1910–1922), Turner trained scores of disciples who in turn dominated American history programs throughout the country. His emphasis on the importance of the frontier in shaping American character influenced the interpretation found in thousands of scholarly histories. His model of sectionalism as a composite of social forces, such as ethnicity and land ownership, gave historians the tools to use social history as the foundation of all social, economic and political developments in American history. At the American Historical Association , he collaborated with J. Franklin Jameson on numerous major projects.
Turner's theories slipped out of fashion in the 1960s, as critics complained that he neglected regionalism. They complained that he celebrated too much the egalitarianism and democracy of a frontier that was rough on women and minorities. After Turner's death his former colleague Isaiah Bowman had this to say of his work: "Turner's ideas were curiously wanting in evidence from field studies...He represents a type of historian who rests his case on documents and general impression rather than a scientist who goes out for to see." His ideas never disappeared; indeed they influenced the new field of environmental history . Turner gave a strong impetus to quantitative methods, and scholars using new statistical techniques and data sets have, for example, confirmed many of Turner's suggestions about population movements. Turner believed that because of his own biases and the amount of conflicting historical evidence surrounding topics was so vast that any one approach to historical interpretation would be insufficient, that an interdisciplinary approach was the most accurate way to write history.
Main articles: The Significance of the Frontier in American History
Turner ignored gender and race, downplayed class, and left no room for victims. Historians of the 1960s and later stressed that race, class and gender were powerful explanatory tools. The new generation stressed gender, ethnicity, professional categorization, and the contrasting victor and victim legacies of manifest destiny and imperialist expansion. Some criticized Turner's frontier thesis and the theme of American exceptionalism . The disunity of the concept of the West, the similarity of American expansion to European colonialism and imperialism in the 19th century, and the realities of minority group oppression revealed the limits of Turnerian and exceptionalist paradigms.
His sectionalism essays are collected in The Significance of Sections in American History, which won the Pulitzer Prize in History in 1933. Turner's sectionalism thesis had almost as much influence among historians as his frontier thesis, but never became widely known to the general public as did the frontier thesis. He argued that different ethnocultural groups had distinct settlement patterns, and this revealed itself in politics, economics and society.
INFLUENCE AND LEGACY
Turner's ideas influenced many areas of historiography . In the
history of religion, for example, Boles (1993) notes that William
Warren Sweet at the
University of Chicago Divinity School
Slatta (2001) argues that the widespread popularization of Turner's
frontier thesis influenced popular histories, motion pictures, and
novels, which characterize the West in terms of individualism,
frontier violence, and rough justice.
MARRIAGE, FAMILY, AND DEATH
Turner married Caroline Mae Sherwood in Chicago in November 1889. They had three children: only one survived childhood. Dorothy Kinsley Turner (later Main) was the mother of the historian Jackson Turner Main (1917–2003), a scholar of Revolutionary America who married a fellow scholar.
* Edward Alsworth Ross
* Turner, Frederick Jackson. Edwards, Everett E. (comp.) The early
writings of Frederick Jackson Turner, with a list of all his works.
Compiled by Everett E. Edwards. Madison: University of Wisconsin
* Turner, Frederick Jackson.
* Rise of the New West, 1819–1829 at
* ^ Martin Ridge. The Life of an Idea:The Significance of Frederick
Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis. Montana: The Magazine of Western
History, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Winter, 1991), p. 4. Published by: Montana
Historical Society. Article Stable URL:
* ^ Robert H. Block. "
Frederick Jackson Turner And American
Geography". Annals of the Association of American Geographers vol. 70,
no.1 (Mar., 1980), p. 32. Article Stable URL:
* ^ Allan G. Bogue, "
Frederick Jackson Turner Reconsidered," The
History Teacher, (1994), p. 195. in JSTOR
* ^ Allan G. Bogue, "\'Not by Bread Alone\': The Emergence of the
Wisconsin Idea and the Departure of Frederick Jackson Turner."
Wisconsin Magazine of History 2002 86(1): 10–23.
* ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter T" (PDF). American
Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
* ^ Alfred F. Young and Gregory H. Nobles, eds. (2011). Whose
American Revolution Was It?: Historians Interpret the Founding. NYU
Press. p. 25. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link )
* ^ Robert H. Block. "
Frederick Jackson Turner And American
Geography." Annals of the Association of American Geographers.
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Association of
American Geographers. Vol. 70, No.1 (Mar., 1980), p. 40. Article
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2562823
* ^ Hutton (2002)
* ^ Hall and Ruggles, 2004.
* ^ Wilbur R. Jacobs. "Wider Frontiers: Questions of War and
Conflict in American History: The Strange Solution by Frederick
Jackson Turner". California Historical Society Quarterly, vol. 47, no.
3 (Sep. 1968), p. 230. Article Stable URL:
* ^ Alan Taylor (May 7, 2008). "The Old Frontiers". The New
Republic . Retrieved December 30, 2016.
* ^ Scharff et al, 2000.
* ^ John B. Boles, "Turner, The Frontier, and the Study of Religion
in America," Journal of the Early Republic (1993) 13#2 pp. 205–16.
* ^ Dan Moos, "Reclaiming the Frontier:
This article incorporates material from the Citizendium article "Frederick Jackson Turner", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL .
* Hall, Patricia Kelly, and Steven Ruggles . "'Restless in the midst of Their Prosperity': New Evidence on the Internal Migration of Americans, 1850-2000. Journal of American History 2004 91(3): 829-846. * Hutton, T. R. C. "Beating a Dead Horse: the Continuing Presence of Frederick Jackson Turner in Environmental and Western History." International Social Science Review 2002 77(1-2): 47-57. online * Scharff, Virginia, et al. "Claims and Prospects of Western History: a Roundtable." Western Historical Quarterly 2000 31(1): 25-46. ISSN 0043-3810 in Jstor
* Billington, Ray Allen. "Why Some Historians Rarely Write History:
A Case Study of Frederick Jackson Turner". The Mississippi Valley
Historical Review, Vol. 50, No. 1. (June, 1963), pp. 3–27. in JSTOR
* Billington, Ray Allen. America's Frontier Heritage (1984).
detailed analysis of Turner's theories from social science perspective
* Billington, Ray Allen. ed,. The Frontier Thesis: Valid
Interpretation of American History? (1966). The major attacks and
defenses of Turner.
* Billington, Ray Allen. Frederick Jackson Turner: Historian,
Scholar, Teacher. (1973). full-scale biography; online at ACLS e-books
* Bogue, Allan G. Frederick Jackson Turner: Strange Roads Going
Down. (1988) along with Billington (1973), the leading full-scale
* Burkhart, J. A. "The Turner Thesis: A Historian\'s Controversy".
Wisconsin Magazine of History, vol. 31, no. 1 (Sep 1947), pp. 70–83.
* Cronon, E. David. An Uncommon Professor: Frederick Jackson Turner
at Wisconsin. Wisconsin Magazine of History, vol. 78, no. 4 (Summer
1995), pp. 276–293.
* Cronon, William. "Revisiting the Vanishing Frontier: The Legacy of
Frederick Jackson Turner". The Western Historical Quarterly, Vol. 18,
No. 2 (Apr., 1987), pp. 157–176 online at JSTOR
* Curti, Merle E. "Frontier in American History: The Methodological
Concepts of Frederick Jackson Turner" in Stuart Rice, ed. Methods in
Social Science: A Case Book (1931) pp. 353–67. online edition
* Faragher, John Mack (ed.) Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner: The
Significance of the Frontier in American History and Other Essays. New
York: Holt, 1994. ISBN 0-8050-3298-3
* Fernlund, Kevin Jon. "American Exceptionalism or Atlantic Unity?
Frederick Jackson Turner and the Enduring Problem of American
Historiography", New Mexico Historical Review, 89 (Summer 2014):
* Hofstadter, Richard. "Turner and the Frontier Myth", American
Scholar (1949) 18#4 pp. 433–443 in JSTOR
* Hofstadter, Richard. The Progressive Historians: Turner, Beard,
Parrington (1968); detailed critique of Turner
* Jacobs, Wilbur R. On Turner's Trail: 100 Years of Writing Western
* Jensen, Richard. "On Modernizing Frederick Jackson Turner: The