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The Significance of the Frontier and Turner’s Thesis

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The American nation has had a lot of things to experience which forms part of its history as outlined by many writers in their books and articles such as The Significance of the Frontier. In this particular article, there are various ideologies and views which have been presented as to the reasons and the contributing issues to the changes and the developments in the America society from a nation that was primitive to a nation that is one of the most developed in the world. The ideology presented in these particular articles is that people are never satisfied with what they have, and therefore, will always want to move a step forward after they have achieved what they had aimed for and this is all based on history. This particular ideology is seen in the article on how the frontiers got to change from wilderness to lands where people could settle and live new lives as well as the article on Turner’s thesis.

The primary idea that is put forward by this article the significance of the frontier is that of individualism and selfishness of the Americans which drove the Americans to settle in areas that had no people and build new lives by engaging in various activities that would only benefit them (Turner, 30-50). It is observed from the article that behind every aspect in the American society, from institutions, formation of the American constitution as well as the modification of the same, there are forces which make these aspects operations and tend to cause them to adapt to changes as a result of the conditions of the places where they lived in. The American institutions are observed to be quite peculiar (White, Patricia and James, 7-25). The peculiarity of the American institutions has been as a result of the compelling force that pushed as a result of the changes due to the expansion of the population in the American society. Furthermore, the institutions have been also compelled as a result of the changes which have been involved as a result of the crossing of the American people from one continent to another and in their efforts in trying to take over the wilderness.

The American Institutions have tried to develop in every area where they go and settle out of their primitive political and economic conditions that were found in the frontier, changing the life to that of a city life. This is the idea which supports that development of the Americans and the American states which currently exist. The ide presented in the significance of the frontier seems quite fascinating and controversial in that it assumes that there were areas in America where there were no inhabitants who lived in those areas and if there were, they had to be conquered and be displaced from the area (Turner, 30-50). The article observes that most countries or nations experienced development but to a limited extent unlike the America nation there were different intentions, and that is of limiting their attention to the point where the Atlantic coast reached. Why would the United States limit its attention to the Atlantic coast? The objective of the American people during this time in history was to have vast lands although it is said in the article that they had limited intention. The primary objective was to ensure that the American territory was huge compared to other nations (White, Patricia and James, 7-25).

In another article still on the issue of the frontier, the idea of the significance of the frontier as the driving force that resulted in the development of the American nation is dismissed as an idea that was not well developed. According to Turner as observed in the article by Tiziano is that history is always developing and there is no one time that history will ever become complete. Turner states that, “Each generation writes the history of the past anew with reference to the conditions uppermost in its own time” a statement that I find quite controversial (Tiziano, 149-171). This statement by Turner implies that there is no history that has been written by a certain generation of people without having to include the present issue that affect them life. History is supposed to elaborate and inform people of what happened in the past and it is for the people to interpret that history and how it has affected the present situation that people leave in. It is not possible to show the present by using the history because the two situations are completely different in every aspect (Turner, 30-50). The people that lived when the history of a certain region was written have different ideologies from the current people hence making the difference between the historical issues and the current issues.

From the article by Tiziano, the idea that is presented is that history is for the present and that people living in the present can make use of the historical happenings to make their lives better (Tiziano, 149-171). One thing that confuses in this idea of using history for the future and that history is for the present is that what happened in history cannot be repeated and even if there is a possibility of a repeat of the same, it is not possible that the same things will happen at the same time and with the same results. Therefore, this idea of history being for the present is disagreeable based on the view that what happened in history may have affected the present but that does not mean that the future also depends on the history. Why should history be for the present and yet it happened before the present? Why history has to affect the future and yet there is the present? These are some of the questions that one would ask based on the idea that is presented on the issue of history being for the present and affecting the future (White, Patricia and James, 7-25). History from the view presented by Turner can be influential in obtaining solutions to the problems that people experience in the present and modern society.

It needs the analysis of the past so that people can be able to understand where they are coming from and be able to identify what they need to do to solve their presented problems. However, I tend to disagree with this view about history being a source of solution for the problems that human kind experience in the modern world. The current or present world, people have developed in terms of thinking, perception and creativity all of which can be attributed to science (Turner, 30-50). It is not possible to hold on to the view that history can help get the answers to the problems because what happened in history does not have a direct connection with the present in terms of solving problems.

Science has been the major provider of solutions to the issue and problems that human beings are facing. History is simply a documentation of what happened. As it can be observed from the significance of the Frontier, the whole aspect of the article does not rely on any concrete research that can be said was carried out to ascertain the claims which are provided in the article about the development of the United States (Tiziano, 149-171). History does not provide the exact data and information instead it makes use of generalized ideas and ideologies which have been put forward by people based on what they saw and what they thought it meant. Compared to history, science is more accurate and precise in providing the data and the information that can be relied on to help solve any problems of the present.

The overall ideology presented in the significance of the frontier was that the frontier played an important role in developing the United States to the current position of development that it is in at the moment. Through developments in agriculture, developments in building and construction and other aspects in the economy, the frontier had a major r0ole in making the United States what it is today. However, my view on this is that the frontier may have had a hand in the development of the United States, but is it the primary reason for the current or modern American society? According to what Turner wrote regarding the significance of the frontier, one gets the idea that there was no other force or factor which led to the development of the United States (White, Patricia and James, 7-25). This is a point that I disapprove because during this same time, there was science going on in the United States.

The frontier may have played a role but the actual reason that I perceive to have been the cause of development in the United States was as a result of science more than that of historical and frontier issues. Closer look at every step that the United States took in its development even throughout the frontier period, it will be noted that the major player was the aspect 0of innovativeness and inventions which contributed a lot to the developments and changes that took place in the United States (Turner, 30-50).


          The ideology presented in these particular articles is that people are never satisfied with what they have, and therefore, will always want to move a step forward after they have achieved what they had aimed for. However, basing the developments of a nation on issues of history does not auger well due to the reason that science has been in existence and in every innovative idea generated which saw America develop, science was at the forefront. Therefore, history can only be said to play a role in letting people know where they are coming from but science will always play the role of dictating the future of the Americans.


Tiziano Bonazzi, Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis and the Self-Consciousness of America; Journal of American Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Aug., 1993), pp. 149-171

Turner, Frederick J. Frontier in American History. S.l.: Outlook Verlag, 2011. Print. Pp.30-50

White, Richard, Patricia N. Limerick, and James R. Grossman. The Frontier in American Culture: An Exhibition at the Newberry Library, August 26-November 26, 1994. Chicago: The Newberry Library, 1994. Print. Pp.7-25

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