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Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner: "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" and Other Essays Revised Edition

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300075939
ISBN-10: 0300075936
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Editor Faragher (history, Yale Univ.) has assembled ten of Turner's writings into one source. One hundred years after Turner's Significance of the Frontier sent a shock wave through academia, his writings continue to spark historical debate. Faragher introduces the essays and concludes the work with a discussion of American frontier historiography. Turner believed that America needed to channel its expansionistic energy into developing distinct regional identities. These regional differences, he felt, would add variety to American homogeneity, sparking growth and creativity. Through his writings, Turner attempted to convince his colleagues of the importance of studying place as well as events throughout history in order to capture the sense of what it means to be an American. Recommended for academic libraries supporting research in American history.
Terri L. Summey, Emporia State Univ., Kan.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

John Mack Faragheris the Howard R. Lamar Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University. He is the author of many books on the American frontier, including Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer, which received a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and, most recently, A Great and Noble Scheme.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Revised edition (February 8, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300075936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300075939
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #883,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This is a very useful collection of ten essays by University of Wisconsin/Harvard University historian Frederick Jackson Turner written through out his career. Edited and introduced by John Mack Faragher, this book is a very fine entrée point to the thought of Turner. The first of the essays published here is Turner's seminal work, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," an essay that defined a whole field of research. Read at the 1893 annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago, this paper has exerted an enormously powerful force on the historiography of the United States, in no small measure because of its powerful statement of American exceptionalism. Turner took as his cue an observation in the 1890 U.S. census that the American frontier had for the first time closed. He noted, "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."

Turner insisted that the frontier made Americans American, gave the nation its democratic character, and ensured the virtues of self-reliance, community, egalitarianism, and the promise of justice. He noted that cheap or even free land provided a "safety valve" that protected the nation against uprisings of the poverty-stricken and malcontented. The frontier also produced a people with "coarseness and strength...acuteness and inquisitiveness, that practical and inventive turn of mind...[full of] restless and nervous energy...that buoyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom." It gave the people of the United States, in essence, virtually every positive quality they have ever possessed.
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Whew! What a strange mix. Turner was a greatly insightful historian to have come up with this bold assertion about the significance of the U.S. beginning with the great luxury of so much land to move into, settle and unite. On the other hand he seems to have been pretty oblivious of the fact that the land was already occupied by others, both Native Americans whose military technologies were no match for ours and, in the Southwest, Spanish/Mexican settlers who'd already been there a long time. Genocide and conquest gave us our frontier, but Turner has amazingly little to say about that. Too bad since he's so insightful about how having new territories to settle shaped the American psyche. You don't have to be drenched in political correctness to see that HOW we got that land to settle has to have affected our mentality as a people too. Apparently it was pretty true that even our educated elite didn't really count people so different from themselves as Native Americans as "people" or give a damn about displacing other Europeans who'd grabbed some of the land and settled it long before them. Turner also has inspiring things to say about the importance of our public universities and at the same time seems a bit blind as to what big business what shaping up to do the country. Makes me wonder what we're blind to now in the midst of our insights.
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These essays are standards in the field and necessary to anyone interested in American Studies and history. Great insight into the American mind. Turner writes with perceptiveness and at times, grace.
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Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner: "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" and Other Essays
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