How does Turner define the concept of a “frontier,” and how does he see that concept shaping American political beliefs and practices?

A

Frederick Jackson Turner is an American historian who is famous for his book, “The Frontier in American History.” He is considered one of the founders of the study of West America’s past. In particular, he has introduced the concept of the frontier as an entity different from that defined by the term in other parts of the world. This post explores the difference and its influence on American political beliefs and practices.

The classical European definition of the word involved two developed countries that may be in conflict with each other, but the area is densely populated. Turner noted that the difference for America is that the line ran between civilization and wilderness. Faber argues that the frontier represented a Lockean state of nature and thus inherited the philosopher’s liberal ideasThe paradigm helped explain how the hardships and perseverance helped shape the country’s politics.

The lack of human resources and the security provided by civilization were the primary factors that influenced the formation of American beliefs. In Reynolds v. the United States (98 U.S. 145 (U.S. 1878)), the local laws that removed the 16-person lower jury size limit led to the defendant’s conviction. However, according to Faragher, Turner’s ideas were so pervasive that they divided historians, some of whom considered his notions outdated. While their influence signifies the strength of the frontier theory thus established, they may be incomplete and, like all science, can benefit from advancement.

Turner’s conception of the frontier can be seen throughout historical research and popular culture. The story of America’s colonization was one of struggle against nature and relatively primitive native tribes, and so the definition appears appropriate. It also explains a significant part of the nation’s political thought. However, as with all sciences, history should not stop itself at one view or theory instead of seeking to expand its view.

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