American Frontier

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American Frontier

‘The American frontier’ is a historical concept that gives a detailed explanation of the movement of European settlers in America and the formation of the American culture during the colonial and post-colonial period, through wanderlust, grit, war and diplomacy (Turner 45). Fredrick Jackson Turner’s Frontier thesis submitted in 1893 to the American Historical Association offers one of the most influential versions of the frontier. More recently, in the 1980s, scholars developed new, different versions of the frontier. In the volume Trails: Toward a New Western History, Patricia Limerick describes the characteristics of the American Frontier. Although Limerick agrees with Turner’s view about the source of western expansion, she rejects most of the views advanced by Turner and comes up with new features of the frontier. The paper compares the views of Turner and Limerick about the American frontier.


According to Turner, the American frontier started during the colonial period, with the massive movement of white settlers from Europe to America. Turner came up with several definitions of the term ‘frontier.’ To him, the term did not have a clear-cut definition. On one hand, he defined the frontier as “the zones on the peripheries of regions having a population density (of settlers) of two or more people per squire mile” (Rose and Davis 24). In this definition, Turner referred to the strips of land that were largely uninhabited by the indigenous Indians.  In 1962, during the period of civil war, American government passed the U.S. Congress of the Homestead Act, which allowed the European settlers to own free land. The settlers were required to settle on the land offered and mark it up, regardless of ownership claims by the indigenous population. However, Turner did not perceive frontier as a specific place. Rather, he considered it as moving zone. In his thesis, Turner argued that the European settlers landed initially on the East side of America. With time, they moved towards the west. Precisely, Turner argued that the frontier was in the Atlantic coast in the early days of settlement.  In the 1980s, the settlers had pushed the frontier beyond Mississippi. It had already moved to the region with Great Lakes. By the 1980s, the frontier had moved further to the west, into the Great Plains.

Secondly, turner perceived the frontier as a process of encounter. He perceived it as “the meeting point between savagery and civilization” (Rose and Davis 25). In other words, Turner perceived the frontier as the meeting point between the settler and the indigenous Indian. As the settlers moved westward, they interacted with more indigenous Indians, who had a unique culture. The Europeans moved to America mainly to expand their business ventures. Most of the white settlers were groups of wealthy merchants who sought raw materials for their industries. Although their main aim was to expand their business ventures, they brought civilization to America. According to Turner, the frontier was characterized by intensive social reformation and devolution. As they interacted with more Indians, the white settlers were stripped off their European identities. They were reborn into new social forms, traditions and values. The settlers reduced their intellectual and economic dependence on Europe. For instance, the settlers reduced their reliance on machines for cultivation and started using a sharp stick. In addition, the settlers from Britain stopped focusing on the textile industry and started plowing the Indian cone. As well, the settlers acquired new intellectual traits, such as inquisitiveness and acuteness, strength and coarseness, high speed in finding expedients and masterful grasp of material things.  In the view of Turner, the settlers could not resist the natural force that led to the change. Eventually, the settlers developed new identities, which are uniquely American (Rose and Davis 26). In other words, the frontier marked the line of Americanization.

Unlike the borders in Europe, which marked areas where different group.............

Type: Essay || Words: 1309 Rating || Excellent

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