Turner Thesis Arguments

Turner Thesis Arguments-21
In one of the essays they attempt to illustrate not only the use of a ' grand theory" as a form of historical detection or interpretation but also the fact that historians frequently apply very different general theories or ''propositions'' to an historical topic, and, thus, may present quite different perceptions of that topic.As is revealed by the title of this essay, ''Jackson's Frontier-and Turner's: History and Grand Theory,'' They have selected Turner's frontier thesis to illustrate the application of a ''grand theory" to American history, and the ''topic'' they have selected to illustrate how much disagreement there may be in historians' perceptions is Andrew Jackson.To accomplish the latter, they have selected four historians including Turner and one of his students, Thomas Perkins Abernethy.'27 Davidson's and Lytle's summary of Turner's thesis and perceptions of Jackson is a classic illustration of a major problem that has plagued the thesis since the 1930s-the frequent tendency of scholars, especially critics, to oversimplify or distort it.

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Then, in the 1930s, "a full-scale assault'' was launched by critics, and "for the next two decades historical journals bristled with articles hopefully designed to bury the frontier hypothesis forever.'' However, it not only survived this assault but also, according to Billington, in the 1950s began to regain much of its former prestige and influence among scholars.6.

though at that time even those who were the most friendly rejected at least some part of the thesis and made substantial revisions of others.

Although the purpose of this article is to describe the status of the Turner Thesis among scholars in the 1980s rather than to summarize its changing status over the past 90 years, there are two assessments, one published in the 1960s and the other in the 1970s, that are of such significance as to warrant at least brief mention.

The first is a series of essays on Turner by Richard Hofstadler, published in 1968.7 What makes this assessment of the thesis significant, as it is rather favorable, is the fact that Hofstadter had been one of the leaders in the assault on Turner in the 1930s and 1940s.

Although this particular criticism of Turner is not a new one.

it appears especially convincing in these essays because of their purpose and scope. ''In part, the past neglect of the history of mining stems from the impact of the Turnerian emphasis on things political, on individualism, democracy, environmental influence, and on the pre-Appomattox era." 22 Similarly, Sandra L. [that] dismissed women as 'invisible, few in number, and not important to the process of taming a wilderness.' "23 And Richard W.

A third and particularly significant contrast between the two collections of essays is the purpose or objective for which they have been written.

According to Malone, the purpose of the essays in his volume is to provide ''a better understanding of what several generations of western historians have accomplished and failed to accomplish, and of the legacy and tasks they have left to this and to future generations" of historians.

However, the authors of several of these essays not only criticize Turner for his failure to mention such features or influences but also hold him responsible for their continued neglect during the more than a half century since he published his frontier essays. Myres suggests that, because Turner's frontiers were as devoid of women as the Great Plains were devoid of trees,'' since his ''essay appeared, American high school and college students have read about the 'winning of the West' in a series of well-written and often exciting texts . Etulain, in his essay, discusses several ways in which ''Turner's attitudes toward frontier societies retarded interest in western cultural history."24 Although this collection of essays certainly reveals the "continuing towering presence'' and ''decisive impact'' of Turner, it is most difficult to believe that his influence has been quite as towering and decisive as suggested by Spence, Myres, and Etulain.

To attribute to him such great and continuing influence is, in one sense quite flattering, but it also strikes one as rather exaggerated and even unfair.

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