Wednesday, July 1, 2020

How Turner's Frontier Thesis led Americans astray

Frederick Jackson Turner of "Frontier Thesis" fame is one of the key subjects of Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, being the primary figure in creating the idea that American-ness was born on the expanding western frontier.

As I argued in this essay that appeared in Sunday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Turner's thesis was enormously influential, but entirely wrong. In fact, on digging further into the data, even Turner quickly realized this and pivoted to researching what he thought were the primary determinants of American political and sociological history: the difference between the competing "sections," or regional cultures. He spent the rest of his life trying to write a master work on this, a book that from his shorter form essays on the subject, could have resembled my American Nations in many ways.

Hope you enjoy the article. And if you want the full story, it's all in Union.

For a bit on another major figure in the book, Woodrow Wilson, see this in Talking Points Memo.

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