Re: Frontierism..

Chris R. Tame (
Wed, 30 Jul 1997 04:14:27 +0100

In message <>, Forrest
Bishop <> writes
>>Nigel Jacob writes
>>: It is my contention that the notion of a physical Frontier to be
>>: explored, settled, tamed, understood etc. is central in determining
>>: whether or not humanity(either en masse, or individually) can "evolve", in
>>: any meaningful use of that term.
>I disagree. The evolution would simple be in a different direction, probably
>a much less interesting one.
>>Can a technological frontier substitute for a physical one?
>>Anton Sherwood *\\* +1 415 267 0685 *\\*
>I am trying to locate an essay presented in about 1897 on the closure
>of the Amercan frontier and its implication (not good) on the future
>course of society. For all of human history there has been the frontier,
>except for the last century or so.
>IMHO, we badly need a physical frontier again,
>which of course is the Universe.
>Forrest Bishop
I suspect that you're thinking of the classic work by Frederick Jackson
Turner, the great American historian. The "Turner Thesis" on the role of
the frontier, and the signicance of its passing, used to be one of the
major themes in American historiography. It seems to be considered
passe by the current academic mainstream. I don't have my file on this
subject handy at the moment, but I'm sure any American library will have
Turner's works and at least some of the huge secondary and critical
scholarship that it generated. Turner's principal essays are also
frequently reprinted in general collections on American history, and I
remember at least one reader devoted entirely to an evaluation of the

The only useful references I have easily at hand are as follows:

Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History, Henry Holt,
New York, 1920.

Ray Allen Billington, ed., Frontier and History: Selected Essays of
Frederick Jacson Turner, Spectru, Books, Classics in History, Prentice-
Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1961

David W. Noble, Historians Against History: The Frontier Thesis and the
National Covenant - American Historical Writing Since 1830, University
of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1965

Howard Leman & Leonard Thompson, eds., The Frontier in History: North
America and Southern Africa Compared, Yale Unversity Press, New Haven,

Although not wishing to get dragged into this discussion, I should
register a degree of scepticism about the thesis. It frequently seems
like a sort of geographical determinism which neglects what is surely
the far more important causal role of ideas. There have been a lot of
frontiers in human history - but not many free societies on them, or
elsewhere for that matter. Whilst such "external" causative factors do
have an impact on the nature and evolution of human socieities I "hae me
doots" about making to much of them.

Chris R. Tame, Director                 
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