Shaping the American Character More than a hundred years after it was first articulated, Frederick Jackson Turner’s “frontier thesis” remains one of the key interpretations of American history. Turner argued that the European heritage of Americans was less important in understanding the country they had made than their own experience in settling a continent. It was the circumstances of life on the frontier—in fact a succession of frontiers that moved inexorably westward—that were a determining influence on American character and institutions. Turner read this paper propounding his thesis at the meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago, July 12, 1893, as part of the World’s Columbian Exposition. It was timely, he suggested, because the Census of 1890 had announced the closing of the frontier in the United States and thus the end of an important stage of American development.
This special edition of Turner's seminal work is published by Now and Then Reader, Digital Publishers of Serious Nonfiction Books.
Frederick Jackson Turner was born in Portage, Wisconsin, in 1861. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and later received a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Turner taught American history at the University of Wisconsin from 1890 to 1910, and at Harvard University from 1911 to 1924, training a great many young historians who for years influenced American history programs throughout the country.