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Revista Interamericana de Bibliografía (RIB)
Número: 1-4
Título: 1997
Sección: Artículos / Articles


In 1893 Frederick Jackson Turner “created” a new field of historical inquiry with his frontier thesis. The study of the frontier attracted legions of scholars in the United States. This essay, however, focuses on areas to the north and south of the U.S. It traces the impact of Turner’s frontier thesis in twentieth-century Canadian and Latin American historiographical debate. I argue that despite the shortcomings in Turner’s formulation, the concept of the frontier remains a viable, important analytical tool.

During the past century, scholars have relished, then revised, and finally reviled Turner’s frontier thesis.1 Some of the most recent reviling came in Patricia Limerick’s The Legacy of Conquest. She called for dumping Turner and his frontier. “Frontier, then,” she wrote, “is an unsubtle concept in a subtle world.”2

In this paper, I seek neither to praise Turner nor to bury him. Instead I will show the wide-ranging impact of Turnerian thought on historians throughout the Western Hemisphere. Thinkers in many nations of the Americas tested Turner’s thesis. Many came up with their own variations. From the Canadian prairies to the pampas of Argentina, the frontier has played a vital historical role. The concept of the frontier has also generated useful, important historiographical debate.3