"Wild West" and "Wild Field": Ukraine in the Light of Frederick Jackson Turner 'Frontier Thesis'

Tuesday, February 19, 2008
1219 International Affairs Building

Ihor Chornovol (Harriman Institute Visiting Scholar and Senior Research Fellow, Ivan Krypjakevych Institute of Ukrainian Studies, Lviv, Ukraine.)

Frederick Jackson Turner, a thirty-two-year old assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, presented his formulation of the “frontier thesis” at the meeting of the American Historical Association in 1893 during the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He stressed that the existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward explained American development, and that this frontier underlay American democracy and the American state of mind as well. Since 1910, when Turner assumed a chair at Harvard and the presidency of the American Historical Association as well, the "frontier thesis" occupied a dominant place in American historiography. But two decades later other American historians began to question Turner’s idea until none of its parts remained accepted in its original version. Nevertheless, a comparative approach to the "frontier thesis" was developed after World War II, when scholars compared the American frontier with those of Australia, Canada, China, Croatia, Finland, Latin America, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine etc. Is such an approach still possible?