" The Significance of the Frontier in American History " is a seminal essay by the American historian Frederick Jackson Turner which advanced the Frontier Thesis of American history . It was presented to a special meeting of the American Historical Association at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago , Illinois in 1893, and published later that year first in Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin , then in the Annual Report of the American Historical Association . It has been subsequently reprinted and anthologized many times, and was incorporated into Turner's 1921 book, The Frontier in American History , as Chapter I.
The more foreboding and cautionary tale which increasing numbers of Western historians have offered in place of Turner's account has provoked sharp controversy. "New" Western historians -- many of whom actually echo and draw upon fairly old scholarly works -- often argue that their accounts offer a more inclusive and honest reckoning of the Western past. Western historians who still adhere roughly to Turner's approach accuse their opponents of mistaking a simple-minded political correctness for good scholarship in their quest to recount only the doom and gloom of the Western past. Often the rhetoric reaches an acrimonious crescendo. But in a sense, the very acrimony of these debates takes us full circle back to Turner and his legacy, for debates about the significance of Western history are hardly ever confined to the past. In our understanding of what we are as a nation, if on no other level, the Western past continues to define us today.