The very word “frontier” calls out historical and mythic images for Americans and people around the world. The U.S. story undoubtedly is unique in its own ways, and it often has overshadowed similar stories from other parts of the world in popular culture. But have frontiers made U.S. history exceptional and beyond comparison, as Frederick Jackson Turner claimed in his famous “frontier thesis”? This institute for school teachers focuses on reconsidering the uniqueness and nature of U.S. frontiers and closely associated ideas of American “exceptionalism.” We will look at U.S. frontiers from various regions on their own terms and from global comparative perspectives.
This institute will offer you dynamic new material for your social studies and U.S. and world history classes. As teachers we can better meet our goal of educating the next generation if our students learn about U.S. history in a global context and see how world history relates to that of their own nation. Topics will include:
· Turner’s “frontier thesis” and alternative approaches from around the world.
· The influence of U.S. frontiers, real and mythic, on American identities.
· Native peoples as settlers, notably the Cherokee in the Oklahoma Territory.
· The “Indian Wars” and comparisons to wars in Canada, Mexico and South Africa.
· Is the cowboy “American”? Cattle workers and ranching from Argentina to Canada.
· Gold rushes from California to British Columbia, the Yukon, and Australia.
· Frontiers and overseas empires—similar forms of expansion or essential different?
· The impact of frontier era land law on the U.S. West in the twentieth century.
Participants will develop curricular materials and share their work with each other, bringing home a body of classroom appropriate material. We encourage you to consider topics for these projects that we have not been able to fit in the institute schedule.
Professor of History
3201 Burton Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546-4301
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