Text: But after World War II, as historians turned to other, less optimistically progressive interpretations of the American past, the Turner thesis went into a broad retreat, and with it the history of the region it had done so much to promote.
And he situates the development of the West solidly within the larger story of the advance of industrial capitalism.
His book suggests that the "new Western history," which proclaimed its own birth only a few years ago, is rapidly coming of age. White said recently, at a conference of new Western historians in Santa Fe, N.
The appearance within the last year of several important books by leaders of the self-proclaimed "new Western history" (university presses have played a major role in promoting these revisionist studies, publishing many of the most influential texts) provides an opportunity to assess both the bold claims those working in the field are now making and the harsh criticisms they have begun to receive.
FEW groups of scholars have been more energetic in explaining and promoting themselves than the new Western historians, as two recent anthologies, "Trails: Toward a New Western History," and "Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America's Western Past," suggest.
He tells the story of harsh battles over land, water, language and political power -- battles that were not confined to (and did not end with) the defeat of the Western tribes.
He devotes nearly half his book to the 20th century (Billington's narrative essentially stopped in the 1890's).
They emphasize, instead, the elaborate and highly developed civilizations (Native American, Hispanic, mixed-blood or "metis" and others) that already existed in the region.
In their view, white English-speaking Americans did not so much settle the West as conquer it. Anglo-Americans in the West continue to share the region not only with the Indians who preceded them there, but also with the African-Americans, Asians, Latin Americans and others who flowed into the West at the same time they did.
Western history, the new scholars maintain, is a process of cultural convergence, a constant competition and interaction -- economic, political, cultural, and linguistic -- among diverse peoples.
The Turnerian West was a place of heroism, triumph and above all progress, a place where Anglo-Americans spread democracy and civilization into untamed lands.