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In Kentucky, the first frontier beyond the Appalachians, Arthur K. Moore finds a unique ground for examining some of the basic elements in America’s cultural development. There the frontier mind acquired definite form, and there emerged the forces that largely shaped the American West.
Moore reveals the Kentucky frontiersman as a colorful, exciting figure about whom there gathered a golden haze of myth from which historians have never been able to free him. He finds that “noble savage” did not possess those high qualities of mind and spirit which both his contemporaries and present-day writers have attributed him. He especially questions the wide and uncritical acceptance of Frederick Jackson Turner’s theory that the illiterate emigrants had vast creative powers and made worthwhile contributions to government, education, religion, and literature.
The author, professor of English at the University of Kentucky, has shown how unlikely it was that the uncouth frontiersmen, subjected as they were to brutalizing influences and separated from the main stream of Western civilization, could find in themselves the intellectual and spiritual resources to create a distinctive culture. Far from displaying the benevolence and rationality imputed to men living close to nature, the frontiersmen proved themselves addicted to demagogism, narrow sectarianism, materialism, and anti-intellectualism.
The Frontier Mind is an uncompromising book. It may not win your assent, but it will force you to reexamine the grounds of your beliefs about the settlement and development of the American West.
Arthur K. Moore was professor of English at the University of Kentucky.
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Kentucky, Kentucky history, Frontier Thesis, Turner Thesis, Frontier life, Pioneers
United States History
Moore, Arthur K., "The Frontier Mind" (1957). United States History. 70.