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Defining the American West

             How can one define Western History? The whole concept of the American West is a slippery-slope topic, and it is difficult to define. In the words of Frederick Jackson Turner, the American West was "a form of society rather than a geographic area". It could be described as the westward advancement of American civilization.
             According to Walter Prescott Webb, the ninety-eighth meridian separates the "eastern timberlands" from the Great Plains. Crossing west into the Great Plains marked the beginning of the American West. "In other words the West begins with the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas." .
             Another view presented by New American Western Historians such as Patrician Nelson Limerick examines the process that shaped the West. She included "invasion, colonization, conquest, exploitation, development, and expansion of the world market" as important processes that shaped the West. New Western Historians avoid the word "frontier" because it has gender and racial biases. According to New Western Historians, the west was a melting pot where men and women of different cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds came together to tame wilderness.
             In a sense, all of these different points of view are correct. The American West was a type of social structure; and it did have geographic parameters, as well as the fact that it was shaped by people of different backgrounds. .
             Turner's thesis highly emphasized the American factors that influenced the West, instead of attributing them to European influences. "As civilization expanded and moved west from the Atlantic coast, it became less influenced by Europe and more independent as the United States developed its own unique culture. "Each time westward expansion occurred, people returned to primitive conditions on a continually advancing frontier line". According to Turner, the West is the most American aspect of America.
             To this day, Frederick Jackson Turner's thesis is still relevant in the United States and around the world.

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