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Frontier Life

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American Reference Books Annual, December 2016

Frontier is a term that ignites ideas of adventure, exploration, and going where no man has gone before. Through a collection of original documents, Adam Matthew has developed Frontier Life: Borderlands, Settlements, and Colonial Encounters (2016), a database that takes the concept of the frontier far beyond a movement of people. An editorial board has been instrumental in providing feedback and essays, advice, and videos (Talking Frontiers).

This Adam Matthew database has easy tabular starting points including: Introduction, Documents, Explore, Image, Interactive Map, and Help along with an Advanced Search and Search Directories for more detailed search options. The construction of data organization is easily filtered by dates, document type, library/archive or origination, and regions. All documents can also be accessed via alphabetical listings or 15 theme tiles with topics ranging from (and not limited to) Agriculture & Livestock and Women's History. Users of this database are able to archive, search using a keyword, download as a PDF, garner citing information, and download images or view thumbnail images once pertinent documents are located.

With an impressive listing of libraries and archives that have contributed, this inventory of primary source documents covers European expansion in North America, Africa, Australia, and a tad of Central America. The epoch covered is from 1650 to 1920 in the Anglophone world; earliest documentation begins in the seventeenth century, with much of the collection ranging in the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries, and finally, a few documents from the last century. Document style varies between books, business records, correspondence, diaries, government papers, land transactions, legal documents, pamphlets, and speeches.

An early authority on frontier life, Frederick Jackson Turner postulated that people, as they moved further out on the frontier, changed as they adapted to the place of settlement. More recently, some historians feel it is much more complex as frontier is not just a "westward ho" mentality; frontier may also include an overlapping of cultures which can have long-ranging effects on native peoples, environment, and "progress." Among other topics, the displacement of indigenous people, gold rushes and other environmental events, and technologies that came along like the telegraph and railroad are addressed in this collection. The database affords scholars the opportunity to evaluate movement of peoples, their interactions and influences, and how culture influences development and colonization.

Frontier Life: Borderlands, Settlements, and Colonial Encounters
renders accessible formerly fragile and hard-to-access historical documents. Understanding the challenges and game changers of early settlers and indigenous people using first-hand accounts is very useful for historians, professors, and graduate students majoring in history, sociology, and government. Scholars of environmental, religious, and technological studies will find articles of interest here. This will also be a useful source for students in AP History classes.

Highly Recommended.

Janis Minshull
American Reference Books Annual, December 2016