• amanda0195

Rise of Prussia


  • Prussia's landlord nobility

  • Poor agricultural land and labor shortages led to establishment of serfdom by 16th century

  • Junkers were guaranteed control over their serfs by the state

  • ​In exchng for service and obedience to the government

  • Junkers didn't pay taxes

  • Middle class didn't grow

  • ​Because of lack of towns

  • And prohibition against selling land to commoners



  • In 1415

  • A prince from the Hohenzollern family was given the margravate of Brandenburg

  • "Margrave" is a medieval title for a commander charged with protecting one of the border regions of the Holy Roman Empire

  • In 1525

  • Another Hohenzollern family member became the duke of Prussia ("Duchy of Prussia")

  • In 1618

  • A member of a branch of the Hohenzollerns in Brandenburg married a member of the Prussian branch uniting the provinces

  • Along with the principalities of Cleves, Mark and Ravensberg that were acquired in 1614).

  • The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) devastated the Brandenburg-Prussian territory

  • Killing or dislocating half the population and leaving cities, like Berlin, in ruins.


FREDERICK WILLIAM (R. 1640-1688) "Great Elector"

  • Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia

  • Referred to as the "Great Elector"

  • Electors had the privilege of electing the Holy Roman Emperor (who would then be crowned by the Pope).

  • After 1440, all but one Holy Roman Emperor came from the Hapsburg family.

  • The title of "Elector" was prestigious (but not as prestigious as kings).

  • Electors had exclusive privileges not enjoyed by other princes in the HRE.

  • Frederick William inherited three disconnected chunks of land

  • No natural borders to defend from enemies

  • Land weakened by years of war and depopulation (see Thirty Years War, 1618-1648)

  • Frederick William wanted to build an army

  • But didn't have the resources.

  • Worked out agreement with Junkers:

  • Junkers would provide him with revenue.

  • And serve in his army and bureacracy.

  • And Frederick William would let them have complete control over the serfs

  • By 1640s Frederick William had tripled the size of his army

  • New strength = won more territories at end of Thirty Years War.

  • Frederick William centralized his rule over the Estates (representative assemblies in the realm)

  • And acquired the authority to collect taxes using his army to enforce tax payments.

  • Jews expelled from Austria in 1670 were welcomed into Prussia by the Great Elector who tolerated all religious beliefs.

  • By his death 1688

  • Brandenburg-Prussia on road to becoming a major player in European politics.


  • Ended Thirty Years War

  • Prussia got eastern Pomerania, Halberstadt and Magdeburg (see map above)

  • Rest of Holy Roman Empire was weak (German princes got autonomy)


  • Frederick William's son

  • Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia (later, "King" of Prussia)

  • Inherited a well-organized army and most efficient civil service in Europe

  • Frederick III made Prussia into a kingdom in 1701

  • Got title of King Frederick I

  • In exchange for helping the HRE Leopold I in War of Spanish Succession against France

  • Title accepted by Treaty of Utrecht in 1713

  • Built Berlin into a great social and cultural center.

KING FREDERICK WILLIAM I (1713-1740) ("The Soldier King")

  • Elector of Brandenburg and King of Prussia

  • Did much to centralize and improve Prussia

  • Resettled East Prussia after a devastating plague (1709)

  • Became a rigid absolutist ruler and micromanaged every aspect of the country

  • Created a Manual of Regulations outlining the duties of every public servant in Prussia

  • Established schools and hospitals

  • Created a huge army

  • Put 70% of Prussia's budget towards the military

  • Universal draft

  • Endless drilling

  • Only Junkers could become officers

  • Economy

  • Although he was religiously prejudiced against Jews

  • He granted Jews some privileges because of their wealth and manufacturing skills

  • Frederick William was frugal (no expensive wars, austere lifestyle)

  • Leaving a large surplus in the royal treasury.


  • Elector of Brandenburg, King of Prussia (longest reigning Hohenzollern king)

  • Prussian power at its zenith

  • Youth

  • ​When Fritz was 6, his father gave him his own regiment of children to command

  • At age 7, he was given his first arsenal

  • Though his father wanted him to be a great general, Frederick preferred education and was fascinated with French culture

  • Example of an Enlightened Absolutist

  • ​Voltaire lived at his palace

  • Frederick wrote philosophical tracts and played flute

  • Freed serfs on the royal estates (not on Junker land)

  • Ended capital punishment

  • Limited use of corporal punishment on serfs

  • Considered himself "the first servant of the state"

  • Made improvements to Prussian agriculture (example from physiocrats)

  • ​imported clover, potatoes, crop rotation and iron plow

  • But rejected laissez-faire economics in favor of mercantilism.

  • Was a deist and religiously tolerant but though Jews were "useless to the state" and levied a tax on them.

  • Frederick the Great modernized Prussia's bureaucracy and civil service

  • Foreign policy

  • ​Took Silesia from Austria in 1742

  • Conquered Polish territory in the First Partition of Poland in 1772

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All