This made the Hohenzollerns sovereign over Ducal Prussia, whereas Brandenburg and their other German territories were still nominally parts of the Reich under the theoretical suzerainty of the Holy Roman emperor. Thereafter, the other Hohenzollern possessions, though theoretically remaining within the German Reich and under the ultimate overlordship of the Holy Roman emperor, soon came to be treated in practice rather as belonging to the Prussian kingdom than as distinct from it. Through participation in the Second Northern War , he further acquired much of western Pomerania Frederick William I endowed the Prussian state with its military and bureaucratic character.
He raised the army to 80, men equivalent to 4 percent of the population and geared the whole organization of the state to the military machine. One half of his army consisted of hired foreigners. His autocratic temperament and his fanatical addiction to work found expression in complete absolutism. To his son and successor, Frederick II the Great , he left the best-trained army in Europe, a financial reserve of 8,, thalers, productive domains, provinces developed through large-scale colonization particularly East Prussia , and a hardworking, thrifty, conscientious bureaucracy.
Frederick II reigned —86 put the newly realized strength of the Prussian state at the service of an ambitious but risky foreign policy. Silesia, a rich province with many flourishing towns and an advanced economy, was an important acquisition for Prussia. Frederick made no substantial changes in the administrative system as organized by his father, but he did effect improvements in the judicial and educational systems and in the promotion of the arts and sciences.
The freedom of conscience that Frederick instituted was the product not merely of his own skeptical indifference to religious questions but also of a deliberate intention to bring the various churches together for the benefit of the state and to allow more scope to the large Roman Catholic minority of his subjects in relation both to the Protestant majority and to the Evangelical establishment.
In return for regular taxes, the Hohenzollerns largely left their western provinces alone after the s and extended this light hand to the duchy of East Frisia, which they acquired in , as well as the two margravates of Ansbach and Bayreuth in southwestern Germany, inherited in The reason for this different approach lies in the Hohenzollerns' relationship to their overlords, the Holy Roman emperor and the Polish king. As electors under the empire, they enjoyed exclusive jurisdiction only over Brandenburg itself, where they were able to prevent their subjects from appealing to the imperial courts.
The Estates in their other German provinces remained free to do this into the late eighteenth century, and while this became more difficult, all their German territories remained part of the empire until The elector could act differently in Prussia, because he skillfully exploited the Northern War — to force the king of Poland to renounce his sovereignty over ducal Prussia.
Prussian nobles were unable to appeal to the commonwealth to protect their liberties after Hohenzollern sovereignty over Prussia crushed its nobles' dreams of reunification with Royal Prussia but did not signal a reorientation toward Germany. Instead, the Hohenzollerns drew on local traditions to foster a distinctly Prussian identity that regarded other Germans as "foreign.
The Great Elector's successor after , Elector Frederick III ruled — , pursued this by developing a lavish court culture in Berlin and his other chief cities. More fundamentally, he avoided challenging the Habsburgs in the empire and supported their claims to the Spanish succession. His reward came at the end of when Emperor Leopold I agreed that he could crown himself "king in Prussia. Now styled Frederick I, the new king continued to support the Habsburgs throughout the War of the Spanish Succession — in order to win acceptance from the other European powers.
Since his new royal title took precedence over that of elector, the Hohenzollern monarchy now became known as Prussia. While minor gains pushed Hohenzollern territory to 46, square miles , square kilometers by , two-thirds of this still remained within the empire. Frederick's policies reflected this as he looked primarily westward, despite his parallel involvement in the later stages of the Great Northern War — against Sweden.
His representatives became more active in imperial institutions, notably taking advantage of the conversion of Elector Frederick Augustus of Saxony to Catholicism in to wrest the leadership of the German Protestants from the traditional heartland of the Reformation. Religion also supplemented loyalty to the dynasty as a bond between the disparate provinces. Frederick and his immediate successor after , Frederick William I ruled — , sponsored the Lutheran spiritual movement known as Pietism, whose values of thrift, obedience, and self-sacrifice dovetailed with their own agenda of a hard-working, loyal population.
However, this "Prussian ethos" was always contradictory and contested, appealing to both its martial king and its pacifist Pietist pastors. Moreover, the dynasty remained uncomfortable with any notion of nationalism defined by language or culture, particularly as their territorial expansion after added millions of Silesian and Polish Catholics to their subjects.
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The European Enlightenment took firm hold in Berlin after , but after the religious establishment turned sharply conservative. These acquisitions began during the reign of Frederick II, better known as Frederick the Great — , who followed his father in Frederick inherited a kingdom that was still only partially centralized.
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His father had amalgamated several administrative institutions to form a General Directory as a central coordinating institution in , but much administration remained in the hands of local nobles and magistrates. Later reforms failed to alter this, although the staff became more professional, adopting qualifying entrance exams for senior posts, as well as a more regular salary, promotions, and pension structure. However, Prussian government was not necessarily more advanced or efficient than those in many other German territories.
What impressed contemporaries most about Prussia was its army, which had been established by the Great Elector and increased by each of his successors. Frederick William I expanded it further with a form of limited conscription introduced by Men were inducted for basic training and then discharged back into the agrarian economy, apart from annual exercises. Many historians see this as the origins of later German militarism since it supported an inflated establishment and encouraged both subservience to authority and the acceptance of war as inevitable.
This can be questioned, because the new system also civilianized soldiers, most of whom spent more time working in the fields or as day laborers in the towns than they did drilling on the parade ground.
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Military expansion certainly gave Frederick the Great the means to challenge Austria after The Habsburg Monarchy was uniquely vulnerable in , having just waged two disastrous wars that left its treasury empty and its army disorganized. Moreover, the death of Emperor Charles VI in October ended an unbroken succession of Habsburg emperors since , opening an international conflict over the Austrian inheritance War of the Austrian Succession and denying the dynasty a legal claim on German resources through imperial institutions. Frederick profited from these circumstances to seize the Habsburg province of Silesia between and This move dictated policy for the rest of his reign that countered Habsburg attempts to either recover Silesia or find alternative territory elsewhere in Germany.
Prussia now had little interest in preserving the empire beyond using it as a framework to immobilize the Habsburgs. While the acquisition of Silesia formally increased its territorial presence within the empire, it shifted Prussian political gravity eastward. This continued with the three partitions of Poland , in which Prussia joined Austria and Russia in annexing the entire Polish Commonwealth between and The Hohenzollerns acquired all of Royal Prussia, together with considerable land farther to the south, bringing their total possessions to , square miles , square kilometers and 8.
This expansion coincided with ineffective involvement in the war against revolutionary France after , leaving the crown barely able to suppress a Polish rebellion in — Prussia pulled out of the war in the west in , having transformed a treasury reserve of 51 million talers into a debt of 48 million at a time when revenues totaled only 22 million. Discussion of internal reform intensified but failed to produce significant results before old Prussia collapsed in a new war against France in Berdahl, Robert M. Princeton, Burleigh, Michael.
Cambridge, U. Translated by John G. Atlantic Highlands, N. Originally published in Berlin, Carsten, Francis L. A History of the Prussian Junkers. Aldershot, U. The Origins of Prussia. Oxford, Dorwart, Reinhold August. Cambridge, Mass. The Prussian Welfare State before Dywer, Philip G. The Rise of Prussia — Harlow, U. Frey, Linda, and Marsha Frey. New York , Friedrich, Karin. Gawthrop, Richard L. Pietism and the Making of Eighteenth-Century Prussia.
Hagen, William W. Harnisch, Hartmut. Sozialkonservative Gesellschaftspolitik und Vorleistung zur Modernisierung. Hauser, Oswald. Cologne , Johnson, Hubert C. Frederick the Great and His Officials. New Haven , Kathe, Hans. Eine Kulturgeschichte von bis Munich , Melton, James Van Horn. Mittenzwei, Ingrid, and Erika Herzfeld. Cologne, Stuttgart , Rosenberg, Hans. Schieder, Theodor. Frederick the Great.
Edited and translated by Sabina Berkeley and H. Originally published Frankfurt am Main, Schissler, Hanna. Wirtschaftliche, gesellschaftliche und politische Transformationsprozesse von bis Streidt, Gert, and Peter Feierabend, eds. Prussia: Art and Architecture. Translated by Paul Aston.
East Prussia (Ostpreussen) History Genealogy - FamilySearch Wiki
Wilson, Peter H. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. July 10, Retrieved July 10, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. Preussen, former state, the largest and most important of the German states. Berlin was the capital.
The chief member of the German Empire — and a state of the Weimar Republic —33 , Prussia occupied more than half of all Germany and the major part of N Germany. Grenzmark Posen—West Prussia was sometimes considered a 14th province. Prussia surrounded several smaller German states and stretched from the borders of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg in the west to those of Lithuania and Poland in the east, and from the Baltic Sea , Denmark, and the North Sea in the north to the Main River, the Thuringian Forest, and the Sudetes Mts.
The region that was Prussia is made up mainly of low-lying land, drained by several rivers, notably the Rhine; the Weser; the Oder; and the Elbe, which divided the state into roughly equal eastern and western parts. The region also included the gigantic industrial Ruhr district. Industrially and politically the most prominent state of Germany prior to World War II , Prussia was partitioned among the four Allied occupation zones after This action not only confirmed an accomplished fact; it was also intended as a blow against the spirit of German militarism and aggression, long held to be connected with Prussia.
Most of the former Prussian provinces became part of the new states of the Federal Republic of Germany and of the German Democratic Republic now reunified. History Growth of Brandenburg-Prussia Prussia in its modern meaning came into existence only in , when the elector of Brandenburg assumed the title "king in Prussia. The original inhabitants, the Borussi or Prussians , were of Baltic stock.
They were conquered and largely exterminated by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th cent. The Knights effected the Germanization of Prussia. Through the secularization of the domain of the Teutonic Order by the grand master Albert of Brandenburg , the domain became a hereditary duchy under Polish suzerainty, ruled by a branch of the Hohenzollern dynasty of Brandenburg. In the duchy of Prussia passed through inheritance to the elector of Brandenburg, and in , by the treaty of Oliva , full independence from Polish suzerainty was confirmed to Frederick William , the Great Elector.
In the course of the 17th cent. In the east, Brandenburg gained Farther i. Rise of the Prussian State The electorate with its dependencies had become a major German state by the end of the 17th cent. He remained a prince of the Holy Roman Empire by virtue of his rank as margrave and elector of Brandenburg and his holdings within the empire, but not as king of Prussia, which lay outside the imperial boundaries. This technicality gave the kings of Prussia a measure of independence from the emperor not possessed by the other princes of the empire.
In the following 20 years, however, King Frederick William I , the true creator of the Prussian state, avoided military ventures and used diplomacy in order to create a unified state. He fully developed the features that had distinguished Prussia since the time of the Great Elector. The army, necessary to defend Prussia's scattered lands, was also the chief force in unifying and shaping the state.
In order to build a strong army in their relatively poor country, Prussia's rulers developed a government-controlled economy and an obedient central bureaucracy the Generaldirektorium. The landed aristocrats, the Junkers, were brought into military and state service and in turn were left free to enserf their peasants. Frederick William 's successor, Frederick II , or Frederick the Great reigned —86 , used the efficient military instrument bequeathed him by his father to enter upon a period of conquest. On a slim pretext see Silesia and without a declaration of war, he invaded Austrian territory, thus gaining the initiative in the War of the Austrian Succession — Acting with utter disregard for its allies, Prussia got out of the war in by the Treaty of Berlin, reentered it in , and quit again in at the Treaty of Dresden.
Although it gained no additional territory in the Seven Years War —63 , Prussia emerged from the war as the chief military power of the Continent. Pomerelia was organized into the province of West Prussia , and the original Prussia became known as East Prussia. Frederick was succeeded by Frederick William II , who further added to Prussia by the partitions of Poland of and Defeated by the French, Prussia withdrew from the antirevolutionary coalition in the Treaty of Basel and remained neutral until Its armies were crushed by Napoleon in the twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt, and in Prussia had to accept the harsh Treaty of Tilsit, by which it lost all lands W of the Elbe and most of its share of Poland and became a virtual dependency of France.
Prussia was fortunate to possess, at this low ebb in its history, such able and energetic reformers as Karl vom und zum Stein , Karl August von Hardenberg , and Wilhelm von Humboldt. These men helped transform Prussia into a progressive state by abolishing serfdom and nobiliary privileges, introducing agrarian and other social and economic reforms, and laying the groundwork for an exemplary system of universal education. Gerhard von Scharnhorst and August, Graf von Gneisenau at the same time put the Prussian army on a modern basis.
Prussia was forced to send auxiliary troops for Napoleon's campaign in Russia, but late in the year Yorck von Wartenburg concluded a separate truce with Russia, and in Prussia joined the coalition against France. At the Congress of Vienna , Prussia gained, in addition to its recovered territories, the entire Rhine prov. However, Prussia disappointed the hopes of German liberals by following the lead of the Austrian chancellor, Metternich, in the Holy Alliance.
A constitution promised in failed to materialize under the increasingly reactionary government of Frederick William III , and the half-hearted constitutional schemes of Frederick William IV were impracticable.
East Prussia (Ostpreussen) History
By Prussia had, however, taken the lead in the economic unification of Germany see Zollverein , which was a prerequisite to political union. His scheme for a German Union under Prussian leadership and excluding Austria was punctured in the Convention of Olomouc , and Prussia returned to the restored German Confederation. Supremacy of Prussia In , William I regent since became king, and in he appointed as premier Otto von Bismarck , who directed the destiny of Prussia and after of Germany until Bismarck effected the elimination of Austria from German affairs and the union of Germany under Prussian hegemony by means of three deliberately planned wars.
The first war was fought in alliance with Austria against Denmark over Schleswig-Holstein. Its settlement furnished a pretext for the Austro-Prussian War of , in which Prussia quickly and thoroughly defeated Austria and its allies and gained additional territory by the annexation of Hanover, Electoral Hesse, Nassau, Schleswig-Holstein, and the free city of Frankfurt am Main. In its main features the subsequent history of Prussia was that of Germany. However, Bismarck's Kulturkampf against the Roman Catholic Church was largely confined to the kingdom of Prussia, which, like the other German states, continued as an individual member of the empire.
The Prussian constitution adopted in and amended in the following years was far less liberal than the federal constitution of the empire. The government was not responsible to the Prussian Landtag lower chamber , whose powers were small and whose members were elected by a suffrage system based on tax-paying ability. The house of lords was largely controlled by the conservative Junkers, who held immense tracts of generally poor land E of the Elbe particularly in East Prussia.
Endowed with little money and much pride, they had continued to form the officer corps of the army. The rising industrialists, notably the great Rhenish and Westphalian mine owners and steel magnates, although their interests were often opposed to those of the Junkers, exerted an equally reactionary influence on politics. The Prussian constitution was liberalized after Prussia became a republic in , and the Junkers lost many of their estates through the cession of Prussian territory to Poland.
However, both the Junkers and the Rhenish industrialists continued to exert much power behind the scenes, and when Franz von Papen became German chancellor and commissioner for Prussia, they came into their own. In July, , Papen suspended the Prussian parliament and ousted the Social Democrat Otto Braun, who had been premier of Prussia with brief interruptions from Early in , Adolf Hitler seized power and made Hermann Goering premier of Prussia; Hitler's rise had been aided by the Rhenish industrialists.
By a decree of Hitler issued in Jan. After World War II , in , Prussia was officially dissolved by the Allied Control Council, which characterized the state as "a bearer of militarism and reaction in Germany. See also H. Tuttle, History of Prussia 4 vol. Marriott and C. Robertson, The Evolution of Prussia , rev. Fay, The Rise of Brandenburg-Prussia to , rev. Carsten, Origins of Prussia ; T. Barker, ed. Koch, A History of Prussia ; C. Clark, Iron Kingdom Tracing Russia 's relations with Prussia is complicated by the fact that Prussia only slowly took shape as a nation.
A reasonable starting point is during the reign of Peter the Great and the Great Northern War fought with Sweden for supremacy in northern Europe. King Frederick I sympathized with the Russians but could not afford financially to open hostilities; he moreover was distracted by the wars to his west involving most of Europe against Louis XIV of France.
At the end of the war, Prussia, with Russia's blessings, acquired both banks of the lower Oder River and the first-class port city of Stettin. In the latter half of the eighteenth century, however, relations deteriorated considerably. Frederick II embarked on a major war with Austria for Silesia. The Russian Empress, Elizabeth, sided with Austria and her armies inflicted severe defeats on Prussia in — Upon her death in , Peter III ascended to the throne and as a great admirer of Frederick, withdrew Russia from the war.
Partly as a result of this move, Peter was soon assassinated and replaced by Catherine the Great. Catherine and Frederick, with the collusion of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, were able to agree on taking territory from the extraordinarily weak state of Poland. The result was that by , Poland ceased to exist to the aggrandizement of the three powers. Henceforth, Russia and Prussia would have a mutual interest in the suppression of the Poles.
The Napoleonic wars drew Russia and Prussia closer, both being the victims of Bonaparte's ambitions. The next year, Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Britain pledged not to conclude a separate peace with France. At the Congress of Vienna , Russia and Prussia supported their respective claims to Poland and Saxony, something that provoked an alliance of Britain, Austria, and France. The crisis passed when Russia accepted about half of Poland and Prussia took two-fifths of Saxony. One of the most important consequences of the Napoleonic wars was a conviction on the part of the Prussians that they owed their national survival to Russia.
The Polish issue flared again in , this time in revolution. Sometime after the seventh century, the area was invaded and settled by pagan German tribes, later known as Prussians. In , Prussia was conquered by the Teutonic Knights, a military religious order, who converted the Prussians to Christianity. Prussia was divided into Royal Prussia in the west and Ducal Prussia in the east. Ducal Prussia became a Polish territory.