European History Pt. 19 — Prussia

Last time was Austria. Now Prussia. I love Prussia. So scrappy, so tough. Too bad that when looked at objectively, it was a repressive garrison state. Such a shame.

As far as I can tell, the formation of Prussia is just really, ridiculously complex. Looking at a map will confirm this because the country just grew and shrunk every few years or so and sometimes it wasn’t even a single mass of territory but two splotches of land that were separated by other powers. Weird right?

Anyway, Prussia started with Brandenburg, the area around Berlin. The elector of Brandenburg got to help pick the Holy Roman Empire and starting in 1415 it was run by the Hohenzollern family year in and year out. In 1618, the elector of Brandenburg inherited the Duchy of Prussia in the middle of Poland.

At this point, there were three masses to the Hohenzollern holdings. There was Prussia abutting the sea, Pomerania/Brandenburg near Berlin and a western possession near the Rhine. All three of these areas were disconnected, but they would be the base of growth and connection in what came next.

In 1640, Frederick William inherited the three lands named above. He was, “The Great Elector” and did an enormous amount to turn Prussia around from the backwater of the Thirty Years’ War to a recognized power. He welcomed skilled craftspeople from France and elsewhere and built up the military.

Since armies were small at this time, a disciplined fighting force could be used as a potent bargaining chip in international negotiations.

Because the Fredericks and Williams gets confusing, here is the line of succession during this time period.

Frederick William “the Great Elector” 1640-1713

Frederick William I 1713-1740 (no cool title, but this guy built up the military and made government much cheaper and more efficient)

Frederick William II “Frederick the Great” 1740-


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