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Aim: How did Prussia emerge as a major absolutist power in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries? • Prussia, Brandenburg, and several Rhine territories go from being disorganized and powerless German states to being united together as the Kingdom of Prussia, a great European power with a fantastic army.
Prussia, Brandenburg and the Rhine holdings in the 17th Century • Ruled by the Hohenzollern family • Hohenzollern who ruled Brandenburg held the title of “elector” because he was one of the seven men who elected the Holy Roman Emperor. No real power! • Nobles (Junkers) dominate these areas through estates (a Parliament only for nobles in each state). Taxes could not be raised without the permission of the estates.
Rise of Frederick William (“Great Elector”): 1640-1688 • Unifies his territories under an absolutist government • Establishes a permanent standing army of 30,000 and takes away the power of the estates to regulate taxes. How does he get the Junkers to go along with this? • Geography: Prussia is just coming out of the Thirty Years War. Conflict is everywhere, and Russia is a threat. • Is there anything Frederick William can offer the Junkers to gain their support?
Elector Frederick III (1688-1713) King Frederick I • Models himself on Louis XIV, focuses on lavish living and cultivating the arts • Chooses the right side in the War of Spanish Succession, forms close ties with William of Orange (now king of England) and Austrian ruler Leopold I (also Holy Roman Emperor). Gets Prussia upgraded to being a kingdom, crowned King Frederick I.
King Frederick William I (1713-1740): “The Soldiers’ King” • Cements Prussian absolutism through a strong military culture • Powerful military of nearly 100,000 people (1/10 of the population). Drilling was strict and fierce. Minor infractions by soldiers were seriously punished. • Junkers forced to serve as officers, peasants as draftee soldiers for life. • Established a strong bureaucracy, with soldiers serving as efficient and merciless tax collectors. • Lives simply off his own landholdings (no lavish spending) • Ironically, keeps Prussia at peace for much of his reign.
So to review…… • Frederick William (“The Great Elector”) • Elector Frederick III who becomes King Frederick I • King Frederick William I (“The Soldiers’ King”)
Concluding Question • What makes Eastern Absolutism unique from Western Absolutism? What makes it similar?