Frederick William I (1713-1740)


  • promoted the evolution of Prussia's highly efficient civil bureaucracy by establishing the General Directory, which served as the chief administrative agent of the central government, supervising military, police, economic, and financial affairs.
  • strove to maintain a highly efficient bureaucracy of civil service workers with its own code, in which the supreme values were obedience, honor, and service to the king as the highest duty.
  • "One must serve the king with life and limb, with good and chattels, with honor and conscience, and surrender everything except salvation. The latter is reserved for God. But everything else must be mine."
  • kept a close watch over his officials to ensure that they performed their duties, which became a hallmark of the Prussian rulers of the 1700s (ex. beat a postmaster because his doors were not open at six in the morning)
  • expanded the army


  • rigid class stratification the emerged in Brandenburg-Prussia in the 1600s persisted

Frederick II (1740-1786)


  • made few innovations in the administration of the state
  • took interest in military affairs
  • enlarged the Prussian army to 200,000 men
  • seized the Austrian province of Silesia for Prussia
  • embroiled Frederick in two major wars - the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War
  • The Seven Years' War left his country exhausted
  • succeeded in keeping Silesia


  • diligent in overseeing its operation, making the Prussian bureaucracy well known for both its efficiency and honesty
  • created greater unity for the scattered lands of Prussia by gaining the Polish territory between Prussia and Brandenburg
  • By the end of his reign, Prussia was recognized as a great European power

Philosophes' Recommendation for Reform

  • eliminated the use of torture except in treason and murder cases
  • granted a limited freedom of speech and press as well as complete religious toleration


  • too dependent on the Prussian nobility to interfere with it or the hierarchical structure of Prussian society
  • made Prussian society even more aristocratic than it had been before by reversing his father's policy of allowing commoners to rise to power in the civil service, reserving the higher positions in the bureaucracy for members of the nobility, coming close to constituting a hereditary caste over time

The Classes of Prussia

The Prussian Nobility

  • played a dominating role in the Prussian state
  • held a complete monopoly of the officer corps of the Prussian army
  • military virtues: duty, obedience, sacrifice


  • spent most or the rest of their lives in their lord's estates or in the army
  • had few rights (ex. needed their Junker's permission to marry)

The Middle Class

  • the only opportunity for any social prestige was in the Prussian civil service
  • the ideal of loyal service to the state became a hallmark of the middle-class official

Power Structure

The army and the bureaucracy were the backbone of Prussia. They were developed by their kings, and the nobility played a large role in the state.