Prussia-Age of Absolutism

By Alan, Lauren, and Madison

Brief History of Prussia

Prussia was a region in Europe that bordered the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. Prussia was known for its dominant army. Christianity was brought to Prussia in the 1200s, because of the German-speaking knights who conquered the Prussians. In the 1400s, Prussia was then divided into two parts, East Prussia and West Prussia. The king of Poland ruled Western Prussia. Most of Prussia became known as Royal Prussia. In 1618, Ducal Prussia merged with Brandenburg under the rule of John of Sigismund. This created Brandenburg, Prussia. Many strong and powerful rulers over the next several centuries ruled Brandenburg with dominant power in northern Germany.

Important Rulers in Prussia and When They Ruled

  • Frederick William of Brandenburg, the Great Elector reigned from 1640–1688

  • Great Elector’s son Frederick William I reigned from 1688–1713

  • Frederick William II reigned from 1786-1796

  • Last grand master of Prussia, Albert of Hohenzollern, reigned from 1510- 1525

Some of the Major Accomplishments of Prussia

  • Prussia became the fourth largest army in Europe with help from the Great Elector.
  • Centralized administration was set up in Prussia.

  • Intervention in the Swedish-Polish War by the Great Elector ended Poland having power over Prussia.

  • Provinces in Prussia were able to develop through large scale colonizations.

Changes during the period

  • The Prussian language died in the 17th century

  • Came under German and Polish rule during the Middle Ages

  • Prussia and Austria emerged as great European powers in the 17th and 18th centuries

  • When Frederick William the Great Elector realized how defenseless their territory was, he built a large and efficient standing army that held 40,000 men which made the Prussian army the fourth-largest in Europe.

  • To maintain this huge army and his own power, Frederick William started the General War Commissariat to levy taxes for the army and oversee its growth.

  • The Commissariat quickly became a new agency for civil government.

Legacy of the Empire

Prussia was an open territory with no defense to help the country. Frederick William the Great Elector built a large army so that they could change that. Prussia was able to raise 4% of the country for military forces which was the rise of having great power in Europe. They became the fourth largest army in Europe. Prussia then became Germany, and because of their power Germany was one of the dominant countries in Europe.

New Ideas Originated from the Empire

  • The state of Brandenburg of Prussia, remained under the influence of the Holy Roman Empire which was controlled by other German-states

  • Brandenburg- Prussia operated with a great deal of independency

  • Brandenburg’s ruler also served as one of seven electors of the Holy Roman Empire and that gave the state a significant measure of influence over the empire’s affairs

  • In 1701, Brandenburg- Prussia was declared the kingdom of Prussia

  • The incoming royalty started a program of massive state-building that dramatically increased Prussia’s power during the first half of the 18th century

  • Since the Kingdom was a relatively new territory he also elevated an absolutist state around a strong military and an efficient centralized administration

Essential Questions

  1. What problems might Prussia have encountered in governing its territories?

    • Prussia was a small open territories with no frontiers for defense, so it sometimes had problems governing its territory.

  2. What were some specific ways Frederick William used to maintain his power?

    • He set up the General War Commissariat and built a large army to maintain his power.


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