The Army and the Bureaucracy


There were two Prussian kings in the 18th century, William I and Frederick II who both ruled as absolute monarchs. William I promoted evolution of Prussia's highly efficient civil bureaucracy and did so through the General Directory. It's main purpose was to centralize the government through supervising military, police and economic affairs. The state had it's own code of obedience, honor and service to the king. He prided himself on close personal supervision over the bureaucracy.

Social Aspects

In the 17th century there was a rigid class stratification that emerged. The nobility, known as the Junkers, owned their own estates of which many serfs resided. Junkers held a complete monopoly over the officer corps of the Prussian army. The peasants were born on their lords estates and lived their lives in the army, serving their monarch. The middle class could only find prestige through civil service. When William I died only 3 of his privy councilors were of noble birth.


The army had doubled by the end of William I reign, from 45,000 to 83,000 men. Prussia had the 4th largest army in Europe, behind France, Russia and Austria. Their army was known for being one of the best in Europe, and was regarded as the most important institution in the state. Nobles were officers in the army, ensuring that there was a connection between the nobility and the army.


By the end of Frederick William’s reign, Prussia’s army had grown from 45,000 to 83,000 men. A notable feat, considering its relatively small population relative to other European states, but regardless held the fourth largest army. Beyond its army, Prussia was able to maintain strict loyalty amongst its nobility, through the use of nobles as officers, ensuring a close bond between nobility and army. Which in turn created loyalty amongst the nobility and absolute monarch. Recognized as one of the best armies in Europe, Prussian militarism became synonymous with the extreme exaltation of military virtues. And through the use of their army, attained Polish territory between Prussia and Brandenburg and created greater unity for the scattered lands of Prussia. Among military success, Prussia was able to attain limited freedom of speech and press as well as complete religious.

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While having some success among the nobility, the remaining classes in Prussia were considerably less important than the nobility. They had few real rights and needed their Junker’s permission to ever marry. For the middle class their only given opportunity for social prestige was through the Prussian civil service. The policy of allowing commoners to rise to power in the civil service was revoked and positions of bureaucracy members became solely available for nobility. The upper ranks of the bureaucracy came close to constituting a hereditary caste over time.