Prussia 1500-1700

Bailey, Joe, Tucker

Brief History of Prussia

The original Prussians, mainly hunters and cattle breeders, spoke a language belonging to the Baltic group of the Indo-European language family. Attempts to convert the Prussians to christianity was unsuccessful. In the 13th century, the Prussians were conquered and Christianized by the German-speaking knights of the Teutonic Order. The majority of the inhabitants of Prussia were German-speaking, though the Old Prussian language did not die out until the 17th century. By the 17th century the indigenous population was thoroughly assimilated.

Charles V and the Holy Roman Empire: Crash Course World History #219

About Prussia

Important People and Terms to Know

Enlightened Absolutism : a system in which rulers tried to govern by Enlightenment principles while maintaining their full royal ruler

Frederick II : Frederick the Great was the King of Prussia, he cared more about the arts, music, and philosphy than about warfare and liked to surround himself with French intellectuals. Under his leadership, Prussia became a major military power with many victories.

Timeline of Key Facts

  1. 1618 - Prussia merged with German electorate of Brandenburg under the rule of John of Sigismund, creating the Hohenzollern dynasty.

  2. 1660 - Under the rule of Elector Frederick William Prussia removed the last vestiges of Polish control through battles that ended with the Peace of Oliva

  3. 1701 - Frederick William II declared Brandenburg-Prussia the kingdom and crowned himself King. He embarked on a program of state-building by adding new territorial holdings that increased Prussia’s power during 1701 through 1750. He constructed an absolutist state around a strong military and centralized bureaucracy.

  4. 1740 - King Frederick II came to throne and inherited an efficient government with an abundant treasury. He introduced some judicial reforms, improved Prussia’s educational system, and encourage the growth of intellectualism. He tried to conciliate large numbers of Catholic Germans who was under Prussian control. He advocated some measure of religious toleration, although Prussia remained a Protestant.

  5. Frederick II gained new territory to the Prussian kingdom and even Royal Prussia, which had been under Polish rule, through the War of the Austrian Succession, the Austro-Prussian War, and the first partition of Poland. He also gained the support and respect of powerful Junkers, who ruled over Prussia’s large serf population.

  6. 1786 - Following the death of Frederick II’s death the later rulers preserved the system that his father had created. The country continued to expand with military battles for the rest of the 18th century, but then fell at the hands of the French during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The French appended large segments of Prussia and forced King Frederick William III to pay allegiance to Napoleon I's French Empire.

  7. 1812 - The Prussian military was forced to serve as Napoleon's ally in his invasion of Russia. However the invasion failed and a wave of Prussian nationalism fueled the country's involvement in the War of Liberation. Prussia contributed to Napoleon's eventual defeat in 1814 and 1815, having been allied with the rest of Europe.

Supporters and Religion of Prussia

Prussia was the home of the pagan spiritual leader Krivis and the pagan center of Romuva that was dear to the Baltic people. In the 13th century the Prussians were conquered and Christianized by the German knights of the Teutonic Order, but they were originally protistan. The Teutonic Order which is also called the Teutonic Knights was a religious order that played a major role in eastern Europe in the late Middle Ages. The Teutonic Order’s last grand master in Prussia, Albert of Hohenzollern, became a Lutheran which broadened the citizens belief to Protestant, Christian, and Lutheran. The majority of the inhabitants of Prussia were German-speaking, though the Old Prussian language did not die out until the 17th century. Poeple who owned large land estates with serfs, were members of the nobility. Many of the land owners were the officers in the Prussian army, they had a strong sense of loyalty to the king or state. The officers believed in duty, obsedience, and sacrifice.

Changes During the Time Period

  • Army size

  • Rulers of the Country

  • Territory Prussia Took Over

  • Ethnicity of the Country

  • Religious Toleration in the country

  • Population

  • Language
In Prussia the biggest thing that changed was the army’s size. It began as a small force then with the help of the kings. The king also changed many times during this period. Prussia went through three Fredericks. The amount of land Prussia “owned” constantly increased and decreased. Prussia was originally Baltic but was forced to change over to German Christianism later. The policy for religious tolerance and torture methods changed in favor of everyday people later 1700s. The population dramatically increased of the span of three thousand years as the country continued to grow and gain more land. The language was changed when German speaking knights who took over Prussia, the original language never died out till many years later.

Legacy of the Empire

Prussia’s legacy was a country that started from nothing and built up almost international power. They increased their land, population, and most importantly army size in three-thousand years. It was made clear by the Frederick Ⅰ King of Prussia that the military was the focus of the kingdom. This focus paid off and left a long lasting strong military of Prussia.

Major Accomplishments

  • Gained control of Swedish Pomerania

  • Won the Battle of Mollwitz, the Battle of Hohenfriedberg and the Battle of Kesselsdorf

  • Won the Battle of Liegnitz despite being outnumbered 3 to 1

  • Doubled army size in and became the the fourth largest army in Europe

  • Became thirteenth in population

  • Prussia became a major European power

  • Maintained a highly efficient bureaucracy

  • Abolished the use of torture except in treason and murder cases

  • Granted limited freedom of speech and press

  • Had greater religious toleration

  • Seized Silesia during the War of the Austrian Succession

New Ideas

- The Prussian educational system was the best in Europe.

- Frederick William the first maintained a highly efficient bureaucracy of civil service workers.

- Frederick Williams other major concern was the army, by the end of his reign in 1740 he had doubled the army size.

- Frederick II, or Frederick the Great limited freedom of speech and press, as well as greater religious toleration.

Essential Questions

1. Why was it so important that Peter the Great have a seaport on the Baltic?

Peter was trying to improve trade with Europe, a sea port with access to the Mediterranean Sea was something that Russia lacked. He took advantage of other conflicts in Europe at that time and made an attempt at a black sea port.

2. What did Russia gain by acquiring lands on the Baltic Coast?

Russia gained control over territory along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea these land gave Russia a direct access by water to the rest of Europe. Baltic Sea is located in Northern Europe and is bordered by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Sweden, this means that Russia will have access to all of these places by sea. the estimated size of the Baltic is between 375,600 and 377,000 square kilometers. On average, around forty-five percent of the Baltic is covered by ice, so even with access through the baltic sea it is still hard to travel through the ice.


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"Prussia." Britannica School. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2015. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <>.

"Prussia." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2015. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

"Charles V and the Holy Roman Empire: Crash Course World History #219."YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2015.

Spielvogel, Jackson J. Glencoe World History. New York, NY: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 2005. Print.