The Rise of Brandenburg-Prussia, 1618-1740 (Lancaster by Margaret Shennan

By Margaret Shennan

During this pamphlet Margaret Shennan surveys the increase of Prussia from the early 17th century to 1740, highlighting and comparing the position of its rulers, particularly of Frederick William I, the nice Elector, and his successors. the writer takes account of: * diplomacy * social and financial constructions * household pressures * moral and cultural affects * idiosyncratic personalities * terrain and bounds.

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This impelled him to take every possible step to defend and consolidate his patrimony. Later in 1656, as the Poles recovered much of their lost ground, 20 the Elector found himself courted by both sides. But it was too early to desert Sweden, which still appeared the dominant power. In return for a promise of territorial booty in the west of Poland, he agreed by the Treaty of Marienburg (1656) to fight alongside the Swedes. Leading his army of 8,500 troops, Frederick William joined in the three-day battle of Warsaw, where he proved his military prowess.

His newly-won province of East Pomerania was separated from East Prussia by a broad Polish corridor, and the principalities of Hanover and Brunswick stood between Minden and the Old Mark of Brandenburg. The acquisition of Halberstadt was certainly gratifying in that it fulfilled a century-old Hohenzollern ambition, but possession of Magdeburg, promising control of the main Elbe crossing, had to wait until the death of its bishop-administrator, which did not occur until 1680. Although the peace effectively confirmed the sovereignty of the German princes, Frederick William found that in reality a prince’s independence was proportionate to his military might.

Redressing the balance? The reign of Elector George William is frequently presented as a nadir in the development of Brandenburg-Prussia, the dark of weakness and defeat before the dawn of modern absolutism under Frederick William. This interpretation owes much to Samuel Pufendorf, chief publicist to Frederick William, whose propaganda disparaged what went before in order to bolster his patron’s achievements. As a version of events it is somewhat misleading. George William was certainly timid and indecisive and he had few diplomatic or military gifts.

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