Absolutism in prussia, History

Absolutism in Prussia

A slightly different form of absolutism developed in the 1700's in the German- speaking kingdom of Prussia. Originally a small region known as the principality of Brandenburg, it was ruled by a noble family named Hohenzollern, who had their court at the small city of Berlin. In the mid-1600s, they seemed unlikely to become powerful rulers. After the Thirty Years War, their lands were devastated and moreover, although they were Calvinist, most of their territory had remained Lutheran.

However, Prince Frederick William saw a way to overcome these problems. Rather than relying on nobles to help him rule his various regions, which ranged from the agricultural region of Prussia to the east to the commercial port city of Konigsberg in the west, he decided to establish a single government over the entire region and to assess taxes equally on all of it, paid into a single treasury. With this money, he developed an army, which was small compared to the armies of Austria or France during the Thirty Years War. However, he did not dissolve it after the end of the war, instead using it to enter into other, smaller wars and thereby win more territory -- and eventually he was able to unite all of his territories.

To pay for and command this army, he turned to the nobles in the regions of Brandenburg and Prussia, called Junkers. Junkers were somewhat like the Polish nobles or the English gentry in that there were many of them so their estates were not that large. To make money from these smaller estates, they would have to ensure that those who worked the land would be reduced from peasants back to the status of serfs. Frederick William authorized the nobles to re-feudalize Prussia in return for which the nobles would serve in his army as officers and the serfs as soldiers. 

Posted Date: 4/29/2013 5:30:11 AM | Location : United States

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