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About this book

Karin Friedrich locates the composite state of Brandenburg-Prussia in its historical, political, religious and economic context, from the demise of the Teutonic Knights in the fifteenth century to the Napoleonic crisis. Synthesising debates in German, English and Polish historical writing, the study focuses on key themes and concepts such as:

• confessionalisation, state-building, absolutism, and the rural economy
• the primacy of foreign politics
• the impact of an enlightened public sphere on changing notions of citizenship.

Friedrich assesses the ability of the Prussian state to integrate its constituent parts, not least by creating a patriotic identity and notion of unity under the name of 'Prussia'. Challenging myths and older views, this fresh interpretation is ideal for anyone studying this complex political entity within early modern Europe.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
A collection of territories under the rule of the Hohenzollern dynasty, Brandenburg-Prussia was one of the most complex political creations of late medieval and early modern Europe. It is the purpose of this book to stimulate students’ interest in the pre-1800 history of Brandenburg-Prussia, when it was not a German great power but a collection of territories squarely located in an east-central European context. Helmut G. Koenigsberger characterised Brandenburg-Prussia as a composite state whose parts were separated from each other, which gave it a fragile constitution but also instilled in its rulers a particularly dynamic ambition [78]. The variety of titles borne by the Hohenzollern rulers in each of their territories over the centuries reflected the composite nature of these dominions. In his influential work on composite monarchies John Elliott differentiated between states which incorporated all their parts into one central body, and those in which the monarch ruled distinctly over each part. While Hohenzollern rulers usually wished to follow the first option, political reality and pragmatism forced them to accept the second. As Elliott pointed out, unions which permitted some self-government by their parts usually contributed to the strength and longevity of composite states [65].
Karin Friedrich

1. The Teutonic Legacy

Abstract
In the eastern marshes of the Baltic coast, in the early thirteenth century, the Order of the Teutonic Knights began to create a formidable military and administrative organisation, subjugating the local pagan population and building a network of castles and towns. Almost two hundred years later, at the epic battle of Grunwald/Tannenberg in 1410, the combined Polish and Lithuanian forces under King Władysław Jagiełło (Jogaila) and his cousin Witold (Vytautas) wiped out the elite of the Teutonic Knights. This defeat not only ended the myth of the Teutonic Knights’ invincibility; it signalled a century of decline in the Teutonic Order’s fortunes in Prussia and the southern Baltic. By 1466 they had lost control of the western Prussian lands, including Danzig, to the Poles, and in 1525, after a series of lost wars that had followed Tannenberg, the Order’s last grand master, Albrecht of Hohenzollern, secularised the Teutonic state. He transformed it into a hereditary duchy, submitting himself as a vassal to the king of Poland and ruling the duchy as a fief of the Polish crown.
Karin Friedrich

2. ‘State-building’

Abstract
The rise of Prussia has traditionally been explained in terms of ‘state-building’. This approach concentrates on the emergence of central government institutions all focused on the disciplining and policing of society [59]. Recent approaches based on a ‘cultural history of politics’, however, have queried such all-embracing explanatory models. If the state is a body politic which is continuously negotiated and defined anew through socio-political dialogue and cultural acts, historians have to focus more closely on institutional culture, political practice and human agency [363]. Generations of historians of Prussia, however, applied an influential model of ‘top-down’ state-building, which failed to address the ‘interdependence between discourse and practice’, and between the intentions and achievements of those who built the commonweal or ‘state’ [66, 142].
Karin Friedrich

3. Estate Society and Life in the Rural Economy

Abstract
The rural economy in Brandenburg-Prussia has not had a good press. As the militarised Prussian Junker class was widely blamed for two world wars, most post-war English-language works maintained a negative attitude towards it. German historians mostly followed Hintze, whose works focused on a nobility which accepted their prince’s absolute sovereignty in return for their new roles as bureaucrats and army officers [125, 39]. Büsch presented an influential image of a jingoist East-Elbian noble class that became the negative blueprint by which Germany’s supposedly undemocratic traditions could be historically explained [296]. Studies by Carsten and Hans Rosenberg perpetuated the vision of the Prussian nobility as a serf-owning, bureaucratised caste worshipping an authoritarian state, which deviated substantially from ‘normal’ European and ‘Western’ development [11, 179]. In the late 1980s, Robert M. Berdahl summarised this attitude in his emphasis on the Junkers’ conservative patriarchal ideology which apparently resisted both market forces and public-spirited reforms [178].
Karin Friedrich

4. From Baroque Court to Military Monarchy

Abstract
The nineteenth-century image of the frugal Prussian bureaucratic state has obscured the significance of its Baroque court which competed for dynastic rank and prestige after 1688. The Prussian monarchy was founded on 18 January 1701, when Elector Frederick III placed the royal crown on his own head as Frederick I, ‘king in Prussia’. The coronation took place in Königsberg, far from Berlin and the Brandenburg heartlands, which would not become the centre of the monarchy until later in the eighteenth century [232, 331, 357]. The coronation was accompanied by a massive construction programme, involving the construction or renovation of palaces and monuments, the expansion of the University of Halle, founded in 1694, and the opening of the Society of Sciences in Berlin in 1700, all accompanied by a series of eye-catching ceremonies.
Karin Friedrich

5. Foreign Policies between East and West

Abstract
For nineteenth-century historians who believed in the primacy of foreign policy, the story of Prussia was dominated by its role in the unification of Germany between 1867 and 1871. Earlier periods served as the pre-history to this event [71]. This changed in the 1960s, when social history became the dominant paradigm. The primacy of foreign policy underwent a much contested revival as a ‘revisionist approach’ in the works of Anglo-Saxon historians of Prussia such as Brendan Simms, Tim Blanning, Derek McKay and Hamish M. Scott [287]. These supporters of a fresh approach to foreign policy, however, do not aim to resurrect Borussian hagiography. Instead they link the importance of foreign policy with the security problems that confronted early modern composite states and their rulers when trying to consolidate their widely scattered territories [13; 36–57, 70; 9–32, 280].
Karin Friedrich

6. Enlightenment and the Public Sphere

Abstract
The definition of Enlightenment has become much broader since the 1970s. What had been considered a ‘movement’ focused around a few Parisian intellectuals splintered: as J.G.A. Pocock writes: ‘Enlightenment was, and Enlightenments were as we find it and them’ [342; 107]. Recently, historians have returned to more cohesive patterns, identifying various ‘brands’ of Enlightenment, such as the Protestant and the Catholic, the ‘early’ and the ‘radical’ Enlightenments, while various distinct ‘national’ Enlightenments have been identified [325, 326, 333, 343]. A ‘western’ rational Enlightenment, based on the French model has been distinguished from a Central European ‘Counter-Enlightenment’, but this dichotomomy has been convincingly queried [321, 335, 353]. The period usually called the European Enlightenment cannot be seen as one coherent ideological movement.
Karin Friedrich

Conclusion

Abstract
The rulers of Brandenburg and monarchs of Prussia were keenly aware of the composite nature of the Brandenburg-Prussian state. Political practice in this conglomerate demanded continuous negotiation, compromise and cooperation, which neither the concept of dualism between the ruler and his provincial elites, nor that of absolutism satisfactorily capture [91; 348]. How far did the integration of Hohenzollern provinces go before the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, when redrawn borders raised a new set of issues for Prussia’s state-builders? Just as the expanding European Union today struggles to find a common economic, legal, military, cultural and political language and purpose, Prussia in the late eighteenth century found it hard to find common ground between its composite parts.
Karin Friedrich
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