The International History Project

Edited By: Robert Guisepi

Prussia was the former kingdom and state of Germany. At the height of its expansion, in the late 19th century, Prussia extended along the coasts of the Baltic and North seas, from Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Luxembourg on the west to the Russian Empire on the east, to Austria-Hungary on the east, southeast, and south, and to Switzerland on the south.

Modern Prussia was successively, with geographical modifications, an independent kingdom (1701-1871); the largest constituent kingdom of the German Empire (1871-1918); a constituent state, or land, of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933); and an administrative division, comprising 13 provinces, of the centralized German Third Reich (1934-1945). After World War I (1914-1918), West Prussia was lost to Poland, and East Prussia was separated from the rest of German Prussia in 1919, under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, by a strip of formerly Prussian territory known as the Polish Corridor, designed to give Poland an outlet on the Baltic Sea. The other provinces of Prussia between the two World Wars were Rhine, Brandenburg, Pomerania, Berlin, Saxony (Sachsen), Schleswig-Holstein, Hannover, Westphalia, Grenzmark Posen-Westpreussen (now in Poland), Hessen-Nassau, and Hohenzollern (both now in Germany), and Silesia (now partly in Poland and partly in the Czech Republic). In 1947, after World War II (1939-1945), Prussia was abolished as a political unit and, with the exception of East Prussia, partitioned into various parts of the four zones of occupation in Germany, administered by France, Great Britain, the United States, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The northeastern part of East Prussia was annexed by the USSR, and the remainder was put under Polish administration. Berlin was the capital of Prussia prior to World War II, and the principal cities included Frankfurt am Main, Cologne, Essen, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Magdeburg, Stettin (now Szczecin), and Königsberg (now Kaliningrad).

The people from whom the name Prussia is derived were usually called Prussi, or Borussi, in the earliest sources. They were related to the Lithuanians and inhabited the region between the Wis³a (Vistula) and lower Niemen rivers. The Saxons, a Teutonic people, entered eastern Europe in the 10th century and failed in their attempts to convert the Prussians to Christianity. In 997 the Bohemian bishop and saint Adalbert was martyred as a missionary in Prussia. The Christian faith was not established until about the middle of the 13th century, when the Teutonic Knights subdued the country and brought German and Dutch settlers into the conquered territory. By the end of the century the region was completely subjugated. Thereafter it was ruled by the Teutonic Knights as a papal fief.

During the second half of the 14th century, strong opposition to the Germans developed in eastern Europe. In 1386 Poland and Lithuania entered into a dynastic union, and in 1410 a Polish and Lithuanian army defeated the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Tannenberg. After a further period of warfare, the terms of the second Peace of Thorn, in 1466, left the Knights in possession of the eastern part of Prussia, which it held as a fief of the Polish crown. Western Prussia was ceded to Poland, becoming known as Polish Royal Prussia. Eastern Prussia became a secular duchy, known as East Prussia or Ducal Prussia, under the last grand master of the Teutonic Knights, Albert of Hohenzollern, a Lutheran, who created himself 1st duke of Prussia in 1525. In 1618 the duchy, still a vassal state of Poland, passed to John Sigismund, a Hohenzollern; his grandson, Frederick William, elector of Brandenburg, secured ducal Prussia's independence of Poland at the Peace of Oliva in 1660. Frederick William centralized the administration of the duchy and assumed governing powers that were formerly exercised by the nobility and the town oligarchies.

Frederick William's son, Frederick I, became king of Prussia in 1701, receiving royal recognition in exchange for a promise of military aid to Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I. Frederick's son, Frederick William I, greatly increased the size of the Prussian army and rebuilt the organization of the state around the military establishment. To his son, Frederick II, the Great, he left enormous financial reserves and the best army in Europe. Through the military genius of Frederick the Great, Prussia became a major power in Europe. In 1740 he invaded the Austrian province of Silesia and precipitated the War of the Austrian Succession.

By the end of the Seven Years' War, in 1763, Prussian territory included Silesia, and in 1772 Frederick annexed Polish Royal Prussia, thus linking his kingdom of Prussia in the east with Brandenburg and the main body of his German possessions in the west. Frederick's regime was noted as a model of "enlightened despotism."Frederick William III succeeded to the throne in 1797 and with the aid of his ministers, Baron vom und zum Stein and Prince Karl August von Hardenberg, instituted a series of liberal reforms within the kingdom. From 1801 to 1805, during the Napoleonic Wars, Prussia was dominated by Napoleon I. In 1806, however, Frederick William joined a coalition against Napoleon. Frederick William was defeated, and much of his territory was lost. Prussian fortunes rose after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 that resulted in the fall of the French Empire.


After the negotiations at the Congress of Vienna, Prussia emerged as the major German power of Western Europe. By 1844 almost all German states were economically linked with Prussia. Under King William I and his prime minister and imperial chancellor, Prince Otto von Bismarck, Prussia reached the peak of its power. Bismarck provoked war with Denmark in 1864, the Seven Weeks' War against Austria in 1866, and the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. These three wars established Prussia as the leading state in the German Empire. From then on, Prussia's history generally coincides with that of Germany. The state of Prussia was legally abolished in 1947 by the Allied Control Council, a group formed after World War II to resolve issues relating to Germany.

You Might Also Like:

World History related image
Read More

World History

Welcome to our World History section, a vast treasure trove of historical knowledge that takes you on a captivating journey through the annals of human civilization. Our collection spans a wide spectrum of topics, providing an exhaustive resource for history enthusiasts, students, and curious minds ...
Read More

A Complete History Of The European Middle Ages

The Middle Ages Date: 1992 During the decline of the Roman Empire, the migrations of a strong, rude people began to change the life of Europe. They were the German barbarians, or Teutonic tribes, who swept across the Rhine and the Danube into the empire. There they accepted Christianity. The union o...
Read More

A Day In The Life Of A Battle Of Britain Pilot

The following would have been a typical day in the life of a Battle of Britain pilot The sequences are based on the works of different authors with the exception that the names have been changed. This is just to give you an idea as to how a pilot may have spent his day at the height of the battle. ...
Read More

A General Survey Of The Slave Plantation

The American Civil War, Frederick Douglass Edited by: Robert Guisepi 2002 A General Survey of the Slave Plantation by Frederick Douglass It was generally supposed that slavery in the State of Maryland existed in its mildest form, and that it was totally divested of those harsh and terrible peculiari...
Read More

A. P. Hill

The American Civil War, A. P. Hill Edited by: Robert Guisepi 2002 b. Nov. 9, 1825, Culpeper, Va., U.S.d. April 2, 1865, Petersburg, Va. Confederate general during the U.S. Civil War who was particularly active in the fighting around Washington, D.C. His force, called the "Light Division," was cons...
Read More


The American Civil War, Abolition, The Movement Edited by: Robert Guisepi 2002 There can be no doubt that antislavery, or "abolition" as it came to be called, was the nonpareil reform. Abolition was a diverse phenomenon. At one end of its spectrum was William Lloyd Garrison, an "immediatist," who de...
Read More

Abraham Lincoln

The American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln American Civil War history with slideshows, photos, music, major battles like Gettysburg as well as personalities like Lincoln, Grant, Lee and the Black Regiments Edited by: Robert Guisepi 2002 He was an unusual man in many ways. One minute he would wrestle wi...
Read More


European Absolutism And Power Politics Introduction Louis XIV (1643-1715) of France is remembered best as a strong-willed monarch who reportedly once exclaimed to his fawning courtiers, "L'etat, c'est moi" (I am the state). Whether or not he really said these words, Louis has been regarded by histor...
Read More

Absolutism As A System

Absolutism As A System L'Etat, C'Est Moi Date: 1998 Absolutism As A System Unlimited royal authority, as advocated by Bossuet and Hobbes, was the main characteristic of absolutism. It was demonstrated most obviously in political organization but also served to integrate into government most econom...
Read More

Absolutism, Case Against

The Case Against AbsolutismAuthor: Wallbank;Taylor;Bailkey;Jewsbury;Lewis;HackettDate: 1992The Case Against AbsolutismThe Enlightenment's highest achievement was the development of a tightlyorganized philosophy, purportedly based on scientific principles andcontradicting every argument for absolute ...
Read More

Accession Of Solomon

Accession Of Solomon Author: Milman, Henry Hart Accession Of Solomon B.C. 1017 Introduction After many weary years of travail and fighting in the wilderness and the land of Canaan, the Jews had at last founded their kingdom, with Jerusalem as the capital. Saul was proclaimed the first king; afterwa ...
Read More


A History of Ancient Greece The Glory That Was Greece Author: Jewsbury, Lewis Date: 1992 The Acropolis Acropolis (Greek akros,"highest"; polis,"city"), term originally applied to any fortified natural stronghold or citadel in ancient Greece. Primarily a place of refuge, the typical acropolis was con...
Read More

Aegean Civilization

A History of Ancient Greece Author: Robert Guisepi Date: 1998 AEGEAN CIVILIZATION The earliest civilization in Europe appeared on the coasts and islands of the Aegean Sea. This body of water is a branch of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded by the Greek mainland on the west, Asia Minor (now Turkey...
Read More

Aemilius Paulus

AEMILIUS PAULUS by Plutarch Almost all historians agree that the Aemilii were one of the ancient and patrician houses in Rome; and those authors who affirm that king Numa was pupil to Pythagoras, tell us that the first who gave the name to his posterity was Mamercus, the son of Pythagoras, who, for ...
Read More

Africa In The Age Of The Slave Trade

Africa And The Africans In The Age Of The Atlantic Slave Trade Various Authors Edited By: R. A. GuisepiAfrican Societies, Slavery, And The Slave TradeEuropeans in the age of the slave trade sometimes justified enslavementof Africans by pointing out that slavery already existed on that continent.Howe...
Read More