The Rise of Prussia, 1713–1795


Map Code: Ax00932

Frederick William I became king of Prussia in 1713. He centralized the Prussian state and took possession of West Pomerania in a 1720 settlement with Sweden. He increased the army and invested in commerce and industry. His successor and son, Frederick II, ‘Frederick the Great’ (r. 1740–86), immediately conquered prosperous Lower and Upper Silesia, a disputed territory between Austria and Poland. He exploited Austria’s vulnerability, as it was weakened by a war over the Austrian succession. Silesia became a source of contention for the following century, and its ownership was disputed. Prussia, in an equitable arrangement, took over East Frisia in 1744. In 1772, Frederick the Great, with Russia and Austria, began partitioning Polish territory; following the acquisition of West Prussia in 1773, East Prussia, the area of the original Duchy of Prussia, was connected by land with the rest of Prussia, and reorganized as a province. This process culminated in two further partitions during the reign of his son, Frederick William II (r. 1786-­97), which appropriated Ermland, Southeast Prussia and New East Prussia in 1795.

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