- 18th century history of Germany
Holy Roman Empirein the 18th centuryentered a period of decline that would finally lead to its dissolution during the Napoleonic Wars.
Peace of Westphaliain 1648, the Empire had been fragmented into numerous independent states ( Kleinstaaterei). In 1701 Elector Frederick of Brandenburg was crowned "King "in" Prussia". From 1713 to 1740, King Frederick William I, also known as the "Soldier King", established a highly centralized state.
The term "German dualism" describes the long conflict between the two largest German states
Austriaand Prussiafrom 1740to 1866when Austria finally left the German confederation.
Kingdom of Prussiaemerged as the leading state of the Empire. Frederick III (1688-1701) became King Frederick I of Prussiain 1701. Since there was only one King of the Germanswithin the Empire, Frederick gained the assent of Emperor Leopold I (in return for alliance against France in the War of the Spanish Succession) to his adoption (January 1701) of the title of " King in Prussia" based on his non-Imperial territories. The title came into general acceptance with the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).
Sweden's defeat by Russia, Saxony, Poland,
Denmark–Norway, Hanover, and Prussia in the Great Northern War(1700-1721) marked the end of significant Swedish power on the southern shores of the Baltic Sea. In the Prusso-Swedish Treaty of Stockholm (January 1720), Prussia regained Stettin (Szczecin) and other parts of Sweden's holding in Pomerania. The Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg had held the reversion to the Duchy of Pomerania since 1472. During this time, the trends set in motion by the Great Elector reached their culmination, as the Junkers, the landed aristocracy, were welded to the Prussian Army.In 1740, King Frederick II (Frederick the Great) came to the throne. Using the pretext of a 1537 treaty (vetoed by Emperor Ferdinand I) by which parts of Silesiawere to pass to Brandenburg after the extinction of its ruling Piast dynasty, Frederick invaded Silesia, thereby beginning the War of the Austrian Succession(1740-1748).
In 1744 Frederick invaded again to forestall reprisals and to claim, this time, the province of
Bohemia. He failed, but French pressure on Austria's ally Great Britain led to a series of treaties and compromises, culminating in the 1748 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapellethat restored peace and left Prussia in possession of most of Silesia. When Frederick preemptively invaded Saxony and Bohemia over the course of a few months in 1756-1757, he initiated the Seven Years' War.This war was a desperate struggle for the Prussian Army, and the fact that it managed to fight much of Europe to a draw bears witness to Frederick's military skills. The situation became progressively grimmer until the death of Empress Elizabeth of Russia( the miracle of the House of Brandenburg). The accession of the Prussophile Peter III relieved the pressure on the eastern front. Defeating the Austrian army at the Battle of Burkersdorfand relying on continuing British success against France in the war's colonial theatres, Prussia was finally able to force a " status quo ante bellum" on the continent. This result confirmed Prussia's major role within the German states and established the country as a European great power. This gave the start to the rivalry between Prussia and Austria for the leadership of Germany ( German dualism).
From 1763, against resistance from the nobility and citizenry, an "
enlightened absolutism" was established in Prussia and Austria, according to which the ruler was to be "the first servant of the state". The economy developed and legal reforms were undertaken, including the abolition of torture and the improvement in the status of Jews; the emancipation of the peasants began. Education was promoted.
In 1772-1795 Prussia took part in the
partitions of Poland, occupying western territories of Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, which led to centuries of Polish resistance against German rule and persecution.To the east and south of Prussia, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealthhad gradually weakened during the 18th century. Alarmed by increasing Russian influences in Polish affairs and by a possible expansion of the Russian Empire, Frederick took part in the first of the Partitions of Polandbetween Russia, Prussia, and Austria in 1772 to maintain a balance of power. The Kingdom of Prussia annexed most of the Polish province of Royal Prussia, including Warmia; the annexed land was organized the following year into the Province of West Prussia. The new territory connected East Prussia(the territory previously known as the Duchy of Prussia) with Pomerania, uniting the kingdom's eastern territories. After Frederick died in 1786, his nephew Fredrick William II continued the partitions, gaining a large part of western Poland in 1793.
In 1795, the Kingdom of Poland ceased to exist and a large area (including
Warsaw) to the south of East Prussia became part of Prussia. These new territories were organized into the Provinces of New Silesia, South Prussia, and New East Prussia.
French Revolutionsparked a new war between France and several of its Eastern neighbors, including Prussia and Austria. Following the Peace of Baselin 1795 with Prussia, the west bank of the Rhine was ceded to France. Napoleon I of Francerelaunched the war against the Empire. In 1803, under the " Reichsdeputationshauptschluss" (a resolution of a committee of the Imperial Diet meeting in Regensburg), he abolished almost all the ecclesiastical and the smaller secular states and most of the imperial free cities. New medium-sized states were established in south-western Germany. In turn, Prussia gained territory in north-western Germany.
Holy Roman Empirewas formally dissolved on 6 August 1806when the last Holy Roman Emperor Francis II (from 1804, Emperor Francis I of Austria) resigned. Francis II's family continued to be called Austrian emperors until 1918. In 1806 the Confederation of the Rhinewas established under Napoleon's protection.
Towards the end of the century,
German Mediatisationa series of mediatisations and secularisations. Weimar Classicismwas a cultural and literary movementinitiated by Johann Wolfgang von Goetheand Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schillerduring the period 1788–1832.
Early Modern history of Germany
18th century German literature
Kingdom of Prussia
19th century history of Germany
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