This Essay Will Seek To Explore The Question Of How And Why Prussia Emerged As A Great Power History Essay

1596 words - 7 pages

Prussia was a key figure in European history during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries as a result of its emergence as one of the major great powers of the era alongside Austria, Russia, Britain and France. According to Scott "[t]he dominance of the great powers over the wider international system was assumed, while their right to supervise the actions of the smaller states and to determine the fate of the continent as a whole was asserted."[footnoteRef:1] However, Prussia was a relatively new nation state as it had been composed of independent territories that were politically fragmented until the 17th century.[footnoteRef:2] This essay will seek to explore the question of how and why Prussia emerged as a great power via the analysis of academic sources, contrasting the arguments made in order to arrive at a credible conclusion. The analysis will focus largely on the Seven Years' War of 1754 to 1763, the organisation of the state, and the impact that Great Britain had on Prussia's rise. This will be done in order to test the thesis that several factors contributed to the emergence of Prussia as a great power, but strong leadership and the ability to capitalise on historical circumstance contributed exponentially to its rise. [1: H. Scott, (2014). The Birth of a Great Power System, 1740-1815. Abingdon: Routledge, p. 1] [2: K. Friedrich, (2011). Brandenburg-Prussia, 1466-1806. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 20-22.]
Taking the Seven Years' War first, there is extensive scholarship on this topic. For example, Wight asserts that "[t]he self-revelation of a great power is completed by war" and that this was the case for Prussia as it became a great power following Frederick the Great's successful defence of his territorial gains during the Seven Years' War.[footnoteRef:3] This is supplemented by an exploration of Prussia's territorial consolidation, specifically the 1772 annexation of Polish provinces in order to control the Polish Corridor.[footnoteRef:4] Aselius concurs to an extent, noting that traditional arguments that Prussian survival was essentially a miracle are completely wrong and undermine the fact that Prussian efficiency in terms of its mobilisation and military operations far exceeded that of the British and the French.[footnoteRef:5] These points actively reinforce each other, lending credibility to the idea that Prussia's leadership had a clear objective and sought to consolidate power. There was certainly cause to label Prussia a great power as the state was able to compete with established powers in terms of its aims, ability to hold territory and military. However, Scott disagrees with this position, pointing out that Frederick the Great lost as many battles as he won and actually relied upon the weaknesses of others rather than any integral strength in his own military, although he does agree that his survival did ultimately lead to the generation of a military reputation.[footnoteRef:6] In effect, the commonality between...

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