The Age of Absolutism, 1660-1815

By Max Beloff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
PRUSSIA AND AUSTRIA

AT the end of the Thirty Years War--a catastrophe from which Germany was long in recovering--it was already plain that the attempt to assert the authority of the Habsburg emperors outside their hereditary dominions had failed. The machinery of the Empire, the Diet, the Supreme Court, the Circles for administration ground meaninglessly on. The Emperor was one only among the German sovereigns, even if for a long time to come, the most powerful of them. During the next century the most significant development was the emergence of the Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg-Prussia as the rulers of another Great Power, so that henceforth Prussia was not simply one of the multitude of small states into which the German nation had been fragmented but something clearly superior to its rivals. It was during the Age of Absolutism that there emerged into view that polarization of Germany between Berlin and Vienna, incarnating to some extent the older division into Protestant and Catholic, which was to be the principal feature of German history in the nineteenth century.

The history of the Hohenzollerns thus provides a direct and indeed striking parallel to the history of the House of Savoy which from its base in Piedmont was ultimately to oust Austria from the control of northern Italy that it inherited from the Spanish Habsburgs as a result of the territorial settlements after the War of the Spanish Succession. It is probably no accident that Prussia proper, like Piedmont, was on the periphery of the area to which its rule was ultimately to give political unity. The stages in Prussia's geographical expansion have already been sketched. Its history provides the best example of what could be achieved by a succession of determined dynasts in the way of creating a viable realm out of decidedly heterogeneous materials.

The real founder of the country's greatness, Frederick

-104-

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The Age of Absolutism, 1660-1815
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Chapter I - The Age Defined 11
  • Chapter II - The European Scene: 1660-1789 28
  • Chapter III - France 46
  • Chapter IV - Spain and Portugal 77
  • Chapter V - Prussia and Austria 104
  • Chapter VI - Russia and Poland 133
  • Chapter VII - The Maritime Powers and The American Revolution 152
  • Chapter VIII - Absolutism in Transformation: 1789-1815 170
  • A Note on Books 181
  • Index 183
  • Selected List of Books Available In This Series 189
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