Prussia: Growth of Brandenburg-Prussia

Growth of Brandenburg-Prussia

Prussia in its modern meaning came into existence only in 1701, when the elector of Brandenburg assumed the title “king in Prussia.” Before then Prussia meant only the flat, sandy region later known as East Prussia (excluding the bishopric of Ermeland), separated from Brandenburg by a part of Poland (later known as West Prussia) and bordering on the Baltic Sea. The original inhabitants, the Borussi (or Prussians), were of Baltic stock. They were conquered and largely exterminated by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th cent. The Knights effected the Germanization of Prussia.

Through the secularization (1525) of the domain of the Teutonic Order by the grand master Albert of Brandenburg, the domain became a hereditary duchy under Polish suzerainty, ruled by a branch of the Hohenzollern dynasty of Brandenburg. In 1618 the duchy of Prussia passed through inheritance to the elector of Brandenburg, and in 1660, by the treaty of Oliva, full independence from Polish suzerainty was confirmed to Frederick William, the Great Elector. In the course of the 17th cent. the electors of Brandenburg directed themselves westward, acquiring the duchy of Cleves, together with the counties of Mark and Ravensberg (1614) and the bishoprics of Minden, Magdeburg, and Halberstadt (1648). In the east, Brandenburg gained (1648) Farther (i.e., eastern) Pomerania, which connected it with the Baltic Sea but not with Prussia.

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