First Advisor

Richard Beyler

Date of Award


Document Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in History and University Honors








Prussia has been seen since the Second World War as a militaristic pariah that because of its scattered and desperate nature has been vilified as the root cause of Nazism. Modern authors like Christopher Clark, Philip Dwyer, and others have helped to perpetuate these ideas in contemporary literature. These ideas contradict works by older historians who wrote and asserted that Prussian expansion was based on dynastic claims. These earlier historians asserted that Prussian actions followed a series of dynastic claims that gave credibility to Prussian expansion without upsetting the political norms of the time. By examining the actions and written accounts of Prussia's monarchs I will show that in contrast to the accepted Anglo-America theory of Prussian militarism and the desperate nature of the Prussian state as expressed by authors like Dwyer, that Prussia was in fact a legally expanding state growing through the legitimate and internationally recognized means of dynastic claims. To validate my thesis I will use archival evidence such as the written testaments of Prussia's rules and the historic actions these rules took through 150 years of history, from 1640 to 1786. This research will prove that the current historiography on the subject is badly tainted by post Nazi views on expansion, freedom of action, and other international norms. The application of modern norms on international affairs to events occurring in the 17th and 18th century fails to view Prussian actions as it was seen by Prussia's peers during that time. Instead of viewing Prussia as aggressive and expansionistic, other states saw it's growth as legitimate expansion via a series of dynastic claims that Prussia held. These claims were recognized as a legitimate international form of expansion. This thesis will thus prove that Prussian expansion from 1640-1786 was only based on dynastic claims.


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