PATRIOTISM IN AN ABSOLUTE MONARCHY: FATHERLAND, CITIZENSHIP AND THE ENLIGHTENMENT IN PRUSSIA, 1756–1806
Univ. of Helsinki 2020
This thesis provides an examination of Prussian state patriotism from the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War in 1756 until Prussia’s defeat to Napoleon in 1806. While patriotism of the Seven Years’ War has been studied, historians have shown less interest in the Prussian patriotic literature of the rest of the fifty-year period analysed here. This thesis, then, seeks to present hitherto the most thorough review of Prussian state patriotism in the second half of the eighteenth century.
By exploring the public debates on the love of country, I will show that patriotic rhetoric became an important vehicle for the discussions on the idea of citizenship and merit. This was all the more remarkable in a monarchy where the authors were eager to show that patriotism and virtue were not reserved for the republicans. In a decidedly nonequal society, the language of patriotism allowed people to imagine a harmonious future where all citizens could contribute to the common good while setting aside their ‘selfish’ interests. While Frederick II, King of Prussia, was cited as an example to the patriots, Prussian patriotism cannot be minimised as a personality cult of Frederick the Great.
Prussian state patriotism developed in conflict with the imperial patriotism of the Holy Roman Empire; the Seven Years’ War showed my Prussian authors that they could no longer rely on what they perceived to be an Austrian-dominated Reich and had to develop their territorial state as their true patria. Further, while the Prussian patriots generally subscribed to enlightened ideals, many of them were critical of overt cosmopolitanism. Nevertheless, Prussian patriotism remained, for the most part, an inclusive ideology in contrast to the more exclusionary German nationalism of later times. Indeed, Prussian state patriotism was not defined through ethnicity, and several of the authors considered here were willing to expand the ranks of the Prussian patriots beyond German-speaking Protestants.
This study argues for the importance of understanding the language of patriotism as a crucial part of early modern narratives concerning reform and citizenship, particularly in monarchist contexts.