Frederick the Great and the Making of Prussia with Tom Mills

Frederick the Great and the Making of Prussia with Tom Mills


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Join historian Tom Mills for an examination of Frederick the Great and how he inherited a small province and turned it into a cultural and military world power.

Born in 1712, his homeland, Prussia, was an agricultural backwater, a minor power surrounded by powerful enemies. By the time of his death in 1786, Frederick the Great had transformed Prussia into one of the great powers of Europe, and he achieved mythological status amongst the courts of his enemies and allies alike. We will begin with Frederick’s tormented childhood and constant humiliation by his father, King Frederick Wilhelm I.  Frederick the Great was crowned at age twenty-eight with a philosophical work already published and a close friendship with Voltaire.  He seemed to be every inch a philosopher-king reborn. Still, to the amazement of Europe, he gambled everything on an invasion of Austria to capture the territory of Silesia. This would be the most important decision he ever made, and throughout his reign, Frederick would fight to keep to it, displaying brilliance and tenacity that astounded the world.

We will also discuss how Frederick proved himself to be as active domestically as he was militarily. Under his rule, Berlin was turned from a provincial town to one of the most beautiful and culturally vibrant cities in Europe. He also reclaimed land, patronized industry, invited immigrants, and reformed laws to make Prussia stronger. Away from the crowds, Frederick cultivated the leading intellectual court of his day. Yet, of course, he wasn’t perfect, and his costly mistakes and many character flaws will also be discussed before finally we will debate his legacy, controversially claimed by both Nazis and Communists, and what Frederick means today in Germany.

Led by an expert on German History Thomas Mills, this interactive seminar will examine the life of Germany’s greatest King. Designed to inform curiosity and future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of what made Frederick Great.

Tom Mills was born in Wolverhampton in the heart of England before studying History and Archaeology at Bangor University. Emerging with an MA he worked as an archaeologist and afterward a historic conservator for the National Trust. Moving to Munich in 2012 he began a career as a tour guide and many years later is still there.

This conversation is not suitable for children under age 16

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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