Frederick II of Prussia, like the Era of the Enlightenment in which he lived, was torn about warfare: was it to be humanised, or was it to be perfected? As king he favoured the latter, earning the respect of contemporaries as the greatest strategist of his age.
Frederick in his youth thought Machiavelli’s instructions for princes morally reprehensible, and as a king surrounded himself with great moral philosophers, including, famously, Voltaire. But Frederick saw it as his duty, as that of any monarch, to increase the territorial possessions of his dynasty, even by war, irrespective of just causes. One of the last monarchs who was his own commander-in-chief on his military campaigns, he was also a crafty political strategist, wresting Silesia away from Empress Maria Theresia yet persuading her to colluding with him (and Catherine II of Russia) in the partition of Poland.
Dr Adam Storring helps us understand this complicated man, who like Xerxes and Alexander III before him, was obsessed with outdoing and outshining his father. A Cambridge man, Dr Storring was awarded the André Corvisier Prize for the worldwide Best Dissertation on Military History in 2019. His publications include works on Frederick the Great, including in the forthcoming Cambridge History of Strategy. He teaches at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London.
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Storring, Adam: “The Opportunistic Great Power: Hohenzollern Strategy under Frederick II, 1740-86”, in Isabelle Duyvesteyn and Beatrice Heuser (eds): The Cambridge History of Strategy (Cambridge: CUP, forthcoming 2024), vol. 1
Blanning, Tim: Frederick the Great King of Prussia (London: Allen Lane, 2015)
Duffy, Christopher: Frederick the Great: A Military Life (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985)
Luvaas, Jay (ed. and trans.): Frederick the Great on the Art of War (New York and London: The Free Press, Collier-Macmillan Limited, 1966)
Adam L. Storring, ‘‘The Age of Louis XIV’: Frederick the Great and French Ways of War’, German History 38 (2020), pp. 24-46 - https://doi.org/10.1093/gerhis/ghz069
Adam L. Storring, ‘"Our Age": Frederick the Great, Classical Warfare, and the Uses and Abuses of Military History’, International Journal of Military History and Historiography 42 (2022), pp.323-355 - https://doi.org/10.1163/24683302-bja10023 (available open access)
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