Date of Award
Undergraduate Honors Thesis
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
Frederick the Great is a titanic figure in European history. During his nearly half-century reign he transformed the miniscule territory of Brandenburg-Prussia into a formidable European power, and in the 1860s (about eighty years after Frederick died) Prussia eventually led the charge to form what we now know as Germany. Despite what Frederick may have actually thought about the idea of a purely "German" nation his contribution to the creation of the country, albeit unintentional, has been relentlessly lauded in the years after his death by many in Germany. Even today Frederick amazingly enough retains a large degree of his popularity. After all of the turmoil that Germany has endured throughout the twentieth century, why would a stoic Prussian autocrat who very publicly despised all things German still be viewed as a hero whose actions were instrumental to the founding of the country? I intend to answer this question using the historical phenomenon known as "invented traditions". This paper examines different depictions of Frederick throughout the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, as well as East and West Germany up to the Reunification in 1991. The sources that are examined here are diverse and include films, biographies, articles, and a museum exhibition.
Curry, Matheson, "The Invention of Frederick the Great" (2019). History Honors Program. 13.