Frederick William I, 1688–1740, king of Prussia (1713–40), son and successor of Frederick I. He continued the administrative reforms and the process of centralization begun by Frederick William, the Great Elector, creating a strong, absolutist state. He practiced rigid economy, and at his death there was a large surplus in the treasury. The Prussian army was made an efficient instrument of war. Although Frederick William built up one of the most powerful armies in Europe, he was essentially a peaceful man. He intervened briefly in the Northern War, but gained little territory. Later, he signed a treaty (1728) with Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in the hope of acquiring the territories of Jülich and Berg, to which he had a hereditary claim. The emperor subsequently went back on this agreement. Frederick William was a coarse man, and he had contempt for his gifted heir, who was to succeed him as Frederick II (Frederick the Great).
See studies by R. R. Ergang (1941) and R. A. Dorwart (1952, repr. 1971).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.