Grand Duchy of Posen

The Grand Duchy of Posen (Großherzogtum Posen; Wielkie Księstwo Poznańskie) was an autonomous province of the Kingdom of Prussia in the Polish lands commonly known as "Greater Poland" between the years 1815-1848. The name was unofficially used afterward for denoting the territory, especially by Poles, and today is used by modern historians to describe different political entities until 1918. Its capital was Posen (Polish: Poznań). The Grand Duchy was formally replaced by the Province of Posen in the Prussian constitution of 5 December 1848.


Originally part of the Kingdom of Poland, this area largely coincided with Greater Poland. The mid-1600s brought devastation from invading Swedish forces during "the Deluge". The eastern portions of the territory were taken by the Kingdom of Prussia during the Partitions of Poland; during the first partition (1772), Prussia took just the Netze District, the portion along the Noteć (German: Netze) river. Prussia added the remainder during the second partition in 1793. Prussia briefly lost control during the Kościuszko Uprising in (1794).

It was initially administered as the province of South Prussia. The Poles were the primary ally of Napoleon Bonaparte in Central Europe, participating in the Greater Poland Uprising of 1806 and supplying troops for his campaigns. After the defeat of Prussia by Napoleonic France, the Duchy of Warsaw was created by the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807.

According to the Congress of Vienna, put into action after the fall of Napoleon in 1815, Posen was returned to Prussia, and became the Grand Duchy of Posen, a nominally autonomous province under Hohenzollern rule with the rights of "free development of Polish nation, culture and language", and was outside the German Confederation. At this time the city of Poznań was the administrative center and the seat of "Prince Antoni Henryk Radziwiłł of Poznań".

At the beginning of the Prussian takeover of Polish territories, the discrimination and repression of Poles consisted of reducing their access to education and the judicial system. Prussian officials identified Germanisation as the progress of higher culture over a lower one. As a result the local administration discriminated against Poles. After 1824 attempts to Germanise the school system were hastened and the government refused to establish a Polish university in Poznań. Polish politicians issued protests against Prussian policies and a secret, patriotic Polish organisation was founded called Towarzystwo Kosynierów (Society of Scythemen). Resistance activity of Poles resulted in reaction from Berlin, where a trial was held in connection to links between Poles from Prussian parts of Poland with Poles from Russian Congress Poland.

The 1830 November Uprising within Congress Poland against the Russian Empire was significantly supported by Poles from the Grand Duchy. Afterward, the Prussian administration under Oberpräsident Edward Flotwell introduced a stricter system of repression against the Poles. Prussian authorities attempted to expel Poles from administration, to weaken the Polish nobility by buying its lands, and, after 1832, the role of the Polish language in education was significantly repressed.

During the Revolutions of 1848 the Frankfurt Parliament attempted to divide the Duchy into two parts: the Province of Poznań, which would have been given to the Germans and annexed to a newly-created German Empire, and the Province of Gniezno, which would have been given to the Poles and held outside Germany, but because of the protest of Polish parliamentarians these plans failed and the integrity of the duchy was preserved. However, on February 9, 1849, after a series of broken assurances, the Prussian administration renamed the duchy to the Province of Posen. But the Prussian Kings up to William II, German Emperor still hold the title "Grand Duke of Posen" until 1918.

Area and population

The area was 28,951 km² and contained most of the territories of the historical province of Greater Poland, which comprised the western parts of the Duchy of Warsaw (Departments of Poznań, Bydgoszcz, partly Kalisz) that were ceded to Prussia according to the Congress of Vienna (1815) with an international guarantee of self-administration and free development of the Polish nation.


  • 776,000 (1815)
  • 820,000 (1816)
  • 1,350,000 (1849)
  • 2,100,000 (1910)

Territorial administration

The monarch of the duchy, with title of Grand Duke of Posen, was the Hohenzollern king of Prussia and his representative was the Duke-Governor: the first was Prince Antoni Radziwiłł (1815–31), who was married to Princess Louise of Prussia, the king's cousin. The governor was assigned to give advice in matters of Polish nationality, and had the right to veto the administration decisions; in reality, however, all administrative power was in the hands of the Prussian over-president of the province.

The Prussian administrative unit that covered the territory of the Duchy was called the Province of the Grand Duchy of Posen in the years 1815–49, and later to simplify just the Province of Posen (Provinz Posen, Prowincja Poznańska).

The territory of the duchy was divided into two regions (Rejencja), Posen and Bromberg, which were further divided into 26 original districts (Kreis(e), Powiat(y)) administered by landrats ("district councils"). Later, these were redivided into 40 districts, plus two urban districts. In 1824, the Duchy also received a provincial council (term started in 1827) but with little administrative power, limited to providing advice. In 1817, Culmerland (Chełmno Land) was moved to West Prussia.

Polish organisations

German organisations

Notable people

(in alphabetical order)

See also


  • Robert Alvis, Religion and the Rise of Nationalism: A Profile of an East-Central European City, Syracuse 2005
  • Gazeta Wielkiego Księstwa Poznańskiego
  • Konstanty Kościnski, Przewodnik pod Poznaniu i Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskiem, Poznań 1909
  • T. Dohnalowa, Z dziejów postępu technicznego w Wielkopolsce w pierwszej połowie XIX wieku, in: S.Kubiak, L.Trzeciakowski (ed.), Rola Wielkopolski w dziejach narodu polskiego
  • F. Genzen, Z.Grot, F.Paprocki, Zabór pruski w Powstaniu Styczniowym. Materiały i dokumenty, Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków 1968
  • B. Grześ, J.Kozłowski, A.Kramarski, Niemcy w Poznańskiem wobec polityki germanizacyjnej 1815-1920, Poznań 1976
  • Witold Jakóbczyk, Przetrwać nad Wartą 1815-1914. Dzieje narodu i państwa polskiego, vol. III-55, Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza, Warszawa 1989
  • Witold Jakóbczyk (ed.), Studia nad dziejami Wielkopolski w XIX w., vol.I-III, Poznań 1951-1967
  • Witold Jakóbczyk (ed.), Wielkopolanie XIX w., Poznań 1969
  • Witold Jakóbczyk (ed.), Wielkopolska. Wybór źródeł, t. I 1815-1850, Wrocław 1952
  • Witold Jakóbczyk (ed.), Wielkopolska. Wybór źródeł, t. II 1851-1914, Wrocław 1954
  • T. Klanowski, Germanizacja gimnazjów w Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim i opór młodzieży polskiej w latach 1870-1814, Poznań 1962
  • Czesław Łuczak, Życie społeczno-gospodarcze w Poznaniu 1815-1918, Poznań 1965
  • K. Malinowski (ed.), X wieków Poznania, Poznań-Warszawa 1956
  • Witold Molik, Kształtowanie się inteligencji wielkopolskiej w Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim 1840-1870, Warszawa-Poznań 1979
  • F. Paprocki, Wielkie Księstwo Poznańskie w okresie rządów Flottwella (1830-1842), Poznań 1970
  • L. Plater, Opisanie historyczno-statystyczne Wielkiego Księstwa Poznańskiego, wyd. J. N. Bobrowicz, Lipsk 1846
  • B. Pleśniarski, Poglądy Wielkopolan na sprawy wychowawcze i oświatowe w świetle prasy Księstwa Poznańskiego 1814-1847,
  • A. Skałkowski, Bazar Poznański. Zarys stuletnich dziejów (1838-1938), Poznań 1938
  • L. Słowiński, Nie damy pogrześć mowy. Wizerunki pedagogów poznańskich XIX wieku, Poznań 1982
  • J. Stoiński, Szkolnictwo średnie w Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim w I połowie XIX wieku (1815-1850), Poznań 1972
  • J. Topolski (ed.), Wielkopolska przez wieki, Poznań 1973
  • S. Truchim, Geneza szkół realnych w Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim, Warszawa 1936
  • S. Truchim, Historia szkolnictwa i oświaty polskiej w Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim 1815-1915, Łódź 1967
  • Lech Trzeciakowski, Kulturkampf w zaborze pruskim, Poznań 1970
  • Lech Trzeciakowski, Pod pruskim zaborem 1850-1914, Warszawa 1973
  • Lech Trzeciakowski, Walka o polskość miast Poznańskiego na przełomie XIX i XX wieku, Poznań 1964
  • Lech Trzeciakowski, W dziewiętnastowiecznym Poznaniu, Poznań 1987
  • Wielkopolski Słownik Biograficzny, 2nd edition, Warszawa-Poznań 1983

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