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The Prussian Welfare State Before 1740

The Prussian Welfare State Before 1740

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The time and the place change. But the conflict between individual welfare and the common good continues. The term “welfare state” usually reserved for the social-service state of the twentieth century, can, in fact, be usefully applied to the Western state of the last 500 years. Dorwart contends that the welfare state has passed through three stages—late medieval to eighteenth century, nineteenth century, and twentieth century—with the first and third stages sharing a common philosophy of governmental intervention and limitation of individual freedom.

The Prussian Welfare State before 1740 is a study of the Prussian experience in developing a welfare state. The Hohenzollern princes, in the name of the public good, circumscribed the behavior of individual subjects in matters of consumer protection and marketing practices, building codes, air and water pollution and environmental security and protection. To insure individual fulfillment and social progress, the state assumed responsibility for public education. It also promoted public health by protecting the individual against malpractice and unproved remedies, supporting medical research and education, and assuring medical care for all. The social problems of minority groups and of poverty came under state control as well.

Written by Reinhold Dorwart while he was a Professor of History at the University of Connecticut, The Prussian Welfare State before 1740 presents a corrective to the one-sided emphasis which scholars have placed on the militaristic aspects of Prussian state policy.