History of Germany
Silesian WarsCentral Europe
The Silesian Wars were three wars fought in the mid-18th century between Prussia (under King Frederick the Great) and Habsburg Austria (under Archduchess Maria Theresa) for control of the Central European region of Silesia (now in south-western Poland). The First (1740–1742) and Second (1744–1745) Silesian Wars formed parts of the wider War of the Austrian Succession, in which Prussia was a member of a coalition seeking territorial gain at Austria's expense. The Third Silesian War (1756–1763) was a theatre of the global Seven Years' War, in which Austria in turn led a coalition of powers aiming to seize Prussian territory.
No particular event triggered the wars. Prussia cited its centuries-old dynastic claims on parts of Silesia as a casus belli, but Realpolitik and geostrategic factors also played a role in provoking the conflict. Maria Theresa's contested succession to the Habsburg monarchy under the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 provided an opportunity for Prussia to strengthen itself relative to regional rivals such as Saxony and Bavaria.
All three wars are generally considered to have ended in Prussian victories, and the first resulted in Austria's cession of the majority of Silesia to Prussia. Prussia emerged from the Silesian Wars as a new European great power and the leading state of Protestant Germany, while Catholic Austria's defeat by a lesser German power significantly damaged the House of Habsburg's prestige. The conflict over Silesia foreshadowed a wider Austro-Prussian struggle for hegemony over the German-speaking peoples, which would later culminate in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866.