WEST PRUSSIA (Ger. Westpreussen), a province of Prussia, bounded on the N. by the Baltic, on the E. by East Prussia, on the S. by Russian Poland and the province of Posen, and on the W. by Brandenburg and Pomerania. The area is 9862 sq. m. The greater part is occupied by the low Baltic plateau, intersected by a network of streams and lakes, and rising to the Turmberg (1086 ft.) near Danzig. East of Konitz is an extensive moorland, 70 m. long, called the Tucheler Heide. The lakes, though very numerous, are not large. The Vistula, here of great width, and subject to destructive floods, enters the province near Thorn, and flowing north in a valley which divides the plateau, enters Danzig Bay by a large delta, the Werder. The other rivers are chiefly tributaries of the Vistula, as the Drewenz on its right bank and the Brahe on its left.
In general physical characteristics the province resembles East Prussia, but the climate is less harsh and the fertility of the soil greater. Arable land and gardens occupy 55.6% of the area, meadows and pastures 12.9%, forests 21.7%, and the rest is mostly waste. The valley and delta of the Vistula are very fertile, and produce good crops of wheat and pasturage for horses, cattle and sheep. Besides cereals, the chief crops are potatoes, hay, tobacco, garden produce, fruit and sugar-beet. Poultry, fish and timber are important sources of wealth. Cavalry horses (especially at the government stud farm of Marienwerder) and merino sheep are reared. The minerals are unimportant, except amber, peat and clay. Shipbuilding is carried on at Danzig and Elbing, and in various places there are iron and glass works, saw-mills, sugar factories and distilleries. Much of the trade passes through the ports of Danzig and Elbing.
The population in 1905 was 1,641,746, showing a mean density of 166 to the sq. m. Of these 567,318 or 34.5% were Poles, a larger proportion than in any other Prussian province except Posen. They are increasing somewhat faster than the Germans, and the efforts of the colonization commission have done little to promote the immigration of German farmers. The Kashubes (q.v.), nearly all of whom (less than 200,000) live in W. Prussia, chiefly in the west, from Putzig to Konitz, are here reckoned with the Poles. The Poles proper chiefly inhabit the centre of the province, and the borders of Russian Poland. Among the Germans, who are most numerous in the north-east, Low German dialects are spoken, except in a Swabian colony round Kulmsee. Roman Catholics number 51.4% and Protestants 46.6% of the population, and there are 16,000 Jews. The Poles are almost all Roman Catholics.
The province is divided into the governmental departments of Danzig and Marienwerder. It returns twenty-two members to the Prussian Lower House and thirteen to the Reichstag. Danzig is the capital, and the only large town.
West Prussia, with the exception of southern Pomerania (around Marienwerder) which belonged to Prussia, was a possession of Poland from 1466 till the first partition of Poland in 1772, when it was given to Prussia with the exception of Danzig and Thorn, which Poland retained till 1793. The present province was formed in 1808, but from 1824 to 1878 was united with East Prussia. For its history see also Prussia and Poland.
See K. Lohmeyer, Geschichte von Ost- und Westpreussen (part I., 3rd ed., Gotha, 1908); Vallentin, Westpreussen seit den ersten Jahrzehnten dieses Jahrhunderts (Tübingen, 1893); Ambrassat, Westpreussen, ein Handbuch der Heimatkunde (Danzig, 1906).