Europe is a continent, also recognised as a part of Eurasia, located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. Comprising the westernmost peninsulas of Eurasia, it shares the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with both Asia and Africa. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Mediterranean Sea to the south and Asia to the east. Europe is commonly considered to be separated from Asia by the drainage divide of the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian Sea, the Greater Caucasus, the Black Sea and the waterways of the Turkish Straits.
Europe covers about , or 2% of Earth's surface (6.8% of land area), making it the second-smallest continent (using the seven-continent model). Politically, Europe is divided into about fifty sovereign states, of which Russia is the largest and most populous, spanning 39% of the continent and comprising 15% of its population. Europe had a total population of about million (about 10% of the world population) in . The European climate is largely affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent, even at along which the climate in Asia and North America is severe. Further from the sea, seasonal differences are more noticeable than close to the coast.
European culture is the root of Western culture, which traces its lineage back to ancient Greece and ancient Rome.
The Age of Enlightenment, the subsequent French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars shaped the continent culturally, politically and economically from the end of the 17th century until the first half of the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution, which began in Great Britain at the end of the 18th century, gave rise to radical economic, cultural and social change in Western Europe and eventually the wider world. Both took place for the most part in Europe, contributing to a decline in Western European dominance in world affairs by the mid-20th century as the Soviet Union and the United States took prominence.National Geographic, 534. During the Cold War, Europe was divided along the Iron Curtain between NATO in the West and the Warsaw Pact in the East, until the Revolutions of 1989, fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
In 1949, the Council of Europe was founded with the idea of unifying Europe to achieve common goals and prevent future wars. Further European integration by some states led to the formation of the European Union (EU), a separate political entity that lies between a confederation and a federation. The EU originated in Western Europe but has been expanding eastward since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The currency of most countries of the European Union, the euro, is the most commonly used among Europeans; and the EU's Schengen Area abolishes border and immigration controls between most of its member states, and some non-member states. There exists a political movement favouring the evolution of the European Union into a single federation encompassing much of the continent.
There have been attempts to connect to a Semitic term for west, this being either Akkadian meaning 'to go down, set' (said of the sun) or Phoenician 'evening, west', "Europe" in the Online Etymology Dictionary. which is at the origin of Arabic and Hebrew language . Martin Litchfield West stated that "phonologically, the match between Europa's name and any form of the Semitic word is very poor",
Most major world languages use words derived from or Europa to refer to the continent. Chinese, for example, uses the word Ōuzhōu, which is an abbreviation of the transliterated name Ōuluóbā zhōu ( zhōu means "continent"); a similar Chinese-derived term Ōshū is also sometimes used in Japanese such as in the Japanese name of the European Union, Ōshū Rengō, despite the katakana Yōroppa being more commonly used. In some Turkic languages, the originally Persian name ('land of the Franks') is used casually in referring to much of Europe, besides official names such as or .
The prevalent definition of Europe as a geographical term has been in use since the mid-19th century. Europe is taken to be bounded by large bodies of water to the north, west and south; Europe's limits to the east and north-east are usually taken to be the Ural Mountains, the Ural River and the Caspian Sea; to the south-east, the Caucasus Mountains, the Black Sea and the waterways connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.
Islands are generally grouped with the nearest continental landmass, hence Iceland is considered to be part of Europe, while the nearby island of Greenland is usually assigned to North America, although politically belonging to Denmark. Nevertheless, there are some exceptions based on sociopolitical and cultural differences. Cyprus is closest to Anatolia (or Asia Minor), but is considered part of Europe politically and it is a member state of the EU. Malta was considered an island of Maghreb for centuries, but now it is considered to be part of Europe as well.Falconer, William; Falconer, Thomas. Dissertation on St. Paul's Voyage, BiblioLife (BiblioBazaar), 1872. (1817.), p. 50, These islands Pliny, as well as Strabo and Ptolemy, included in the African sea "Europe", as used specifically in British English, may also refer to Continental Europe exclusively.
The term "continent" usually implies the physical geography of a large land mass completely or almost completely surrounded by water at its borders. Prior to the adoption of the current convention that includes mountain divides, the border between Europe and Asia had been redefined several times since its first conception in classical antiquity, but always as a series of rivers, seas and straits that were believed to extend an unknown distance east and north from the Mediterranean Sea without the inclusion of any mountain ranges. Cartographer Herman Moll suggested in 1715 Europe was bounded by a series of partly-joined waterways directed towards the Turkish straits, and the Irtysh River draining into the upper part of the Ob River and the Arctic Ocean. In contrast, the present eastern boundary of Europe partially adheres to the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, which is somewhat arbitrary and inconsistent compared to any clear-cut definition of the term "continent".
The current division of Eurasia into two continents now reflects East-West cultural, linguistic and ethnic differences which vary on a spectrum rather than with a sharp dividing line. The geographic border between Europe and Asia does not follow any state boundaries and now only follows a few bodies of water. Turkey is generally considered a transcontinental country divided entirely by water, while Russia and Kazakhstan are only partly divided by waterways. France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom are also transcontinental (or more properly, intercontinental, when oceans or large seas are involved) in that their main land areas are in Europe while pockets of their territories are located on other continents separated from Europe by large bodies of water. Spain, for example, has territories south of the Mediterranean Sea namely Ceuta and Melilla which are parts of Africa, and share a border with Morocco. According to the current convention, Georgia and Azerbaijan are transcontinental countries where waterways have been completely replaced by mountains as the divide between continents.
The convention received by the Middle Ages and surviving into modern usage is that of the Roman era used by Roman-era authors such as Posidonius,W. Theiler, Posidonios. Die Fragmente, vol. 1. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1982, fragm. 47a. StraboI. G. Kidd (ed.), Posidonius: The commentary, Cambridge University Press, 2004, , p. 738. and Ptolemy, Geographia 7.5.6 (ed. Nobbe 1845, vol. 2, p. 178) Καὶ τῇ Εὐρώπῃ δὲ συνάπτει διὰ τοῦ μεταξὺ αὐχένος τῆς τε Μαιώτιδος λίμνης καὶ τοῦ Σαρματικοῦ Ὠκεανοῦ ἐπὶ τῆς διαβάσεως τοῦ Τανάϊδος ποταμοῦ. "And Asia is connected to Europe by the land-strait between Lake Maiotis and the Sarmatian Ocean where the river Tanais crosses through." who took the Tanais (the modern Don River) as the boundary.
The Roman Empire did not attach a strong identity to the concept of continental divisions. However, following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Western culture, linked to Latin and the Catholic church, began to associate itself with the concept of "Europe".
A cultural definition of Europe as the lands of Christendom coalesced in the 8th century, signifying the new cultural condominium created through the confluence of Germanic traditions and Christian-Latin culture, defined partly in contrast with Byzantium and Islam, and limited to northern Iberia, the British Isles, France, Christianised western Germany, the Alpine regions and northern and central Italy.Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages, 1993, ""Culture and Society in the First Europe", pp185ff. The concept is one of the lasting legacies of the Carolingian Renaissance: Europa often figures in the letters of Charlemagne's court scholar, Alcuin.Noted by Cantor, 1993:181. The transition of Europe to being a cultural term as well as a geographic one led to the borders of Europe being affected by cultural considerations in the East, especially relating to areas under Byzantine, Ottoman, and Russian influence. Such questions were affected by the positive connotations associated with the term Europe by its users. Such cultural considerations were not applied to the Americas, despite their conquest and settlement by European states. Instead, the concept of "Western civilization" emerged as a way of grouping together Europe and these colonies.
Around 1715, Herman Moll produced a map showing the northern part of the Ob River and the Irtysh River, a major tributary of the Ob, as components of a series of partly-joined waterways taking the boundary between Europe and Asia from the Turkish Straits, and the Don River all the way to the Arctic Ocean. In 1721, he produced a more up to date map that was easier to read. However, his proposal to adhere to major rivers as the line of demarcation was never taken up by other geographers who were beginning to move away from the idea of water boundaries as the only legitimate divides between Europe and Asia.
Four years later, in 1725, Philip Johan von Strahlenberg was the first to depart from the classical Don boundary. He drew a new line along the Volga River, following the Volga north until the Samara Bend, along Obshchy Syrt (the drainage divide between the Volga and ), then north and east along the latter waterway to its source in the Ural Mountains. At this point he proposed that mountain ranges could be included as boundaries between continents as alternatives to nearby waterways. Accordingly, he drew the new boundary north along Ural Mountains rather than the nearby and parallel running Ob and Irtysh rivers. This was endorsed by the Russian Empire and introduced the convention that would eventually become commonly accepted. However, this did not come without criticism. Voltaire, writing in 1760 about Peter the Great's efforts to make Russia more European, ignored the whole boundary question with his claim that neither Russia, Scandinavia, northern Germany, nor Poland were fully part of Europe. Since then, many modern analytical geographers like Halford Mackinder have declared that that they see little validity in the Ural Mountains as a boundary between continents.
The mapmakers continued to differ on the boundary between the lower Don and Samara well into the 19th century. The 1745 atlas published by the Russian Academy of Sciences has the boundary follow the Don beyond Kalach as far as Serafimovich before cutting north towards Arkhangelsk, while other 18th- to 19th-century mapmakers such as John Cary followed Strahlenberg's prescription. To the south, the Kuma–Manych Depression was identified circa 1773 by a German naturalist, Peter Simon Pallas, as a valley that once connected the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea,Peter Simon Pallas, Journey through various provinces of the Russian Empire, vol. 3 (1773) and subsequently was proposed as a natural boundary between continents.
By the mid-19th century, there were three main conventions, one following the Don, the Volga–Don Canal and the Volga, the other following the Kuma–Manych Depression to the Caspian and then the Ural River, and the third abandoning the Don altogether, following the Greater Caucasus watershed to the Caspian. The question was still treated as a "controversy" in geographical literature of the 1860s, with Douglas Freshfield advocating the Caucasus crest boundary as the "best possible", citing support from various "modern geographers".Douglas W. Freshfield, " Journey in the Caucasus", Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, Volumes 13–14, 1869. Cited as de facto convention by Baron von Haxthausen, Transcaucasia (1854); review Dublin University Magazine
In Russia and the Soviet Union, the boundary along the Kuma–Manych Depression was the most commonly used as early as 1906. "Europe", Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1906 In 1958, the Soviet Geographical Society formally recommended that the boundary between the Europe and Asia be drawn in textbooks from Baydaratskaya Bay, on the Kara Sea, along the eastern foot of Ural Mountains, then following the Ural River until the Mugodzhar Hills, and then the Emba River; and Kuma–Manych Depression, thus placing the Caucasus entirely in Asia and the Urals entirely in Europe. However, most geographers in the Soviet Union favoured the boundary along the Caucasus crest,E.M. Moores, R.W. Fairbridge, Encyclopedia of European and Asian regional geology, Springer, 1997, , p. 34: "most Soviet geographers took the watershed of the Main Range of the Greater Caucasus as the boundary between Europe and Asia." and this became the common convention in the later 20th century, although the Kuma–Manych boundary remained in use in some 20th-century maps.
Some view separation of Eurasia into Asia and Europe as a residue of Eurocentrism: "In physical, cultural and historical diversity, China and India are comparable to the entire European landmass, not to a single European country. ...."
Homo erectus georgicus, which lived roughly 1.8 million years ago in Georgia, is the earliest Hominini to have been discovered in Europe. Homo antecessor hominin remains, dating back roughly 1 million years, have been discovered in Atapuerca, Spain. The million year old tooth from Atapuerca, Spain, found in June 2007 Neanderthal man (named after the Neandertal valley in Germany) appeared in Europe 150,000 years ago (115,000 years ago it is found already in the territory of present-day Poland) and disappeared from the fossil record about 28,000 years ago, with their final refuge being present-day Portugal. The Neanderthals were supplanted by modern humans (Cro-Magnons), who appeared in Europe around 43,000 to 40,000 years ago.National Geographic, 21. The earliest sites in Europe dated 48,000 years ago are Riparo Mochi (Italy), Geissenklösterle (Germany) and Isturitz (France).42.7–41.5 ka (1σ CI).
The European Neolithic period—marked by the cultivation of crops and the raising of livestock, increased numbers of settlements and the widespread use of pottery—began around 7000 BCE in Greece and the Balkans, probably influenced by earlier farming practices in Anatolia and the Near East. It spread from the Balkans along the valleys of the Danube and the Rhine (Linear Pottery culture), and along the Mediterranean coast (Cardial Ware). Between 4500 and 3000 BCE, these central European neolithic cultures developed further to the west and the north, transmitting newly acquired skills in producing copper artifacts. In Western Europe the Neolithic period was characterised not by large agricultural settlements but by field monuments, such as causewayed enclosures, and .
The European Bronze Age began c. 3200 BCE in Greece with the Minoan civilisation on Crete, the first advanced civilisation in Europe. The Minoans were followed by the Mycenean Greece, who collapsed suddenly around 1200 BCE, ushering the European Iron Age. Iron Age colonisation by the Greeks and Phoenicians gave rise to early Mediterranean cities. Early Iron Age Italy and Archaic Greece from around the 8th century BCE gradually gave rise to historical Classical antiquity, whose beginning is sometimes dated to 776 BCE, the year of the first Olympic Games.
Greece was followed by Ancient Rome, which left its mark on Roman law, politics, Latin, engineering, architecture, government and many more key aspects in western civilisation. By 200 BCE, Rome had conquered Roman Italy and over the following two centuries it conquered Ancient Greece and Hispania (Spain and Portugal), the coast, much of the Middle East, Gaul (France and Belgium) and Roman Britain (England and Wales).
Expanding from their base in central Italy beginning in the third century BCE, the Romans gradually expanded to eventually rule the entire Mediterranean Basin and Western Europe by the turn of the millennium. The Roman Republic ended in 27 BCE, when Augustus proclaimed the Roman Empire. The two centuries that followed are known as the pax romana, a period of unprecedented peace, prosperity and political stability in most of Europe. The empire continued to expand under emperors such as Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, who spent time on the Empire's northern border fighting Germanic peoples, Picts and Scottish people tribes.National Geographic, 123.Foster, Sally M., Picts, Gaels, and Scots: Early Historic Scotland. Batsford, London, 2004. Christianity was legalised by Constantine I in 313 CE after three centuries of imperial persecution. Constantine also permanently moved the capital of the empire from Rome to the city of Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul) which was renamed Constantinople in his honour in 330 CE. Christianity became the sole official religion of the empire in 380 CE and in 391–392 CE, the emperor Theodosius I outlawed pagan religions.
Isolated monastic communities were the only places to safeguard and compile written knowledge accumulated previously; apart from this very few written records survive and much literature, philosophy, mathematics and other thinking from the classical period disappeared from Western Europe, though they were preserved in the east, in the Byzantine Empire.Norman Cantor, The Medieval World 300 to 1300.
While the Roman empire in the west continued to decline, Roman traditions and the Roman state remained strong in the predominantly Greek-speaking Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire. During most of its existence, the Byzantine Empire was the most powerful economic, cultural and military force in Europe. Emperor Justinian I presided over Constantinople's first golden age: he established a legal code that forms the basis of many modern legal systems, funded the construction of the Hagia Sophia and brought the Christian church under state control.National Geographic, 135.
From the 7th century onwards, as the Byzantines and neighbouring Sasanids were severely weakened due to the protracted, centuries-lasting and frequent Byzantine–Sasanian wars, the Muslim Arabs began to make inroads into historically Roman territory, taking the Levant and North Africa and making inroads into Asia Minor. In the mid-7th century, following the Muslim conquest of Persia, Islam penetrated into the Caucasus region. Over the next centuries Muslim forces took Cyprus, Malta, Crete, Sicily and parts of southern Italy.Kennedy, Hugh (1995). "The Muslims in Europe". In McKitterick, Rosamund, The New Cambridge Medieval History: c. 500 – c. 700, pp. 249–272. Cambridge University Press. 052136292X. Between 711 and 720, most of the lands of the Visigothic Kingdom of Iberia was brought under Muslim rule—save for small areas in the north-west (Asturias) and largely Basque people regions in the Pyrenees. This territory, under the Arabic name Al-Andalus, became part of the expanding Umayyad Caliphate. The unsuccessful second siege of Constantinople (717) weakened the Umayyad and reduced their prestige. The Umayyads were then defeated by the Francia leader Charles Martel at the Battle of Poitiers in 732, which ended their northward advance. In the remote regions of north-western Iberia and the middle Pyrenees the power of the Muslims in the south was scarcely felt. It was here that the foundations of the Christian kingdoms of Asturias, Leon and Galicia were laid and from where the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula would start. However, no coordinated attempt would be made to drive the Moors out. The Christian kingdoms were mainly focussed on their own internal power struggles. As a result, the Reconquista took the greater part of eight hundred years, in which period a long list of Alfonsos, Sanchos, Ordoños, Ramiros, Fernandos and Bermudos would be fighting their Christian rivals as much as the Muslim invaders.
During the Dark Ages, the Western Roman Empire fell under the control of various tribes. The Germanic and Slav tribes established their domains over Western and Eastern Europe, respectively.National Geographic, 143–145. Eventually the Frankish tribes were united under Clovis I.National Geographic, 162. Charlemagne, a Frankish king of the Carolingian dynasty who had conquered most of Western Europe, was anointed "Holy Roman Emperor" by the Pope in 800. This led in 962 to the founding of the Holy Roman Empire, which eventually became centred in the German principalities of central Europe.National Geographic, 166.
East Central Europe saw the creation of the first Slavic states and the adoption of Christianity (. The powerful West Slavs state of Great Moravia spread its territory all the way south to the Balkans, reaching its largest territorial extent under Svatopluk I and causing a series of armed conflicts with East Francia. Further south, the first South Slavs emerged in the late 7th and 8th century and adopted Christianity: the First Bulgarian Empire, the Serbian Principality (later Kingdom and Serbian Empire) and the Duchy of Croatia (later Kingdom of Croatia). To the East, the Kievan Rus expanded from its capital in Kyiv to become the largest state in Europe by the 10th century. In 988, Vladimir the Great adopted Orthodox Christianity as the religion of state. Further East, Volga Bulgaria became an Islamic state in the 10th century, but was eventually absorbed into Russia several centuries later.Gerald Mako, "The Islamization of the Volga Bulghars: A Question Reconsidered", Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 18, 2011, 199–223.
During the High Middle Ages the population of Europe experienced significant growth, culminating in the Renaissance of the 12th century. Economic growth, together with the lack of safety on the mainland trading routes, made possible the development of major commercial routes along the coast of the Mediterranean and . The growing wealth and independence acquired by some coastal cities gave the Maritime Republics a leading role in the European scene.
The Middle Ages on the mainland were dominated by the two upper echelons of the social structure: the nobility and the clergy. Feudalism developed in France in the Early Middle Ages, and soon spread throughout Europe.National Geographic, 158. A struggle for influence between the nobility and the monarchy in England led to the writing of the Magna Carta and the establishment of a parliament.National Geographic, 186. The primary source of culture in this period came from the Roman Catholic Church. Through monasteries and cathedral schools, the Church was responsible for education in much of Europe.
The Papacy reached the height of its power during the High Middle Ages. An East-West Schism in 1054 split the former Roman Empire religiously, with the Eastern Orthodox Church in the Byzantine Empire and the Roman Catholic Church in the former Western Roman Empire. In 1095 Pope Urban II called for a Crusades against Muslims occupying Jerusalem and the Holy Land.National Geographic, 192. In Europe itself, the Church organised the Inquisition against heretics. In the Iberian Peninsula, the Reconquista concluded with the fall of Granada in 1492, ending over seven centuries of Islamic rule in the south-western peninsula.National Geographic, 199.
In the east, a resurgent Byzantine Empire recaptured Crete and Cyprus from the Muslims, and reconquered the Balkans. Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe from the 9th to the 12th centuries, with a population of approximately 400,000.; . The Empire was weakened following the defeat at Manzikert, and was weakened considerably by the sack of Constantinople in 1204, during the Fourth Crusade.
In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic peoples tribes, such as the Pechenegs and the Cuman-Kipchaks, caused a massive migration of Slavic peoples populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north, and temporarily halted the expansion of the Rus' state to the south and east.
The Great Famine of 1315–1317 was the first crisis that would strike Europe in the late Middle Ages. The Late Middle Ages . Oglethorpe University. The period between 1348 and 1420 witnessed the heaviest loss. The population of France was reduced by half.Baumgartner, Frederic J. France in the Sixteenth Century. London: Macmillan Publishers, 1995. .Don O'Reilly. " Hundred Years' War: Joan of Arc and the Siege of Orléans". TheHistoryNet.com. Medieval Britain was afflicted by 95 famines, Poor studies will always be with us. By James Bartholomew. Telegraph. 7 August. 2004. and France suffered the effects of 75 or more in the same period. Famine. Encyclopædia Britannica. Europe was devastated in the mid-14th century by the Black Death, one of the most deadly in human history which killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe alone—a third of the European population at the time.
The plague had a devastating effect on Europe's social structure; it induced people to live for the moment as illustrated by Giovanni Boccaccio in The Decameron (1353). It was a serious blow to the Roman Catholic Church and led to increased persecution of Jews, beggars and .National Geographic, 223. The plague is thought to have returned every generation with varying virulence and mortalities until the 18th century. During this period, more than 100 plague epidemics swept across Europe.
Political intrigue within the Church in the mid-14th century caused the Western Schism. During this forty-year period, two popes—one in Avignon and one in Rome—claimed rulership over the Church. Although the schism was eventually healed in 1417, the papacy's spiritual authority had suffered greatly.National Geographic, 193. In the 15th century, Europe started to extend itself beyond its geographic frontiers. Spain and Portugal, the greatest naval powers of the time, took the lead in exploring the world.
The Church's power was further weakened by the Protestant Reformation in 1517 when German theologian Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses criticising the selling of indulgences to the church door. He was subsequently excommunicated in the papal bull Exsurge Domine in 1520 and his followers were condemned in the 1521 Diet of Worms, which divided German princes between Protestant and Roman Catholic faiths.National Geographic, 256–257. Religious fighting and warfare spread with Protestantism. The plunder of the empires of the Americas allowed Spain to finance religious persecution in Europe for over a century. The Thirty Years War (1618–1648) crippled the Holy Roman Empire and devastated much of Germany, killing between 25 and 40 percent of its population. History of Europe – Demographics. Encyclopædia Britannica. In the aftermath of the Peace of Westphalia, France rose to predominance within Europe.National Geographic, 269. The defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Vienna in 1683 marked the historic end of Ottoman expansion into Europe.Virginia Aksan, Ottoman Wars, 1700–1860: An Empire Besieged, (Pearson Education Limited, 2007), 28.
The 17th century in central and parts of eastern Europe was a period of general decline; the region experienced more than 150 famines in a 200-year period between 1501 and 1700." Food, Famine And Fertilisers". Seshadri Kannan (2009). APH Publishing. p. 51. From the Union of Krewo (1385) east-central Europe was dominated by the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The hegemony of the vast Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had ended with the devastation brought by the Second Northern War (Swedish Deluge) and subsequent conflicts;
From the 15th to 18th centuries, when the disintegrating khanates of the Golden Horde were conquered by Russia, Crimean Tatars from the Crimean Khanate frequently raided Eastern Slavic lands to capture slaves.W.G. Clarence-Smith (2006). " Islam And The Abolition Of Slavery". Oxford University Press. p. 13. — "Lands to the north of the Black Sea probably yielded the most slaves to the Ottomans from 1450. A compilation of estimates indicates that Crimean Tartars seized about 1,750,000 Ukrainians, Poles, and Russians from 1468 to 1694." Further east, the Nogai Horde and Kazakh Khanate frequently raided the Slavic-speaking areas of contemporary Russia and Ukraine for hundreds of years, until the Russian expansion and conquest of most of northern Eurasia (i.e. Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Siberia).
The Renaissance and the New Monarchs marked the start of an Age of Discovery, a period of exploration, invention and scientific development.
The Age of Enlightenment was a powerful intellectual movement during the 18th century promoting scientific and reason-based thoughts.
In parallel, the Eastern Question grew more complex ever since the Ottoman defeat in the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774). As the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire seemed imminent, the struggled to safeguard their strategic and commercial interests in the Ottoman domains. The Russian Empire stood to benefit from the decline, whereas the Habsburg Empire and United Kingdom perceived the preservation of the Ottoman Empire to be in their best interests. Meanwhile, the Serbian revolution (1804) and Greek War of Independence (1821) marked the beginning of the end of Ottoman rule in the Balkans, which ended with the Balkan Wars in 1912–1913., Ottoman Empire – 19th century, Historyworld Formal recognition of the de facto independent principalities of Montenegro, Serbia and Romania ensued at the Congress of Berlin in 1878.
The Industrial Revolution started in Great Britain in the last part of the 18th century and spread throughout Europe. The invention and implementation of new technologies resulted in rapid urban growth, mass employment and the rise of a new working class.
Russia was plunged into the Russian Revolution, which threw down the Russian Empire and replaced it with the communist Soviet Union,National Geographic, 480. leading also to the independence of many former Russian governorates, such as Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as new European countries.
The social revolutions sweeping through Russia also affected other European nations following The Great War: in 1919, with the Weimar Republic in Germany and the First Austrian Republic; in 1922, with Benito Mussolini's one-party Fascism government in the Kingdom of Italy and in Atatürk's Turkey, adopting the Western alphabet and state secularism.
Economic instability, caused in part by debts incurred in the First World War and 'loans' to Germany played havoc in Europe in the late 1920s and 1930s. This, and the Wall Street Crash of 1929, brought about the worldwide Great Depression. Helped by the economic crisis, social instability and the threat of communism, Fascism developed throughout Europe placing Adolf Hitler in power of what became Nazi Germany.
In 1933, Hitler became the leader of Germany and began to work towards his goal of building Greater Germany. Germany re-expanded and took back the Saarland and Rhineland in 1935 and 1936. In 1938, Austria became a part of Germany following the Anschluss. Later that year, following the Munich Agreement signed by Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy, Germany annexed the Sudetenland, which was a part of Czechoslovakia inhabited by ethnic Germans, and in early 1939, the remainder of Czechoslovakia was split into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, controlled by Germany and the Slovak Republic. At the time, Britain and France preferred a policy of appeasement.
With tensions mounting between Germany and Poland over the future of Danzig, the Germans turned to the Soviets and signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which allowed the Soviets to invade the Baltic states and parts of Poland and Romania. Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, prompting France and the United Kingdom to declare war on Germany on 3 September, opening the European Theatre of World War II.National Geographic, 465.
In May 1940, Germany attacked France through the Low Countries. France capitulated in June 1940. By August, Germany began a bombing offensive on Britain, but failed to convince the Britons to give up. National Geographic, 510. In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. National Geographic, 532. On 7 December 1941 Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into the conflict as allies of the British Empire, and other allied forces. National Geographic, 511. National Geographic, 519. After the staggering Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, the German offensive in the Soviet Union turned into a continual fallback. The Battle of Kursk, which involved the largest tank battle in history, was the last major German offensive on the Eastern Front. In June 1944, British and American forces invaded France in the D-Day landings, opening a new front against Germany. Berlin finally fell in 1945, ending World War II in Europe. The war was the largest and most destructive in human history, with 60 million dead across the world. National Geographic, 439. More than 40 million people in Europe had died as a result of World War II," Europe honours war dead on VE Day". BBC News. 9 May 2005. including between 11 and 17 million people who perished during the Holocaust.Niewyk, Donald L. and Nicosia, Francis R. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, Columbia University Press, 2000, pp. 45–52. The Soviet Union lost around 27 million people (mostly civilians) during the war, about half of all World War II casualties. By the end of World War II, Europe had more than 40 million ." Refugees: Save Us! Save Us!". Time. 9 July 1979. Several post-war expulsions in Central and Eastern Europe displaced a total of about 20 million people.
World War I, and especially World War II, diminished the eminence of Western Europe in world affairs. After World War II the map of Europe was redrawn at the Yalta Conference and divided into two blocs, the Western countries and the communist Eastern bloc, separated by what was later called by Winston Churchill an "Iron Curtain". The United States and Western Europe established the NATO alliance and, later, the Soviet Union and Central Europe established the Warsaw Pact.National Geographic, 530. Particular hot spots after the Second World War were Berlin and Trieste, whereby the Free Territory of Trieste, founded in 1947 with the UN, was dissolved in 1954 and 1975, respectively. The Berlin blockade in 1948 and 1949 and the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 were one of the great international crises of the Cold War.Jessica Caus "Am Checkpoint Charlie lebt der Kalte Krieg" In: Die Welt 4 August 2015.Karlo Ruzicic-Kessler "Togliatti, Tito and the Shadow of Moscow 1944/45-1948: Post-War Territorial Disputes and the Communist World", In: Journal of European Integration History, (2/2014).Christian Jennings "Flashpoint Trieste: The First Battle of the Cold War", (2017), pp 244.
The two new , the United States and the Soviet Union, became locked in a fifty-year-long Cold War, centred on nuclear proliferation. At the same time decolonisation, which had already started after World War I, gradually resulted in the independence of most of the European colonies in Asia and Africa.
In the 1980s the glasnost of Mikhail Gorbachev and the Solidarity movement in Poland weakened the previously rigid communist system. The opening of the Iron Curtain at the Pan-European Picnic then set in motion a peaceful chain reaction, at the end of which the Eastern bloc, the Warsaw Pact and other communist states collapsed, and the Cold War ended.Thomas Roser: DDR-Massenflucht: Ein Picknick hebt die Welt aus den Angeln (German – Mass exodus of the GDR: A picnic clears the world) In: Die Presse 16 August 2018.Der 19. August 1989 war ein Test für Gorbatschows" (German - August 19, 1989 was a test for Gorbachev), In: FAZ 19 August 2009.Michael Frank: Paneuropäisches Picknick – Mit dem Picknickkorb in die Freiheit (German: Pan-European picnic - With the picnic basket to freedom), in: Süddeutsche Zeitung 17 May 2010. Germany was reunited, after the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the maps of Central and Eastern Europe were redrawn once more.Andreas Rödder, Deutschland einig Vaterland – Die Geschichte der Wiedervereinigung (2009). This made old previously interrupted cultural and economic relationships possible, and previously isolated cities such as Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest and Trieste were now again in the centre of Europe.Padraic Kenney "A Carnival of Revolution: Central Europe 1989" (2002) pp 109.Michael Gehler "Der alte und der neue Kalte Krieg in Europa" In: Die Presse 19.11.2015.Robert Stradling "Teaching 20th-century European history" (2003), pp 61.
European integration also grew after World War II. In 1949 the Council of Europe was founded, following a speech by Sir Winston Churchill, with the idea of unifying Europe to achieve common goals. It includes all European states except for Belarus, Russia, and Vatican City. The Treaty of Rome in 1957 established the European Economic Community between six Western European states with the goal of a unified economic policy and common market.National Geographic, 536. In 1967 the EEC, European Coal and Steel Community, and Euratom formed the European Community, which in 1993 became the European Union. The EU established a parliament, court and central bank, and introduced the euro as a unified currency.National Geographic, 537. Between 2004 and 2013, more Central European countries began joining, expanding the EU to 28 European countries and once more making Europe a major economical and political centre of power.National Geographic, 535. However, the United Kingdom withdrew from the EU on 31 January 2020, as a result of a June 2016 referendum on EU membership. The Russo-Ukrainian conflict, which has been ongoing since 2014, steeply escalated when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, marking the largest humanitarian and refugee crisis in Europe since the World War II and the Yugoslav Wars.
This description is simplified. Sub-regions such as the Iberian Peninsula and the Italian Peninsula contain their own complex features, as does mainland Central Europe itself, where the relief contains many plateaus, river valleys and basins that complicate the general trend. Sub-regions like Iceland, Britain and Ireland are special cases. The former is a land unto itself in the northern ocean which is counted as part of Europe, while the latter are upland areas that were once joined to the mainland until rising sea levels cut them off.
Europe lies mainly in the temperate climate zones, being subjected to prevailing westerlies. The climate is milder in comparison to other areas of the same latitude around the globe due to the influence of the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream is nicknamed "Europe's central heating", because it makes Europe's climate warmer and wetter than it would otherwise be. The Gulf Stream not only carries warm water to Europe's coast but also warms up the prevailing westerly winds that blow across the continent from the Atlantic Ocean.
Therefore, the average temperature throughout the year of Aveiro is , while it is only in New York City which is almost on the same latitude, bordering the same ocean. Berlin, Germany; Calgary, Canada; and Irkutsk, in far south-eastern Russia, lie on around the same latitude; January temperatures in Berlin average around higher than those in Calgary and they are almost higher than average temperatures in Irkutsk.
The large water masses of the Mediterranean Sea, which equalise the temperatures on an annual and daily average, are also of particular importance. The water of the Mediterranean extends from the Sahara desert to the Alpine arc in its northernmost part of the Adriatic Sea near Trieste.Josef Wasmayer "Wetter- und Meereskunde der Adria" (1976), pp 5.
In general, Europe is not just colder towards the north compared to the south, but it also gets colder from the west towards the east. The climate is more oceanic in the west and less so in the east. This can be illustrated by the following table of average temperatures at locations roughly following the 64th, 60th, 55th, 50th, 45th and 40th latitudes. None of them is located at high altitude; most of them are close to the sea. (location, approximate latitude and longitude, coldest month average, hottest month average and annual average temperatures in degrees C)
|+Temperatures in °C|
The geology of Europe is hugely varied and complex and gives rise to the wide variety of landscapes found across the continent, from the Scottish Highlands to the rolling of Hungary. Europe's most significant feature is the dichotomy between highland and mountainous Southern Europe and a vast, partially underwater, northern plain ranging from Ireland in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east. These two halves are separated by the mountain chains of the Pyrenees and Alps/Carpathians. The northern plains are delimited in the west by the Scandinavian Mountains and the mountainous parts of the British Isles. Major shallow water bodies submerging parts of the northern plains are the Celtic Sea, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea complex and Barents Sea.
The northern plain contains the old geological continent of Baltica and so may be regarded geologically as the "main continent", while peripheral highlands and mountainous regions in the south and west constitute fragments from various other geological continents. Most of the older geology of western Europe existed as part of the ancient microcontinent Avalonia.
The main natural vegetation cover in Europe is mixed forest. The conditions for growth are very favourable. In the north, the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift warm the continent. Southern Europe could be described as having a warm, but mild climate. There are frequent summer droughts in this region. Mountain ridges also affect the conditions. Some of these (Alps, Pyrenees) are oriented east–west and allow the wind to carry large masses of water from the ocean in the interior. Others are oriented south–north (Scandinavian Mountains, Dinaric Alps, Carpathians, Apennines) and because the rain falls primarily on the side of mountains that is oriented towards the sea, forests grow well on this side, while on the other side, the conditions are much less favourable. Few corners of mainland Europe have not been grazed by livestock at some point in time and the cutting down of the pre-agricultural forest habitat caused disruption to the original plant and animal ecosystems.
Possibly 80 to 90 percent of Europe was once covered by forest. It stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arctic Ocean. Although over half of Europe's original forests disappeared through the centuries of deforestation, Europe still has over one quarter of its land area as forest, such as the broadleaf and mixed forests, taiga of Scandinavia and Russia, mixed of the Caucasus and the Cork oak forests in the western Mediterranean. During recent times, deforestation has been slowed and many trees have been planted. However, in many cases monoculture of Pinophyta have replaced the original mixed natural forest, because these grow quicker. The plantations now cover vast areas of land, but offer poorer habitats for many European forest dwelling species which require a mixture of tree species and diverse forest structure. The amount of natural forest in Western Europe is just 2–3% or less, while in its Western Russia its 5–10%. The European country with the smallest percentage of forested area is Iceland (1%), while the most forested country is Finland (77%).
In temperate Europe, mixed forest with both flowering plant and coniferous trees dominate. The most important species in central and western Europe are beech and oak. In the north, the taiga is a mixed spruce–pine–birch forest; further north within Russia and extreme northern Scandinavia, the taiga gives way to tundra as the Arctic is approached. In the Mediterranean, many olive trees have been planted, which are very well adapted to its arid climate; Mediterranean Cypress is also widely planted in southern Europe. The semi-arid Mediterranean region hosts much scrub forest. A narrow east–west tongue of Eurasian grassland (the steppe) extends westwards from Ukraine and southern Russia and ends in Hungary and traverses into taiga to the north.
European wild cat, foxes (especially the red fox), jackal and different species of martens, hedgehogs, different species of reptiles (like snakes such as vipers and grass snakes) and amphibians, different birds (owls, hawks and other birds of prey).
Important European herbivores are snails, larvae, fish, different birds and mammals, like rodents, deer and roe deer, boars and living in the mountains, marmots, steinbocks, chamois among others. A number of insects, such as the small tortoiseshell butterfly, add to the biodiversity.
The extinction of the dwarf hippos and has been linked to the earliest arrival of humans on the islands of the Mediterranean.
Sea creatures are also an important part of European flora and fauna. The sea flora is mainly phytoplankton. Important animals that live in European seas are zooplankton, , , different , and octopuses, fish, and whales.
Biodiversity is protected in Europe through the Council of Europe's Bern Convention, which has also been signed by the European Community as well as non-European states.
European integration is the process of political, legal, economic (and in some cases social and cultural) integration of European states as it has been pursued by the powers sponsoring the Council of Europe since the end of World War II The European Union has been the focus of economic integration on the continent since its foundation in 1993. More recently, the Eurasian Economic Union has been established as a counterpart comprising former Soviet states.
27 European states are members of the politico-economic European Union, 26 of the border-free Schengen Area and 19 of the monetary union Eurozone. Among the smaller European organisations are the Nordic Council, the Benelux, the Baltic Assembly and the Visegrád Group.
|Andorra||468||77,281||179.8||Andorra la Vella||Andorra|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||51,129||3,531,159||68.97||Sarajevo||Bosna i Hercegovina/Боснa и Херцеговина|
|Montenegro||13,812||642,550||45.0||Podgorica||Crna Gora/Црна Гора|
|North Macedonia||25,713||2,103,721||80.1||Skopje||Северна Македонија ()|
|San Marino||61.2||33,285||520||San Marino||San Marino|
|United Kingdom||244,820||66,040,229||270.7||London||United Kingdom|
|Vatican City||0.44||1,000||2,272||Vatican City||Città del Vaticano/Civitas Vaticana|
Within the above-mentioned states are several de facto independent countries with limited to no international recognition. None of them are members of the UN:
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|National symbol ! style="line-height:95%; width:2em" class="unsortable"||Flag
(km2) ! Population
! Population density
(per km2) ! Capital
Several dependencies and similar territories with broad autonomy are also found within or in close proximity to Europe. This includes Åland (an autonomous county of Finland), two Danish Realm (other than Denmark proper), three Crown Dependencies and two British Overseas Territories. Svalbard is also included due to its unique status within Norway, although it is not autonomous. Not included are the three countries of the United Kingdom with devolved powers and the two Autonomous Regions of Portugal, which despite having a unique degree of autonomy, are not largely self-governing in matters other than international affairs. Areas with little more than a unique tax status, such as the Canary Islands and Heligoland, are also not included for this reason.
|UK||78||65,849||844.0||St. Peter Port|
The model of the Blue Banana was designed as an economic geographic representation of the respective economic power of the regions, which was further developed into the Golden Banana or Blue Star. The trade between East and West, as well as towards Asia, which had been disrupted for a long time by the two world wars, new borders and the Cold War, increased sharply after 1989. In addition, there is new impetus from the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative across the Suez Canal towards Africa and Asia.Global shipping and logistic chain reshaped as China’s Belt and Road dreams take off in Hellenic Shipping News, 4. December 2018; Wolf D. Hartmann, Wolfgang Maennig, Run Wang: Chinas neue Seidenstraße. (2017), p 59; Jacob Franks "The Blu Banana - the True Heart of Europe" In: Big Think Edge, 31.12.2014; Zacharias Zacharakis: Chinas Anker in Europa in: Die Zeit 8. May 2018; Harry de Wilt: Is One Belt, One Road a China crisis for North Sea main ports? in World Cargo News, 17 December 2019; Hospers, Gert-Jan "Beyond the blue banana? Structural change in Europe´s geo-economy." 2002
The European Union, a political entity composed of 27 European states, comprises the largest single economic area in the world. Nineteen EU Eurozone share the euro as a common currency. Five European countries rank in the top ten of the world's largest national economies in GDP (PPP). This includes (ranks according to the CIA): Germany (6), Russia (7), the United Kingdom (10), France (11) and Italy (13).
There is huge disparity between many European countries in terms of their income. The richest in terms of nominal GDP is Monaco with its US$185,829 per capita (2018) and the poorest is Ukraine with its US$3,659 per capita (2019). Monaco is the richest country in terms of GDP per capita in the world according to the World Bank report.
As a whole, Europe's GDP per capita is US$21,767 according to a 2016 International Monetary Fund assessment.Some data refers to IMF staff estimates but some are actual figures for the year 2017, made in 12 April 2017. World Economic Outlook Database–April 2017, International Monetary Fund. Accessed on 18 April 2017.
The states which retained a free-market system were given a large amount of aid by the United States under the Marshall Plan. The western states moved to link their economies together, providing the basis for the EU and increasing cross border trade. This helped them to enjoy rapidly improving economies, while those states in COMECON were struggling in a large part due to the cost of the Cold War. Until 1990, the European Community was expanded from 6 founding members to 12. The emphasis placed on resurrecting the West German economy led to it overtaking the UK as Europe's largest economy.
After East Germany and West Germany were reunited in 1990, the economy of West Germany struggled as it had to support and largely rebuild the infrastructure of East Germany.
By the millennium change, the EU dominated the economy of Europe comprising the five largest European economies of the time namely Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain. In 1999, 12 of the 15 members of the EU joined the Eurozone replacing their former national currencies by the common euro. The three who chose to remain outside the Eurozone were: the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden. The European Union is now the largest economy in the world.
Figures released by Eurostat in 2009 confirmed that the Eurozone had gone into recession in 2008. It impacted much of the region. Thanks to the Bank it's a crisis; in the eurozone it's a total catastrophe. Telegraph. 8 March 2009. In 2010, fears of a sovereign debt crisis developed concerning some countries in Europe, especially Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal. As a result, measures were taken, especially for Greece, by the leading countries of the Eurozone. The European Union unemployment rate was 10.3% in 2012. For those aged 15–24 it was 22.4%. Unemployment statistics . Eurostat. April 2012.
Early modern emigration from Europe began with Spanish and Portuguese settlers in the 16th century, and French and English settlers in the 17th century. But numbers remained relatively small until waves of mass emigration in the 19th century, when millions of poor families left Europe.
Today, large populations of European descent are found on every continent. European ancestry predominates in North America and to a lesser degree in South America (particularly in Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Brazil, while most of the other countries also have a considerable population of European origins). Australia and New Zealand have large European-derived populations. Africa has no countries with European-derived majorities (or with the exception of Cape Verde and probably São Tomé and Príncipe, depending on context), but there are significant minorities, such as the White South Africans in South Africa. In Asia, European-derived populations, (specifically Russians), predominate in North Asia and some parts of Northern Kazakhstan.Robert Greenall, Russians left behind in Central Asia, BBC News, 23 November 2005
A distinct non-Indo-European family of Uralic languages (Estonian, Finnish language, Hungarian, Erzya language, Komi language, Mari language, Moksha language and Udmurt language) is spoken mainly in Estonia, Finland, Hungary and parts of Russia. Turkic languages include Azerbaijani, Kazakh language and Turkish language, in addition to smaller languages in Eastern and Southeast Europe (Balkan Gagauz Turkish, Bashkir language, Chuvash language, Crimean Tatar, Karachay-Balkar, Kumyk language, Nogai language and Tatar language). Kartvelian languages (Georgian, Mingrelian and Svan language) are spoken primarily in Georgia. Two other language families reside in the North Caucasus (termed Northeast Caucasian, most notably including Chechen language, Avar language and Lezgian language; and Northwest Caucasian, most notably including Adyghe language). Maltese language is the only Semitic language that is official within the EU, while Basque language is the only European language isolate.
Multilingualism and the protection of regional and minority languages are recognised political goals in Europe today. The Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Council of Europe's European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages set up a legal framework for language rights in Europe.
Historically, Europe has been the center and "cradle of Christian civilization".
The second most popular religion is Islam (4.9%) concentrated mainly in the Balkans (Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina) and transcontinental countries located at the boundary of Europe and Asia (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkey. Other religions, including Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism are minority religions (though Tibetan Buddhism is the majority religion of Russia's Republic of Kalmykia). The 20th century saw the revival of Neopaganism through movements such as Wicca and Druidry.
Europe has become a relatively secular continent, with an increasing number and proportion of irreligion, atheism and agnosticism people, who make up about 18.3% of Europe's population, currently the largest secular population in the Western religion. There are a particularly high number of self-described non-religious people in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Sweden, former East Germany and France.
When considering the commuter belts or metropolitan areas, within the EU (for which comparable data is available) Moscow covers the largest population, followed in order by Istanbul, London, Paris, Madrid, Milan, Ruhr Area, Saint Petersburg, Rhein-Süd, Barcelona and Berlin.
Different cultural events are organized in Europe, with the aim of bringing different cultures closer together and raising awareness of their importance, such as the European Capital of Culture, the European Region of Gastronomy, the European Youth Capital and the European Capital of Sport.