Europe is a continent
located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere
and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere
. It comprises the westernmost peninsulas of the continental landmass
, and 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 watershed
of the Ural Mountains
, the Ural River
, the Caspian Sea
, the Greater Caucasus
, the Black Sea
, and the waterways of the Turkish Straits
[ "Europe" (pp. 68–69); "Asia" (pp. 90–91): "A commonly accepted division between Asia and Europe ... is formed by the Ural Mountains, Ural River, Caspian Sea, Caucasus Mountains, and the Black Sea with its outlets, the Bosporus and Dardanelles."]
Although much of this border is over land, Europe is generally accorded the status of a full continent because of its great physical size and the weight of its history and traditions.
Europe covers about , or 2% of the 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 741 million (about 11% of the world population
) . The European climate
is largely affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent, even at latitudes
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 civilization
, which traces its lineage back to ancient Greece
and ancient Rome
. The fall of the Western Roman Empire
in 476 AD and the subsequent Migration Period
marked the end of Europe's ancient history
and the beginning of the Middle Ages
. Renaissance humanism
led to the modern era
. Since the Age of Discovery
, started by Portugal
, Europe played a predominant role in global affairs. Between the 16th and 20th centuries, European powers colonized
at various times the Americas
, almost all of Africa
, and the majority of Asia
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 world war
s 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
[National Geographic, 534.]
During the Cold War
, Europe was divided along the Iron Curtain
in the West and the Warsaw Pact
in the East, until the revolutions of 1989
and fall of the Berlin Wall
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-members states. There exists a political movement favoring the evolution of the European Union into a single federation encompassing much of the continent
In classical Greek mythology
( grc|Εὐρώπη, ''Eurṓpē'') was a Phoenicia
n princess. One view is that her name derives from the ancient Greek
elements εὐρύς (''eurús''), "wide, broad" and ὤψ (''ōps'', gen. ὠπός, ''ōpós'') "eye, face, countenance", hence their composite ''Eurṓpē'' would mean "wide-gazing" or "broad of aspect".
''Broad'' has been an epithet
of Earth herself in the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion
and the poetry devoted to it.
An alternative view is that of R.S.P. Beekes
who has argued in favor of a Pre-Indo-European origin for the name, explaining that a derivation from ancient Greek ''eurus'' would yield a different toponym than Europa. Beekes has located toponyms related to that of Europa in the territory of ancient Greece and localities like that of Europos
in ancient Macedonia
There have been attempts to connect ''Eurṓpē'' to a Semitic term for "west", this being either Akkadian
''erebu'' meaning "to go down, set" (said of the sun) or Phoenician
'' 'ereb'' "evening, west", which is at the origin of Arabic Maghreb
and Hebrew ''ma'arav''. Michael A. Barry
finds the mention of the word ''Ereb'' on an Assyria
with the meaning of "night, he country of
sunset", in opposition to ''Asu'' "he country of
sunrise", i.e. Asia. The same naming motive according to "cartographic convention" appears in Greek Ἀνατολή (''Anatolḗ'' "un
rise", "east", hence Anatolia
). Martin Litchfield West
stated that "phonologically, the match between Europa's name and any form of the Semitic word is very poor", while Beekes considers a connection to Semitic languages improbable.
Next to these hypotheses there is also a Proto-Indo-European
regʷos'', meaning "darkness", which also produced Greek ''Erebus
Most major world languages use words derived from ''Eurṓpē'' or ''Europa'' to refer to the continent. Chinese, for example, uses the word ''Ōuzhōu'' (歐洲/欧洲), which is an abbreviation of the transliterated name ''Ōuluóbā zhōu'' (歐羅巴洲) (''zhōu'' means "continent"); a similar Chinese-derived term is also sometimes used in Japanese such as in the Japanese name of the European Union, , despite the katakana
being more commonly used. In some Turkic languages, the originally Persian name ''Frangistan
'' ("land of the Franks
") is used casually in referring to much of Europe, besides official names such as ''Avrupa'' or ''Evropa''.
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 northeast are usually taken to be the Ural Mountains
, the Ural River
, and the Caspian Sea
; to the southeast, 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 Northwest Africa
for centuries, but now it is considered to be part of Europe as well.
"Europe" as used specifically in British English
may also refer to Continental Europe
The term "continent" usually implies the physical geography
of a large land mass completely or almost completely surrounded by water at its borders. However the Europe-Asia part of the border is somewhat arbitrary and inconsistent with this definition because of its partial adherence to the Ural and Caucasus Mountains rather than a series of partly joined waterways suggested by cartographer Herman Moll
in 1715. These water divides extend with a few relatively small interruptions (compared to the aforementioned mountain ranges) from the Turkish straits running into the Mediterranean Sea to the upper part of the Ob River
that drains into the Arctic Ocean
. 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.
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
are only partly divided by waterways. France
, the Netherlands
, 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
which are parts of Africa
and share a border with Morocco
. According to the current convention, Georgia
are transcontinental countries where waterways have been completely replaced by mountains as the divide between continents.
History of the concept
The first recorded usage of ''Eurṓpē'' as a geographic term is in the Homeric Hymn
to Delian Apollo
, in reference to the western shore of the Aegean Sea
. As a name for a part of the known world, it is first used in the 6th century BC by Anaximander
. Anaximander placed the boundary between Asia and Europe along the Phasis River (the modern Rioni River
on the territory of Georgia
) in the Caucasus, a convention still followed by Herodotus
in the 5th century BC. Herodotus mentioned that the world had been divided by unknown persons into three parts, Europe, Asia, and Libya (Africa), with the Nile
and the Phasis forming their boundaries—though he also states that some considered the River Don
, rather than the Phasis, as the boundary between Europe and Asia. Europe's eastern frontier was defined in the 1st century by geographer Strabo
at the River Don. The ''Book of Jubilees
'' described the continents as the lands given by Noah
to his three sons; Europe was defined as stretching from the Pillars of Hercules
at the Strait of Gibraltar
, separating it from Northwest Africa
, to the Don, separating it from Asia.
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
who took the Tanais (the modern Don River) as the boundary.
The term "Europe" is first used for a cultural sphere in the Carolingian Renaissance
of the 9th century. From that time, the term designated the sphere of influence of the Western Church
, as opposed to both the Eastern Orthodox
churches and to the Islamic world
A cultural definition of Europe as the lands of Latin 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 limited to northern Iberia
, the British Isles, France, Christianised western Germany, the Alpine regions and northern and central Italy. The concept is one of the lasting legacies of the Carolingian Renaissance
: ''Europa'' often figures in the letters of Charlemagne's court scholar, Alcuin
The question of defining a precise eastern boundary of Europe arises in the Early Modern period, as the eastern extension of Muscovy
began to include North Asia
. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the 18th century, the traditional division of the landmass of Eurasia
into two continents, Europe and Asia, followed Ptolemy, with the boundary following the Turkish Straits
, the Black Sea
, the Kerch Strait
, the Sea of Azov
and the Don
). But maps produced during the 16th to 18th centuries tended to differ in how to continue the boundary beyond the Don bend at Kalach-na-Donu
(where it is closest to the Volga, now joined with it by the Volga–Don Canal
), into territory not described in any detail by the ancient geographers. Around 1715, Herman Moll
produced a map showing the northern part of the Ob River
and the Irtysh River
, a major tributary of the former, 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 idea to use major rivers almost exclusively as the line of demarcation was never taken up by other geographers.
Four years later, in 1725, Philip Johan von Strahlenberg
was the first to depart from the classical Don boundary by proposing that mountain ranges could be included as boundaries between continents whenever there were deemed to be no suitable waterways, the Ob and Irtysh Rivers notwithstanding. He drew a new line along the Volga
, following the Volga north until the Samara Bend
, along Obshchy Syrt
(the drainage divide
between Volga and Ural
) and then north along Ural Mountains
. This was endorsed by the Russian Empire, and introduced the convention that would eventually become commonly accepted, but not without criticism by many modern analytical geographers like Halford Mackinder
who saw 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,
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".
and the Soviet Union
, the boundary along the Kuma–Manych Depression was the most commonly used as early as 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 and this became the common convention in the later 20th century, although the Kuma–Manych boundary remained in use in some 20th-century maps.
''Homo erectus georgicus
'', which lived roughly 1.8 million years ago in Georgia
, is the earliest hominin
to have been discovered in Europe. Other
hominin remains, dating back roughly 1 million years, have been discovered in Atapuerca
. 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
(Germany), and Isturitz
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
). Between 4500 and 3000 BC, 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 enclosure
s, burial mound
s and megalithic tomb
s. The Corded Ware
cultural horizon flourished at the transition from the Neolithic to the Chalcolithic
. During this period giant megalithic
monuments, such as the Megalithic Temples of Malta
, were constructed throughout Western and Southern Europe.
The European Bronze Age
began c. 3200 BCE in Greece with the Minoan civilisation
, the first advanced civilisation in Europe. The Minoans were followed by the Myceneans
, who collapsed suddenly around 1200 BCE, ushering the European Iron Age
. Iron Age colonisation by the Greeks
gave rise to early Mediterranean
cities. Early Iron Age Italy
from around the 8th century BCE gradually gave rise to historical Classical antiquity, whose beginning is sometimes dated to 776 BCE, the year the first Olympic Games
Ancient Greece was the founding culture of Western civilisation. Western democratic
and rationalist culture
are often attributed to Ancient Greece.
The Greek city-state, the polis
, was the fundamental political unit of classical Greece.
In 508 BCE, Cleisthenes
instituted the world's first democratic
system of government in Athens
The Greek political ideals were rediscovered in the late 18th century by European philosophers and idealists. Greece also generated many cultural contributions: in philosophy
; in history
; in dramatic and narrative verse, starting with the epic poems of Homer
[National Geographic, 76.]
in drama with Sophocles
, in medicine with Hippocrates
; and in science with Pythagoras
In the course of the 5th century BC, several of the Greek city states
would ultimately check the Achaemenid Persian
advance in Europe through the Greco-Persian Wars
, considered a pivotal moment in world history,
as the 50 years of peace that followed are known as Golden Age of Athens
, the seminal period of ancient Greece that laid many of the foundations of Western civilisation.
Greece was followed by Rome
, which left its mark on law
and many more key aspects in western civilisation.
By 200 BCE, Rome had conquered Italy
, and over the following two centuries it conquered Greece
), the North Africa
n coast, much of the Middle East
), and Britannia
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
[National Geographic, 123.] Christianity
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
, which was renamed Constantinople
in his honour (modern-day Istanbul
) in 330 CE. Christianity became the sole official religion of the empire in 380 CE, and in 391–392 CE, the emperor Theodosius
outlawed pagan religions.
This is sometimes considered to mark the end of antiquity; alternatively antiquity is considered to end with the fall of the Western Roman Empire
in 476 CE; the closure of the pagan Platonic Academy of Athens
in 529 CE; or the rise of Islam in the early 7th century CE.
Early Middle Ages
During the decline of the Roman Empire
, Europe entered a long period of change arising from what historians call the "Age of Migrations
". There were numerous invasions and migrations amongst the Ostrogoths
and, later on, the Vikings
thinkers such as Petrarch
would later refer to this as the "Dark Ages".
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.
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 Sasanid Persians
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 CE, following the Muslim conquest of Persia
, Islam penetrated into the Caucasus
region. Over the next centuries Muslim forces took Cyprus
and parts of southern Italy
. Between 711 and 720, most of the lands of the Visigothic Kingdom
was brought under Muslim
rule — save for small areas in the northwest (Asturias
) and largely Basque
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 dynasty
and reduced their prestige. The Umayyads were then defeated by the Frankish
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
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
(circa 1000 CE). The powerful West Slavic
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 Slavic states
emerged in the late 7th and 8th century and adopted Christianity
: the First Bulgarian Empire
, the Serbian Principality
), 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.
High and Late Middle Ages
The period between the year 1000 and 1250 is known as the High Middle Ages
, followed by the Late Middle Ages
until c. 1500.
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 Baltic Sea
s. 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.
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 crusade
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
Although it would recover Constantinople in 1261, Byzantium fell in 1453
when Constantinople was taken
by the Ottoman Empire
[National Geographic, 211.]
In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic
tribes, such as the Pechenegs
and the Cuman-Kipchaks
, caused a massive migration of Slavic
populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north and temporarily halted the expansion of the Rus' state to the south and east.
Like many other parts of Eurasia
, these territories were overrun by the Mongols
. The invaders, who became known as Tatars
, were mostly Turkic-speaking peoples under Mongol suzerainty. They established the state of the Golden Horde
with headquarters in Crimea, which later adopted Islam as a religion and ruled over modern-day southern and central Russia for more than three centuries. After the collapse of Mongol dominions, the first Romanian states (principalities) emerged in the 14th century: Moldavia
. Previously, these territories were under the successive control of Pechenegs and Cumans. From the 12th to the 15th centuries, the Grand Duchy of Moscow
grew from a small principality under Mongol rule to the largest state in Europe, overthrowing the Mongols in 1480 and eventually becoming the Tsardom of Russia
. The state was consolidated under Ivan III the Great
and Ivan the Terrible
, steadily expanding to the east and south over the next centuries.
The Great Famine of 1315–1317
was the first crisis
that would strike Europe in the late Middle Ages. The period between 1348 and 1420 witnessed the heaviest loss. The population of France
was reduced by half. Medieval Britain was afflicted by 95 famines, and France suffered the effects of 75 or more in the same period. Europe was devastated in the mid-14th century by the Black Death
, one of the most deadly pandemic
s 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
, and leper
[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.
Early modern period
The Renaissance was a period of cultural change originating in Florence
and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The rise of a new humanism
was accompanied by the recovery of forgotten classical Greek
and Arabic knowledge from monastic
libraries, often translated from Arabic into Latin
The Renaissance spread across Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries: it saw the flowering of art
, and the sciences
, under the joint patronage of royalty
, the nobility, the Roman Catholic Church
, and an emerging merchant class.
[National Geographic, 254.]
Patrons in Italy, including the Medici
family of Florentine bankers and the Pope
s in Rome
, funded prolific quattrocento
artists such as Raphael
, and Leonardo da Vinci
[National Geographic, 292.]
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.
[National Geographic, 296.]
Exploration reached the Southern Hemisphere
in the Atlantic and the Southern tip of Africa. Christopher Columbus
reached the New World
in 1492, and Vasco da Gama
opened the ocean route to the East
linking the Atlantic and Indian Ocean
s in 1498. Ferdinand Magellan
reached Asia westward across the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean
s in the Spanish expedition of Magellan-Elcano, resulting in the first circumnavigation of the globe
, completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano
(1519–1522). Soon after, the Spanish and Portuguese began establishing large global empires in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania.
[National Geographic, 338.]
France, the Netherlands
and England soon followed in building large colonial empires with vast holdings in Africa, the Americas
, and Asia. A year later England tried unsuccessfully to invade Spain
, allowing Philip II of Spain
to maintain his dominant war capacity in Europe. This English decisive disaster also allowed the Spanish fleet to retain its capability to wage war for the next decades.
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. In the aftermath of the Peace of Westphalia
, France rose to predominance within Europe.
[National Geographic, 269.]
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. 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
) and subsequent conflicts; the state itself was partitioned
and ceased to exist at the end of the 18th century.
From the 15th to 18th centuries, when the disintegrating khanates of the Golden Horde
were conquered by Russia, Tatars
from the Crimean Khanate
Eastern Slavic lands to capture slaves
. 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. Among the great figures of the Western scientific revolution
of the 16th and 17th centuries were Copernicus
, and Isaac Newton
. According to Peter Barrett, "It is widely accepted that 'modern science' arose in the Europe of the 17th century (towards the end of the Renaissance), introducing a new understanding of the natural world."
[Peter Barrett (2004), ]
Science and Theology Since Copernicus: The Search for Understanding
', pp. 14–18, Continuum International Publishing Group,
18th and 19th centuries
The Age of Enlightenment was a powerful intellectual movement during the 18th century promoting scientific and reason-based thoughts.
[National Geographic, 255.]
Discontent with the aristocracy and clergy's monopoly on political power in France resulted in the French Revolution and the establishment of the First Republic
as a result of which the monarchy and many of the nobility perished during the initial reign of terror
. Napoleon Bonaparte
rose to power in the aftermath of the French Revolution and established the First French Empire
that, during the Napoleonic Wars
, grew to encompass large parts of Europe before collapsing in 1815 with the Battle of Waterloo
[National Geographic, 360.] Napoleonic rule
resulted in the further dissemination of the ideals of the French Revolution, including that of the nation-state
, as well as the widespread adoption of the French models of administration
, and education
[National Geographic, 350.]
The Congress of Vienna
, convened after Napoleon's downfall, established a new balance of power
in Europe centred on the five "Great Power
s": the UK, France, Prussia
, and Russia.
[National Geographic, 367.]
This balance would remain in place until the Revolutions of 1848
, during which liberal uprisings affected all of Europe except for Russia and the UK. These revolutions were eventually put down by conservative elements and few reforms resulted.
[National Geographic, 371–373.]
The year 1859 saw the unification of Romania, as a nation-state, from smaller principalities. In 1867, the Austro-Hungarian empire
; and 1871 saw the unifications of both Italy
from smaller principalities.
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 Great Power
s 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
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. Formal recognition of the ''de facto'' independent principalities of Montenegro
ensued at the Congress of Berlin
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. Reforms in social and economic spheres followed, including the first laws
on child labour
, the legalisation of trade union
s, and the abolition of slavery
. In Britain, the Public Health Act of 1875
was passed, which significantly improved living conditions in many British cities. Europe's population increased from about 100 million in 1700 to 400 million by 1900. The last major famine recorded in Western Europe, the Great Famine of Ireland
, caused death and mass emigration of millions of Irish people. In the 19th century, 70 million people left Europe in migrations to various European colonies abroad and to the United States. Demographic growth meant that, by 1900, Europe's share of the world's population was 25%.
20th century to the present
Two world wars and an economic depression dominated the first half of the 20th century. World War I was fought between 1914 and 1918. It started when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
was assassinated by the Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip
[National Geographic, 407.]
Most European nations were drawn into the war, which was fought between the Entente Powers
, Portugal, Russia
, the United Kingdom, and later Italy
, and the United States) and the Central Powers
, and the Ottoman Empire
). The war left more than 16 million civilians and military dead.
[''National Geographic'', 440.]
Over 60 million European soldiers were mobilised from 1914 to 1918.
Russia was plunged into the Russian Revolution
, which threw down the Tsarist monarchy
and replaced it with the communist Soviet Union
[National Geographic, 480.] Austria-Hungary
and the Ottoman Empire collapsed and broke up into separate nations, and many other nations had their borders redrawn. The Treaty of Versailles
, which officially ended World War I in 1919, was harsh towards Germany, upon whom it placed full responsibility for the war and imposed heavy sanctions.
[''National Geographic'', 443.]
Excess deaths in Russia over the course of World War I and the Russian Civil War
(including the postwar famine
) amounted to a combined total of 18 million. In 1932–1933, under Stalin
's leadership, confiscations of grain by the Soviet authorities contributed to the second Soviet famine
which caused millions of deaths; surviving kulak
s were persecuted and many sent to Gulag
s to do forced labour
. Stalin was also responsible for the Great Purge
of 1937–38 in which the NKVD
executed 681,692 people; millions of people were deported and exiled
to remote areas of the Soviet Union.
began a devastating World War II in Europe by its leader, Adolf Hitler
. Here Hitler, on the right, with his closest ally, the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini
, in 1940]]
The social revolution
s 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 Mussolini
's one party fascist
government in the Kingdom of Italy
, and in Atatürk
's Turkish Republic
, 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, fascist movements
developed throughout Europe placing Adolf Hitler
in power of what became Nazi Germany
[''National Geographic'', 438.]
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
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.]
The Soviet invasion of Poland
started on 17 September and Poland fell soon thereafter. On 24 September, the Soviet Union attacked the Baltic countries
and later, Finland. The British hoped to land at Narvik
and send troops to aid Finland, but their primary objective in the landing was to encircle Germany and cut the Germans off from Scandinavian resources. Around the same time, Germany moved troops into Denmark. The Phoney War
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
[''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, including between 11 and 17 million people who perished during the Holocaust
. 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 refugee
s. Several post-war expulsions
in Central and Eastern Europe displaced a total of about 20 million people, in particular, German-speakers from all over Eastern Europe
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
, 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
The two new superpower
s, 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 reforms
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
collapsed and the Cold War ended. 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. This made old previously interrupted cultural and economic relationships possible and previously isolated cities such as Berlin
were now again in the center of Europe.
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
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
formed the European Community
, which in 1993 became the European Union
. The EU established a parliament
and central bank
and introduced the euro
as a unified currency.
[National Geographic, 537.]
Between 2004 and 2013, more Central and Eastern 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
Europe makes up the western fifth of the Eurasia
It has a higher ratio of coast to landmass than any other continent or subcontinent. Its maritime borders consist of the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Mediterranean, Black, and Caspian Seas to the south.
Land relief in Europe shows great variation within relatively small areas. The southern regions are more mountainous, while moving north the terrain descends from the high Alps
, and Carpathians
, through hilly uplands, into broad, low northern plains, which are vast in the east. This extended lowland is known as the Great European Plain
, and at its heart lies the North German Plain
. An arc of uplands also exists along the north-western seaboard, which begins in the western parts of the islands of Britain and Ireland, and then continues along the mountainous, fjord-cut spine of Norway.
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 southeastern 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.
Similarly, northern parts of Scotland have a temperate marine climate. The yearly average temperature in city of Inverness is . However, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, is on roughly the same latitude and has an average temperature of , giving it a nearly subarctic climate.
The large water masses of the Mediterranean Sea
, which equalize 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
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 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)
It is notable how the average temperatures for the coldest month, as well as the annual average temperatures, drop from the west to the east. For instance, Edinburgh is warmer than Belgrade during the coldest month of the year, although Belgrade is around 10° of latitude farther south.
The geological history of Europe traces back to the formation of the Baltic Shield
(Fennoscandia) and the Sarmatian craton
, both around 2.25 billion years ago, followed by the Volgo–Uralia
shield, the three together leading to the East European craton
) which became a part of the supercontinent Columbia
. Around 1.1 billion years ago, Baltica and Arctica (as part of the Laurentia
block) became joined to Rodinia
, later resplitting around 550 million years ago to reform as Baltica. Around 440 million years ago Euramerica
was formed from Baltica and Laurentia; a further joining with Gondwana
then leading to the formation of Pangea
. Around 190 million years ago, Gondwana and Laurasia
split apart due to the widening of the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, and very soon afterwards, Laurasia itself split up again, into Laurentia (North America) and the Eurasian continent. The land connection between the two persisted for a considerable time, via Greenland
, leading to interchange of animal species. From around 50 million years ago, rising and falling sea levels have determined the actual shape of Europe, and its connections with continents such as Asia. Europe's present shape dates to the late Tertiary period
about five million years ago.
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 plain
s 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
. 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
Having lived side by side with agricultural peoples for millennia, Europe's animals and plants have been profoundly affected by the presence and activities of man. With the exception of Fennoscandia
and northern Russia, few areas of untouched wilderness are currently found in Europe, except for various national park
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
) 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
) 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.
Probably 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
of Scandinavia and Russia, mixed rainforest
s 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 plantation
s of conifers
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, in European Russia 5–10%. The 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 broadleaf
and coniferous trees dominate. The most important species in central and western Europe are beech
. In the north, the taiga is a mixed spruce
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
) extends westwards from Ukraine
and southern Russia and ends in Hungary and traverses into taiga to the north.
Glaciation during the most recent ice age
and the presence of man affected the distribution of European fauna
. As for the animals, in many parts of Europe most large animals and top predator
species have been hunted to extinction. The woolly mammoth
was extinct before the end of the Neolithic
period. Today wolves
s) and bear
s) are endangered. Once they were found in most parts of Europe. However, deforestation and hunting caused these animals to withdraw further and further. By the Middle Ages
the bears' habitats were limited to more or less inaccessible mountains with sufficient forest cover. Today, the brown bear
lives primarily in the Balkan peninsula
, Scandinavia, and Russia; a small number also persist in other countries across Europe (Austria, Pyrenees etc.), but in these areas brown bear populations are fragmented and marginalised because of the destruction of their habitat. In addition, polar bear
s may be found on Svalbard
, a Norwegian archipelago far north of Scandinavia. The wolf
, the second largest predator in Europe after the brown bear, can be found primarily in Central and Eastern Europe
and in the Balkans, with a handful of packs in pockets of Western Europe
(Scandinavia, Spain, etc.).
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 dwarf elephant
s 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
s, different crustacean
s and octopuses
, fish, dolphin
s, 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.
The political map of Europe is substantially derived from the re-organisation of Europe following the Napoleonic Wars
in 1815. The prevalent form of government in Europe is parliamentary democracy
, in most cases in the form of Republic
; in 1815, the prevalent form of government was still the Monarchy
. Europe's remaining eleven monarchies are constitutional
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
List of states and territories
The list below includes all entities falling even partially under any of the various common definitions of Europe
, geographic or political.
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:
Several dependencies and similar territories with broad autonomy are also found within or in close proximity to Europe. This includes Åland (a region of Finland
), two constituent countries of the Kingdom of Denmark (other than Denmark itself), 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 Heligoland
and the Canary Islands
, are also not included for this reason.
As a continent, the economy of Europe is currently the largest on Earth and it is the richest region as measured by assets under management with over $32.7 trillion compared to North America's $27.1 trillion in 2008. In 2009 Europe remained the wealthiest region. Its $37.1 trillion in assets under management represented one-third of the world's wealth. It was one of several regions where wealth surpassed its precrisis year-end peak. As with other continents, Europe has a large variation of wealth among its countries. The richer states tend to be in the West
; some of the Central and Eastern Europe
an economies are still emerging from the collapse of the Soviet Union
and the breakup of Yugoslavia
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.
The European Union, a political entity composed of 27 European states, comprises the largest single economic area
in the world. 19 EU countries
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.
;Industrial growth (1760–1945)
Capitalism has been dominant in the Western world since the end of feudalism. From Britain, it gradually spread throughout Europe. The Industrial Revolution
started in Europe, specifically the United Kingdom in the late 18th century, and the 19th century saw Western Europe industrialise. Economies were disrupted by World War I but by the beginning of World War II they had recovered and were having to compete with the growing economic strength of the United States. World War II, again, damaged much of Europe's industries.
;Cold War (1945–1991)
After World War II the economy of the UK was in a state of ruin, and continued to suffer relative economic decline in the following decades. Italy was also in a poor economic condition but regained a high level of growth by the 1950s. West Germany recovered quickly
and had doubled production from pre-war levels by the 1950s. France also staged a remarkable comeback enjoying rapid growth and modernisation; later on Spain, under the leadership of Franco
, also recovered, and the nation recorded huge unprecedented economic growth beginning in the 1960s in what is called the Spanish miracle
. The majority of Central and Eastern Europe
an states came under the control of the Soviet Union
and thus were members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance
["Germany (East)", Library of Congress Country Study]
Appendix B: The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance
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.
With the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe in 1991, the post-socialist states began free market reforms.
After East 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. 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 EU-27 unemployment rate was 10.3% in 2012.
For those aged 15–24 it was 22.4%. [Unemployment statistics](_blank)
. Eurostat. April 2012.
In 2017, the population of Europe was estimated to be 742 million according to , which is slightly more than one-ninth of the world's population. This number includes Siberia, (about 38 million people) but excludes European Turkey (about 12 million).
A century ago, Europe had nearly a quarter of the world's population.
[World Population Growth, 1950–2050](_blank) The population of Europe has grown in the past century, but in other areas of the world (in particular Africa and Asia) the population has grown far more quickly.
Population Reference Bureau.
Among the continents, Europe has a relatively high population density, second only to Asia. Most of Europe is in a mode of Sub-replacement fertility, which means that each new(-born) generation is being less populous than the older.
The most densely populated country in Europe (and in the world) is the microstate of Monaco.
Pan and Pfeil (2004) count 87 distinct "peoples of Europe", of which 33 form the majority population in at least one sovereign state, while the remaining 54 constitute ethnic minorities.
According to UN population projection, Europe's population may fall to about 7% of world population by 2050, or 653 million people (medium variant, 556 to 777 million in low and high variants, respectively).
Within this context, significant disparities exist between regions in relation to fertility rates. The average number of children per female of child-bearing age is 1.52. According to some sources, this rate is higher among Muslims in Europe. The UN predicts a steady population decline in Central and Eastern Europe as a result of emigration and low birth rates.
Europe is home to the highest number of migrants of all global regions at 70.6 million people, the IOM's report said. In 2005, the EU had an overall net gain from immigration of 1.8 million people. This accounted for almost 85% of Europe's total population growth. In 2008, 696,000 persons were given citizenship of an EU27 member state, a decrease from 707,000 the previous year. In 2017, approximately 825,000 persons acquired citizenship of an EU28 member state. 2.4 million immigrants from non-EU countries entered the EU in 2017.
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 Latin American 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.
Europe has about 225 indigenous languages, mostly falling within three Indo-European language groups: the Romance languages, derived from the Latin of the Roman Empire; the Germanic languages, whose ancestor language came from southern Scandinavia; and the Slavic languages.
Slavic languages are mostly spoken in Southern, Central and Eastern Europe. Romance languages are spoken primarily in Western and Southern Europe, as well as in Switzerland in Central Europe and Romania and Moldova in Eastern Europe. Germanic languages are spoken in Western, Northern and Central Europe as well as in Gibraltar and Malta in Southern Europe. Languages in adjacent areas show significant overlaps (such as in English, for example). Other Indo-European languages outside the three main groups include the Baltic group (Latvian and Lithuanian), the Celtic group (Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, and Breton ), Greek, Armenian, and Albanian.
A distinct non-Indo-European family of Uralic languages (Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian, Erzya, Komi, Mari, Moksha, and Udmurt) is spoken mainly in Estonia, Finland, Hungary, and parts of Russia. Turkic languages include Azerbaijani, Kazakh and Turkish, in addition to smaller languages in Eastern and Southeast Europe (Balkan Gagauz Turkish, Bashkir, Chuvash, Crimean Tatar, Karachay-Balkar, Kumyk, Nogai, and Tatar). Kartvelian languages (Georgian, Mingrelian, and Svan) are spoken primarily in Georgia. Two other language families reside in the North Caucasus (termed Northeast Caucasian, most notably including Chechen, Avar, and Lezgin; and Northwest Caucasian, most notably including Adyghe). Maltese is the only Semitic language that is official within the EU, while Basque 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.
Major cities and urban areas
The four largest urban areas of Europe are Istanbul, Moscow, Paris and London. All have over 10 million residents,
and as such have been described as megacities. While Istanbul has the highest total city population, it lies partly in Asia, making Moscow the largest city entirely in Europe.
The next largest cities in order of population are Saint Petersburg, Madrid, Berlin and Rome, each having over 3 million residents.
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.
"Europe" as a cultural concept is substantially derived from the shared heritage of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire and its cultures. The boundaries of Europe were historically understood as those of Christendom (or more specifically Latin Christendom), as established or defended throughout the medieval and early modern history of Europe, especially against Islam, as in the Reconquista and the Ottoman wars in Europe.This shared cultural heritage is combined by overlapping indigenous national cultures and folklores, roughly divided into Slavic, Latin (Romance) and Germanic, but with several components not part of either of these group (notably Greek, Basque and Celtic). Historically, special examples with overlapping cultures are Strasbourg with Latin (Romance) and Germanic or Trieste with Latin, Slavic and Germanic roots.
Cultural contacts and mixtures shape a large part of the regional cultures of Europe. It is often described as "maximum cultural diversity with minimal geographical distances".
Different cultural events are organised 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.
Historically, religion in Europe has been a major influence on European art, culture, philosophy and law. There are six patron saints of Europe venerated in Roman Catholicism, five of them so declared by Pope John Paul II between 1980 and 1999: Saints Cyril and Methodius, Saint Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). The exception is Benedict of Nursia, who had already been declared "Patron Saint of all Europe" by Pope Paul VI in 1964.The largest religion in Europe is Christianity, with 76.2% of Europeans considering themselves Christians,
including Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and various Protestant denominations. Among Protestants, the most popular are historically state-supported European denominations such as Lutheranism, Anglicanism and the Reformed faith. Other Protestant denominations such as historically significant ones like Anabaptists were never supported by any state and thus are not so widespread, as well as these newly arriving from the United States such as Pentecostalism, Adventism, Methodism, Baptists and various Evangelical Protestants; although Methodism and Baptists both have European origins. The notion of "Europe" and the "Western World" has been intimately connected with the concept of "Christianity and Christendom"; many even attribute Christianity for being the link that created a unified European identity.
Christianity, including the Roman Catholic Church, has played a prominent role in the shaping of Western civilisation since at least the 4th century, [Caltron J.H Hayas, ''Christianity and Western Civilization'' (1953), Stanford University Press, p. 2: That certain distinctive features of our Western civilization — the civilization of western Europe and of America— have been shaped chiefly by Judaeo – Graeco – Christianity, Catholic and Protestant.] [Jose Orlandis, 1993, "A Short History of the Catholic Church," 2nd edn. (Michael Adams, Trans.), Dublin:Four Courts Press, , preface, se]
accessed 8 December 2014.
[Thomas E. Woods and Antonio Canizares, 2012, "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization," Reprint edn., Washington, DC: Regnery History, , se]
accessed 8 December 2014. p. 1: "Western civilization owes far more to Catholic Church than most people – Catholic included – often realize. The Church in fact built Western civilization."
/ref> and for at least a millennium and a half, Europe has been nearly equivalent to Christian culture, even though the religion was inherited from the Middle East. Christian culture was the predominant force in western civilisation, guiding the course of philosophy, art, and science.
In 2012 Europe had the world's largest Christian population.
The second most popular religion is Islam (6%) concentrated mainly in the Balkans and Eastern Europe (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, North Cyprus, Turkey, Azerbaijan, North Caucasus, and the Volga-Ural region). 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 irreligious, atheist and agnostic people, who make up about 18.2% of Europe's population, currently the largest secular population in the Western world. There are a particularly high number of self-described non-religious people in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Sweden, former East Germany, and France.
* Genetic history of Europe
* Prehistoric Europe
* Classical antiquity
* Middle Ages
* Early modern Europe
* History of Europe
* Flags of Europe
* List of sovereign states by date of formation
* Names of European cities in different languages
* OSCE countries statistics
* European Union as a potential superpower
* Area and population of European countries
* European Union statistics
* List of European cities by population within city limits
* Largest cities of the EU
* Largest urban areas of the European Union
* List of cities in Europe
* List of metropolitan areas in Europe
* List of villages in Europe
* Pan-European identity
* Economy of the European Union
* Financial and social rankings of European countries
* Healthcare in Europe
* Telecommunications in Europe
* List of European television stations
* List of European countries by GDP (nominal)
* European Capital of Culture
* European Region of Gastronomy
* European Youth Capital
* European Capital of Sport
* National Geographic Society (2005). ''National Geographic Visual History of the World''. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society. .
Council of Europe
The Columbia Gazetteer of the World Online
Columbia University Press
Travel Guides and Information
Borders in Europe 3000BC to the present
Geacron Historical atlas
Online history of Europe in 21 maps