Unlike the majority of other continents, which are clearly defined by their landmasses, separated from other continents by major bodies of water, Europe's boundaries are not clearly delineated or demarcated. As the westernmost part of the Eurasian landmass, Europe's territory is somewhat ambiguous, shaped by cultural and political definitions as much as geographic. There are varying designations for which countries are included in the continent. Political organizations such as the European Union and the Council of Europe have begun to establish an overarching sense of cohesion, though they follow political (and economic) rationale and can be somewhat exclusionary in nature. Many countries are clearly within the geographic region of Europe that are not included in these organizations, while some countries that are included are only marginally located within the designated boundaries. There are only 28 member states in the European Union, while the Council of Europe includes 47.
History of EuropeEurope has a very long history, as modern humans have inhabited parts of Europe since about 40,000 years ago. Some of the earliest civilizations in Europe were the ancient Greeks, who established cities with the polis structure that heavily influenced modern systems. The Greeks also had trade relations with ancient Egypt and parts of Asia, which contributed to the advancement of the society. The Ancient Roman civilization began around the 8th century BC, expanding over its 12 centuries to encompass most of Europe, as one of the largest civilizations in the world at the time, including up to 20% of the world population. Beginning as the Roman Kingdom, the government became a the Roman Republic, and later the Roman Empire in 27 BC. The Roman Empire reached its peak around the first or second century AD, after periods of rule by powerful leaders like Julius Caesar and Augustus who helped expand the territory. However, the Roman Empire grew too large, and split into the Western Roman Empire and Eastern Roman Empire (also known as the Byzantine Empire) around 405. Meanwhile, major migrations began happening across Europe, with the movement of the Goths and Vandals, Angles and Saxons, Lombards, Franks, Huns, Slavs, Bulgars, and Normans for the next few centuries. The Western Roman empire fell in 476 because of all the foreign invasions, and small kingdoms arose in its place. In 711, the Arab conquest arrived in Iberia, while the Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne of the Franks, ruled much of the rest of Western Europe. Slavic countries, the Bulgarian Empire, Serbian Principality, and Dutchy of Croatia emerged in the 8th century. The Byzantine Empire had been centered in Constantinople, but after the Crusades hit the city in 1204, the empire faced heavy destruction, and the Ottomans were able to conquer it in 1453.
The Italian Renaissance began around 1400, causing a major cultural shift with emphasis on art and science, and important artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci emerged. The Age of Exploration and Discovery had begun, and explorers were sent from many countries, especially by the Spanish, Portuguese, French, and British. The Protestant Reformation began around 1517 with Martin Luther publishing the Ninety-five Theses, beginning a period of church reform that would last until 1648. The Thirty Years War lasted from 1618 to 1648, sparked by the religious division of Germany and ending with the Peace of Westphalia. There was also a scientific revolution beginning around the 16th century with major advancements in science made by Copernicus, Galileo, and Isaac Newton. This was followed by the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, which truly transformed the continent. France had emerged as a powerful nation, and the French Revolution in 1789 set off a new model of government, with other nations following suit with the European Revolutions in 1848. Many changes subsequently occurred, including the formation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867, and the unification of Germany and of Italy in 1871.
In 1914, World War I began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and the war was fought primarily in Europe. The war ended with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, but caused major devastation and major changes in Europe. The Russian Revolution, formation of the USSR, the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the Turkish War of Independence all happened within a short time. With the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression, the scene was set for World War II. The Nazi party, led by Hitler, rose to power around 1933, while the Great Purge began in the Soviet Union, led by Stalin began in 1937. World War II began in 1939 and continued until 1945, leaving incredible destruction and causing many deaths. One result of WWII was the formation of the United Nations in 1945. Shortly after WWII ended, the Cold War began between the USSR and the US. The Space Race was a competition between the two nations, resulting in the USSR launching Sputnik in 1957 and the US landing the first man on the moon in 1969. The Berlin Wall that had been constructed to restrain movement in the German capital in the wake of WWII was finally brought down in 1989, and the USSR collapsed in 1991, leading to major reorganization. The European Union was established in 1993 by the Treaty of Maastricht, and the continent began further unification with the Euro currency beginning in 2002.
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- 7000 BC – Neolithic period began in Greece
- 3500 BC – Minoans settled on Crete
- 3200 BC – Bronze Age began in Greece
- 1200 BC – European Iron Age began
- 750s BC – Roman Kingdom founded
- 509 BC – Roman Republic established
- 264-146 BC – Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage
- 27 BC – Roman Empire formed
- 400-800 AD- Age of Migrations saw waves of migrations of Goths, Vandals, Angles, Saxons, Lombards, Franks, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars, Vikings, Normans, Arabs, Mongols, etc.
- 476 AD – Fall of the Western Roman Empire
- 711 AD – Muslim conquest began
- 1215 – Magna Carta created in England, limiting power of government
- 1346 – Black Death reached Europe
- 1400-1600 – Italian Renaissance
- 1453 – Fall of the Byzantine Empire (conquered by Ottoman Empire)
- 1492 – Christopher Columbus reached the New World
- 1517 – Protestant Reformation begins when Martin Luther publishes his Ninety-five Theses
- 1618-1648 – Thirty Years War
- 1688 – Glorious Revolution, overthrow of King James II
- 1789 – French Revolution
- 1799 – Napoleon takes power
- 1812 – War of 1812
- 1845-1852 – Irish Potato Famine
- 1848 – European Revolutions (Spring of Nations)
- 1854-1856 – Crimean War
- 1867 – Austro-Hungarian Empire formed
- 1871 – Italy unified, Germany unified
- 1914 – World War I began with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand
- 1917 – Russian Revolution
- 1918 – Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved
- 1919 – Treaty of Versailles officially ended WWI
- 1919 – Turkish War of Independence after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire
- 1922 – Formation of USSR
- 1929 – Wall Street Crash and beginning of the Great Depression
- 1933 – Rise of the Nazi Party and Hitler
- 1937 – Great Purge in Stalin's Soviet Russia leads to nearly 700,000 deaths, millions deported
- 1938 – Munich Crisis
- 1939-1945 – World War II
- 1944 – D-Day
- 1945 – Potsdam Conference
- 1945 – United Nations formed
- 1946-1990 – Cold War between US and USSR
- 1957 – Sputnik launched by USSR
- 1967 – Merger Treaty established the European Communities
- 1989 – Fall of the Berlin Wall
- 1991 – Collapse of the USSR
- 1993 – European Union formed by Treaty of Maastricht
- 2002 – Circulation of Euro currency began
Geography of EuropeEurope is situated on the eastern end of the continent of Eurasia, its landform is the peninsula that extends westward from Asia. On its other three sides, Europe has coastlines along the Arctic Ocean in the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The Strait of Gibraltar south of Spain separates Europe from Africa, while the eastern boundaries of the continent have shifted over history and are somewhat ambiguous. The division is largely a cultural and political delineation, rather than a geographic one. However, it is generally accepted that the boundary between Europe and Asia lies along the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, Caspian Sea, Black Sea, and the waters that connect the Black and Aegean Seas. Russia and Turkey are both partially in Europe, and both are typically culturally associated with Europe, though the majority of their territory is located in Asia. TheBritish Isles and Iceland off the western edge of the European continent are also included in the territory, along with several islands in the Mediterranean Sea.
Europe is the second smallest continent on Earth, with an area of about 10,180,000 square kilometers (3,930,000 square miles). Europe occupyies 2% of the surface area of Earth, and 6.8% of the land area. The largest country in Europe is Russia, which makes up 40% of the continent. The smallest country in Europe is Vatican City, which measures about 109 acres (44 hectares).
Features of the European landform include the Scandinavian peninsula in the north, the Iberian peninsula in the far west, the Italian peninsula and the Balkan peninsula in the south and southeast. The highest points in Europe are located in the southern mountain ranges, including the Pyrenees, Alps, Apennines, Carpathians, and Balkans. The Ural Mountains and Caucasus Mountains lie along the boundary between Europe and Asia. There are also smaller ranges including the Dinaric Alps, the Scandinavian Mountains, and the Scottish highlands. The mountains give way to hilly uplands and northern plains, including the East European Plain (Europe's largest land feature), the Northern European lowlands, Pannonian Plain, Meseta Central, and the Po Valley. Farther north are the fjords of the Scandinavian peninsula and the glaciated far north, and to the northwest are the islands of the British Isles, which are part of the European landmass, and separated by lowlands covered by the seas, while Iceland is a volcanic formation.
The highest point in Europe is typically considered the Caucasus Mountains, at Mount Elbrus in Russia, which stands 5,642 meters (18,506 feet) above sea level. The highest point in the European Union is along the Italian-French border at Mont Blanc, 4,810 meters (15,781 feet) above sea level. The lowest point is the Caspian Sea, also in Russia, which is 28 meters (92 feet) below sea level.
Major bodies of water in Europe include the Baltic Sea in the northeast, the Black and Aegean Seas in the southeast, the Adriatic Sea between the Italian peninsula and the Balkan peninsula, and the Mediterranean to the south.
Major rivers in Europe include the Volga, the longest river in Europe, which flows 3,690 kilometers (2,290 miles), followed by the Danube, which extends 2,860 kilometers (1,780 kilometers). Other lengthy rivers are the Ural, Dnieper, Don, Pechora, Kama, Oka, Belaya, Tisza, Dniester, Rhine, and Elbe.
Demographics of EuropeThe total population of Europe is estimated at around 742.5 million (2013), or over 11% of the world's population. In general, Europe has an aging population, taking 9 of the top 10 spots on worldwide ranking. This means the median age is high, as birth rate has declined, the average lifespan has increased, and the population growth must rely on immigration. Europe experienced mass emigration shortly after the Age of Exploration, when Europeans flocked to new colonies, and millions of poor people fled Europe during economic crises of the 19th century. However, Europe also has a lot of immigration, and boasts the highest number of migrants in general, with a net gain in immigration. Recently, the majority of immigrants becoming EU citizens have come form Morocco, Turkey, Ecuador, Algeria, and Iraq. There are an estimated 87 distinct ethnic groups in all of Europe, 33 of which are a state majority and 54 of which are ethnic minorities. About 105 million (or 14% of Europe's population) are considered minority populations. The major ethnic groups in Europe include Russians (92 million in Europe) and Germans (72 million). Of the non-European ethnicities, there are about 20 million people, making up about 4% of the total population.
There are 23 officially recognized languages in the European Union. Of native speakers in the European Union, the most common is German (19%), followed by French (13%), English (12%), Italian (11%), Polish (9%), Spanish (9%), Romanian (7%), and Dutch (5%). However, when taking into account non-native speakers, English is the most spoken language overall, with its speakers making up about 49% of the population. The other languages commonly spoken in Europe when including non-native speakers include German (35%), French (26%), Italian (16%), Spanish (15%), Polish (10%), Russian (7%), and Dutch (6%). In terms of language groups, Slavic languages are the most commonly spoken, followed by Romance and Germanic languages. Other important regional languages include Catalan, Basque, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish Gaelic (Celtic languages), Latvian and Lithuanian (Baltic languages), Estonian, Finish, and Hungarian (Uralic languages), and Turkic languages such as Turkish.
Christianity dominates the religious sphere of Europe, as the biggest religion across Europe, including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches. Second to Christianity is Islam, primarily in the Balkans and eastern Europe. Minority religious include Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and there is a large portion of the population who are non-religious (atheist or agnostic).
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- Europe History Maps - 1937
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- Metal Processing Centers in Europe
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- Map of Europe Service Centers
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- Regions of Europe
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