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Europe

The European continent was named after beautiful Phoenician woman called Europa.

Europe

When Zeus have seen Europa, Agenor's daughter, when she was gathering flowers, he immediately fell in love with her.

Welcome to Europe

Europe is one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the western part of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to the east by the watershed of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting the Black and Aegean Seas. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Black Sea and connected waterways to the southeast.

Europe

The continent seen from Antwerp (or with the Antwerp in its centre) is a very maritime continent. Out of 50 states there are 30 that have acces to the see or to the Atlantic Ocean.

Landen van Europa

Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering about 10,180,000 square kilometers what is 2% of the total Earth's surface and about 6.8% of its land area.

There are approximately 50 European states, Russia being the largest by both, area and population while the Vatican City is the smallest. Europe is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of 733 million or about 11% of the world's population.

Europe, and in particular Ancient Greece, is the birthplace of the Western culture. It played a dominant role in global affairs from 16th century onwards, especially during the colonialism era.

Between the 16th and 20th centuries, European nations controlled the Americas, most of Africa, Oceania, and large portions of Asia. Both World Wars were largely focused upon Europe, greatly contributing to a decline of Western European dominance in world affairs. By the middle of 20th century the United States and Soviet Union took dominant roles.

During the Cold War, Europe was divided along the Iron Curtain between NATO in the west and the Warsaw Pact in the east of Europe. European integration led to the formation of the Council of Europe and the European Union in Western Europe, both of which have been expanding eastward since the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989, liberation of Poland in 1990 and fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

History of Europe

Prehistory

The oldest European record is the Homo Georgicus, which lived roughly 1.8 million years ago in Georgia. Other hominid is dating back about 1 million years and has been discovered in Atapuerca, Spain. Neanderthal man appeared in Europe 150,000 years ago in Germany and disappeared from the fossil record about 28,000 BC with its final refuge being in present-day Portugal. The Neanderthals were supplanted by modern humans called also Cro-Magnons that appeared in Europe around 43 to 40 thousand years ago.

The European Neolithic period was marked by the cultivation of crops and the raising of livestock, increased numbers of settlements and the widespread use of pottery. It began around 7000 BC in Greece and in the Balkans. It spread from South Eastern Europe along the valleys of the Danube and the Rhine 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.

Stonehenge

In Western Europe the Neolithic period was characterized not by large agricultural settlements but by field monuments, such as causewayed enclosures, burial mounds and megalithic tombs. Later, giant megalithic monuments such as the Megalithic Temples of Malta and Stonehenge were constructed throughout Western and Southern Europe.

The European Bronze Age began in the late 3rd millennium BC and the Iron Age began around 800 BC. Iron Age colonization by the Phoenicians gave rise to early Mediterranean cities. Early Iron Age in Italy and Greece from around the 8th century BC gradually gave rise to the Classical Antiquity.

Classical Antiquity

Western democratic and individualistic cultures are attributed to Ancient Greece. The Greeks invented the polis, or city-state, which played a fundamental role in their concept of identity. These Greek political ideals were rediscovered in the late 18th century by European philosophers and idealists.

Greece also generated many cultural contributions in philosophy, humanism and rationalism under Aristotle, Socrates and Plato, in history with Herodotus and Thucydides, in dramatic and narrative verses, starting with the epic poems of Homer and finally in science with Pythagoras, Euclid and Archimedes.

Pantheon picture
Coloseum Another major influence on Europe came from the Roman Empire which left its mark on law, language, engineering, architecture, and government. The Roman Empire expanded to encompass the entire Mediterranean Basin and much of Europe. Stoicism influenced Roman emperors such as Hadrian, Antonius Pius, and Marcus Aurelius, who all spent time on the Empire's northern border fighting Germanic and Scottish tribes. Finally in 4th century AD the Christianity was legitimised by the Cesar Constantine I after the three centuries of imperial persecution.

Early Middle Ages

After decline of the Roman Empire, Europe entered a long period of the "Age of Migrations". There were numerous invasions and migrations amongst the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Goths, Vandals, Huns, Franks, Angles, Saxons, Slavs, Avars, Bulgars and, later, the Vikings and Magyars. Renaissance thinkers refer to this period as the "Dark Ages".

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. Eventually the Frankish tribes were united under Clovis I. 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 to the founding of the Holy Roman Empire, which eventually became centred in the German principalities of central Europe.

The predominantly Greek speaking Eastern Roman Empire became known in the west as the Byzantine Empire. Its capital was Constantinople. Emperor Justinian I presided over Constantinople's first golden age: he established a legal code, funded the construction of the Hagia Sophia and brought the Christian church under the state control. Fatally weakened by the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, the Byzantines fell in 1453 when they were conquered by the Ottoman Empire.

On the right, 8th to 10th century invasions and migrations in Europe.

8th Century Invasions

Middle Ages

The economic growth of Europe around the year 1000, 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 Sea. In this context, the growing independence acquired by some coastal cities gave the Maritime Republics a leading role in the European scene.

Magna Carta

The Middle Ages on the mainland were dominated by the two upper echelons of the social structure: the nobility and the clergy. Feudalism system was developed in France in the Early Middle Ages and soon spread throughout Europe. 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. The primary source of culture in this period came from the Roman Catholic Church.

Magna Carta was the first document forced onto an English King by a group of his subjects, the feudal barons, in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect their privileges. It was preceded and directly influenced by the Charter of Liberties in 1100, in which King Henry I had specified particular areas wherein his powers would be limited. Magna Carta had profound influence on development of Monarchism in Europe and elsewhere.  

Through monasteries and cathedral schools, the Church was responsible for education in much of Europe. The Papacy reached the height of its power during the High Middle Ages. A 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 against Muslims occupying Jerusalem and the Holy Land. In Europe itself, the Church organised the Inquisition against heretics. In Spain, the Reconquista concluded with the fall of Granada in 1492, ending over seven centuries of Muslim presence in the Iberian Peninsula.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic tribes, such as the Pechenegs and the Kipchaks, caused a massive migration of Slavic populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the Europe north-east.

On the right the route of the First Crusade.

First Crusaide

Like many other parts of Eurasia, the south-east slavic territories were overrun later by the Mongols. The invaders, known as Tatars, formed the state of the Golden Horde, which ruled the southern and central expanses of Russia for over three centuries.

After the Medieval Warm Period the climate of Europe began to change. The first significant famine, and therefore named the Great Famine of 1315–1317, have struck Europe in the late Middle Ages. The weather became rainy and much cooler and the crops began to fail. The period between 1348 and 1420 witnessed the heaviest losses. 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. These famins were most severe in the western Europe.

Black Death in Europe

Europe was also devastated in the mid-14th century by the Black Death, one of the most deadly pandemics 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 and it was a serious blow to the Roman Catholic Church. No amount of prayer seemed to be effective against the causes of the famine, as well as to the Black Death which undermined the institutional authority of the Catholic Church. This only led to increased persecution of Jews, foreigners, beggars and lepers with no effect on the famines and plagues. 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.

Left, progres of Black Death in 14th century.

Early modern period

Known as Renaissance it was a period of cultural change originating in Florence and later spreading to the rest of Europe that started at the end of the 14th century. The rise of a new humanism was accompanied by the recovery of forgotten classical Greek and Arabic knowledge from monastic libraries, often re-translated from Arabic into Latin.

The Renaissance spread across Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries causing flowering of art, philosophy, music, and the sciences. This was done under the joint patronage of royalty, the nobility, the Roman Catholic Church as well as the emerging merchant class. Patrons in Italy, including the Medici family of Florentine bankers and the Popes in Rome, funded prolific artists such as Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Science and art were very much intermingled in the early Renaissance, with polymath artists such as Leonardo da Vinci making observational drawings of anatomy and nature. He set up controlled experiments in water flow, medical dissection, and systematic study of movement and aerodynamics.

To the right self-prtrait of Leonardo da Vinci.

Leonardo da Vinci
30 Years War

Political intrigue within the Church in the mid-14th century caused the Great Schism. During this forty-year period, two popes—one in Avignon and one in Rome claimed ruler-ship over the Church. Although the schism was eventually healed in 1417, the papacy's spiritual authority had suffered greatly.

The Church's power was further weakened by the Protestant Reformation during 1517–1648, initially sparked by the works of German theologian Martin Luther and later by John Calvin being the result of the lack of reforms within the Church.

The Reformation also damaged the Holy Roman Empire's power, as German princes became divided between Protestant and Roman Catholic faiths. This eventually led to the Eighty Years War in Low Countries that started in 1568 and later the Thirty Years War 1618–1648, which crippled the Holy Roman Empire and devastated much of Germany, killing between 25 and 40 percent of its population.

The Eighty Years War in Low Countries ended in the split of Spanish Niderlands into today's protestant Netherland and Catholique provinces of today's Flanders.

In the aftermath of the Peace of Westphalia, France rose to predominant country within Europe.

The 17th century in southern and eastern Europe was a period of general decline. With changing of European climate and the start of the Little Ice Age in the 16th century eastern Europe experienced more than 150 famines within a 200-year period between 1501 to 1700.

After very bad 14th century, full of famines and plague epidemics, the west part of Europe came into a better period. In the 15th century, Portugal and Spain, two of the greatest naval powers of the time, took the lead in exploring the world. Christopher Columbus reached the New World in 1492, and soon after the Spanish and Portuguese began establishing colonial empires in the Americas. France, the Netherlands and England soon followed in building large colonial empires with vast holdings in Africa, the Americas, and Asia.

The Renaissance marked the start of an Age of Discovery, a period of exploration, invention, and scientific development. In fact the modern science arose in the 17th century Europe, just at the end of the Renaissance, introducing a new understanding of the natural world.

The Age of Discovery is seen as a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Modern era, along with its contemporary Renaissance movement, triggering the early modern period and the rise of European nation-states. Accounts from distant lands and maps spread with the help of the new printing press fed the rise of humanism and worldly curiosity, ushering in a new age of scientific and intellectual inquiry.

To the right: Portugese Caravel of 15th century developed as fast sailing ship to explore the world.

Caravel

European overseas expansion led to the rise of colonial empires, with the contact between the Old and New Worlds producing the Columbian Exchange: a wide transfer of plants, animals, foods, human populations (including slaves), communicable diseases, and culture between the Eastern and Western hemispheres, in one of the most significant global events concerning ecology, agriculture, and culture in history. European exploration spanned until accomplishing the global mapping of the world, resulting in a new world-view and distant civilizations acknowledging each other, reaching the most remote boundaries much later.

Battle of Vienna

Although at the end of the Renaissance period science and art in Europe were at their highest levels it could not be said the same about Europe military abilities. This was discovered by Turkey which started its attacks on Europe.

In 1683 the Turkish army advanced up the city of Vienna posing a real danger of Europe islamisation. Seeing this danger, papa asked Polish King Jan the 3rd Sobieski for help. Luckily, Poland had at this time still quite powerful army able to withstand the Turks.  

To the left: Battle of Vienna in 1683 broke the advance of the Ottoman Empire into Europe.

18th and 19th centuries

The Age of Enlightenment was a powerful intellectual movement during the 18th century promoting scientific and reason-based thinking. Discontent with the aristocracy and clergy's monopoly on political power resulted in the French Revolution and the establishment of the First Republic as a result of which the monarchy and many of the nobility have been 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.

Napoleonic rule resulted in the further dissemination of the ideals of the French Revolution, including the development of the nation-state, as well as the widespread adoption of the French models of administration, law, and education.

The Congress of Vienna, hold after Napoleon's downfall, established a new balance of power in Europe centering on the five "Great Powers": the United Kingdom, France, Prussia, Habsburg Austria, and Russia.

To the right: The Napoleon Empire consisting of French Empire (dark blue) and satellite states (light blue).

French Empire

This balance remained in place until the Revolutions of 1848, during which liberal uprisings affected all of Europe except Russia and the United Kingdom.

1848 in Paris

These revolutions were eventually put down by conservative elements but resulted in a few reforms. Some new consolidated powers have emerged; in 1867 the Austro-Hungarian Empire was formed, in 1871 unifications of both Italy and Germany as big nation-states from smaller kingdoms. Likewise, in 1878 the Congress of Berlin has conveyed formal recognition to the de facto independent principalities of Montenegro, Serbia and Romania.

The Industrial Revolution started in Great Britain in the last part of the 18th century and spread throughout Europe during the 19th century.

Spinning Jeny

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 unions, 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 has increased from about 100 million in 1700 to 400 million by 1900. This despite the fact that in the 19th century, 70 million people left Europe in migrations to various European colonies oversees, mainly to the United States.

To the left: The Spinning Jeny that started the revolution in the textiel industry.

The World Wars

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 Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip. Most European nations were drawn into the war, which was fought between the Entente Powers (France, Belgium, Serbia, Portugal, Russia, the United Kingdom, and later Italy, Greece, Romania, and the United States) and the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire).

This was the first so deadly war. The newly developed machine gun show to be enorm efficient in killing solders, especially when they attacked runing in one line. The war in the west was faught in trenches and nobody cpould win. The introduction of tank was the finala remedy against the trenches and machine guns.

The War resulted in more than 16 million civilians and military dead. Over 60 million European soldiers were mobilised from 1914–1918.

To the right: Machine gun and tank from WWI.

Machingun and Tank WWI
After the WWI

Partly as a result of its defeat Russia was plunged into the Russian Revolution, which threw down the Tsarist monarchy and replaced it with the communist Soviet Union. Austria-Hungary Empire and the Ottoman Empire collapsed and broke up into separate nations, Poland was reborn after almost 150 years of partition 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.

To the left: Map showing how the borders were redrawn in Europe after the WWI.

 

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 of Nazi Germany, Francisco Franco of Spain and Benito Mussolini of Italy in power.

To the right: Dow Jones Index in 1929.

Dow Jones in 1929

Up to eight million people may have died in the Soviet famine of 1932–33. Stalin's Great Terror began in December 1934. By the time the purges subsided in 1938, millions of Soviet citizens had been executed, imprisoned, or exiled. In 1933, Hitler became the leader of Germany and began to work towards his goal of building Greater Germany. Germany re-expanded and took back the Saarland and Rhineland in 1935 and 1936. In 1938, Austria became a part of Germany too, following the Anschluss. Later that year, following the Munich Agreement, Germany annexed the Sudetenland, which was a part of Czechoslovakia inhabited by ethnic Germans. At the time, Britain and France preferred a policy of appeasement.

Map of WWII

Shortly afterwards, Poland and Hungary started to press for the annexation of parts of Czechoslovakia with Polish and Hungarian majorities. Hitler encouraged the Slovaks to do the same and in early 1939, the remainder of Czechoslovakia was split into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, controlled by Germany, and the Slovak Republic, while other smaller regions went to Poland and Hungary. With tensions mounting between Germany and Poland over the future of Danzig, the Germans turned to the Soviets, and signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. 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. The Soviet invasion of Poland started on 17 September and Poland fell soon thereafter.

To the left: Map at the start of WWII.

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. Nevertheless, the Germans knew of Britain's plans and got to Narvik first, repulsing the attack. Around the same time, Germany moved troops into Denmark, which left no room for a front except for where the last war had been fought or by landing at sea.

In May 1940, Germany attacked France through the Low Countries. After succesful attack on Belgium German army forced the Maginotline in its weakest part, the north of Belgium. France capitulated in June 1940. However, the British refused to negotiate peace terms with the Germans and the war continued. By August Germany began a bombing offensive on Britain, but failed to convince the Britons to give up. In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union in the ultimately unsuccessful Operation Barbarossa. On 7 December 1941 Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into the conflict as allies of the British Empire and other allied forces. Belgian Tank
Stalingrad battle

After the staggering Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, the German offensive in the Soviet Union turned into a continual fallback. In 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.

To the left: Russian soldiers attack in Stalingrad German positions in 1943

The war was the largest and most destructive in human history, with 60 million dead across the world. More than 40 million people in Europe had died as a result of the war by the time World War II ended, including between 11 and 17 million people who perished during the Holocaust. The Soviet Union lost around 27 million people during the war, about half of all World War II casualties. By the end of World War II, Europe had more than 40 million refugees. Several post-war expulsions in Central and Eastern Europe, including shifting of Poland’s territory of about 100 km to the west, displaced a total of about 20 million people.

The Schuman Declaration on 9 May 1950 led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. It began the integration process which today comprises the European Union of 27 democratic countries in Europe.