( ) is, by convention, one of the world's
. Comprising the
westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally divided from Asia to its east by the water
divide of the Ural
Ural River, the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus Mountains (or the Kuma-Manych Depression), and the
Sea to the southeast. Europe is bordered by
Ocean and other bodies of water to the north, the
Ocean to the west, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Black Sea and connected waterways to the southeast.
Yet the borders for Europe—a concept dating back to classical antiquity
arbitrary, as the term continent
can refer to a cultural and political
distinction or a
Europe is the world's second-smallest
, covering about
10,180,000 square kilometres (3,930,000 sq mi) or 2% of the
Earth's surface and about 6.8% of its land area. Of Europe's
approximately 50 states, Russia is 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
million or about 11% of the world's
; however, according to the United Nations
(medium estimate), Europe's
share may fall to about 7% by 2050. In 1900, Europe's share of the
world's population was 25%.
Europe, in particular Ancient Greece
is the birthplace of Western
. It played a predominant role in global affairs from
the 16th century onwards, especially after the beginning of
. Between the 16th and 20th
centuries, European nations controlled at various times the Americas
, most of Africa
, and large portions of Asia
. Both World Wars were
ignited in Central Europe, greatly
contributing to a decline in European dominance in world affairs by
the mid-20th century as the United States and Soviet
Union took prominence. During the Cold War Europe was divided along the Iron Curtain between NATO in the West
and the Warsaw Pact in the East.
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 the
The use of the term "Europe" has developed gradually throughout
history. In antiquity, the Greek historian Herodotus
mentioned that the world had been
divided by unknown persons into the three continents
of Europe, Asia, and Libya (Africa),
with the Nile
and the river 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. Flavius
Josephus and the Book of
Jubilees described the continents as the lands given by
Noah to his three sons; Europe was defined as
between the Pillars of
Hercules at Cadiz, separating
it from Africa, and the Don, separating it from Asia.
division – as much cultural as geographical – was used until the
Late Middle Ages
, when it was
challenged by the Age of Discovery
problem of redefining Europe was finally resolved in 1730 when,
instead of waterways, the Swedish geographer and cartographer von Strahlenberg proposed the
Mountains as the most
significant eastern boundary, a suggestion that found favour in
Russia and throughout Europe.
now generally defined by geographers as the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, with its boundaries marked
by large bodies of water to the north, west and south; Europe's
limits to the far east are usually taken to be the Urals, 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
Sometimes, the word 'Europe' is used in a
geopolitically-limiting way to refer only to the European Union or,
even more exclusively, a culturally-defined core. On the other
hand, the Council of Europe
member countries, and only 27 member states are in the EU.
addition, people living in insular areas such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, the North Atlantic and Mediterranean islands and also in Scandinavia may routinely refer to "continental" or "mainland" Europe simply
as Europe or "the Continent".
Clickable map of Europe, showing one of the most commonly
used geographical boundaries (legend:blue
= states in both Europe
sometimes included within Europe but geographically outside
ancient Greek mythology, Europa was a Phoenician princess whom Zeus abducted
after assuming the form of a dazzling white bull.
her to the island of Crete where she
gave birth to Minos, Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon.
: , ; see also List of traditional Greek
) was a mythological queen of Crete, not a
geographical designation. Later, Europa stood for central-north Greece, and by 500 BC its meaning had been extended to the
lands to the north.
The name of Europa
is of uncertain etymology. One theory
suggests that it is derived from the Greek roots
meaning broad (eur-
), hence , "wide-gazing", "broad of
aspect" (compare with glauk'ōpis
). Broad has been an
in the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion
Another theory suggests that it is actually based on a Semitic word such as the Akkadian
erebu meaning "to go
down, set" (cf. Occident),
cognate to Phoenician
"evening; west" and Arabic Maghreb,
ma'ariv (see also Erebus, PIE
regʷos, "darkness"). However, M.
L. West states that "phonologically, the match between
Europa's name and any form of the Semitic word is very
Most major world languages use words derived from "Europa" to refer
to the continent. Chinese, for example, uses the word (歐洲), which
is an abbreviation of the transliterated name (歐羅巴洲); however, in
some Turkic languages
(land of the Franks
used casually in referring to much of Europe, besides official
names such as Avrupa
georgicus, which lived roughly 1.8 million years ago in
Georgia, is the earliest hominid to
have been discovered in Europe. Other hominid
remains, dating back roughly 1 million years, have been discovered
in Atapuerca, Spain.
Neanderthal man (named for the Neander
Valley in Germany) first migrated to Europe 150,000 years ago and
disappeared from the fossil record about 30,000 years ago.
The Neanderthals were supplanted by modern humans (Cro-Magnons
), who appeared around 40,000 years
the European Neolithic, a period
of megalith construction took place, with
many megalithic monuments such as Stonehenge and the Megalithic Temples being
constructed throughout Western and Southern Europe.
cultural horizon flourished
at the transition from the Neolithic to the Chalcolithic
. The European Bronze Age
began in the late
3rd millennium BC with the Beaker
The European Iron Age
800 BC, with the Hallstatt
. Iron Age colonisation by the Phoenicians gave rise to early Mediterranean cities.
from around the 8th century BC
gradually gave rise to historical Classical Antiquity
had a profound impact
on Western civilisation. Western democratic
and individualistic culture
are often attributed to Ancient Greece. The Greeks invented the
, 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
; in history
; in dramatic and narrative verse,
starting with the epic poems of Homer
; and in
Another major influence on Europe came from the Roman Empire
which left its mark on law
, and government
. During the pax romana
, the Roman Empire expanded to
encompass the entire Mediterranean
and much of Europe. Stoicism
influenced emperors such as Hadrian
, and Marcus Aurelius
, who all spent time on the
Empire's northern border fighting Germanic
was eventually legitimised
by Constantine I
after three centuries of
Early Middle Ages
During the decline of the
, Europe entered a long period of change arising
from what historians call the "Age of
". There were numerous invasions and migrations
amongst the Ostrogoths
, and, later still, the Vikings
Renaissance thinkers such as Petrarch
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 Europe.
During the Dark Ages, the Western
fell under the control of Celtic, Slavic and
Germanic tribes. The Celtic tribes established their kingdoms
in Gaul, the predecessor to the Frankish
kingdoms that eventually became France.
Germanic and Slav tribes established their domains over Central and
Eastern Europe respectively. Eventually the Frankish tribes
were united under Clovis I
, 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 Eastern Roman Empire
known in the west as the Byzantine
. 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 state
Fatally weakened by the sack of Constantinople
during the Fourth Crusade
Byzantines fell in 1453 when they were conquered by the Ottoman Empire
The Middle Ages 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
The struggle 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
. 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. The East-West Schism
in 1054 split the former
Roman Empire religiously, with the Eastern Orthodox Church
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 rule
in the Iberian
In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic
tribes, such as the Pechenegs
and the Kipchaks
, caused a massive migration of Slavic
populations to the safer, heavily
forested regions of the north. Like many other parts of Eurasia
, these territories were overrun by the Mongols
. The invaders, later
known as Tatars, formed the state of the
Golden Horde, which ruled the southern
and central expanses of Russia for over
The Great Famine of
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
, 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. This
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
and led to increased persecution of Jews
plague is thought to have returned every generation with varying
and mortalities until the 1700s.
During this period, more than 100 plague epidemics
swept across Europe.
Early modern period
was a period of cultural
change originating in Italy in the fourteenth century. The rise of
a new humanism
by the recovery of forgotten classical
and Arabic knowledge
from monastic libraries and the Islamic
world. The Renaissance spread across Europe between the 14th and
16th centuries: it saw the flowering of art, philosophy, music, and
the sciences, under the joint patronage of royalty, the nobility,
the Roman Catholic Church, and an emerging merchant class.
in Italy, including the Medici family of
Florentine bankers and the Popes in
Rome, funded prolific quattrocento and cinquecento artists such as Raphael, Michelangelo,
and Leonardo da
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
rulership 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
, a result of the lack of
reform 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
Thirty Years War
crippled the Holy Roman Empire and devastated much of Germany
, killing between 25
and 40% of its population. In the aftermath of the Peace of Westphalia, France rose to
predominance within Europe.
The 17th century in southern and
eastern Europe was a period of general decline.
The Renaissance and the New Monarchs
marked the start of an Age of
, a period of exploration, invention, and scientific
development. In the 15th century, Portugal and Spain, two of the
greatest naval powers of the time, took the lead in exploring the
reached the New World
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.
18th and 19th centuries
The Age of Enlightenment
powerful intellectual movement during the eighteenth century
promoting scientific and reason-based thoughts. Discontent with the
aristocracy and clergy's monopoly on political power in France
resulted in the French Revolution
and the establishment of the First
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
resulted in the
further dissemination of the ideals of the French Revolution,
including that of the nation-state
well as the widespread adoption of the French models of administration
, and education
. The Congress of Vienna, convened after
Napoleon's downfall, established a new balance of power in Europe
centred on the five "Great Powers": the
Kingdom, France, Prussia, Habsburg Austria, and Russia.
balance would remain in place until the Revolutions of 1848
, during which
liberal uprisings affected all of Europe except for Russia and
Great Britain. These revolutions were eventually put down by
conservative elements and few reforms resulted. In 1867, the
; and 1871 saw the unifications of
Industrial Revolution started
Britain in the last part of the 18th century and spread
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
on child labour
legalisation of trade unions
, and the
abolition of slavery
Britain, the Public
Health Act 1875 was passed, which significantly improved living
conditions in many British cities. Europe’s population
the 18th century, from roughly 100 million to almost 200 million,
and doubled again during the 19th century. In the 19th century, 70
million people left Europe.
20th century to present
Two World Wars and an economic depression dominated the first half
of the 20th century. World War I
fought between 1914 and 1918. It started when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of
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
Kingdom, and later Italy, Greece, Romania, and the United States) and the Central
Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman
The War left around 40 million civilians and
military dead. Over 60 million European soldiers were mobilised
from 1914–1918. 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
and the Ottoman Empire
collapsed and broke up into
separate nations, and many other nations had their borders redrawn.
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.
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
about the worldwide Great
. 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
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,
Germany annexed the German Sudetenland,
which had become a part of Czechoslovakia after the war.
This move was highly
contested by the other powers, but ultimately permitted in the
hopes of avoiding war and appeasing
Hitler. 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
Bohemia and Moravia
, controlled by Germany, and the Slovak Republic
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 an important pact.
Germany invaded Poland
on 1 September
1939, prompting France and the United Kingdom to declare war on
Germany on 3 September. The Soviet invasion of Poland
on 17 September and Poland fell soon thereafter.
On 24 September, the Soviet Union attacked the Baltic countries
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. The
In May 1940, Germany attacked France through the Low Countries.
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
. 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.
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.
The war was the
largest and most destructive in human history, with 60 million dead across the world
including between 9 and 11 million people who perished during
. 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
Central and Eastern Europe displaced a total of about 20 million
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 Europeestablished the NATO alliance and
later the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe established the Warsaw Pact. The two new superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, became locked in a fifty-year long Cold War, centred on nuclear proliferation.
same time decolonisation
, which had
already started after World War I, gradually resulted in the
independence of most of the European colonies in Asia
.In the 1980s the
of Mikhail Gorbachev
and the Solidarity
movement in Poland accelerated the
collapse of the Eastern bloc and the end of the Cold War. Germany
was reunited, after the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall
in 1989, and
the maps of Eastern Europe were redrawn once more.
in the post-World War II years. The Treaty of Rome
in 1957 established the
between six Western European states with the goal of
a unified economic policy and common market. In 1967 the EEC,
European Coal and
, which in 1993
became the European Union
established a parliament, court and
bank and introduced the euro as
a unified currency.
Beginning in the 1990s after the end of
the Cold War, Eastern European countries began joining, expanding
the EU to its current size of 27 European nations, and once more
making Europe a major economical and political centre of
Geography and extent
, Europe is the
northwestern constituent of the larger landmass known as Eurasia
, or Afro-Eurasia
the eastern bulk of this continuous landmass and all share a common
. Europe's eastern
frontier is now commonly delineated by the Ural Mountains in Russia.
century AD geographer Strabo, took the
River Don "Tanais" to be
the boundary to the Black
Sea, as did early Judaic
The southeast boundary with Asia is not universally
defined. Most commonly the Ural
alternatively, the Emba River
possible boundaries. The boundary continues to the Caspian Sea, the crest of the Caucasus Mountains or, alternatively, the Kura
River in the Caucasus, and on to the
Sea; the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles, and the Aegean Sea conclude the Asian boundary. The Mediterranean
Sea to the south separates Europe from Africa. The western boundary is the Atlantic Ocean; Iceland, though nearer to Greenland (North America) than
mainland Europe, is generally included in Europe.
Because of sociopolitical and cultural differences, there are
various descriptions of Europe's boundary; in some sources, some
territories are not included in Europe, while other sources include
them. For instance, geographers from Russia and other post-Soviet states
generally include the Urals in Europe while including Caucasia in
Asia. Similarly, numerous geographers consider
Azerbaijan's and Armenia's southern borders with Iran and
and eastern borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran
as the boundary between Asia and Europe because of political and
cultural reasons. Similarly, Cyprus is
approximate to Anatolia
, but is often considered part of Europe and
currently is a member state of the EU.
In addition, Malta was considered
an island of Africa
Relief map of Europe and surrounding
Land relief in Europe shows great variation within relatively small
areas. The southern regions, however, are more
mountainous, while moving north the terrain descends from the high
Alps, Pyrenees 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
, 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.
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 and surrounding regions:
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
Therefore the average temperature throughout the year of Naples is
16 °C (60.8 °F), while it is only 12 °C
(53.6 °F) in New York City which is almost on the same
latitude. Berlin, Germany; Calgary, Canada; and Irkutsk, in the
Asian part of Russia, lie on around the same latitude; January
temperatures in Berlin average around 8 °C (15 °F) higher
than those in Calgary, and they are almost 22 °C (40 °F)
higher than average temperatures in Irkutsk.
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
plains of Hungary.
most significant feature is the dichotomy between highland and
mountainous Southern Europe and a
vast, partially underwater, northern plain ranging from the
Isles in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east. These two halves are separated by the
mountain chains of the Pyrenees and Alps/Carpathians. The northern plains are delimited in the
west by the Scandinavian Mountains and the mountainous parts of the British Isles. Major shallow water bodies submerging parts
of the northern plains are the Celtic Sea, the North
Sea, the Baltic
Sea complex and Barents Sea.
The northern plain contains the old geological continent of
, 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
The geological history of Europe traces back to the formation of
the Baltic Shield
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
leading to the formation of Pangea
190 million years ago, Gondwana and Laurasia split apart due to the widening of the
Finally, and very soon afterwards, Laurasia
itself split up again, into Laurentia (North America
) and the Eurasian continent.
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
about five million years ago.
Floristic regions of Europe and
neighboring areas, according to Wolfgang Frey and Rainer
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 parks.
The main natural vegetation cover in Europe is mixed forest
. The conditions for growth are very
favourable. In the north, the Gulf
and North Atlantic
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.
these (Alps, Pyrenees) are oriented east-west and allow the wind to carry
large masses of water from the ocean in the interior.
are oriented south-north (Scandinavian Mountains, Dinarides,
Carpathians, Apennines) and because the rain falls primarily on the side
of mountains that is oriented towards sea, forests grow well on
this side, while on the other side, the conditions are much less
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 eighty to ninety per cent of Europe was once covered by
forest. It stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to
Though 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 taiga
of Scandinavia and Russia, mixed rainforests
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 plantations
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 (excluding the micronations) is Iceland (1%), while the most forested country is Finland (77%).
In temperate Europe, mixed forest with both broadleaf
trees dominate. The most important
species in central and western Europe are beech
. In the north, the
taiga is a mixed spruce–pine–birch forest; further north within Russia and extreme
northern Scandinavia, the taiga gives way to tundra as the
Arctic is approached.
In the Mediterranean, many olive
trees have been planted, which are very well
adapted to its arid climate; Mediterranean Cypress
is also widely
planted in southern Europe. The semi-arid Mediterranean region
hosts much scrub forest. A narrow east-west tongue of Eurasian
grassland (the steppe) extends eastwards from Ukraine and southern Russia and ends in
Hungary and traverses into taiga to
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
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
bears may be found on Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago far north of Scandinavia.
wolf, the second largest predator in
Europe after the brown bear, can be found primarily in Eastern Europe and in the Balkans, with a
handful of packs in pockets of Western
Europe (Scandinavia, Spain,
Other important European carnivores are Eurasian lynx
, European wild cat
different species of martens
, different species of reptiles
such as vipers
) and amphibians
, different birds
and other birds
Important European herbivores
, different birds, and mammals
, like rodents
and roe deer
, and living in
the mountains, marmots
extinction of the dwarf
hippos and dwarf elephants has
been linked to the earliest arrival of humans on the islands of the
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
, and whales
Biodiversity is protected in Europe through the Council of Europe
, which has also been signed by the European Community
as well as
Since the Renaissance
, Europe has had a
major influence in culture, economics and social movements in the
world. The most significant inventions
their origins inthe Western world, primarily Europe and the United
States. Some current and past issues in European demographics have
included religious emigration
, race relations
, economic immigration
declining birth rate
and an aging population
. In some countries,
such as Ireland and Poland, access
to abortion is currently limited; in the
past, such restrictions and also restrictions on artificial birth
control were commonplace throughout Europe. Abortion remains
illegal on the island of Malta where
Catholicism is the state
religion. Furthermore, three European countries
Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland) and the Autonomous
Community of Andalusia (Spain) have allowed a limited form of voluntary euthanasia for some
terminally ill people.
In 2005 the population of Europe was estimated to be 731 million
according to the United Nations
which is slightly more than one-ninth of the world
's population. A century ago, Europe had nearly a
quarter of the world's population
The population of Europe has grown in the past century, but in
other areas of the world (in particular Africa
) the population
has grown far more quickly. 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
. The average number
of children per
of child bearing age is 1.52. According to some sources,
this rate is higher among Muslims
The UN predicts the steady population
of vast areas of Eastern Europe. The Russia's
population is declining by at least 700,000 people each year. The
country now has 13,000 uninhabited villages.
Simplified map of the languages of
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
of 1.8 million people,
despite having one of the highest population densities
in the world. This
accounted for almost 85% of Europe's total population growth
. Beyond Europe,
England ranks third in population density for major
countries after Bangladesh and South Korea. In 2006, an estimated
591,000 migrants arrived to live in the UK for at
least a year, while 400,000 people emigrated from the UK for a year
The European Union
plans to open the job centres for legal migrant workers from
Emigration from Europe began with Spanish
settlers in the 16th century, and
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
Argentinia, Chile, Uruguay and southern Brazil). Also, Australia and
Zealand have large European derived populations.
has no countries with European-derived
majorities, but there are significant minorities, such as the
White South Africans
, European-derived populations
) predominate in
Europe according to a widely accepted
definition is shown in green (countries sometimes associated with
European culture in dark blue, Asian parts of European states in
Map showing European membership of the
EU and NATO
According to different definitions, the territories may be subject
.The 27 European Union member states
highly integrated economically and politically; the European Union
itself forms part of the
political geography of Europe. The table below shows the scheme for geographic subregions
used by the
, alongside the
regional grouping published in the CIA
. The socio-geographical data included are per sources
in cross-referenced articles.
|Name of country, with flag
(1 July 2002 est.)
||Andorra la Vella
|Bosnia and Herzegovina
Within the above-mentioned states are several regions, enjoying
broad autonomy, as well as several de facto
independent countries with limited international recognition or
unrecognised. None of them are UN
|Name of territory, with flag
(1 July 2002 est.)
|Åland Islands (Finland)
|Faroe Islands (Denmark)
||St. Peter Port
|Isle of Man (UK)
Mayen Islands (Norway)
GDP real growth rate in 2007
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. 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
Eastern economies are still emerging
from the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.
The European Union
intergovernmental body composed of 27 European states, comprises
the largest single economic
in the world. Currently, 15 EU countries
share the euro
common currency.Five European countries rank in the top ten of the
worlds largest national
economies in GDP
. This includes (ranks according to the
): Germany (5), the UK
(6), Russia (7), France (8), and Italy (10).
Pre–1945: Industrial growth
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.
1945–1990: The Cold War
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
Eastern European states came under
the control of the USSR and thus
were members of the Council for Mutual
Economic Assistance (COMECON)."Germany (East)", Library of
Congress Country Study, Appendix B: The Council for Mutual Economic
AssistanceThe states which retained a free-market system were given a large amount of
aid by the United
States under the Marshall
The western states moved to link their economies
together, providing the basis for the EU
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
. Until 1990, the European
was expanded from 6 founding members to 12.
emphasis placed on resurrecting the West German economy led to it
overtaking the UK as
Europe's largest economy.
1991–2007: The rise of the EU
With the fall of communism in Eastern Europe in 1991 the Eastern
states had to adapt to a free market system. There were varying
degrees of success with Central
European countries such as Poland, Hungary, and Slovenia adapting reasonably quickly, while eastern states
like Ukraine and Russia taking far longer.
Western Europe helped
Eastern Europe by forming economic ties with it. After East and
Germany were reunited in 1990, the economy of West
Germany struggled as it had to support and largely rebuild the
infrastructure of East Germany. Yugoslavia lagged farthest behind as it was
ravaged by war and in 2003 there were still many EU and NATO peacekeeping
troops in Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with only Slovenia making any real progress.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
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.
entered its first official
in the third quarter of 2008,
official figures confirmed in January 2009. While beginning in the
United States the late-2000s
spread to Europe rapidly and has affected much of the
region. The official unemployment
in the 16 countries that use the euro rose to 9.5% in May 2009.
Europe's young workers have been especially hard hit. In the first
quarter of 2009, the unemployment rate in the EU27
for those aged 15–24 was 18.3%.
Simplified linguistic map within the
Council of Europe nations
European languages mostly fall within three Indo-European
language groups: the
, derived from
the Latin language
of the Roman Empire
; the Germanic languages
, whose ancestor
language came from southern Scandinavia
and the Slavic languages
having much of its vocabulary descended from Romance languages, the
is a Germanic
languages are spoken primarily in south-western Europe as well as
in Romania and Moldova.
Germanic languages are spoken in
north-western Europe and some parts of Central Europe
. Slavic languages are spoken
in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe.
Many other languages outside the three main groups exist in Europe.
Other Indo-European languages include the Baltic
group (i.e., Latvian
), the Celtic
group (i.e., Irish
, Scottish Gaelic
, and Breton
, and Armenian
. A distinct group of Uralic languages
, and Hungarian
, spoken in the respective
countries as well as in parts of Romania, Russia, Serbia, and
Slovakia. Other Non-Indo-European languages are Maltese
(the only Semitic language
official to the EU),
, and languages of minority
nations in Russia.
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
Council of Europe
Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
set up a legal
framework for language rights in Europe.
[[File:Europe religion map en.png|thumb|250px|Predominant religions
in Europe and neighboring regions:
in Europe has been a major influence on
. The majority religion in Europe is
as practiced by Catholic
, Eastern Orthodox
Churches. Following these is
Islam concentrated mainly in the south east
and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, North
Cyprus, Turkey and Azerbaijan), and Tibetan
Buddhism, found in Kalmykia.
Other religions including Judaism
minority religions. Europe is a relatively secular continent
and has the largest number and proportion of irreligious, agnostic
and atheistic people in the Western world, with a particularly high
number of self-described non-religious people in the Czech
Republic, Estonia, Sweden, Germany (East), and France.
The culture of Europe can be described as a series of overlapping
cultures; cultural mixes exist across the continent. There are
sometimes at odds with each other. Thus the question of "common
culture" or "common values" is complex.
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