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Germanic Europe is the part of Northern Europe which came under the sphere of influence of Germanic culture, giving rise to the linguistic predominancy of a Germanic language. Since the Reformation, most of these regions have been predominantly Protestant, with the exception of southern German speaking Europe.


The Germanic peoples originated in Northern Europe during the Iron Age and migrated into the territory of the failing Roman Empire during Late Antiquity. They were Latinized in some parts (Burgundy, Lombardy, Western Francia, Visigothic Kingdom), but Germanic languages persisted in medieval England and much of the Holy Roman Empire (including the Netherlandsmarker and the Alpine region), with the result that Germanic-speaking Europe extended beyond Northern Europe into Central Europe and Western Europe.

From the High Middle Ages, the history of Germanic Europe can be divided into three major regions:
  1. the British Islesmarker (Anglic languages)
  2. Scandinavia (North Germanic languages).
  3. the Continental Holy Roman Empire (the dialect continuum of High German, Low German, and Low Franconian; and Frisian)


Great Britainmarker has been a unified political entity since the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britainmarker in 1707. Since that time, the English language has come to dominate not only in Englandmarker but also in the Celtic countries of Scotlandmarker (though the Lothian and Borders region was traditionally Northumbrian in language), Walesmarker, Cornwallmarker (already mostly English speaking by 1707) and Irelandmarker.


Scandinavia was united in the Kalmar Union until 1520. There was then a series of conflicts. After these the modern states of Norwaymarker, Swedenmarker, Denmarkmarker, Icelandmarker and Finlandmarker emerged; some 5.5% of the population of Finland are Swedish-speaking Finns. The current division into these countries has existed since the dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden in 1905 and the independence of Iceland from Denmark in 1944.

Continental Europe

The history of the continental part of Germanic Europe is complicated, and the region settled into its contemporary political divisions only in 1945, following World War II.The Germanic speaking portions of the Holy Roman Empire were by the 17th century partitioned into the Dutch Republic (evolving into the Netherlandsmarker), the Old Swiss Confederacy (evolving into Switzerlandmarker), Habsburg Austria (evolving into Austriamarker) and a core territory that gave rise to the German Empiremarker in 1871, and finally to modern Germanymarker. The Alsacemarker became part of Francemarker while Flanders was divided between France, Belgiummarker and the Netherlands. The small territories of Luxembourgmarker and Liechtensteinmarker have been sovereign countries since the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

Huge reduction of Germanic territory

Before the Second World War, German was spoken as far east as the Prussian city of Kaliningradmarker, then known as Königsbergmarker. Over 25% of contemporary Polish and Czech territory was historically home to predominantly German speaking populations.Germans were forced out of the former eastern territories of Germany, and ethnic Germans from areas across eastern Europe to the Allied Occupation Zones in Germany with the defeat of the Third Reich and in the aftermath of World War II. With at least 12,000,000 Germans directly involved, it was the largest migration of any European people in modern history, and the largest of several post-war expulsions in Central and Eastern Europe which displaced a total of about 20,000,000 people. The majority of the flights and expulsions occurred in the former eastern territories of Germany, in Polandmarker, and in Czechoslovakiamarker. Others occurred in Hungarymarker and northern Yugoslavia (predominantly in the Vojvodina regionmarker).


Distribution of Germanic languages in Europe

The Germanic languages constitute a branch of the Indo-European language family. The most-recent common ancestor of all languages comprising this branch is Proto-Germanic, spoken in approximately the latter mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age Northern Europe.

The largest Germanic languages in Europe in terms of number of speakers are the German and English languages, with approximately 95 and 65 million native speakers respectively. Both belong to the West Germanic group, together with Dutch (22 million speakers) and Frisian (0.5 million).

The North Germanic languages comprise Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, and Faroese with a combined total of about 20 million speakers.

Within Europe, these languages are spoken in Icelandmarker, Irelandmarker, the United Kingdommarker, the Faroe Islandsmarker, the Netherlandsmarker, Denmarkmarker, Swedenmarker, Norwaymarker, the Swedish-speaking municipalities of Finlandmarker, French Flanders and Alsace-Moselle in Francemarker, Flanders and the smaller German-speaking Community in Belgiummarker, the German-speaking part of Luxembourgmarker, Germanymarker, parts of the formerly German areas of present-day Polandmarker, Liechtensteinmarker, the German-speaking part of Switzerland, Austriamarker, and the province of Bolzano-Bozen in Italymarker.


Protestantism in Europe
Contrasted with Latin Europe's Roman Catholicism, and Slavic Europe's Eastern Orthodoxy, the predominant religion in Germanic Europe is Protestantism.

The predominant organized religion in Icelandmarker, Denmarkmarker, Norwaymarker, Finlandmarker, Swedenmarker, Estoniamarker and Latviamarker is Lutheranism. In the UKmarker however, Anglicanism is the dominant religion. In Germanymarker, the Netherlandsmarker and Switzerlandmarker, both Protestantism (mainly Calvinism in Switzerland and the Netherlands and Lutheranism in Germany) and Roman Catholicism are widely practised.

The dominant religion of Austriamarker, Irelandmarker, Southern Germany, Flanders, and Liechtensteinmarker is Roman Catholicism.

See also


  1. Jürgen Weber, Germany, 1945-1990: A Parallel History, Central European University Press, 2004, p.2, ISBN 9639241709
  2. Peter H. Schuck, Rainer Münz, Paths to Inclusion: The Integration of Migrants in the United States and Germany, Berghahn Books, 1997, p.156, ISBN 1571810927
  3. The Expulsion of 'German' Communities from Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War, Steffen Prauser and Arfon Rees, European University Institute, Florense. HEC No. 2004/1. p.4
  4. Arie Marcelo Kacowicz, Pawel Lutomski, Population resettlement in international conflicts: a comparative study, Lexington Books, 2007, p.100, ISBN 073911607: "...largest movement of any European people in modern history" [1]
  5. Bernard Wasserstein, Barbarism and civilization: a history of Europe in our time, Oxford University Press, 2007, p.419: "largest population movement between European countries in the twentieth century and one of the largest of all time." ISBN 0198730748

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