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UN M49 code150 – Europe
  • a. ^ Figures include only European portions of transcontinental countries.[n]
  • b. ^ European side only. Istanbul is a transcontinental city which straddles both Asia and Europe.
  • c. ^
"Europe" as defined by the International Monetary Fund.

Europe is a

Turkish Straits.[14]

Europe covers about 10.18 million km2 (3.93 million sq mi), or 2% of 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 745 million (about 10% of the world population) in 2021.[2][3] 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 civilisation, which traces its lineage back to ancient Greece and ancient Rome.[15][16] The fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE and the related Migration Period marked the end of Europe's ancient history, and the beginning of the Middle Ages. The Renaissance began in Florence and spread to the rest of the continent, bringing a renewed interest in humanism, exploration, art, and science which contributed to the beginning of the modern era. Since the Age of Discovery, lead by Spain and Portugal, Europe played a predominant role in global affairs with multiple explorations and conquests around the world. Between the 16th and 20th centuries, European powers colonised at various times the Americas, almost all of Africa and Oceania, and the majority of Asia.


world wars began and were fought to a great extent 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 took prominence.[17] During the Cold War, Europe was divided along the Iron Curtain between NATO in the West and the Warsaw Pact in the East, until the Revolutions of 1989, Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Dissolution of the Soviet Union


international organizations aiming to represent the European continent on a political level. The Council of Europe was founded in 1948 with the idea of unifying Europe[18] to achieve common goals and prevent future wars. Further European integration by some states led to the formation of the European Union, a separate political entity that lies between a confederation and a federation.[19] The EU originated in Western Europe but has been expanding eastward since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. A majority of its members have adopted a common currency, the euro, and a large bloc of countries, the Schengen Area
, have abolished internal border and immigration controls.


In classical

Ancient Greek: Εὐρώπη, Eurṓpē) was a Phoenician 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'.[20][21][22][23] Broad has been an epithet of Earth herself in the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion and the poetry devoted to it.[20] An alternative view is that of Robert Beekes, who has argued in favour of a Pre-Indo-European origin for the name, explaining that a derivation from 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 such as that of Europos in ancient Macedonia.[24]

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',[25] which is at the origin of Arabic maghreb and Hebrew ma'arav. Martin Litchfield West stated that "phonologically, the match between Europa's name and any form of the Semitic word is very poor",[26] while Beekes considers a connection to Semitic languages improbable.[24]

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 Ōshū (欧州) is also sometimes used in Japanese such as in the Japanese name of the European Union, Ōshū Rengō (欧州連合), despite the katakana Yōroppa (ヨーロッパ) 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.[27]


Contemporary definition

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 north-east are usually taken to be the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, and the Caspian Sea; to the south-east, the Caucasus Mountains, the Black Sea, and the waterways connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.[28]

A medieval T and O map printed by Günther Zainer in 1472, showing the three continents as domains of the sons of Noah – Asia to Sem (Shem), Europe to Iafeth (Japheth) and Africa to Cham (Ham

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 North-western Africa for centuries, but now it is considered to be part of Europe as well.[29] "Europe", as used specifically in British English, may also refer to Continental Europe exclusively.[30]

The term "continent" usually implies the

Ob River and the Arctic Ocean
. In contrast, the present eastern boundary of Europe partially adheres to the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, which is somewhat arbitrary and inconsistent compared to any clear-cut definition of the term "continent".

The current division of Eurasia into two continents now reflects

continents separated from Europe by large bodies of water. Spain, for example, has territories south of the Mediterranean Sea—namely, Ceuta and Melilla—which are parts of Africa
and share a border with Morocco. According to the current convention, Georgia and Azerbaijan are transcontinental countries where waterways have been completely replaced by mountains as the divide between continents.

History of the concept

Early history

The first recorded usage of Eurṓpē as a geographic term is in the

Northwest Africa, to the Don, separating it from Asia.[34]

The convention received by the

Roman era used by Roman-era authors such as Posidonius,[35] Strabo[36] and Ptolemy,[37]
who took the Tanais (the modern Don River) as the boundary.

The Roman Empire did not attach a strong identity to the concept of continental divisions. However, following the fall of the

Islamic world

A cultural definition of Europe as the lands of

Iberia, the British Isles, France, Christianised western Germany, the Alpine regions and northern and central Italy.[39] The concept is one of the lasting legacies of the Carolingian Renaissance: Europa often[dubious ] figures in the letters of Charlemagne's court scholar, Alcuin.[40] The transition of Europe to being a cultural term as well as a geographic one led to the borders of Europe being affected by cultural considerations in the East, especially relating to areas under Byzantine, Ottoman, and Russian influence. Such questions were affected by the positive connotations associated with the term Europe by its users. Such cultural considerations were not applied to the Americas, despite their conquest and settlement by European states. Instead, the concept of "Western civilization" emerged as a way of grouping together Europe and these colonies.[41]

Modern definitions

The question of defining a precise eastern boundary of Europe arises in the Early Modern period, as the eastern extension of

Don (ancient Tanais). 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,

Irtysh River
, a major tributary of the Ob, 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 proposal to adhere to major rivers as the line of demarcation was never taken up by other geographers who were beginning to move away from the idea of water boundaries as the only legitimate divides between Europe and Asia.

Four years later, in 1725,

Ural Rivers), then north and east along the latter waterway to its source in the Ural Mountains. At this point he proposed that mountain ranges could be included as boundaries between continents as alternatives to nearby waterways. Accordingly, he drew the new boundary north along Ural Mountains rather than the nearby and parallel running Ob and Irtysh rivers.[42] This was endorsed by the Russian Empire and introduced the convention that would eventually become commonly accepted. However, this did not come without criticism. Voltaire, writing in 1760 about Peter the Great's efforts to make Russia more European, ignored the whole boundary question with his claim that neither Russia, Scandinavia, northern Germany, nor Poland were fully part of Europe.[38] Since then, many modern analytical geographers like Halford Mackinder have declared that they see little validity in the Ural Mountains as a boundary between continents.[43]

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,[44][45] 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

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".[46]


Emba River; and Kuma–Manych Depression,[48] thus placing the Caucasus entirely in Asia and the Urals entirely in Europe.[49] However, most geographers in the Soviet Union favoured the boundary along the Caucasus crest,[50]
and this became the common convention in the later 20th century, although the Kuma–Manych boundary remained in use in some 20th-century maps.

Some view the separation of Eurasia into Asia and Europe as a residue of Eurocentrism: "In physical, cultural and historical diversity, China and India are comparable to the entire European landmass, not to a single European country. [...]."[51]



Last Glacial Maximum refugia, c. 20,000 years ago
  Solutrean culture
  Epigravettian culture[52]
Paleolithic cave paintings from Lascaux in France
(c. 15,000 BCE)

During the 2.5 million years of the

last glacial period ended about 10,000 years ago.[53] Earth is currently in an interglacial period of the Quaternary, called the Holocene.[54]


megalithic monuments, such as the Megalithic Temples of Malta and Stonehenge, were constructed throughout Western and Southern Europe.[65][66]

The modern native populations of Europe largely descend from three distinct lineages:

Iron Age Italy and Greece from around the 8th century BCE gradually gave rise to historical Classical antiquity, whose beginning is sometimes dated to 776 BCE, the year of the first Olympic Games.[72]

Classical antiquity

Ancient Greece was the founding culture of Western civilisation. Western

city states would ultimately check the Achaemenid Persian advance in Europe through the Greco-Persian Wars, considered a pivotal moment in world history,[79] 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.

Animation showing the growth and division of the Roman Empire
(years CE)

Greece was followed by

architecture, government and many more key aspects in western civilisation.[73] By 200 BCE, Rome had conquered Italy and over the following two centuries it conquered Greece and Hispania (Spain and Portugal), the North African coast, much of the Middle East, Gaul (France and Belgium) and Britannia (England and Wales

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

imperial persecution. Constantine also permanently moved the capital of the empire from Rome to the city of Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul) which was renamed Constantinople in his honour 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.[83] 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;[84] or the rise of Islam in the early 7th century CE. During most of its existence, the Byzantine Empire was one of the most powerful economic, cultural, and military forces in Europe.[85]

Early Middle Ages

During the

Magyars.[80] Renaissance thinkers such as Petrarch would later refer to this as the "Dark Ages".[86]

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.[87]

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.[88]

From the 7th century onwards, as the Byzantines and neighbouring

Leon and Galicia 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 focused 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.

Viking raids and division of the Frankish Empire at the Treaty of Verdun
in 843

During the Dark Ages, 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.[93]

Kiev to become the largest state in Europe by the 10th century. In 988, Vladimir the Great adopted Orthodox Christianity as the religion of state.[94][95] Further East, Volga Bulgaria became an Islamic state in the 10th century, but was eventually absorbed into Russia several centuries later.[96]

High and Late Middle Ages

The maritime republics of medieval Italy reestablished contacts between Europe, Asia and Africa with extensive trade networks and colonies across the Mediterranean, and had an essential role in the Crusades.[97][98]

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

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.

Roman Catholic Church. Through monasteries and cathedral schools, the Church was responsible for education in much of Europe.[99]


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.[101] 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.[102]

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 sacking of Suzdal by Batu Khan in 1238, during the Mongol invasion of Europe

In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic

, 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.[121] The period between 1348 and 1420 witnessed the heaviest loss. The population of France was reduced by half.[122][123] Medieval Britain was afflicted by 95 famines,[124] and France suffered the effects of 75 or more in the same period.[125] Europe was 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.[126]

The plague had a devastating effect on Europe's social structure; it induced people to live for the moment as illustrated by

epidemics swept across Europe.[129]

Early modern period

The School of Athens by Raphael (1511): Contemporaries, such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci (centre), are portrayed as classical scholars of the Renaissance

The Renaissance was a period of cultural change originating in

Medici family of Florentine bankers and the Popes in Rome, funded prolific quattrocento and cinquecento artists such as Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.[136][137]

Political intrigue within the Church in the mid-14th century caused the

Spanish armada failed to invade England. A year later England tried unsuccessfully to invade Spain, allowing Philip II of Spain to maintain his dominant war capacity in Europe. This English disaster also allowed the Spanish fleet to retain its capability to wage war for the next decades. However, two more Spanish armadas failed to invade England (2nd Spanish Armada and 3rd Spanish Armada).[142][143][144][145]

Habsburg dominions in the centuries following their partition by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The principal military base of Philip II in Europe was the Spanish road stretching from the Netherlands to the Duchy of Milan.[146]

The Church's power was further weakened by the

Germany, killing between 25 and 40 percent of its population.[150] In the aftermath of the Peace of Westphalia, France rose to predominance within Europe.[151] The defeat of the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Vienna in 1683 marked the historic end of Ottoman expansion into Europe.[152]

The 17th century in Central and parts of Eastern Europe was a period of general

Deluge) and subsequent conflicts;[155] the state itself was partitioned and ceased to exist at the end of the 18th century.[156]

From the 15th to 18th centuries, when the disintegrating khanates of the

raided Eastern Slavic lands to capture slaves.[157] 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

Galileo and Isaac Newton.[159] 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."[130]

18th and 19th centuries

The national boundaries within Europe set by the Congress of Vienna

The Seven Years' War brought to an end the "Old System" of alliances in Europe. Consequently, when the American Revolutionary War turned into a global war between 1778 and 1783, Britain found itself opposed by a strong coalition of European powers, and lacking any substantial ally.[160]

The Age of Enlightenment was a powerful intellectual movement during the 18th century promoting scientific and reason-based thoughts.

Italy and Germany as nation-states from smaller principalities.[172]

In parallel, 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.[173] Formal recognition of the de facto independent principalities of Montenegro, Serbia and Romania ensued at the Congress of Berlin
in 1878.

Marshall's Temple Works (1840); the Industrial Revolution started in Great Britain


Public Health Act of 1875 was passed, which significantly improved living conditions in many British cities.[177] Europe's population increased from about 100 million in 1700 to 400 million by 1900.[178] The last major famine recorded in Western Europe, the Great Famine of Ireland, caused death and mass emigration of millions of Irish people.[179] In the 19th century, 70 million people left Europe in migrations to various European colonies abroad and to the United States.[180] The industrial revolution also led to large population growth, and the share of the world population living in Europe reached a peak of slightly above 25% around the year 1913.[181][182]

20th century to the present

Two world wars and an economic depression dominated the first half of the 20th century. The First World War was fought between 1914 and 1918. It started when

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). The war left more than 16 million civilians and military dead.[185] Over 60 million European soldiers were mobilised from 1914 to 1918.[186]

First World War
in 1914–1918