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Europe orthographic Caucasus Urals boundary.png
Area 10,180,000 km2[n]
Population 739,165,030[n] (2011), 3rd
Pop. density 72.5/km2
Demonym European
Countries 50 (List of countries)
Languages List of languages
Time Zones UTC to UTC+6
Internet TLD .eu (European Union)
Largest cities List of metropolitan areas in Europe
Modern Map of Europe

Europe is the smallest of those principal divisions of the land-surface of the globe which are usually distinguished by the conventional name of continents. It was the region where until recently the White race was predominant and whence White emigrants to North America, Africa, Australia and other places originated.


Definition and Extent

It has become commonplace to describe Europe as merely a peninsula of Asia, which is relevant to study of its geography and climate. However the identity of the continent is mostly established by the course of history and the resultant distribution of population.

The earliest mention of Europe is in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, where Europe is not the name of a continent, but is opposed to the Peloponnesus and the islands of the Aegean. The distinction between Europe and Asia is found, however, in Aeschylus in the 5th century B.C., but there seems to be little doubt that this opposition was learnt by the Greeks from some Asiatic peoples. On Assyrian monuments the contrast between asu, "(the land of) the rising sun", and ereb or irib, "(the land of) darkness" or "the setting sun", is frequent, and these names were probably passed on by the Phoenicians to the Greeks, and gave rise to the names of Asia and Europe. Where the names originated the geographical distinction was clearly marked by the intervention of the sea, and this intervention marked equally clearly the distinction between Europe and Libya (Africa). As the knowledge of the world extended, the difficulty, which still exists, of fixing the boundary between Europe and Asia where there is land connection, caused uncertainty in the application of the two names, but never obscured the necessity for recognizing the distinction.

Even in the 3rd century B.C. Europe was regarded by Eratosthenes as including all that was then known of northern Asia. But the character of the physical features and climate finally determined the fact that what we know as Europe came to be occupied by more or less populous countries in intimate relation with one another, but separated on the east by un-peopled or very sparsely peopled areas from the countries of Asia, and the boundary between the two continents has long been recognized as running somewhere through this area. Within the limits thus marked out on the east and on other sides by the sea the climatic conditions are such that inhabitants are capable of and require a civilization of essentially the same type, based upon the cultivation of our European grains. Those inhabitants have had a common history in a greater measure than those of any other continent, and hence are more thoroughly conscious of their dissimilarities from, than of their consanguinity with, the peoples of the east and the south.

On the subject of the boundaries of Europe there is still divergence of opinion. While some authorities take the line of the Caucasus as the boundary in the south-east, others take the line of the Manych depression, between the upper end of the Sea of Azov and the Caspian Sea, nearly parallel to the Caucasus. Various limits are assigned to the continent on the east. Officially the crest of the Caucasus and that of the Urals are regarded in Russia as the boundaries between Europe and Asia on the south-east and east respectively. H. Wagner's edition of Guthe's Lehrbuch der Geographie (5th ed., Hanover, 1882).

In neither case does the boundary correspond with the great administrative divisions, and in the Urals it is impossible to mark out any continuous crest. Reclus, without attempting to assign any precise position to the boundary line between the two continents, makes it run through the relatively low and partly depressed area north of the Caucasus and east of the Urals. The Manych depression, marking the lowest line of this area to the north of the Caucasus, has been taken as the boundary of Europe on the south-east by Wagner in his edition of Guthe's Lehrbuch der Geographie, and the same limit is adopted in Kirchhoff's Ldnderkunde des Erdteils Europa' and Stanford's Compendium of Geography and Travel.

In favour of this limit it appears that much weight ought to be given to the consideration put forward by Wagner, that from time immemorial the valleys on both sides of the Caucasus have formed a refuge for Asiatic peoples, especially when it is borne in mind that this contention is reinforced by the circumstance that the steppes to the north of the Caucasus must interpose a belt of almost un-peopled territory between the more condensed populations belonging undoubtedly to Asia and Europe respectively. Continuity of population would be an argument in favour of assigning the whole of the Urals to Europe, but here the absence of any break in such continuity on the east side makes it more difficult to fix any boundary line outside of that system. Hence on this side it is perhaps reasonable to attach greater importance to the fact that the Urals form a boundary not only orographically, but to some extent also in respect of climate and vegetation, and on that account to take a line following the crest of the different sections of that system as the eastern limit between the two continents. Obviously, however, any eventual agreement among geographers on this head must be more or less arbitrary and conventional. In any case it must be borne in mind that, whatever conventional boundary is adopted, the use of the name Europe as so limited must be confined to statements of extent or implying extent. The facts as to climate, fauna and flora have no relation to any such arbitrary boundary, and all statistical statements referring to the countries of Europe must include the part of Russia beyond the Urals up to the frontier of Siberia. In such statements, however, in the present article the whole of the lieutenancy of the Caucasus will be left out of account. As to extent it is provisionally advisable to give the area of the continent within different limits.

Geography and Climate

The following calculations in English square miles (round numbers) of the area of Europe, within different limits, Europe, within the narrowest physical limits (to the crest of the Urals and the Manych depression, and including the Sea of Azov, but excluding the Caspian Steppe, Iceland, Novaya Zemlya, Spitsbergen and Bear Island) 3,570,000 sq. m. The same, with the addition of the Caspian Steppe up to the Ural river and the Caspian Sea, 3, 68 7,75 0 sq. m. The same, with the addition of the area between the Manych depression and the Caucasus, 3,790,500 sq. m. The same, with the addition of territories east of the Ural Mountains, the portion of the Caspian Steppe east of the Ural river as far as the Emba, and the southern slopes of the Caucasus, 2 At the summit of each of the Trans-Ural railways (Perm - Tyumen and Ufa-Chelyabinsk) and that of the road across the Caucasus from Vladikavkaz to Tiflis, sign-posts, with the name Europe on one side, Asia on the other, mark this boundary.

On the history of the boundary between Asia and Europe see F. G. Hahn in the Mitteilungen des Vereins fiir Erdkunde zu Leipzig (1881), pp. 83-104. Hahn, on the ground that true mountain systems must be regarded as forming geographical units, pronounces against the practice of making " natural boundaries " run along mountain crests, and assigns the whole of the Caucasus region to Europe as all belonging to such a system, but orographically quite different from the Armenian plateau (p. 103). But surely it is no less different from the European plain.

988,500 sq. m. The same, with Iceland, Novaya Zemlya, Spitsbergen and Bear Island, 4,093,000 sq. m. In all these calculations the islands in the Sea of Marmora, the Canary Islands, Madeira, and even the Azores, are excluded, but all the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea and the Turkish islands of Thasos, Lemnos, Samothrace, Imbros, Hagiostrati or Bozbaba, and even Tenedos, are included.

The most northern point of the mainland area is Cape Nordkyn in Norway, 71° 6' N.; its most southern, Cape Tarifa in Spain, in 36° o' N.; its most western, Cape da Roca in Portugal, 9° 27' W.; and its most eastern, a spot near the north end of the Ural Mountains, in 66° 20' E. A line drawn from Cape St Vincent in Portugal to the Ural Mountains near Ekaterinburg has a length of 3293 m., and finds its centre in the W. of Russian Poland. From the mouth of the Kara to the mouth of the Ural river the direct distance is 1600 m., but the boundary line has a length of 2400 m.

Two of the most striking features in the general conformation of Europe are the great number of its primary and secondary peninsulas, and the consequent exceptional development of its coast-line - an irregularity and development which have been one of the most potent of the physical factors of its history. The total length of coast-line was estimated by Reuschle in 1869 at 19,820 m., of which about 3600 were counted as belonging to the Arctic Ocean, 8390 to the Atlantic, and 7830 to the Black Sea and Mediterranean. This estimate, however, does not take into account minor indentations. Reclus's estimate, including the more important indentations, brings the coast-line up to 26,700 m., and that of Strelbitsky up to 47,790 m. (smaller islands not included), or 1 m. of coast for about 75 sq. m. of area. Rohrbach 1 calculated the mean distance of all points in the interior of Europe from the sea at 209 m. as compared with 292 m. in the case of North America, the continent which ranks next in this respect. It must be pointed out, however, that such calculations are apt to be very misleading, inasmuch as the commercial value of the relations thus determined depends not merely on the existence of natural harbours or the presence of facilities for the construction of artificial harbors, but also on the presence of natural facilities for communication between such harbors and a productive interior.

The consideration just mentioned gives great significance to the fact that while the coast-line of Europe is in its general features very much the same as it was at the beginning of the true historic period, it has undergone a number of important local changes, some at least of which are due to causes that are at work over very extensive areas. These changes may be conveniently classified under four heads: the formation of deltas by the alluvium of rivers; the increase of the land-surface due to upheaval; the advance of the sea by reason of its own erosive activity; and the advance of the sea through the subsidence of the land. The actual form of the coast, however, is frequently due to the simultaneous or successive action of several of the causes - sea and river and subterranean forces helping or resisting each other.

That changes in the coast-line on the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia have taken place within historical times through elevation of the land seems now to be generally admitted. The commune of Hvittisbofjuxd north of Bjorneborg on the Finland side of that gulf gained about 24 sq. m. between 1784 and 1894, an amount greater than could be accounted for by the most liberal estimates of alluvial deposit, and the most careful investigation seems to show that on the Swedish coast of that gulf a rise has taken place in recent years on the east coast of Sweden from about 57° 20' N. increasing in amount towards the north up to 62° 20' N., where it reaches an average of about two-fifths of an inch annually.2 Our information is naturally most complete in regard to the Mediterranean coasts, as these were the best known to the first book-writing nations. There we find that all the great rivers have been successfully at work - more especially the Rhone, the Ebro and the Po. The activity of the Rhone, indeed, as a maker of new land, is astonishing. The tower of St Louis, erected on the coast in 1737, is now upwards of four miles inland; the city of Arles is said to be nearly twice as far from the sea as it was in the Roman period.

The present St Gilles was probably a harbour when the Greeks founded Marseilles, and Aigues Mortes, which took its place in the middle ages, was no longer on the coast in the time of St Louis (13th century), but Narbonne continued to be a seaport till the 14th century. At the mouth of the Herault, according to Fischer, the coast advances at least two metres or about 7 ft. annually; and it requires great labour to keep the harbour of Cette from being silted up. The Po is even more efficient than the Rhone, if the size of its basin is taken into account. Ravenna, which was at one time an insular city like Venice, has now a wide stretch of downs partly covered with pine forest between it and the sea. Aquileia, one of the greatest seaports 1 Petermanns Mitteilungen (1890),

Of the Mediterranean in the early centuries of the Christian era, is now 7 m. from the coast, and Adria, which gives its name to the sea, is 13. The islands on which Venice is built have sunk about 3 ft. since the 16th century: the pavement of the square of St Mark's has frequently required to be raised, and the boring of a well has shown that a layer of vegetable remains, indicating a flora identical with that observed at present on the neighbouring mainland, exists at a depth of 400 ft. below the alluvial deposits. A little to the south of Rovigno on the Istrian coast on the opposite side of the Adriatic a diver found at the depth of about 85 ft. the remains of a town, which has been identified with the island town of Cissa, of which nothing had been known after the year 679.4 At Zara ancient pavements and mosaics are found below the sea-level, and the district at the mouth of the Narenta has been changed into a swamp by the advance of the sea. A process of elevation, on the other hand, is indicated along nearly all the coasts of Sicily, at the southern end of Sardinia, the east of Corsica, and perhaps in the neighbourhood of Nice, while the west coast of Italy from the latitude of Rome to the southern shores of the Gulf of Salerno has undergone considerable oscillations of level within historical times. About the time of the settlement of the Greeks the coast stood at least 20 ft. above the level of the present day.

Depression began in Roman times, though then the land was still 16 ft. higher than now. A more rapid depression began in the middle ages, so that the sea-level rose from 18 to 20 ft. above the present zero, and the coast began gradually to rise again at the close of the 15th century. 6 Passing eastward to the Balkan peninsula, we find considerable changes on the coastline of Greece; but as they are only repetitions on a smaller scale of the phenomena already described, it is sufficient to indicate the Gulf of Arta and the mouth of the Spercheios as two of the more important localities. The latter especially is interesting to the historian as well as to the geologist, as the river has greatly altered the physical features of one of the world's most famous scenes - the battlefield of Thermopylae.

If we proceed to the Atlantic seaboard we observe, as we might expect, great modifications in the embouchures of the Garonne and the Loire, but by far the most remarkable variations of sea and land have taken place in the region extending from the south of Belgium in the neighbourhood of the Straits of Dover to the mouth of the Elbe and the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein. Here there has been a prolonged struggle between man and nature, in which on the whole nature has hitherto had the best of the battle. While, as is well known, much land below sea-level in the Low Countries has been protected against the sea by dikes and reclaimed, and the coast-line has been, on the whole, advanced between the Elbe and the Eider, there has been a great loss of land in the interior of Holland since the beginning of the Christian era, and on the balance a large loss of land north of the Eider since the first half of the 13th century.' In the 1st century A.D. the Zuider Zee appears to have been represented only by a comparatively small inland lake, the dimensions of which were increased by different inroads of the sea, the last and greatest of which occurred in 1395, Among the local changes of European significance within this area may be mentioned the silting up towards the end of the 15th century of the channel known as the Zwin running north-eastwards from Bruges, which through that cause lost its shipping and in the end all its former renown as a seat of commerce.

The Baltic shores of Germany display the same phenomena of local gain and loss. In the western section inroads of the sea have been extensive: the island of Rugen would no longer serve for the disembarkation of an army like that of Gustavus Adolphus; Wollin and Usedom are growing gradually less; large stretches of the mainland are fringed with submerged forests; and at intervals the sites of well-known villages are occupied by the sea. Towards the east the great rivers are successfully working in the opposite direction. In the Gulf of Danzig the alluvial deposits of the Vistula cover an area of 615 sq. m.; in the 13th century the knights of Marienburg enclosed with dikes about 350 sq. m.; and an area of about 70 sq. m. was added in the course of the 14th. The Memel is silting up the Kurisches Haff, which, like the Frisches Haff, is separated from the open sea by a line of dunes comparable with those of the Landes in France. The so-called strand or coast-lines at various altitudes round the Scandinavian peninsula, though belonging for the most part to glacial times, speak also of relative changes of level in the post-glacial period.

The changes briefly indicated above take place so gradually for the most part that it requires careful observation and comparison of data to establish their reality. It is very different than such changes that we usually ascribe to volcanic activity. Besides the great outlying hearth of Iceland, there are four centres of volcanic activity in Europe - all of them, however, situated in the Mediterranean. Three of the four centres are Vesuvius on the western coast of Italy, Etna in the island of Sicily, and Stromboli.

Europe in 1560

In the Lipari group, have been familiarly known from the earliest historic times; but the fourth has only attracted particular attention since the 20th century. It lies in the Archipelago, on the southern edge of the Cyclades, near the little group of islets called Santorin. The region was evidently highly volcanic at an earlier period, for Milo, one of the nearest of the islands, is simply a ruined crater still presenting smoking solfataras and other traces of former activity. The devastations produced by the eruptions of the European volcanoes are usually confined within very narrow limits; and it is only at long intervals that any part of the continent is visited by a really formidable earthquake. The only part of Europe, however, for which there are no recorded earthquakes is central and northern Russia; and the Alps and Carpathians, especially the intra-Carpathian area of depression, Greece, Italy, especially Calabria and the adjoining part of Sicily, the Sierra Nevada and the Pyrenees, the Lisbon district and the rift valley of the upper Rhine (between the Vosges and the Black Forest) are all regions specially liable to earthquake shocks and occasionally to shocks of considerable intensity.

One well-marked seismic line extends along the south side of the Alps from Lake Garda by Udine and Gorz to Fiume, and another forms a curve convex towards the south-east passing first through Calabria, then through the north-east of Sicily to the south of the Peloritan Mountains.' Of all European earthquakes in modern times, the most destructive are that of Lisbon in 1755, and that of Calabria in 1783; the devastation produced by the former has become a classical instance of such disasters in popular literature, and by the latter 100,000 people are said to have lost their lives. Calabria again suffered severely in 1865, 1870, 1894, 2905 and 1908.

If the European mountains are arranged according to their greatest elevations, they rank as follows : the Swiss Alps, with Relief. their highest peaks above 15,000 ft.; the Sierra R Nevada, the Pyrenees, and Etna, about 11,000 ft.; the Apennines, the Corsican Mountains, the Carpathians, the Balkans, and the Despoto Dagh, from 8000 to 9000; the Guadarrama, the Scandinavian Alps, the Dinaric Alps, the Greek Mountains, and the Cevennes, between 6000 and 8000; the mountains of Auvergne, the Jura, the Riesengebirge, the mountains of Sardinia, Majorca, Minorca, and the Crimea, the Black Forest, the Vosges, and the Scottish Highlands, from 4000 to 6000.

It is indeed this arrangement combined with the form of the coast-line which has indirectly given to Europe metre of its individuality. Three points have to be noted: the fact that the highlands of Europe lands are so distributed as to allow of the penetration of westerly winds far to the east; the fact that the principal series of highlands has a direction from east to west, Europe in this point resembling Asia but differing from North America; and that in Europe the mountain systems belonging to the series of highlands.

Commonly referred to not only have more or less well-marked breaks between them, but are themselves so notched by passes and cut by transverse valleys as to present great facilities for crossing in proportion to their average altitude. The first and second of these points have special importance with reference to the climate and will accordingly be considered more fully under that head. The second is also of importance with reference to the means of communication, to which the third also refers, and detailed consideration of these points in that relation will be reserved for that heading. Here, however, it may be noted that in Europe the distribution of the natural resources for the maintenance of the inhabitants is such that, if we leave out of account Russia, which is almost entirely outside of the series of highlands running east and west, the population north of the mountains is roughly about 50% greater than that south of the mountains, whereas in Asia the population north of the east and west highland barrier is utterly insignificant as compared with that to the south.

The most extensive of the highland areas of Europe is that of Scandinavia, which has a general trend from south-south-west to north-northeast, and is completely detached by seas and plains from the highland area to the south. There are other completely detached highland areas in Iceland, the British Isles, the Ural Mountains, the small Yaila range in the south of the Crimea, and the Mediterranean islands. The connected series of highlands is that which extends from the Iberian peninsula to the Black Sea stretching in the middle of Germany northwards to about 52° N. In the Iberian peninsula we have the most marked example of the tableland form in Europe, and these tablelands are bounded on the north by the Cantabrian Mountains, which descend to the sea, and the Pyrenees, which, except at their extremities, cut off the Iberian peninsula from the adjoining country more extensively than any other chain in the continent.

Between the foot-hills of the Pyrenees, however, and those of the central plateau of France the ground sinks in the Passage of Naurouse or Gap of Carcassonne to a well-marked gap establishing easy communication between the valley of the Garonne and the lower part of that of the Rhone. The highlands in the north spread northwards and then north-eastwards till they join the Vosges, but sink in elevation towards the north-east so as to allow of several easy crossings. East of the Vosges the Rhine valley forms an important trough running north and south through the highlands of western Germany. To the south of the Vosges again undulating country of less than 1500 ft. in elevation, the well-known Burgundy Gate or Gap of Belfort, constitutes a well-marked break between those mountains and the Jura, and establishes easy communication between the Rhine and the Saline-Rhone valleys. The latter valley divides in the clearest manner the highlands of central France from both the Alps and the Jura, while between these last two systems there lays the wedge of the Swiss midlands contracting southwestwards to a narrow but important gap at the outlet of the Lake of Geneva.

Between the Alps and the mountains of the Italian and Balkan peninsulas the orographical lines of demarcation are less distinct, but on the north the valley of the Danube mostly forms a wide separation between the Alps and the mountains of the Balkan peninsula on the south and the highlands of Bohemia and Moravia, the Carpathians and the Transylvanian Alps on the north. The valleys of the Eger and the Elbe form distinct breaks in the environment of Bohemia, and the Sudetes on the north-east of Bohemia and Moravia are even more clearly divided from the Carpathians by the valley of the upper Oder, the Moravian Gate, as it is called, which forms the natural line of communication between the south-east of Prussia and Vienna.

The great determining factors of the climate of Europe are these. The northern borders of the continent are within the Arctic Circle; the most southern points of the mainland are 13-1° or Climate. Further north of the Tropic of Cancer, to the east extends for about 3000 m. the continuous land surface of Asia; to the west lie the waters of the north Atlantic, which penetrate in great inland seas to the north and south of the great European peninsula; the prevailing winds in western Europe as already stated are more or less south-westerly; and the arrangement of the highlands is such as to allow of the penetration of winds with a westerly element in their direction far to the east. The first two of these factors are not distinguishing influences. They affect the climate of Europe in the same manner as they do that of any other land surface in the same latitudes.

The remaining factors, however, are of the highest importance. It is to them in fact that Europe owes in a very large measure those physical conditions which are the basis of its recognition as a separate continent. In estimating the value of those factors one must bear in mind, first, that the waters of the north Atlantic are exceptionally warm, especially on the European side of the ocean. The Gulf Stream carries a large body of warm water northwards to near the parallel of 40° N., and to the north of the Gulf Stream prevailing south-westerly winds, especially during the winter months, drift onwards to the western and northern shores of Europe, even as far east as Spitsbergen, large bodies of water of an exceptionally high temperature. Secondly, one must bear in mind that these relatively high temperatures over the ocean promote evaporation and thus favour the presence of a relatively large amount of water-vapour in the air over those parts of the ocean which adjoin the continent; and, thirdly, that, as the winds are the sole means of carrying water-vapour from one part of the earth's surface to the other, and the sole means of carrying heat and cold from the ocean to the land, the prevailing south-westerly winds are allowed by the superficial configuration to bring a relatively high rainfall and a relatively large amount of heat in winter to land farther in the interior than in any corresponding latitudes. During the summer the winds referred to have a cooling effect, but not to the same degree as those of winter tend to raise the temperature. From the point of view just indicated the only part of the world that is fairly comparable with Europe is the west of North America; but, as there the outline and superficial configuration are quite different, the oceanic influences affect only a narrow strip of seaboard and not any extent of land which could be regarded as of continental rank. It is owing to these influences that in the greater part of Europe there is a more or less continuous population dependent on agriculture.

On the east side of Europe, again, the existence of the continent of Asia has a marked effect on the climate which also aids in giving to Europe its individual character. It is owing to that circumstance that the south-east of the continent, which has temperatures as favourable to agriculture as the corresponding latitudes of eastern Asia or eastern North America, is without the copious rains which make those temperatures so valuable, and hence forms part of the desert that divides the populations of Europe and Asia.

Vesselovski, as quoted by Voeikov, Die atmosphcirische Circulation. On the local distribution of rainfall and temperature, the physical configuration of the continent has very marked effects. Here as elsewhere there is a striking difference both in the amount of rainfall and the temperature on the weather and lee Precipi- sides of mountains and even low hills. But with reference tation. to this it should not be forgotten that water-vapour, heat and cold may be carried farther into the land by winds blowing in a different direction from that of those by which they were introduced from the ocean, and, with reference to rainfall, that the condensation of water-vapour may be brought out by different winds from those by which the water-vapour was brought to the area in which it is condensed. Water-vapour that may have been introduced by a south-westerly wind may be driven against a mountain side by a northerly or easterly wind, and thus cause rain on the northern or eastern side of the mountain. Still, any rainfall map of Europe indicates clearly enough the origin of the water-vapour to which the rainfall is due.

Such a map, taking into account the results of more detailed investigations of different parts of the continent, is that of Joseph Reger. 2 This map shows the rainfall or rather total precipitation in seven tints at intervals of 250 mm. (about 10 in.) up to 1000 mm., and beyond that at intervals of 500 mm. up to 2000 mm. In some parts of the continent the limits of a rainfall of 200 mm. and 600 mm. are also shown. The picture there given is too complicated for brief description except by saying quite generally that it shows on the whole a diminution in the total amount of precipitation from west to east, and that the heaviest precipitation is indicated on the west or south and most exposed sides of mountains. The areas of scantiest rainfall lie to the north and north-west of the Caspian Sea and in the interior of the Kola Peninsula, northwest of the White Sea. The Stye in the English Lake District, some 2 m. from and 650 ft. higher than Seathwaite, has long been reputed to be the station recording the heaviest rainfall in Europe, but it has been shown to have a rival in Crkvice, a station immediately to the north of the Bocche di Cattaro on the Dalmatian coast. In the period 1881-1890 the average rainfall at the Stye amounted to 177 in., in 1891-1900 that at Crkvice amounted to about 179 in.3 The amount of the snowfall as distinguished from the rest of the precipitation is now coming to be recognized as an important climatological element. So far, however, the only European country in which a record of the snowfall is Snowfall. kept is Russia, but it may be pointed out that the scantiness of the winter precipitation and accordingly of snow in the south-east of Europe almost entirely prevents the cultivation of winter wheat, which is thus left without the protective blanket enjoyed in some other parts of the world with cold winters.


The Beginning in Europe

The people of Friesland, Frisians, came from the part of Europe that includes southern Scandinavia, Denmark and generally northwestern Europe. From 1750 to 700 BC they were part of the Germanic tribes, which were mainly Nordic, or “narrow-faced” people. Among the Nordics there was a smaller group of “broad-faced” people who were probably slaves. Around 1400 BC the Germanics split into three basic groups; West (Goths), East (Vandals), and North (Scandinavians). The differences can be traced in language and culture. By 700 BC, the end of the Bronze Age, the Goths had expanded into the coastal region of Germany (now the Hanover area.)

Goths can be divided into three tribal groups along religious lines; the Inguaeones, the Istuaeones, and the Irminones. The Inguaeones’ name was derived from the god Inguz (or Freyr), and included the Frisians. Other tribes in the Inguaeones group were the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons. Of these tribes the closest to the Frisians were the Saxons. The Inguaeones tribes settled along the coast of the North Sea, in area of the current German and Dutch provinces of Friesland and Groningen. From 700 to 400 BC there was no separate Frisian group but between 400 and 200 BC major cultural changes happened. By 200 BC a distinctly Frisian culture had developed between the river Eems in Germany and Wijk-bij-Duurstede in the Netherlands. For the first time the Frisians were an ethnic group. By 47 AD the Roman Empire had partial control of Friesland, though there were various rebellions. The region remained in the Roman Empire until the Empire’s collapse in 410 AD.

The name “Frisian” has been found as far back as the end of the first century AD. The Germanic word “Freisias” comes from the Indo-European (Indo-Germanic) “Preisios,” meaning “to love.” Freya is the Germanic goddess of fertility and love and this name is considered the root of the tribal name. There are runes of the ancient alphabet used by the Germanic peoples. Words were carved in wood, making them have an angular shape. The earliest runes found were carved in Southern Juteland in Denmark. The runes were used for two main purposes, sending messages and for religious or magical purposes. Initially there were 24 letters in their alphabet but in areas populated by Angles, Saxons, and Frisians it was developed to a total of 26 letters, known as the Anglo-Frisian Futhorc.

From 250 AD to 100 AD some of the Frisians and Chaukians (the most numerous Germanic tribe) made a new tribal alliance called the Franks, which emigrated south to form the Frankish Empire. After 400 AD the rise of sea-level stopped and the Frisians returned to the coast of Germany, which by then had been settled by other tribes. These tribes became the Frisian tribe. The Saxons merged with some of the Chaukians also. This new group took the Saxons’, not the Chaukians’ name. Apparently the Saxons, though a smaller tribe, had done more to build up the union. They are mentioned as pirates in the North Sea starting in 286 AD.

The Migration Period

European expansion of the Germanic tribes – the founding fathers of Europe

350 to 550 AD was a migration period in Europe. In the seventh century the Frisian Empire extended from the coastal areas of north Belgium to southern Denmark. They controlled much of the North Sea trade routes from Friesland to England, Frankia, Scandinavia and northwestern Russia. A ‘Magna Frisia’ (Great-Friesland) consisted of a long narrow strip of land along the North Sea, from the Swin River in Belgium to the Weser River in Germany. The Saxons were their neighbors to the north and east, the Franks were in the south and the Anglo-Saxons in the west across the North Sea. Since the conversion to Christianity of the Franks under Clovis the Frisians had become their major enemy. About 450 AD Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians crossed the North Sea and established the Anglo-Saxon empire known as England. The Frisians colonized what became the county of Kent in southeast England.

Clovis, and the Franks, converted to Catholicism for power and political reasons. Other Germanic tribes had converted to Christianity called Arianism. The Germanic tribes in the north, including Friesland, still practiced the religious beliefs of their forefathers, known as Odinism and were considered heathens. There were many years of warfare between the Franks and Frisians, Christians and heathens. Around 734 Charles Martel sent forces to the heart of Frisian land. A decisive battle, with Poppo as the Frisian leader, was waged on land and sea. Frisian forces were defeated, and Poppo was killed, and Friesland became part of the Frankish Empire. Frisians lost their freedom and the church established a foothold in Friesland.

East Friesland was conquered about fifty years later. They had united with their heathen Saxon neighbors. Charles Martel’s son, Pepin the Short tried but could not win against these Frisians and Saxons. They remained free until his grandson, Charlemagne, defeated them in 785. In Kent, at this time, Egbert of Wessex would have been about ten years old.

During the eighth century, while these struggles were taking place, the Frisian language was born, which can be traced back by sound changes in the language. It is a Germanic language belonging to the West Germanic group. High and Low German, Dutch, and English are also in this group, Old English being the closest to Frisian. At its start Frisian was spoken in the coastal areas of Germany, Holland, and Denmark.

Charlemagne ruled the Frankish Empire in a strong centralized way and Frisians were required to serve in his armies. In 800 the first Viking raids upon Friesland started, and the Frisians were discharged to organize their defenses at home. Egbert was in exile from 795 to 802 in Charlemagne’s court, and would have been aware of these events. Since Charlemagne’s victory over the Saxons in 785, his empire bordered the Viking Empire. The northern Germanic Vikings knew of atrocities Charlemagne had done to the Frisians and Saxons and raided the wealthy churches and monasteries, which were thought of as heathen reprisals.

After 785 the Frisian Empire was a county of the Frankish Empire. The first Frisian count in the Frankish Empire dated from 749-775. The count was a feudal tenant with the main duties to maintain the rule of law, and to organize conscripts for the Frankish armies. There are several who are known by name from various records of Charlemagne’s court, representing East, West, and Middle Friesland. There were three counts named Egbert in this group, all counts of Middle Friesland. There was a Count Egbert mentioned during the time of King Egbert’s exile in Charlemagne’s court, who remained in the Frankish Empire after the return of King Egbert to England.

Ethnic Makeup

An enormous amount of investigation with regard to European ethnology has been carried on in recent years. These labours. have chiefly consisted in the study of the physical type of different countries or districts, but it is not necessary to consider in detail the results arrived at. It should, however, be pointed out that the idea of an Aryan race may be regarded as definitely abandoned. One cannot even speak with assurance of the diffusion of an Aryan civilization. It is at least not certain that the civilization that was spread by the migration of peoples speaking Aryan tongues originated amongst and remained for a time peculiar to such peoples. The utmost that can be said is that the Aryan languages must in their earliest forms have spread from some geographical centre. That centre, however, is no longer sought for in Asia, but in some part of Europe, so that we can no longer speak of any detachment of Aryan-speaking peoples entering Europe.

The most important works, summarizing the labours of a host of specialists on the races of Europe, are those of Ripley and Deniker. Founding upon a great multitude of data that have been collected with regard to the form of the head, face and nose, height, and colour of the hair and eyes, most of the leading anthropologists seem to have come to the conclusion that there are three great racial types variously and intricately intermingled in Europe. As described and named by Ripley, these are: the Teutonic, characterized by long head and face and narrow aquiline nose, high stature, very light hair and blue eyes; the Alpine, characterized by round head, broad face, variable rather broad heavy nose, medium height and " stocky " frame, light chestnut hair and hazel grey eyes; and (3) the Mediterranean, characterized by long head and face, rather broad nose, medium stature and slender build, dark brown or black hair and dark eyes. The Teutonic race is entirely confined to northwestern Europe, and embraces some groups speaking Celtic languages. It is believed by Ripley to have been differentiated in this continent, and to have originally been one with the other long-headed race, sometimes known as the Iberian, and to the Italians as the Ligurian race, which " prevails everywhere south of the Pyrenees, along the southern coast of France, and in southern Italy, including Sicily and Sardinia," and which extends beyond the confines of Europe into Africa.

The Alpine race is geographically intermediate between these two, having its centre in the Alps, while in western Europe it is spread most widely over the more elevated regions, and in eastern Europe " becomes less pure in proportion as we go east from the Carpathians across the great plains of European Russia." This last race, which is most persistently characterized by the shape of the head, is regarded by Ripley as an intrusive Asiatic element which once advanced as a wedge amongst the earlier long-headed population as far as Brittany, where it still survives in relative purity, and even into Great Britain, though not Ireland, but afterwards retired and contracted its area before an advance of the long-headed races. Deniker, basing his classification on essentially the same data as Ripley and others, while agreeing with them almost entirely with regard to the distribution of the three main traits (cephalic index, colour of hair and eyes, and stature) on which anthropologists rely, yet proceeds further in the subdivision of the races of Europe. He recognizes six principal and four secondary races. The six principal races are the Nordic (answering approximately to the Teutonic of Ripley), the Littoral or Atlanto-Mediterranean, the Ibero-Insular, the Oriental, the Adriatic or Dinaric and the Occidental or Cevenole.


Map of Indo-European languages

Although language is no test of race, it is the best evidence for present or past community of social or political life; and nothing is better fitted to give a true impression of the position and relative importance of the peoples of Europe than a survey of their linguistic differences and affinities. There are still about 60 distinct languages spoken in Europe, without including Latin, Greek, Old Slavonic and Hebrew, which are still used in literature.

National Borders

The boundaries of European countries have of course been determined by history, and in some cases only historical events can be held to account for their general situation, the influence of geographical conditions being seen only on a minute examination of details. In most cases, however, it is otherwise.

The present political boundaries were all settled when the general distribution of population in the continent was in a large measure determined by the geographical conditions, and accordingly the lines along which they run for the most part show the influence of such conditions very clearly, and thus present in many cases a marked contrast to the political boundaries in America and Australia, where the boundaries have often been marked out in advance of the population.

In Europe the general rule is that the boundaries tend to run through some thinly peopled strip or tract of country, such as is formed by mountain ranges, elevated tablelands too bleak for cultivation, relatively high ground of no great altitude where soil and climate are less favourable to cultivation than the lower land on either side, or low ground occupied by heaths or marshes or some other sterile soil; but it is the exception for important navigable rivers to form boundaries between countries or even between important administrative divisions of countries, and for such exceptions a special explanation can generally be found. Navigable rivers unite rather than separate, for the obvious reason that they generally flow through populous valleys, and the vessels that pass up and down can touch as easily on one side as the other. Minor rivers, on the other hand, flowing through sparsely peopled valleys frequently form portions of political boundaries simply because they are convenient lines of demarcation. A brief examination of the present political map of Europe will serve to illustrate these rules.

The eastern frontier of the Netherlands begins by running southwards through a marsh nearly parallel to the Ems but nowhere touching it, then winds south or south-westwards through a rather sparsely peopled district to the Rhine. This river it crosses. It then approaches but does not touch the Meuse, but runs for a considerable distance roughly parallel to that river along higher ground, where the population is much more scanty than in the valley. On the side of Belgium the Dutch boundary is for the most part thoroughly typical, winding between the dreariest parts of the Dutch or Belgium provinces of North Brabant, Limburg and Antwerp. The Scheldt nowhere forms a boundary between countries, not even at its wide estuary. The eastern frontier of Belgium is quite typical both on the side of Germany and Luxemburg. It is otherwise, however, on the south, there that country confines with France, and indeed the whole of the north-east frontier of France may be called a historical frontier, showing the influence of geographical conditions only in details. One of these details, however, deserves attention, the tongue in which it advances northwards into Belgium so as to give to France the natural fortress of Givet, a tongue, be it noted, the outline of which is as typical a boundary as is to be seen in Europe in respect of scantiness of population, apart from the fortress.

The mountainous frontiers of France on the east and south require hardly any comment. Only in the Burgundy Gate between the Vosges and the Jura has an artificial boundary had to be drawn, and even that in a minor degree illustrates the general rule. The division of the Iberian peninsula between Spain and Portugal goes back in effect to the Christian reaction against the Moors. The valley of the Mino and its tributaries establishes a natural connexion between Galicia and the rest of Spain; but an independent crusade against the Moors starting from the lower part of the valley of the Douro resulted in the formation of the kingdom of Portugal, which found its natural eastern limit on the scantily peopled margin of the Iberian tableland, where the rivers cease to be navigable and flow through narrow gorges, that of the Tagus, where the river marks the frontier, being almost without inhabitants, especially on the Spanish side.

The greater part of the Italian boundary is very clearly marked geographically, though we have to look back to the weakness of divided Italy to account for the instances in which northern mountaineers have pushed their way into southern Alpine valleys. Even in these parts, however, there are interesting illustrations of geographical influence in the way in which the Italian boundary crosses the northern ends of the Lago Maggiore and the Lake of Garda, and cuts off portions of Lake Lugano both in the east and west. In all these cases the frontier crosses from one steep unpeopled slope to another, assigning the population at different ends or on different sides of the lakes to the country to which belongs the adjacent population not lying on their shores.

Of the Swiss frontiers all that it is necessary to remark is that the river Rhine in more than one place marks the boundary, in one, however, where it traverses alluvial flats liable to inundation (on the side of Austria), in the other place where it rushes through a gorge below the falls of Schaffhausen. The southern frontier of Germany is almost throughout typical, the northern is the sea, except where a really artificial boundary runs through Jutland.

In the east of Germany and the north-east of Austria the winding frontier through low plains is the result of the partition of Poland, but in spite of the absence of marked physical features it is for the most part in its details almost as typical as the mountainous frontier on the south of Germany. All the great rivers are crossed. Most of the line runs through a tract of strikingly scanty population, and the dense population in one part of it, where upper Silesia confines with Russian Poland, has been developed since the boundary was fixed.

In the Balkan Peninsula the most striking facts are that the Balkans do not, and the Danube to a large extent does form a boundary. Geographical features, however, bring the valley of the Maritsa (eastern Rumelia) into intimate relation with upper Bulgaria, the connexion of which with Bulgaria north of the Balkans had long been established by the valley of the Isker, narrow as that valley is. On the side of Rumania, again, it is the marshes on the left bank of the Danube even more than the river itself that make of that river a frontier. An examination of the eastern boundary of all that is included in Russia in Europe will furnish further illustrations of the general rule.

Finally, on the north-west of Russia it was only natural that the Tornea and the Tana should be taken as lines of demarcation in that thinly peopled region, and it was equally natural that where the (a) Annexed by imperial decree to Austria-Hungary in 1908.

A noteworthy feature of the distribution of population in Europe, especially in western, southern and central Europe, in modern times, is the high degree of aggregation in towns.

Political history

See Political history of Europe

External links

Part of this article consists of modified text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition of 1911, which is no longer restricted by copyright.
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