Europe Overview


  1. Regions
    • Eastern Europe
    • Western Europe
    • Southern Europe
    • Northern Europe
    • British Isles
    • Core Industrial Regions
  2. Physical Environment
    • Physical Landscape
    • Climate
  3. Culture
    • Language
    • Religion
    • Catholic/Protestant Division
    • Orthodox
    • Muslim
  4. Demographic Analysis based on Population Data Sheet
    • Population Growth
    • Under 15 / Over 65
    • Infant Mortality
    • Percent Urban
    • GNI PPP
  5. Industrial Revolution
    • Manufacturing
    • Agriculture
    • Transportation
  6. International Aspects
    • International Economy
    • Dispersal of Europeans
  7. Society in Change
    • Population growth and urbanization
    • Wars
    • Europe Border Changes
  8. References
  9. Review Questions


Based on the environment, culture, and economic similarities, Europe is divided into four different regions. Eastern Europe is territorially the largest region, consisting of, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and the Slovak Republic. The southern half of Eastern Europe is referred to as the Balkans or Balkan Peninsula after the mountain range in Bulgaria. This includes the countries Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, and Serbia-Montenegro.

Western Europe, is the industrial heartland of Europe, and is the core of its economic power, with a total population around 187 million. This area covers Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Also included in Western Europe are Alpine Europe and the British Isles. England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, make up the British Isles. Austria and Switzerland make up Alpine Europe.

Northern Europe includes Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. This area is known for harsher environments. It is generally cold, has poorly developed soils and limited mineral resources. This region has a population of over 25 million people.

Southern Europe, also known as Mediterranean Europe is located on the south side of Europe’s center. These countries consist of Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. The culture among these countries goes back to Greco-Roman times.

The major industrial core extends from the southeastern corner of England, down to include Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, into the eastern part of France, the western section of Germany, all of Switzerland, the western tip of Austria, and into northern Italy.

Physical Environment

There are many different aspects to the physical landscape of Europe. It varies from lowlands with good soils, to high Mountains, to metallic minerals and energy resources found in rocks. Some other physical features found in Europe are hilly plateaus, glaciated lands, and river plains

Many mountain ranges run through Europe; infact almost all of Europe contains mountainous land. The Alps run on the northern margins of Mediterranean and Southern, Europe. The Sierra Nevada mountain range is located in Southern Spain. The Pyrenees Mountains border between France and Spain. The Apennine Mountains are located in the peninsula Italy. The Dinaric Alps go along Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Albania. The Pindus Mountains are located in Greece. Carpathian Mountains are located in Slovakia, southwestern Ukraine, and Romania. Bulgaria has the Balkan Mountains.

From southeast Britain, across northern Germany, through Poland, and into Russia is the North European lowland. Meseta is the upland area of central Spain. Massif Central is the upland area of central southern France. Rhine Highlands are uplands crossed by the Rhine River located in Germany. The Bohemian Massif in the Czech Republic is an area of uplands.

Europe has many peninsulas. Brittany is the peninsula of northwestern France. Norway and Sweden make up the Scandinavian Peninsula. Iberia is a peninsula containing Spand and Portugal.

Europe is surrounded by many different bodies of water. The Mediterranean Sea is towards southern Europe, lying between Asia, and northern Africa. The Baltic Sea is between Northern and Eastern Europe, with no outlet to the North Sea. The North Sea is a major source of oil; it lies between the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Germany. The Adriatic Sea is bordered by Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia-Montenegro, and Albania. The Aegean Sea is surrounded by Greece and Turkey. The Black Sea is between Turkey, Georgia, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. The Atlantic Ocean is to the west of Europe.

The Rhine River starts in the Netherlands, goes into western Germany, along France's border with Germany and Switzerland. The Elbe River cuts through eastern Germany before flowing into the Czech Republic. The Danube River starts in Germany, cuts across northern Austria before going to the Slovak Republic, into Hungary and Serbia, then following the border of Romania and Bulgaria. The Rhône River is in the south of France. The Seine River is in western France, while the Loire River cuts through the central part of the country. The Thames River is in southern England. The Vistula River cuts through the center of Poland and pokes into western Ukraine. The Po River runs through northern Italy.

Along with such varied topography comes varied climates. Europe is characterized with a midlatitude west coast climate. This type of environment is dominated by cyclonic weather systems that are fueled by oceanic heat and moisture sources. Summers are typically cooler and winters milder than the continental interiors. The north is dominated by cold polar extremes. The west is mild year-round and tends to be humid. The extremes associated with continental climates are found in the east. Summer droughts are a norm around the Mediterranean Sea. South Europe has a Mediterranean climate with wet winters and dry summers.

Cultivation and urban-industrial areas replaced post-glacial forests and areas of better soil. As a result of intensive use of the natural environment, soil erosion, water pollution, and air pollution is of concern of European countries.


Europe has been the home for a wide range of people and cultures throughout history. Celts were European tribes with metal-making skills, particularly in bronze and iron. They moved from the Alpine area into Spain, France, and Britain at about 1000 BCE. At about 300 BCE the Greek Empire reached up into India. The ideas of the Greeks influenced and formed the ideas of modern Europe. The Roman established their empire around the Mediterranean Sea, extending all the way up to northwest Europe in the first century BCE.

Germanic tribes lived in what is today Germany. They moved outward at about CE 300s conquering most of Western Europe. Included in the Germanic tribes were the Franks, Saxons, Burgundians, and Swedes.

The Moors, or Muslim groups of people, invaded Spain and southern Italy in the CE 700s. They stayed in Spain until the 1400s. Vikings, whom are known for their massive ship-going vessels, had a great influence as far inland as Russia. They spread from Scandinavia starting at CE700s. The Vikings conquered much of northwest Europe, Iceland, and Greenland.

Religions have a way of uniting and tearing apart Europe. The religions of the Germanic tribes were wiped out with the invasion of Catholic missionaries. Europe’s cultural heritage is flooded in Christian traditions. Many conflicts have arisen from this instead of unifying the country. Catholics kept the majority of Europe for centuries until Martin Luther brought about the beginnings of Protestantism. There has been sectarian strife between Catholics and Protestants within Europe. An example of this is in Northern Ireland, violence can still be seen in the community today. Since religion and government are still closely connected there are regional political parties who call themselves “Christian Democrats”.

Persecution of Jews in Europe started with the Crusades and went though, Inquisition, pogroms, and ultimately the Holocaust. Jews were originally forced out of their home land in Palestine during the Roman Empire. This resulted in small Jewish settlements within cities throughout the Mediterranean. By late CE 900s, 20% of the Jewish population were living in Muslim lands of the Iberian Peninsula. Christians conquered Iberia and Jews were faced wither persecution one again, and fled to Spain and other lenient countries.

Muslims had a strong influence in Spain and other countries they conquered. Eastern Europe has a history of conflict between Christian Orthodox and those of Islamic faith. There is a rise of Islam in Western Europe do to the recent immigration of Muslims from North Africa and other areas of the Muslim World.

The movement of peoples and influences on culture can be seen throughout Europe in customs and architecture to this day. Building and historical location show architectural styles of the different times they were built.

Global trading links were developed in the 1400s. Europe dominated the industrial revolution of the 1700s and 1800s. Europe was the first core in the world economic system and continues to play a leading role in today's core of wealthy countries.

World War II turned out to be disastrous for Europe. World War II caused demolishment of buildings and landmarks and affected the economic process. Locations for manufacturing were moved. The formation of the European Union and its growth over the years has shown unity between ordinarily spit regions.

Demographic Analysis based on Population Data Sheet

The following information was taken from the 2006 World Population Data Sheet of the Population Reference Bureau. Given that the regional divisions of the Population Reference Beureau do not correspond to the regional divisions discussed in these notes, the data in the table had to be recalculated to reflect those differences.

Pop. 2006*

Birth Rate

Death Rate

Natural Increase

Pop. 2025*

Pop. 2050*

Percent Change

Infant Mortality

% <15

% 65+

Percent Urban

GNI PPP per Capita

Northern Europe













Western Europe













Eastern Europe













Southern Europe













* population figures in millions

Northern Europe’s Birthrate is greater than the death rate according to the graph above. This indicates that the population will continue to grow. There will be an 11% change. Western Europe has a very similar birth and death rate, although the birth rate is slightly larger. The population is still set to decrease by 2050, but the percent change remains at -0. Eastern Europe has a much higher death rate than birth rate. So the population is said to decrease by -22%. Southern Europe like Western Europe has a similar number in death and birth rate; however, the population is set to decrease by -5%.

Other figures of interest from the first chart presented are the infant mortality rates, percentage of those living in the urban regions, and the GNI PPP per capita. All Europe has a similar infant mortality rate besides Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe is almost double in numbers compared to the other areas. As far as living in Urban areas Southern and Eastern Europe have very similar numbers. Northern Europe has the highest percent living in urban areas and 83%, Western Europe is not far behind with 75%.

Northern Europe has the highest GNI PPP per capita of $34,430.Eastern Europe has the considerably lowest GNI PPP per capita at only $11,610.00 This low figure can be related to this area’s emergence from Soviet-era economies and control. Western Europe and Southern Europe are very similar in numbers. These numbers are influenced by strong economic policies and industrial innovations.

Industrial Revolution

Western Belgium and England specialezed in manufacturing wool and linen textiles. Eastern Germany’s Saxony, iron ore was mined and smelted. Manufacturers produced a wide range of good but their quality was not as good as products coming from India and China. This gave Europeans motivation to improve their products and mass-produce. They looked for better machinery,especialy to improve spinning and waving equipment. The industrial revolution of the 1700s began in Western Europe, specifically in southern England; and therefor, established their dominance of industry on into the 1800s. In the 1780s James Watt and others created the steamdriven engine and at around the same time found coal was a better substitute for charcoal in smeltion iron. Because of all this British controlled the flow of raw materials.

New ideas and toold came into farming as a result of the industrial revoution. Crop rotation and cultivation of root crops became new methods of farming the land.The seed drill enabled farmers to crop yields by pushing seeds farther into the soil out of reach from wind and birds. Systematic stcok breeding was a new successful way to improve herds. Sheep and cattle began to be bred for food as well as their previous important values of wool, hide, and strength.

Transportation was improved greatly. The steam engine not only helped with factory operation but now transportation for water, land, and railroads. This development in transportation helped the movement of good and people across the country.

Because of the improved food supplies and medical knowledge do to the Industrial Revolution there was a dramatic increase in population and urbanization. People moving into cities continued until about half of every country’s population was living in urban settings.

International Aspects

Europe has influenced the world long before the industrial revolution. Vikings spread from Scandinavia through much of Europe. People from the mediterranean and from China conqured lands and brought new cultures and traditions.

Europeans searching for better trade routes cause ship captains to stumble on uncharted lands. Countries soon began colonizing these lands full of new recourses and materials. Today, Europe is still has a major role in the world politically and economically. They exchange of goods and ideas goes two ways as they import information and merchandise.

Society in Change

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic community that is redefining the way Europe is viewed by others and itself. Economies are becoming tied together through use of common currency (the euro) and agreed upon rules and regulations. The European Union has been a benefit to countries through stimulated economies, outside investment, and expanding markets.

The European Union goes against the normal patter of divisions and regional pressures in Europe. NATO is continuing to expand across Europe. Northern European and Eastern European countries to recently join NATO are Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and also Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgarian and Romania. Many other countries wish to join, Albania, Croatia, Republic of Macedonia, Georgia, Montenegro and Ukraine.

Some areas of Europe are still at war over lands and ideas. Yugoslavia is split into five separate countries and Serbia-Montenegro continues to have tensions. Tensions remain high in the Basque region straddling Spain/France border. Northern Ireland has had much violence do to strife between Catholics and Protestants. Flemish and Walloon people in Belgium continue to have tense relationships. Wales and Scotland have a debate of the value of sovereignty apart from England.

Europe has many different cultures and peoples with a long history. Europe ranges from harsh climates, to tranquil beaches, from hilly mountain tops, to green plateaus. This continent has changed throughout the years and continues to grow and change to this day.

Review Questions

  1. Which subregion is the industrial heartland of Europe?
    1. Northern Europe
    2. Western Europe
    3. Eastern Europe
    4. Southern Europe
  2. Balkan Europe is included in which larger subregion of Europe?
    1. Northern Europe
    2. Western Europe
    3. Eastern Europe
    4. Southern Europe
  3. Which subregion of Europe contains the following countries: Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovak Republic, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, and Serbia-Montenegro?
    1. Northern Europe
    2. Western Europe
    3. Eastern Europe
    4. Southern Europe
  4. Which subregion of Europe contains the following countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Austria and Switzerland?
    1. Northern Europe
    2. Western Europe
    3. Eastern Europe
    4. Southern Europe
  5. The northern margins of Southern Europe are bordered with which mountain range?
    1. Apennine Mountains
    2. Pindus Mountains
    3. Alps
    4. Pyrenees
  6. In which country is the peninsula of Brittany?
    1. England
    2. France
    3. Ireland
    4. Germany
  7. Which sea provides Norway with oil income?
    1. North Sea
    2. Baltic Sea
    3. Adriatic Sea
    4. Black Sea
  8. Which major religion did not have a large impact on Europe's culture?
    1. Islam
    2. Hinduism
    3. Judaism
    4. Christianity
  9. The foundation of modern European ideas was based in which group's influence?
    1. Celts
    2. Germanic tribes
    3. Romans
    4. Greeks
  10. Which subregion of Europe has a negative natural increase?
    1. Northern Europe
    2. Western Europe
    3. Eastern Europe
    4. Southern Europe
  11. Which subregion of Europe is projected to have a large population increase between 2025 and 2050?
    1. Northern Europe
    2. Western Europe
    3. Eastern Europe
    4. Southern Europe
  12. Which subregion of Europe has equal birth rates and death rates?
    1. Northern Europe
    2. Western Europe
    3. Eastern Europe
    4. Southern Europe
  13. Where did the Industrial Revolution begin?
    1. Germany
    2. England
    3. Denmark
    4. France
  14. Which form of transportation had the biggest role in the Industrial Revolution?
    1. Automobile
    2. Railroads
    3. Ships
    4. Airplanes
  15. Which of the following benefits are not currently attributed to the European Union?
    1. Stimulated economies
    2. Political federation
    3. Outside investment
    4. Principle of subsidiarity
  16. Which major event has caused the role of NATO to shift?
    1. World War I
    2. Collapse of the Soviet Union
    3. Wars in the Balkans
    4. World War II


Blij, H.J, and Muller, M. (2007). The World Today-Concepts and Regions in Geography (third edition). New York.

Lewis, Price, and Wyckoff. (2006). Diversity Amid Globalization. World regions, enviroment, development.(third edition). New Jersey.

Blij, H.J. and Muller, P. (2002). Geography Realms, Regions, and Concepts (tenth edition). U.S.

Submitted by Katie Roloff on April 30, 2008.