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Europe, second smallest of the world’s continents, composed of the westward-projecting peninsulas of Eurasia (the good landmass that it shares through Asia) and also occupying almost one-fifteenth of the world’s complete land location. It is bordered on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, and also on the south (west to east) by the Mediterranean Sea, the Babsence Sea, the Kuma-Manych Depression, and the Caspian Sea. The continent’s eastern boundary (north to south) runs along the Ural Mountains and then about southwest alengthy the Emba (Zhem) River, terminating at the north Caspian coastline.


Europe’s largest islands and also archipelagoes encompass Novaya Zemlya, Franz Josef Land, Svalbard, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the British Isles, the Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, Crete, and Cyprus. Its significant peninsulas incorporate Jutland also and the Scandinavian, Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas. Indented by plenty of bays, fjords, and seas, continental Europe’s very irconsistent coastline is around 24,000 miles (38,000 km) lengthy.



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Among the continents, Europe is an anomaly. Larger just than Australia, it is a little appendage of Eurasia. Yet the peninsular and insular western extremity of the continent, thrusting towards the North Atlantic Ocean, provides—many thanks to its latitude and also its physical geography—a relatively genial humale habitat, and the lengthy procedures of humale history pertained to note off the area as the house of a distinctive people. Despite its inner diversity, Europe has thus operated, from the time it initially emerged in the human consciousness, as a people acomponent, concentrating—to borrow a expression from Christopher Marlowe—“unlimited riches in a tiny room.”

As a theoretical construct, Europa, as the more learned of the ancient Greeks initially conceived it, stood in sharp contrast to both Asia and Libya, the name then used to the recognized north part of Africa. Literally, Europa is currently thmust have actually intended “Mainland also,” fairly than the previously interpretation, “Suncollection.” It shows up to have actually said itself to the Greeks, in their maritime human being, as an correct designation for the considerable northerly lands that lay beyond, lands via qualities vaguely recognized yet clearly different from those innate in the principles of Asia and Libya—both of which, reasonably prosperous and also civilized, were associated closely with the culture of the Greeks and their precursors. From the Greek perspective then, Europa was culturally backward and also scantily settled. It was a barbarian world—that is, a non-Greek one, with its occupants making “bar-bar” noises in unintelligible tongues. Traders and travelers additionally reported that the Europe past Greece possessed distinctive physical units, through mountain units and also lowland also river containers much larger than those familiar to citizens of the Mediterranean area. It was clear also that a succession of climates, markedly different from those of the Mediterranean borderlands, were to be skilled as Europe was penetrated from the south. The spacious eastern steppes and, to the west and north, primeval forests as yet just marginally touched by huguy occupancy further underlined eco-friendly contrasts.

Athens: Acropolis
The Acropolis and bordering location, Athens.
Neil Beer/Getty Images

The empire of primitive Rome, at its biggest level in the 2nd century ce, revealed, and imprinted its society on, much of the face of the continent. Trade relations beyond its frontiers additionally drew the remoter regions into its sphere. Yet it was not until the 1nine and 20th centuries that contemporary scientific research was able to draw with some precision the geologic and also geographical lineaments of the European continent, the peoples of which had actually meanwhile completed supremacy over—and also collection in motion vast countervailing movements among—the citizens of a lot of the rest of the globe (see Western colonialism).

Pont du Gard, Nîmes, France
Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct in Nîmes, France.

As to the territorial borders of Europe, they might seem reasonably clear on its seaward flanks, yet many type of island teams much to the north and west—Svalbard, the Faroes, Iceland, and also the Madeira and Canary islands—are considered European, while Greenland (though tied politically to Denmark) is traditionally allocated to North America. In addition, the Mediterranean coastlands of North Africa and southwestern Asia also exhilittle bit some European physical and cultural affinities. Turvital and Cyprus in specific, while geologically Eastern, possess aspects of European society and might be related to as parts of Europe. Without a doubt, Turcrucial has sought membership in the European Union (EU), and also the Republic of Cyprus joined the organization in 2004.

La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain
La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain.

Europe’s borders have been specifically unspecific, and therefore much debated, on the east, wright here the continent merges, without sundering physical limits, through components of western Asia. The eastward borders currently adopted by a lot of geographers exclude the Caucasus region and incorporate a tiny portion of Kazakhstan, wright here the European boundary formed by the north Caspian coastline is linked to that of the Urals by Kazakhstan’s Emba River and Mughalzhar (Mugodzhar) Hills, themselves a southerly expansion of the Urals. Among the alternate limits proposed by geographers that have gained wide acceptance is a scheme that sees the cremainder of the Greater Caucasus variety as the dividing line in between Europe and Asia, placing Ciscaucasia, the north part of the Caucasus region, in Europe and also Transcaucasia, the southern component, in Asia. Another commonly endorsed plan puts the western percent of the Caucasus region in Europe and the eastern part—that is, the mass of Azerbaijan and tiny portions of Armenia, Georgia, and Russia’s Caspian Sea coast—in Asia. Still another system via many adherents locates the continental boundary alengthy the Aras River and also the Turkish border, thereby putting Armenia, Azerbaijan, and also Georgia in Europe.

Europe’s eastern boundary, but, is not a cultural, political, or economic discontinuity on the land equivalent, for instance, to the insulating meaning of the Himalayas, which plainly note a north limit to South Oriental civilization. Inhabited levels, with just the minor interruption of the worn-down Urals, extend from main Europe to the Yenisey River in central Siberia. Slavic-based civilization dominates much of the region lived in by the former Soviet Union from the Baltic and also Babsence seregarding the Pacific Ocean. That world is distinguished from the remainder of Europe by heritages of a medieval Mongol-Tatar dominance that precluded the sharing of many of the creations and breakthroughs of European “Western civilization”; it became further distinctive in the time of the loved one isolation of the Soviet duration. In partitioning the world into systematic large geographic devices, therefore, a lot of contemporary geographers treated the previous Soviet Union as a distinct territorial entity, comparable to a continent, that was rather sepaprice from Europe to the west and also from Asia to the south and east; that distinction has actually been kept for Russia, which made up three-fourths of the Soviet Union.

Europe occupies some 4 million square miles (10 million square km) within the typical borders assigned to it. That wide territory reveals no easy unity of geologic framework, landform, relief, or climate. Rocks of all geologic durations are exposed, and also the procedure of geologic forces during an tremendous succession of eras has actually added to the molding of the landscapes of hill, plateau, and lowland also and has bequeathed a variety of mineral reserves. Glaciation as well has actually left its note over wide locations, and also the processes of erosion and deplace have actually created a highly variegated and compartmentalized countryside. Climatically, Europe benefits by having actually only a small proportion of its surface either as well cold or too hot and dry for efficient negotiation and usage. Regional climatic contrasts neverthemuch less exist: oceanic, Mediterranean, and continental forms take place extensively, as execute gradations from one to the various other. Associated vegetation and also soil creates likewise show continual selection, yet only sections of the dominant woodland that clothed most of the continent as soon as human beings first appeared now remajor.

Find Out about the history of the European Union
An overcheck out of the European Union"s history.

All in all, Europe enjoys a substantial and also long-exploited resource base of soil, woodland, sea, and minerals (notably coal), yet its people are progressively its primary resource. The continent, excluding Russia, has less than one-tenth of the complete populace of the human being, yet in general its people are well educated and extremely professional. Europe likewise supports high densities of populace, focused in urban-commercial areas. A thriving percent of world in metropolitan areas are employed in a vast range of company activities, which have actually involved overcome the economic climates of most countries. Nonetheless, in production and also agriculture Europe still occupies an eminent, if no longer necessarily predominant, position. The creation of the European Economic Community in 1957 and the EU in 1993 substantially intensified economic participation in between many kind of of the continent’s nations. Europe’s proceeding economic success are evidenced by its high typical of living and its successes in science, innovation, and the arts.

European Parliament
European Parliament building, Strasbourg, France.

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This article treats the physical and human location of Europe. For conversation of individual nations of the continent, see particular write-ups by name—e.g., Italy, Poland, and United Kingdom. For discussion of major cities of the continent, see certain articles by name—e.g., Rome, Warwitnessed, and also London. The principal write-ups mentioning the historical and also social advancement of the continent include background of Europe; European exploration; Western colonialism; Aegean civilizations; ancient Greek civilization; primitive Rome; Oriental Empire; and also Holy Roman Empire. Related topics are disputed in such posts as those on religion (e.g., Judaism and also Romale Catholicism) and literary works (e.g., Greek literature; Dutch literature; and also Spanish literature).