Continent Briefs: Amongst the seven pieces of land bifurcated by water, Europe the sixth largest, stands in need of no introduction. Europe, the continent much caressed by nature, is a set of 46 countries and covers an area of 9,938,000 sq km over the globe. According to geographical parameters, Europe should not be classified as a continent per se but it is a part of the peninsula of Euroasia, which includes entire Europe and Asia. However, despite this Europe is still reckoned as a continent till date.
On taking a leap into the past and turning the pages of European history we find that in the pre-historic era, around 7th millennium BC, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece were foremost to witness civilization in Europe. Over the years the regions of Central and Northern Europe also developed.
During the 5th century BC, Western Europe came into prominence. The region emerged as a site of distinct civilization after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. It was in this very century that Bulgarians created Bulgaria, the first Slavic state in Europe. Around 800, Charlemagne was crowned the emperor and so the Holy Roman Empire emerged in Europe. Charlemagne expanded his kingdom to modern Hungary, Italy, Bohemia, Lower Saxony and Spain. In 10th century BC that Poland and Hungary became independent kingdoms of Central Europe.
In later Middle Ages i.e. around 11th century Italy emerged as a major center of trade. This led to not just the economic development of city-states such as Florence and Venice but also laid seeds for the emergence of nation states such as France, England, Spain and Portugal.
By the time 14th century came, Baltic Sea had come up as a significant trade route. However the crucial event in middle ages was the fall of the city of Constantinople and of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Constantinople served as the capital of Turk's Ottoman Empire till 1919.
In 1517, Martin Luther King initiated Reformation, the repercussions of which were socio-political and religious wars in the continent. The much important split between Catholicism and Protestantism was particularly marked in England and Germany.
The Reformation had a deep and long-lasting effect on Europe. Many of its countries such as France, Germany etc. disintegrated on communal grounds. England avoided this fate for sometime and settled down under Elizabeth to moderate Anglicanism. However the Early Modern Period of 16th, 17th and 18th century is remembered for the advancement of modern science and technology that together gave birth to the Industrial Revolution.
What is also noteworthy during this period is that the conflict between Sweden, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire over the domination of Eastern Europe ceased and the three powers got replaced by new enlightened absolutist monarchies, Russia, Prussia and Austria.
After major disputes between king Charles and John Pym (the Cavaliers and the Roundheads) that also led to English Civil War during 1644 to 1647, in 1653 Britain entered the period of English Commonwealth with Oliver Cromwell being crowned as the Lord Protector. After Cromwell's death in 1658, monarchy returned in Europe under King Charles II. In 1707, the Act of Union was undertaken. On the basis of this act the kingdoms of Scotland and England united to create a United Kingdom of Great Britain. While the Act of Union of 1800 brought together the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Europe during late 18th century was shaken by the troublesome states-of-affairs in France. It was at some point in this time that French Revolution took pace in France that was economically wrecked by the American War of Independence. After years of conflicts, on 20th September 1792, the National Convention abolished monarchy in France and declared it a republic.
The famous France general, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself the emperor in 1804. Napoleon was an ambitious man who wanted to conquer many places to add to his glory. He had planned to win over Britain but was badly defeated in the battle of Trafalgar on 21oct 1805. He defeated Prussians at the battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Russians at the Freidland and invaded Russia in 1812. The reign of napoleon came to a standstill when British and Prussian army at Waterloo overpowered him on 18th June 1815.
After the Napoleonic wars, in 1814, congress gained eminence. Congress was mainly concerned with determining the shape of Europe after Napoleonic wars. As a result congress did numerous changes and adjustments such as it enlarged Russia and Prussia, consolidated Germany, divided Poland back into Russia, Prussia and Austria, brought back the significance of pope, etc.
But instability persisted for in Europe for various reasons even during the 19th century. In between 1815 and 1871 there were countless revolutionary attempts and wars for independence. By 1871 most of the European states had turned into constitutional monarchies while Germany and Italy had developed into nation states. In 19th century, British Empire emerged as the world's foremost global power due in a large part to the Industrial Revolution and victory in Napoleonic Wars.
The worst was yet to come. As a consequence of the First World War in the 19th century, European powers bifurcated into two i.e. the Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey on the one hand and the Serbia and Triple Extente on the other. But by the end of this war in 1919 before things could settle down, the German dictator Adolf Hitler started the World War II in 1939. But Germany's terror and victory did not last long. In 1945, the other Allies invaded Germany from the east by Russia and from the west.
After the end of the two major destructive wars, the map of Europe was re-drawn at the Yalta Conference. But this became a bone of contention in the Cold War between the capitalistic Western countries and the Soviet Union. The European Union emerged during this time because the drive to unite Europe and prevent another war.
Today European Union has become a super national organization. The European integration continued till early 21st century. In 1999, a separate currency, Euro, was developed for Europe. At present with a population of 727,000,000, Europe enjoys incredible fame and name for its wonderful countries and rich historical background.More links about Europe