Saturday, 18 January 2014


Europe, conventionally one of the seven continents of the world. Although referred to as a continent, Europe is actually just the western fifth of the Eurasian landmass, which is made up primarily of Asia. Modern geographers generally describe the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, part of the Caspian Sea, and the Caucasus Mountains as forming the main boundary between Europe and Asia. The name Europe is perhaps derived from that of Europa, the daughter of Phoenix in Greek mythology, or possibly from Ereb, a Phoenician word for “sunset.”
The second smallest continent (Australia is the smallest), Europe has an area of 10,355,000 sq km (3,998,000 sq mi), but it has the third largest population of all the continents, 730 million in 2008. The northernmost point of the European mainland is Cape Nordkinn, in Norway; the southernmost, Punta de Tarifa, in southern Spain near Gibraltar. From west to east the mainland ranges from Cabo da Roca, in Portugal, to the northeastern slopes of the Urals, in Russia.
Europe has long been a center of great cultural and economic achievement. The ancient Greeks and Romans produced major civilizations, famous for their contributions to philosophy, literature, fine art, and government. The Renaissance, which began in the 14th century, was a period of great accomplishment for European artists and architects, and the age of exploration, beginning in the 15th century, included voyages to new territories by European navigators. European nations, particularly Spain, Portugal, France, and Britain, built large colonial empires, with vast holdings in Africa, the Americas, and Asia. In the 18th century modern forms of industry began to be developed. In the 20th century much of Europe was ravaged by the two world wars. After World War II ended in 1945, the continent was divided into two major political and economic blocs—Communist nations in Eastern Europe and non-Communist countries in Western Europe. Between 1989 and 1991, however, the Eastern bloc broke up. Communist regimes surrendered power in most Eastern European countries. East and West Germany were unified. The Soviet Communist Party collapsed, multilateral military and economic ties between Eastern Europe and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) were severed, and the USSR itself ceased to exist.
Europe is a highly fragmented landmass consisting of a number of large peninsulas, such as the Scandinavian, Iberian, and Italian, as well as smaller ones, such as the Kola, Jutland, and Brittany. It also includes a large number of offshore islands, notably Iceland, the British Isles, Sardinia, Sicily, and Crete (Kríti). Europe has coastlines on arms of the Arctic Ocean and on the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, in the north; on the Caspian Sea, in the southeast; on the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, in the south; and on the Atlantic Ocean, in the west. The highest point of the continent is El’brus (5,642 m/18,510 ft), in the Caucasus Mountains in southwestern Russia. The lowest point of Europe is located along the northern shore of the Caspian Sea, 28 m (92 ft) below sea level.
A Natural Regions
The geological underpinning of Europe includes, from north to south, an ancient mass of stable, crystalline rocks; a broad belt of relatively level sedimentary materials; a zone of mixed geological structures created by folding, faulting, and volcanism; and a region of comparatively recent mountain-building activity. This geological pattern has helped create the numerous natural regions that make up the landscape of Europe.
The Fenno-Scandian Shield, formed during Precambrian time, underlies Finland and most of the rest of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Tilted toward the east, it forms both the mountains of western Sweden and the lower plateau of Finland. Glaciation carved the deep fjords of the Norwegian coast and scoured the surface of the Finnish plateau. The movement of a segment of the Earth’s crust against the stable shield during the Caledonian orogeny (about 500 to 395 million years ago) raised the mountains of Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and western Norway. Subsequent erosion has rounded and worn down these mountains in the British Isles, but the peaks of Norway still reach 2,472 m (8,110 ft).
The second major geological region, a belt of sedimentary materials, sweeps in an arc from southwestern France northward and eastward through the Low Countries, Germany, Poland, and into western Russia. It also includes a part of southeastern England. Although warped in places to form basins, such as the London Basin and the Paris Basin, these sedimentary rocks, covered by a layer of glacially deposited debris, are generally level enough to form the Great European Plain. Some of the best soils of Europe are found on the plain, particularly along its southern margin, where windborne material called loess has been deposited. The plain is widest in the east.
South of the Great European Plain, a band of dissimilar geological structures sweeps across Europe, creating the most intricate landscapes of the continent—the Central European Uplands. Throughout this region the forces of folding (the Jura range), faulting (the Vosges and Black Forest mountains), volcanism (the Massif Central, or central highlands, of France), and uplift (the Meseta Central, or central plateau, of Spain) have interacted to create alternating mountains, plateaus, and valleys.
The major European natural province farthest to the south is also the most recently formed. In mid-Tertiary time, about 40 million years ago (see Oligocene Epoch), the Afro-Arabian plate collided with the Eurasian one, triggering the Alpine Orogeny (see Plate Tectonics). Compressional forces generated by the collision thrust upward great thicknesses of Mesozoic sediment, creating ranges such as the Pyrenees, Alps, Apennines, Carpathians, and Caucasus, which are not only the highest mountains of Europe but also the most steep sided. The frequent occurrence of earthquakes in this region indicates that changes are still taking place.
B Drainage
The peninsular nature of the European continent has resulted in a generally radial pattern of drainage, with most streams flowing outward from the core of the continent, often from headwaters that are close together. The longest river of Europe, the Volga, flows primarily in a southerly direction into the Caspian Sea, and the second longest, the Danube, flows west to east before entering the Black Sea. Rivers of central and western Europe include the Rhône and Po, which flow into the Mediterranean Sea, and the Loire, Seine, Rhine, and Elbe, which enter the Atlantic Ocean or the North Sea. The Odra (Oder) and Wisła (Vistula) flow north to the Baltic Sea. The radial drainage pattern lends itself to the interconnection of rivers by canals.
Lakes occur both in mountainous areas, such as in Switzerland, Italy, and Austria, and in plains regions, such as in Sweden, Poland, and Finland. Europe’s biggest freshwater lake is Lake Ladoga in northwestern Russia.
C Climate
Although much of Europe lies in the northern latitudes, the relatively warm seas that border the continent give most of central and western Europe a moderate climate, with cool winters and mild summers. The prevailing westerly winds, warmed in part by passing over the North Atlantic Drift ocean current, bring precipitation throughout most of the year. In the Mediterranean climate area—Spain, Italy, and Greece—the summer months are usually hot and dry, with almost all rainfall occurring in winter. From approximately central Poland eastward, the moderating effects of the seas are reduced, and consequently cooler, drier conditions prevail. The northern parts of the continent also have this type of climate. Most of Europe receives 500 to 1,500 mm (20 to 60 in) of precipitation per year.
D Vegetation
Although much of Europe, particularly the west, was originally covered by forest, the vegetation has been transformed by human habitation and the clearing of land. Only in the most northerly mountains and in parts of north central European Russia has the forest cover been relatively unaffected by human activity. On the other hand, a considerable amount of Europe is covered by woodland that has been planted or has reoccupied cleared lands.
The largest vegetation zone in Europe, cutting across the middle portion of the continent from the Atlantic to the Urals, is a belt of mixed deciduous and coniferous trees—oak, maple, and elm intermingled with pine and fir. The Arctic coastal regions of northern Europe and the upper slopes of its highest mountains are characterized by tundra vegetation, which consists mostly of lichens, mosses, shrubs, and wild flowers. The milder, but nevertheless cool temperatures of inland northern Europe create an environment favorable to a continuous cover of coniferous trees, especially spruce and pine, although birch and aspen also occur. Much of the Great European Plain is covered with prairies, areas of relatively tall grasses, and Ukraine is characterized by steppe, a flat and comparatively dry region with short grasses. Lands bordering the Mediterranean are noted for their fruit, especially olives, citrus fruit, figs, apricots, and grapes.
E Animal Life
At one time Europe was home to large numbers of a wide variety of animals, such as deer, moose, bison, boar, wolf, and bear. Because humans have occupied or developed so much of Europe, however, many species of animals have either become extinct or been greatly reduced in number. Today, deer, moose, wolf, and bear can be found in the wild state in significant numbers only in northern Scandinavia and Russia and in the Balkan Peninsula. Elsewhere they exist mainly in protected preserves. Reindeer (domesticated caribou) are herded by the Saami of the far north. Chamois and ibex are found in the higher elevations of the Pyrenees and Alps. Europe still has many smaller animals, such as weasel, ferret, hare, rabbit, hedgehog, lemming, fox, and squirrel. The large number of birds indigenous to Europe include eagle, falcon, finch, nightingale, owl, pigeon, sparrow, and thrush. Storks are thought to bring good luck to the houses on which they nest, particularly in the Low Countries, and swans ornament many European rivers and lakes. Scottish, Irish, and Rhine salmon are prized fish here, and in the coastal marine waters are found a large variety of fish, including the commercially important cod, mackerel, herring, and tuna. The Black and Caspian seas contain sturgeon, the source of caviar.
F Mineral Resources
Europe has a wide variety of mineral resources. Coal is found in great quantity in several places in Britain, and the Ruhr district of Germany and Ukraine also have extensive coal beds. In addition, important coal deposits are found in Poland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, and Spain. Major sources of European iron ore today are the mines at Kiruna in northern Sweden, the Lorraine region of France, and Ukraine. Europe has a number of small petroleum and natural-gas producing areas, but the two major regions are the North Sea (with the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany, and Norway owning most of the rights) and the former Soviet republics, especially Russia. Among the many other mineral deposits of Europe are copper, lead, tin, bauxite, manganese, nickel, gold, silver, potash, clay, gypsum, dolomite, and salt.
Although it is not precisely known when humans first lived in Europe, they probably migrated there from the east in several waves, mostly via a no longer extant land bridge from Asia Minor into the Balkans and by way of grasslands north of the Black Sea. Parts of Europe had a substantial human population by about 4000 bc. Geographical barriers such as forests, mountains, and swamps helped divide the peoples into groups that remained largely separate for long periods. Some intermixing of peoples occurred as a result of migrations, however.
A Ethnology
Europe includes a large number of ethnic groups—persons associated by a common culture, especially language. European nations are generally composed of one dominant group, such as the Germans of Germany and the French of France. Several countries, particularly in south central Europe, have large minorities, and most countries contain smaller groups, such as the Basques of Spain and the Saami of Norway. In addition, substantial numbers of Asian Turks, black Africans, and Arabs live in western Europe, many of them as workers on a temporary basis. The collapse of Communism during the period from 1989 to 1991 led to the breakup of the USSR into 15 separate republics, each with its own dominant ethnic group. The Croats, Slovenes, and Macedonian Slavs, each of which constituted the largest part of the population in their respective republics within Yugoslavia, all voted to secede from Yugoslavia in 1991 to become independent nations. Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a more diverse array of ethnic groups, became the site of great ethnic conflict after declaring its independence from Yugoslavia in 1992. More recently, Serbia’s southern province of Kosovo (administered by UN) has been the site of additional ethnic conflict between Serbian nationalists and ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo (administered by UN).
B Demography
The distribution of the European population has not been stable over long periods, but has shifted, both through differential birth and death rates and by migration. At the beginning of the Christian era, the most densely populated part of Europe bordered the Mediterranean Sea. At the beginning of the 21st century Europe had the second highest overall population density of the continents, after Asia. The most heavily populated area was a belt beginning in England and continuing eastward through the Low Countries, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Poland, and into European Russia. Northern Italy also had a high population density.
The average annual growth rate for the European population from 1985 to 1995 was only 0.28 percent; in the same period the population of Asia grew by 1.69 percent per year, and that of North America by 1.33 percent annually. By 2000 the population was actually decreasing. The overall population decline was due primarily to a low birth rate (10.2 births per 1,000 people in 2005 compared to 18.3 births per 1,000 people in South America). Europeans generally enjoy some of the longest average life expectancies at birth—some 75 years in most countries, compared with 69 years in India and less than 60 years in most countries of Africa.
Population movements, both voluntary and involuntary, have been a constant aspect of European life. In the late 20th century, two movements were particularly noteworthy—the migration of people seeking jobs as “guest workers” (German Gastarbeiter) and the migration of persons from rural to urban areas. Italian, Yugoslav, Greek, Spanish, and Portuguese workers (as well as some from Asian Turkey, Algeria, and other non-European areas) moved—mostly on a nonpermanent basis—to Germany, France, Switzerland, Britain, and other countries in search of jobs. In addition, many Europeans moved within national boundaries from rural areas to cities. From 1950 to 1975, the population of Western Europe changed from roughly 70 to nearly 80 percent urban; that of Eastern Europe grew from 35 to 60 percent urban. On the other hand, far fewer Europeans left the continent than in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Most people leaving Europe in the late 20th century migrated to South America, Canada, or Australia.
In most European countries the national capital is the largest city, but the continent has many additional cities of substantial size. Most European capitals have great economic and cultural significance and contain many noted historical sites. Among the most famous cities are Berlin, Budapest, London, Madrid, Moscow, Paris, Prague, Rome, Stockholm, and Vienna.
C Languages
Europeans speak a wide variety of languages. The principal linguistic groups are the Slavic, which includes Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Polish, Slovenian, Macedonian, and Serbo-Croatian; the Germanic, which includes English, German, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Icelandic; and the Romance, which includes Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian. These languages have basically the same origins and are grouped as Indo-European languages. Other Indo-European languages include Greek, Albanian, and Celtic languages such as Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton. In addition to the Indo-European language speakers, the continent has groups of people who speak Finno-Ugric languages, such as Finnish, Hungarian, and Saami, as well as speakers of the Basque and Turkish languages. Many Europeans use English or French as a second language.
D Religion
In the early 2000s the great majority of Europeans were Christians. The largest single religious group, Roman Catholics, lived mainly in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Belgium, southern Germany, and Poland. Another large group was composed of followers of Protestant faiths, concentrated in countries of northern and central Europe such as England, Scotland, northern Germany, The Netherlands, and the Scandinavian nations. A third major Christian group was composed of members of an Orthodox church. They lived principally in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro. In addition, there were Jewish communities in most European countries (the largest of them in Russia), and the inhabitants of Albania and Turkey were predominantly Muslim.
E Cultural Activity
Europe has a long tradition of excellence in literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and dance. In the late 20th century Paris, Rome, London, Madrid, and Moscow were particularly famous as cultural centers, but many other cities also supported important museums, musical and theatrical groups, and other cultural institutions. Most European countries had highly developed mass-communications media, such as radio, television, and motion pictures. European nations had excellent educational systems, and the literacy rate was high in most countries. Some of the world’s oldest and finest universities are in Europe, including the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford in England, the Universities of Paris in France, the University of Heidelberg in Germany, Charles University in the Czech Republic, the University of Bologna in Italy, and Moscow State University in Russia.
Europe has long been a world leader in economic activities. As the birthplace of modern science and of the Industrial Revolution, Europe acquired technological superiority over the rest of the world, which gave it unquestioned dominance in the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution, which began in England in the 18th century and from there spread throughout the world, was a transformation involving the use of complex machinery and resulting in greatly increased agricultural production and new forms of economic organization. An important impetus for growth since the mid-20th century has been the formation of supranational organizations such as the European Union (EU), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
A Agriculture
Farming in Europe is generally of the mixed type, in which a variety of crops and animal products are produced in the same region. The European portion of the former USSR is one of the few large regions where one-product agriculture predominates. The Mediterranean nations maintain a distinctive type of agriculture, dominated by the production of wheat, olives, grapes, and citrus fruit. In most of these countries farming plays a more important role in the national economy than in the northern countries. Throughout much of western Europe dairying and meat production are major activities. To the east, crops become more important. In the nations of the Balkan Peninsula, crops account for some 60 percent of agricultural production, and in Ukraine, wheat production overshadows all other agriculture. Europe as a whole is particularly noted for its great output of wheat, barley, oats, rye, corn, potatoes, beans, peas, and sugar beets. Besides dairy and beef cattle, large numbers of pigs, sheep, goats, and poultry are raised by Europeans.
In the late 20th century Europe was self-sufficient in most basic farm products. On most farmland advanced agricultural techniques, including the application of modern machinery and chemical fertilizers, were used, but in parts of southern and southeastern Europe, traditional, relatively inefficient techniques were still dominant. For much of the period when the Communists held power, agriculture in the countries of the Eastern bloc (with the exception of Poland and Yugoslavia) and the USSR was based on large, state-owned farms and state-dominated collectives.
B Forestry and Fishing
The northern forests, which extend from Norway through northern European Russia, are the main sources of forest products in Europe. Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia all have relatively large forestry industries, producing pulpwood, wood for construction, and other products. In southern Europe, both Spain and Portugal produce a variety of cork products from the cork oak. Although all of the coastal European countries engage in some commercial fishing, the industry is especially important in the northern countries, particularly Norway and Denmark. Spain, Russia, Britain, and Poland also are major fishing nations.
C Mining
The present pattern of population distribution in much of Europe has been influenced by past mining activities, particularly coal mining. Coal mined in areas such as the British Midlands, the Ruhr district of Germany, and Ukraine attracted factories and helped establish the industrial patterns that continue today. Although employment in mining is declining in Europe, largely because of mechanization, several centers are still important. Northeastern England, the Ruhr region, the Silesian area of Poland, and Ukraine are major coal producers. Iron ore is produced in large quantities in northern Sweden, eastern France, and Ukraine. A wide range of other minerals, such as bauxite, copper, manganese, nickel, and potash, are mined in substantial amounts. One of the newest and most important extracting industries in Europe is the production of petroleum and natural gas from offshore fields in the North Sea. These products have been extracted in great quantity for longer periods in the southern part of European Russia, notably in the Volga River region.
D Manufacturing
Since the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing has been a dominant force in shaping ways of life in Europe. Northern and central England were early centers of modern manufacturing, as were the Ruhr and Saxony (Sachsen) regions of Germany, northern France, Silesia in Poland, and Ukraine. Products such as iron and steel, fabricated metals, textiles, clothing, ships, motor vehicles, and railroad equipment have long been important European manufactures, and a great variety of other items also are produced. The production of chemicals and electronic equipment and other high-technology items have been leading growth industries of the post-World War II period. On the whole, manufacturing is particularly concentrated in the central part of the continent (an area including England, eastern and southern France, northern Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, southern Norway, and southern Sweden) and in European Russia and Ukraine.
E Energy
Europe consumes great quantities of energy. The leading energy sources are coal (including lignite), petroleum, natural gas, nuclear power, and waterpower. Norway, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and Spain all have major hydroelectric installations, which contribute large portions of the annual output of electricity. Nuclear power is important in France; Britain; Germany; Belgium; Lithuania, Ukraine, and other former Soviet republics; Sweden; Switzerland; Finland; and Bulgaria.
F Transportation
Europe has highly developed transportation systems, which are densest in the central part of the continent. Scandinavia, European Russia, and southern Europe have fewer transport facilities. Large numbers of passenger cars are owned in Europe, and much freight is transported by truck. Rail networks are well maintained in most European countries and are important carriers of passengers as well as freight. Water transport plays a major role in the European economy. Several countries, such as Greece, Britain, Italy, France, Norway, and Russia, maintain large fleets of merchant ships. Rotterdam, in The Netherlands, is one of the world’s busiest seaports. Other major ports include Antwerp, Belgium; Marseille, France; Hamburg; London; Genoa, Italy; Gdańsk, Poland; Bilbao, Spain; and Göteborg, Sweden. Much freight is carried on inland waterways; European rivers with substantial traffic include the Rhine, Schelde (Escaut), Seine, Elbe, Danube, Volga, and Dnieper. In addition, Europe has a number of important canals. Almost all European countries maintain national airlines, and several, such as Air France, British Airways, and KLM (Netherlands), are major worldwide carriers. Most transportation systems in European countries are government controlled. Since World War II a large number of pipelines have been built in Europe to transport petroleum and natural gas.
G International Trade
Almost all European countries conduct large amounts of international trade. Much of the trade is intracontinental, especially among members of the European Union, but Europeans also engage in large-scale trade with nations of other continents. Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and The Netherlands are among the world’s greatest trading nations. A large portion of European intercontinental trade involves the exporting of manufactured goods and the importing of raw materials.
From prehistoric to modern times, Europe has been occupied by numerous peoples and nations. The following summary will emphasize only those events, developments, trends, and individuals that have been responsible for decisive transitions or transformations in Europe through the ages. The history sections of the articles on European countries contain more detailed data on the genesis, growth, and present state of continental civilization. These sections also refer the reader to a wide range of articles dealing with broader aspects of European history. Moreover, a number of articles contain references to other related entries on continental affairs. Further reading on specific periods of European history will provide greater understanding of the continent’s development.
A Prehistoric and Ancient Times
Modern humans (Homo sapiens) first appeared in Europe during the late Paleolithic Era (the Old Stone Age). Hunters and gatherers, they left behind notable examples of art, dating from approximately 32,000 to 10,000 years ago, that have been found in more than 200 caves, mostly in Spain and France (see Cave Dwellers). Some 10,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch—the most recent of the Ice Ages—the climate began to improve and gradually approached that of the present. In time, Neolithic (New Stone Age) people developed agricultural economies that replaced hunting. During the 6th millennium bc, farming spread over most of western Europe. Some of these Neolithic cultures, beginning about 5000 bc, erected huge stone monuments (megaliths) either as grave structures or as memorials of notable events. Early Neolithic development was especially intense in the Danube and Balkan areas, in the so-called Starčevo (near Belgrade in present-day Serbia) and Danubian cultures. In the southern Balkans the Sesklo culture (in Thessaly, ancient Greece) had developed complex proto-urban forms by 5000 bc. This in turn led to the Dimini culture (also in Thessaly), which was characterized by fortified villages. Excavations in the Balkans have shown that copper was in use in that area about 4000 bc, during the Vinča culture (4500?-3000? bc). By this time, trade, especially in amber from the Baltic, was becoming more and more important. In central Europe (Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic) large deposits of copper and tin facilitated a bronze technology during the 3rd millennium bc. Typical royal or aristocratic burials of this period were covered by barrows or tumuli, but by the late 2nd millennium bc a change occurred; cremation then became common, and burial by urn (in urnfields) became the established custom.
A1 Arrival of Indo-Europeans
Research has not clearly determined where the Indo-European languages, spoken on much of the modern continent, originated. Some scholars believe that the kurgan (barrow) culture that began north of the Black Sea about 2500 bc was early Indo-European. According to this theory, these Indo-Europeans spread to the Balkans, which they invaded, introducing horses to the region, about 2200 bc; then they spread to the rest of Europe. Therefore, the Middle Bronze Age peoples of the Balkans and central Europe may have spoken Indo-European languages. Except for the civilizations on Crete and in Greece during the 2nd millennium bc, most of Bronze Age Europe was preliterate.
The first major civilization to mature in Europe was that of Crete during the 2nd millennium bc. Called the Minoan Culture after the legendary King Minos, this Bronze Age society controlled the Aegean by 1600 bc (see Aegean Civilization). The date of the arrival of the first Indo-European invaders in Greece is controversial. Many scholars agree on approximately 1900 bc. By 1400 bc these Greeks, called Mycenaeans for their principal city, Mycenae, had conquered the Minoan realms. Mycenaean civilization had commercial contacts with the Middle East as well as Britain (for tin). After 1200 bc, however, Mycenaean society was almost totally destroyed. This was due to widespread fighting among the Mycenaean Greeks, with earthquakes probably causing additional damage. In the Greek Dark Age that followed, the Greeks learned to fashion tools and weapons of iron and the Iron Age began in Greece.
A2 Iron Age Cultures
Elsewhere in Europe the population had begun to increase rapidly in the late Bronze Age. By the early Iron Age, beginning about 1000 bc, the tribes of the central European urnfield culture were expanding along the principal river routes, giving rise to such major groupings as the Celts and the Slavs, as well as Italic-speakers and Illyrians. In northern Italy the Villanovan Culture (about 1000-700 bc) became of major importance, and the similar Hallstatt Culture (8th century bc to 5th century bc) spread with the Celts through much of western Europe between the 7th and 4th centuries bc. The Celts were also identified with the La Tène Culture (450?-58 bc), which owed much to the Hallstatt. The Germanic Peoples began to expand from southern Scandinavia and the Baltic by 500 bc.
A3 Supremacy of Greece
By 800 bc Greek civilization began to reemerge after the shock of the Dorian invasion, but in a form different from that of the Mycenaean one. This was due in considerable degree to the Phoenicians, who had been establishing trading posts in the Mediterranean and spreading elements of Middle Eastern civilization westward. From them the Greeks took the Phoenician alphabet, to which they added full vowels. In the 8th century bc the Greek city-states began to expand by means of colonization, especially in southern Italy, and by the following century Hellenic civilization was reaching maturity. Greek colonies had then been founded throughout the Mediterranean region, and the growth of trade among these settlements and with other peoples resulted in the spread of Greek culture. Most of these new Greek cities, although virtually independent, were bound by a common culture. They were aware of their Hellenic heritage and considered other peoples barbarians. Most ethnic groups in the western Mediterranean, including the Etruscans, who had supplanted the Villanovans, eagerly adopted an overlay of Greek culture. Most major urban centers in the area, Greek or not, progressed from monarchies to aristocracies to commercial oligarchies (plutocracies).
By the 5th century bc some Greek centers, such as Athens, had developed into democracies. At that time Greece came to be threatened by the expanding Persian Empire, founded in the previous century. All of Asia Minor was soon conquered by the Persians, and in 490 bc they attacked Greece. After the Persians had been decisively repelled (479 bc), democratic Athens emerged as the major power in the Greek world. An Athenian empire was established in the Aegean, hastening the economic and cultural integration of the region, and the 5th century bc became the golden age of classical Greek civilization. Athenian expansionist policies and old economic and political rivalries, however, caused the suicidal Peloponnesian War (431-404 bc), in which much of Greece was devastated, and wars among the Greek cities continued in the following century.
Macedonia, to the north of Greece, had not originally been part of the Greek world. By the 4th century bc, however, its ruling class had become Hellenized. Under Philip II, Macedonia conquered much of Greece, and his son, Alexander the Great, added the Persian Empire to these realms. After Alexander’s death, his successors divided the empire, with the result that the centers of gravity during the following period (known as Hellenistic) shifted to such cities as Alexandria in Egypt and Antioch in Syria. Both Macedonia and Greece were ultimately conquered by Rome during the 2nd century bc.
A4 Ascendancy of Rome
Unlike Greece, Italy in the early Iron Age was fragmented among many ethnic and linguistic groups. Grafted onto earlier Neolithic cultures were several groups of Indo-Europeans who infiltrated northern Italy late in the 2nd millennium bc and subsequently spread through the peninsula. The most numerous of these groups was the Italic. A major Iron Age culture, that of the Villanovans, developed in the north and had an impact on surrounding regions. Probably during the 10th century bc the Etruscans, or at least their ruling class, migrated from Asia Minor. They settled in central and northern Italy and created a composite civilization consisting of Villanovan and eastern elements. To this was added a thick overlay of Greek civilization, including the alphabet, absorbed from the Greek colonies in the south.
About this time—the traditional date is 753 bc—Rome was founded on the Tiber River. The Romans were a Latin people belonging to the Italic group. At first a primitive village, Rome was occupied and civilized by the Etruscans until the end of the 6th century bc. After that the Romans began a conquest of the surrounding area, and by the early 4th century bc they had taken the important Etruscan city of Veii. After a temporary setback caused by invading Gauls (a tribe of the Celts), the Romans continued to absorb large parts of Italy; by the beginning of the 3rd century bc most of central and northern Italy had become Roman. Unlike the Greeks, the Romans tied together their domains by roads and granted full or partial citizenship to settlements outside Rome, a policy that eventually led to a more or less uniform language (Latin) and culture.
A4a Further Expansion
In the so-called Pyrrhic War (280-271 bc) Rome gained control of Greek southern Italy and, by absorbing that area, became partly Hellenized. The conquest put Rome in direct rivalry with Carthage, an old Phoenician colony in North Africa, for control of the western Mediterranean. Ensuing wars with Carthage (see Punic Wars) gained Rome Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, and Spain, and North Africa fell into the Roman sphere of influence. By the middle of the 2nd century bc Carthage had been eliminated, and Rome had gained control over Macedonia and Greece as well. In the next century the Mediterranean could be correctly called a Roman lake. The Romans cleared the seas of pirates and spread roads throughout the region, making communications easy and fostering cultural unity. This Romano-Hellenistic cultural amalgam was bilingual, with Latin dominant in the West and Greek in the East.
A4b The Roman Empire
After a period of civil wars and strife, Rome was transformed from a republic to an empire under Emperor Augustus around the beginning of the Christian era. During the following 200 years the level of prosperity in the Mediterranean reached a high point that in many ways was not equaled again for a millennium and a half. The Roman Empire assimilated many groups of people into its civilization; moreover, in ad 212 nearly every freeborn man within its confines became a Roman citizen. Such a concept of universal citizenship was unique in the ancient world. Beyond the borders of the empire certain elements of Greco-Roman culture also influenced Celtic and Germanic tribes.
The 3rd century ad was a time of dissolution, after which Emperor Diocletian reconstituted the empire. Many of his economic and social reforms anticipated the Middle Ages, and his administrative changes ended the primacy of Italy. Under Constantine the Great in the 4th century, Constantinople (see İstanbul) replaced Rome as the capital, and Christianity was—in effect, if not officially—made the state religion. After the Western Roman Empire fell to invading Germanic groups in the 5th century, giving place to a series of Germanic kingdoms, the church in many ways preserved the Roman heritage. So thorough had been the Romanization of the empire that to this day languages of Latin derivation are spoken in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, parts of Switzerland, and Romania.
A5 The Great Migrations
As civilization was being consolidated in the Mediterranean region, great changes were taking place elsewhere in Europe. The Bronze and Iron Age cultures of the outer regions consisted mainly of pastoral and agricultural communities, much less stable than the Greco-Roman settlements. Migrations from poorer to richer areas were continuous, and the movement of one people or tribe in turn dislocated other peoples, often causing chain reactions. The prime movers in these changes during the last centuries bc and the first centuries ad were the Germanic tribes. These peoples had occupied parts of southern Scandinavia and northern Germany at the end of the Bronze Age. During the Iron Age they began to migrate southward, perhaps because of a deteriorating climate. In the 2nd century bc two Germanic tribes, the Cimbri and Teutons, reached what is now Provence, but they were eventually repelled by the Romans. The Suevi were more successful and occupied part of modern Germany. The Celtic tribes of that region were pushed westward to be conquered many years later by the Romans under Julius Caesar. Roman expansion into Germanic territories was permanently halted in ad 9, when Germanic troops under Arminius (Hermann) smashed the Roman legions at the Teutoburg Forest. Consequently, Rome occupied only a buffer zone east of the Rhine and north of the Danube.
By ad 150 migrations and consequent dislocations of peoples again intensified, threatening the imperial borders. Emperor Marcus Aurelius successfully battled the Marcomanni and Quadi, as well as the non-Germanic Iazyges, and it is indicative of the period that he spent most of his reign fighting invading tribes. By the beginning of the 3rd century ad the Alamanni had penetrated to the northern Roman frontier, and in the east the Goths began their infiltration of the Balkan Peninsula. After their defeat by imperial troops, the Goths were made mercenaries of Rome.
During the second half of the 3rd century, Germanic groups, including the Franks, entered the empire. Great efforts were then made to strengthen internal defenses. Under Emperor Aurelian Rome itself was surrounded by a wall, Dacia was abandoned, and more and more Germanic mercenaries were recruited to fight for the Romans. Rome weathered the crisis of the 3rd century only by means of Diocletian’s restructuring of the empire, which was done primarily to deal with the Germanic tribes more efficiently. After the middle of the 4th century the situation appeared to be under control, but then a new people, the Huns, invaded Europe from Central Asia and caused a new series of chain reactions. The Goths were pushed into the Balkans, where they defeated the Romans at Adrianople in 378. In 410 the Visigoths under Alaric sacked Rome itself, sending shock waves throughout the empire. Shortly afterward the Vandals penetrated to Roman North Africa and established a kingdom there. The Huns under Attila were finally defeated by a Roman-led Visigoth army in 451, but four years later Rome was sacked again—this time by the Vandals. Britain, Gaul, and Spain were by now occupied by Germanic tribes. The end for the Western Empire came in 476, when Germanic mercenaries in Italy deposed Emperor Romulus Augustulus and made their chief, Odoacer, king of Italy.
B Early Middle Ages
When Romulus Augustulus was deposed in 476, he had no designated heir, and when Zeno, the Eastern emperor, was told that there was no immediate reason to appoint a successor, the suggestion seemed reasonable. In law, in theory, and in people’s hearts the empire was indivisible and unconquerable. Many emperors’ reigns had been short, many had ended violently, and the belligerent Germanic peoples had been a fact of Roman political life for more than a century. No one at the time could have known that Romulus Augustulus, who ironically bore the name of Rome’s legendary founder, was to be the last Roman emperor in the West and that an age had come to an end.
B1 The Roman-Germanic Conflict
At the close of the 4th century the Germanic peoples to the north and east of the Roman Empire had begun to move west and south. The Romans called them barbarians, but they were by no means savages. They lived primarily an agricultural and pastoral life, and like all pastoral peoples, they had a long history of migrations.
In face of the Germanic migration, Rome, troubled with serious economic dislocation, pursued a policy of pragmatic accommodation. Much land, which the overextended empire could well afford to lose, was immediately given up to them, but the emperors were determined to defend vital strategic points, such as the Mediterranean seaports, on which southern Europe was dependent for its lifeblood of African grain. By the mid-5th century, however, the Germanic groups were in political control of the Western Empire. Gaul came under the sway of the Franks in the early 5th century; Italy had become a Gothic kingdom at the invitation of the emperor; the Visigoths held Spain by 507; and the Vandals had conquered the agriculturally rich provinces of North Africa by 428.
The Germanic tribes wanted land and treasure, but they also wanted to live as Romans, and what is conventionally thought of as the barbarization of the Western Empire should just as firmly be considered the Romanization of the barbarians. The essential conflict between the two peoples was religious.
The western Germans were pagans who worshiped a pantheon of sky gods and nature deities. The eastern Germans had already been converted to Christianity by the intense missionary activity of Bishop Ulfilas, a follower of the doctrine of Arianism, which maintained that Christ was fully human and not divine by nature. In 380 this doctrine was condemned as heretical. Thus, it was less as enemies of Roman political control than as bearers of a rival version of Christianity that the Germanic peoples were hated and feared.
B2 The Origins of Church Power
The religious opposition to the Arian and pagan invaders gave a new meaning to the church and papacy during this period. Church governance had been organized much like the Roman provincial administration: Control was in the hands of independent local bishops. Three bishops, however—located at Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome—held positions comparable to those of provincial governors, supervising not only their own cities’ congregations but also those of the neighboring territories. The three were figures of great prestige, and each was granted the honorific title of pope (“father”). The pope at Rome had the additional claim to prestige of being the direct heir of Saint Peter, who was considered the first bishop of Rome. It was due, initially, to a series of activist Roman popes that the papacy grew in influence, but even more important was the compromise, paralysis, and ultimate collapse of Roman government in the West. As political authority disintegrated, the bishops stood firm for what they saw as the truth and the ancient order, and the only representative of that order in Rome was no longer the emperor or the Senate but the pope, holder of the chair of Saint Peter.
B3 The Byzantine Empire
A Roman emperor still reigned in the East, however, and his successors would continue to rule for another thousand years. Constantinople was now the ruling city of the Roman provinces of the eastern Mediterranean, even though the empire was so transformed in its character that modern historians have called it Byzantine rather than Roman.
The essential elements of Byzantinism were all present in the reign of the great 6th-century emperor Justinian. The tendency throughout Roman history of the empire to become a military autocracy was decisively broken during his reign. The government became entirely professional and civilian, centered on the palace and, most important, on the emperor himself. Roman law was codified into a systematic digest. Finance and tax collection were centralized. Justinian’s religious policy also contributed to centralization. In an age of intense religious conflict and questioning of doctrine, the Byzantine Roman Empire became the Orthodox empire, and the religion of the emperor became the official state religion.
In the early years of his reign, Justinian embarked on the attempt to reconquer the Arian West. The Vandal kingdom of Africa fell quickly, as did Visigothic Spain and much of Italy. Under continual pressure from Sassanid Persia, however, the empire lost its military hold on Spain, which reemerged as a Visigothic kingdom, now entirely Byzantine in culture and political organization. In Italy, the imperial forces withdrew to the Adriatic stronghold of Ravenna and to Sicily, leaving the rest of the peninsula to the invading Lombards. The Balkans were entirely overrun by Avars and Slavic Peoples.
In effect, Justinian’s western conquests gave medieval Europe its characteristic cultural pattern. The Mediterranean coast and Spain became severed from the economically and culturally underdeveloped north. They were now in effect part of the Middle East, a development consummated in the 7th century, when North Africa, Spain, and parts of southern France fell to Muslim armies.
B4 The Rise of the Franks
In the north, European history from the 5th through the 9th century was dominated by a group of western German tribes called collectively the Franks. Unlike the eastern Germans, the Franks were converted from their ancient paganism directly to Catholic Christianity, without an intervening period of Arianism. The conversion began decisively for the Salian Franks after their warrior chief, Clovis, was baptized as a Christian, along with many of his followers, in 496. Clovis, a descendant of Merovech or Merowig (reigned 448-458) and thus part of the sacrosanct ruling family of the Salian Franks, was the first king of the Merovingian dynasty. Through his many military victories against other peoples and the success of a long series of complex family vendettas characteristic of Frankish culture, he became supreme ruler of all the Franks.
At Clovis’s death, under the customary law of the Salian Franks, the lands under his control were divided among his four sons. They would, in turn, leave their lands to whatever male heirs they had, so that the whole era of Merovingian rule was characterized by alternate periods of fragmentation and consolidation, depending on the numbers and abilities of the sons.
The era came to an end in the 8th century. The last Merovingian kings have won from history the name of rois fainéants (“slothful kings”). Power was more and more to be found in the office of palace mayor and not in the hands of the king himself, until in 751, King Childeric III and his only son were imprisoned. Their long hair (symbolic among their people of royalty) was shorn, and the Arnulfing palace mayor, Pepin, son of the great warrior Charles Martel, proclaimed himself king of the Franks, the first of the Carolingians to assume the royal title.
The Carolingian coup d’état would never have occurred without the active intervention of the pope. In a series of letters written in the 740s between Pepin and the pope, in which Pepin inquired about the propriety of his own state, where all power was not in the hands of the monarch, the pope responded by citing the biblical precedent of David, anointed by the prophet Samuel while King Saul was still alive. The pope, moreover, followed the precedent and anointed Pepin, as he would continue to anoint his descendants, in a ritual of royal consecration.
B5 Charlemagne
The greatest of the Carolingian kings was Charlemagne, even in his own time a figure of myth and legend. His reign marked the culmination of Frankish development. Under his rule the Franks, by a series of military conquests, became masters of the West and guarantors of papal power in Italy. He defeated the Lombards in Italy, the Frisians in the north, the Saxons in the east, annexed the duchy of Bavaria, and pushed the Moors out of southern France. He proceeded to consolidate his power over this vast territory by tying members of the landholding class to one another and to himself by special oaths of loyalty, which at times were rewarded by grants of land from newly conquered territory. This policy—the first major example of the growing ties of personal dependence connected with political power called feudalism—not only gave Charlemagne a ready supply of warriors but also helped make him, as it were, omnipresent in his own territory. The vassals of the king, his closest dependents, and their vassals in turn became surrogates of the king himself.
Inseparable from military and political consolidation was the growth of Charlemagne’s sense of Christian mission. He founded monastic houses in border territories. These served as pioneer establishments, bringing forests and marshlands under cultivation and Christian control. They also provided centers for missionary and educational activity, for the expansion of Christianity required a trained clergy, a standardized rite, and the production of useful books. The key was education, and the practical work of founding and staffing monastic and cathedral schools demanded outside help. Charlemagne found it in Rome and in the Lombard lands of Italy, where the ancient educational traditions had never entirely died. The major contribution to the Carolingian educational reform was Anglo-Irish, however, for the great monastic houses of England and Ireland were rich in books and skill, and Charlemagne’s foremost adviser was English scholar Alcuin.
The kingdom of the Franks, as a result, integrated Europe in territory and culture as it had not been since the Roman Empire. On Christmas day in the year 800, Charlemagne went to mass in Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. As he rose from prayer—so the story goes—the pope placed a crown on his head, adored him, and he was acclaimed as imperator et augustus by the people. Charlemagne was thus crowned emperor not merely of the Franks but of Rome. The power of the new state (which came to be called the Holy Roman Empire), the organization of the church, the ancient traditions of Rome—all had become indistinguishable.
B6 New Invasions
The last years of Charlemagne’s reign were marked by political tensions that continued into the reigns of his descendants. Europe during the later 9th and 10th centuries was a scene of renewed political disintegration and one more series of cataclysmic invasions, this time from the Scandinavian Vikings out of the north and the Asian Magyars west across the Danube plains. Borderlands were withdrawn from cultivation, trade was disrupted, and travel even over short distances became dangerous.
Throughout this period several important tendencies are discernible. Europe experienced another great wave of political fragmentation, and if the forces of political centralization were weak, the same cannot be said for the power of local landholding families. This was also the time of ascendancy of the Benedictine monastic houses, themselves great landholders embedded in the network of feudal alliances. Finally, the papacy became a secular power in its own right, exercising direct political control of much of central and northern Italy. It gradually elaborated the machinery of central authority over the regional churches and monastic houses, and, by expanded diplomacy and, above all, by the administration of justice, it also accumulated substantial secular and political power throughout Europe.
C High and Late Middle Ages
By the year 1050, Europe was entering a period of great and rapid transformation. The conditions of material life that produced the transformation are not yet well understood, although the following may be noted with certainty: The long period of Germanic and Asian migrations had come to a definite end, and Europe enjoyed a continuity of settled population; a population expansion of striking proportions had begun and was to continue. Town life, which had never entirely ceased during the previous centuries, experienced remarkable growth and development, thereby breaking the tendency of the medieval farm toward economic self-sufficiency. Trade and commerce, particularly in the Mediterranean lands of Italy and southern France and in the Low Countries, increased in quantity, regularity, and extent.
C1 Intellectual Growth and Ferment
As the European economy grew more complex, social and political institutions became equally intricate. In every branch of public affairs—municipal governance, the administration of justice, the regulation of trade, and the development of educational institutions necessary to provide the personnel for such administration and regulation—a similar pattern of increasing complexity and growth appeared.
The new imperatives of this complex social life produced an intellectual ferment unprecedented in European history. The ferment, present in all spheres of inquiry, has come to be known as the renaissance of the 12th century. Both ecclesiastical and secular laws were systematized, commented upon, and questioned as had never been necessary before. Rhetoric and logic became objects of inquiry in their own right and led to investigations of the long-dormant classical tradition. Theological doctrine was explored, giving rise to new methods of inquiry.
Above all, western Europeans began to think of themselves in new ways, a change reflected by innovations in the creative arts. In literature the love lyric and the courtly romance appeared in the emergent vernacular languages, and a brilliant resurgence of writing in Latin took place. Painting and sculpture devoted new attention to the natural world and made an unprecedented attempt to represent extremes of emotion and experience. Architecture flourished with the construction, along frequently traveled pilgrimage routes, of churches in a style that combined Roman materials and techniques with an entirely new aesthetic.
Far-reaching changes also took place in spiritual life. In the 12th century new religious orders were established, such as the Cistercians, who attempted to purify the traditions of Benedictine monasticism, and the orders of mendicant friars, which attempted to adjust the monastic ideal to the new urban life. Common to them all was a new sense of individual piety, based not on ritual but rather on emotional identification with the suffering Christ. Similar in spirit was the growth of the cult of the Virgin Mary, a figure relatively unimportant in the Christianity of earlier centuries. Thus, throughout the period, people began to assert their primacy as individuals with significant inner lives.
C2 Political Developments
At the same time people began to identify themselves as members of larger and more abstract groups and communities of interest than kin and neighborhood. The political events of the period were intimately connected with these new identifications.
One of the major events was the rapid rise to power of the Normans. Descendants of Vikings who settled in northern France during the 9th and 10th centuries and became feudal retainers of the king of France, the Normans burst onto the scene of European history in 1066, when they conquered England under Duke William of Normandy. William secured his conquest by a program of extensive resettlement; the French-speaking Normans became the ruling class of England, tied to William by land grants and feudal obligations. This thorough political feudalization and the imposition of other Norman institutions brought England into the mainstream of continental political and social development. That the duke of Normandy, a feudal dependent of the king of France, was now also king of England, thus becoming his equal in status and his superior in strength, illustrates the growing complexity of the European world. Political conflict, and with it the idea of the state as an autonomous institution, was inevitable.
In the Germanic and Italian territories of the Holy Roman Empire, the new activity of the papacy as a real governing body came into conflict with the power of the emperor in a tangle of issues collectively known as the investiture controversy. Throughout the early periods of the empire no strict separation had been made in theory or reality between the ecclesiastical and political realms. From the moment of the historic alliance of the Carolingians with the pope, the emperor was considered not solely a secular figure. Similarly, the bishops, princes of the church, were secular powers in their own right, advisers and feudal retainers of kings and emperors. It was thus unquestioned that the secular power should play a part in the selection of bishops and be an active presence in episcopal coronation or investiture. The struggle broke out precisely over this practice, as Pope Gregory VII declared the primacy of the church in the choice and consecration of its own officials.
The most important result of the controversy was that it called into question all relations between church and state. In theology, law, and political theory, the state, as a secular entity, was critically examined, as was the church, not only as the community of Christian worshipers but also as an administrative aristocracy of bishops in the service of the pope. The monarchical church became, by the end of the 12th century, a single great European political power alongside the diverse emergent secular states.
C3 Cultural Unity
The material and intellectual forces released in the 12th century continued to have an impact throughout the next 200 years. Europe had become a cultural unity, the institutional expression of which was the Christian church. This unity is reflected most clearly in the series of military expeditions, called Crusades, for recapturing Christian holy places in the Middle East from Islam. The Crusades were preached by the church hierarchy and drew support from the new monastic orders, for which the “military pilgrimage” represented the road to individual and collective salvation. The idea of a holy war, however, cut across class lines, attracting the traditional warrior aristocracy as well as peasants and the new classes of artisans and laborers created by the growth of urban society.
Equally important as an expression of Christian cultural unity was the growing intolerance toward non-Christian populations within and on the borders of Europe. Islam, the infidel enemy in faraway Jerusalem, was also the enemy in the Spanish borderlands and in Sicily—and centuries of commerce, both in goods and ideas, came to an end. It was also in this period, from the 12th through the 14th century, that intolerance toward the Jews who had settled throughout Europe became widespread and virulent. Punitive decrees restricting Jewish settlement and occupation coincided with mass outrages and riots against the Jewish population, and the seeds of ideological anti-Semitism were sown: The Jew as an uncanny, demonic creature, involved in international conspiracy and guilty of the ritual murder of Christian children, entered the folklore of European imagination. Finally, the period encompassed a rise of both heresy, an expression of the intellectual and social restlessness of the age, and political and military attempts to destroy it, most notably the Crusade in southern France against the heresy of the Albigenses.
Europe’s cultural unity was thus not free of conflict. On the contrary, it was in a precarious state of equilibrium, and its elements, continuing to develop, inevitably clashed with one another in the next centuries. The towns and cities continued to grow in prosperity and population. In Italy, England, and the Low Countries they began to strive for political self-control. The struggle was particularly fierce in Italy, where the towns were caught between the conflicting political designs of empire and papacy. Internally, they were also wracked by conflict between the various classes and interests. One result was the intensification of political and social thought, now called civil humanism, as people attempted to articulate their own positions.
C4 Rise of National Awareness
The general struggle for supremacy between church and state became a fixture of European history. Throughout Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries the cultural unity of Christendom was challenged by local, regional, and national interests. This is manifest in the actual increase in power of the king of France and in his collision course with the king of England, his theoretical underling. It is manifest as well in the hope, even in the absence of any potential unifying power, for a united Italy, independent from both pope and emperor and free of civic and territorial strife.
National and regional self-consciousness, civic awareness, the continuing growth of commerce both within Europe and with the East, the extraordinary intellectual and artistic creativity of the Renaissance, and social turmoil were all characteristic of the late Middle Ages. Even the catastrophic appearance of the black plague in the mid-14th century and its periodic recurrence thereafter did not fundamentally alter these trends.
No single event can put the restlessness of this period into better perspective than the first voyage of Christopher Columbus in the next century. Spurred on by national rivalry and commercial interest in opening new trade routes to the East, the Spanish monarchy sponsored the speculation of an Italian navigator-merchant. The result was unexpected. A new world lay to the west. Horizons were widening, and the material and physical world had become an object of curiosity in its own right. Europe was to be a player on a larger stage.
D Early Modern Times
The century and a half between the new European contact with America and the end of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) was an age of transition and intellectual tension. After 1648, religion continued to be important in European history, but the priority of secular concerns was never again in doubt. Because this epochal transvaluation left unrest and uncertainty in its wake, the peoples of Europe exhibited a profound ambivalence; no longer medieval, they were not yet modern.
D1 The Dawn of a New Age
This ambivalence was manifest in those who in the late 15th century began to explore the lands that lay beyond Europe’s shores. Insofar as they were inspired by religious zeal, captains such as Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus, and Ferdinand Magellan made possible a vast missionary effort. Motivated by acquisitiveness as well, they contributed to a commercial revolution and the development of capitalism. As the principal sponsors of the earliest voyages, Portugal and Spain were the first to reap an economic harvest. Although the vast quantity of silver that poured into Spain from the Americas contributed to a “price revolution” (rapid devaluation of money and long-term inflation), it served initially to place extraordinary power in the hands of King Philip II. Heir to the Habsburg domains in western Europe and the Americas, Philip was also the self-appointed defender of the Roman Catholic faith. He opposed the ambitions of the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean not only because the Turks were imperial competitors but also because they were Muslim infidels. Similarly, his campaigns against the Netherlands and England were at once imperial and religious, his enemies in both cases being Protestants.
D1a The Reformation
The Protestant Reformation that Philip detested was begun in 1517, when Martin Luther proposed his Ninety-Five Theses for public debate. In search of personal salvation and offended by what he considered the sale of papal indulgences, the Wittenberg professor had arrived at a position that differed little from that for which Jan Hus (John Huss) had been martyred a century before. Having proclaimed salvation by faith alone, Luther refused to recant even when presented with a bull of excommunication. Despite its religious character, however, Luther’s challenge to the church was entangled with politics. Recognizing the danger of political repercussions, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V placed Luther under imperial ban.
Luther’s break with the church might have remained an isolated event had it not been for the invention of the printing press. Reproduced in large numbers and widely circulated, his writings served as the catalyst for even more radical reform—that of the Anabaptists. In their determination to re-create the atmosphere of primitive Christianity, the Anabaptists were opposed by Roman Catholics and Lutherans alike. Nor could the Reformation be contained geographically; it entered Switzerland when Huldreich Zwingli championed its cause in Zürich. In Geneva, French-born John Calvin published the first great work of Protestant theology, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536). Just as important, Calvinism proved to be the most politically militant of the Protestant confessions.
Unable to preserve western Christian unity, the Roman Catholic Church did not abandon the field to the Protestants. Although not merely a response to the Protestant challenge, the Counter Reformation represented an effort by the church to reinvigorate the instruments of authority. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) reaffirmed traditional Roman Catholic dogma, denounced ecclesiastical abuses, and established the Inquisition and the Index of Forbidden Books. In the Society of Jesus, founded by Ignatius Loyola, the Counter Reformation could boast of an organization as militant and dedicated as that of any Protestant confession.
D1b Religious Wars
The struggle between Roman Catholics and Protestants could not be confined to the spiritual arena. During the period from 1550 to 1650, protracted religious wars occasioned widespread death and destruction. These religious struggles were, however, inextricably intertwined with political contests that eventually assumed primary importance. In France, bloody civil strife between Roman Catholics and Huguenots (Protestants) dragged on for 30 years until Henry IV was recognized as king in 1593. Placing secular power above religious loyalty, the Protestant Henry converted to Roman Catholicism, the faith recognized by the majority of his subjects. In the Netherlands, Roman Catholic Spain and the Calvinist Dutch provinces fought a long and brutal war (1567-1609) that ended in victory for the latter. Here, religion was closely identified with national aspiration; Dutch leader William of Orange, a Roman Catholic and a Lutheran before becoming a Calvinist, summoned his people above all else to national resistance.
In England, too, the religious struggle was part of a more encompassing effort to ensure national independence from Rome. Under Queen Elizabeth I, reasons of state dictated religious policy; as a result, Protestant administrative autonomy and Roman Catholic ritual were skillfully woven into a fabric of compromise that produced the Church of England. With the aid of treacherous storms (the “Protestant Wind”), Elizabethan England turned back the “Invincible Armada” sent against it by Philip II of Spain in 1588, a victory as much national as it was religious.
The Thirty Years’ War was the last religious and the first modern war. Ignited in Bohemia, where Roman Catholic Habsburgs and Protestant Czechs stood in fierce opposition, the fires of war were fed by Lutheran Denmark and Sweden. Almost from the first, however, the war’s character was ambiguous; although religious passions certainly contributed, the war had by 1635 become a political contest between the Habsburg and Bourbon families, both Roman Catholic. Consistent with the transitional and tension-ridden character of the age, it was Cardinal Richelieu, a prince of the church whose interests were secular, who led the French into the fray. At the end of the war France emerged as the greatest power on the European continent and the prototype of the secular, centralized state.
D2 The Age of Absolutism
In the aftermath of the Thirty Years’ War, absolutism began to take recognizable form; the secular, centralized state replaced feudal political conceptions and institutions as the instrument of worldly power and influence. Through the efforts of Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin, France had emerged as the first great modern power. In 1661, when Louis XIV assumed control of the country’s affairs, he understood that new territories could be won only by mobilizing the economic and military resources of the entire nation. The series of wars that he visited upon Europe failed to transform his boldest dreams into realities, but the effort itself would have been impossible without the mercantilist economic policies of Jean-Baptiste Colbert and the creation of a large standing army. The vast military and civil bureaucracy that was the inevitable concomitant of Louis’s unbridled territorial ambition soon began to take on a life of its own, and although the king may have believed that he was the state, he had in fact become its first servant. A similar fate overtook the French aristocracy. As feudal diversity fell victim to bureaucratic rationality, aristocrats were obliged to surrender political power to bureaucratic officers called intendants.
D2a The Centralized State
Perceiving that power was trump, other European monarchs were quick to emulate French absolutism. Tsar Peter the Great devoted his energies to transforming Russia into a major military power. As part of his program of Westernization he created a standing army and a navy, encouraged the study of Western technology, and insisted that nobility be defined by service to the state. Moreover, he took steps to rationalize government administration. These efforts were crowned with success when Russia defeated Sweden in the Great Northern War (1700-1721). Ensconced in their new capital at Saint Petersburg, Peter and his successors could no longer be left out of Europe’s political equation. Nor could Prussia, where the historical pattern was similar to that of most centralizing states: War and the expansionist impulse dictated the concentration of power, the standardization of administrative procedures, and the creation of a modern standing army.
The price to be paid for failing to centralize power was political decline, as manifested by the histories of Poland and the Ottoman Empire. The persistence of aristocratic independence so weakened Poland that it was finally devoured at three separate feasts (1772, 1793, 1795) by its neighbors Austria, Prussia, and Russia. The Turks, once the feared conquerors of southeastern Europe, were unable to prevent their Janissaries and provincial officials from usurping power that had once belonged to the sultan. As a result, the Ottoman Empire was on its way to becoming the “sick man of Europe” before the end of the 18th century.
Out of the wars that ravaged Europe between 1667 and 1721, a state system emerged that by and large survived until 1914. At the beginning of the period, France stood unchallenged as the greatest military power in Europe; by the second decade of the 18th century, however, England, Austria, Russia, and Prussia were all powers to be reckoned with. Instead of a French imperium, Europe was organized as an equilibrial group of great powers. Balance of power became the fundamental principle of European diplomacy and an effective counter to any aggression that had for its aim continental hegemony.
D2b The Secular View of the World
Paralleling the secularization of politics was the secularization of thought. The scientific revolution of the 17th century laid the foundation for a worldview that did not depend on Christian assumptions and categories. Cutting themselves loose from theology, philosophers discovered new allies in science and mathematics. For thinkers such as English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon and French philosopher René Descartes, the destiny of the soul was of less concern than the operation of the natural world. Further, even though Bacon was an empiricist and Descartes a rationalist, both believed that the power of human reason, rightly employed, rendered authority obsolete.
Of the several makers of the modern mind, none was more important or more celebrated than English physicist Sir Isaac Newton, who worked out an all-encompassing mechanical explanation of the universe resting upon the law of universal gravitation. The awe that Newton inspired in the 18th-century philosophers can scarcely be exaggerated. Determined to popularize the scientific worldview and to adapt its methods to the task of social and political criticism, the leaders of the Age of Enlightenment placed the affairs of this world squarely at the center of their work. In the most famous compendium of Enlightenment thought, the Encyclopédie (1751-1772), French philosophers Denis Diderot (the editor), Jean d’Alembert, Voltaire, and others challenged the religious worldview and championed a scientific humanism based on natural law.
D2c The Philosopher-Kings
During the second half of the 18th century, the Enlightenment joined hands with absolutism. Inspired by the philosophes, absolute monarchs, such as Frederick the Great of Prussia, Joseph II of Austria, and Catherine the Great of Russia, modeled themselves on the ideal of the philosopher-king, attempting with varying degrees of success to enlist power in the service of the common good. Despite their sincerity, they succeeded in nothing so much as in making absolutism more absolute. At their command, historical particularism continued its retreat before the advance of uniform codes of law and bureaucratic regulations. To be sure, an aristocratic resurgence occurred during the century, but aristocrats owed their new lease on life to their willingness to serve the state. Under the enlightened absolutists, in sum, the centralization of power proceeded apace; in a genuine effort to improve the welfare of their subjects, the enlightened despots insinuated state power more deeply into daily existence.
E Age of Revolutions
Toward the end of the 18th century, the concentration of power in the hands of the monarch began to be challenged. European reaction to absolutism was enhanced by the success of the American Revolution (1775-1783), with its resultant republic, and by the rise of the English bourgeoisie concomitant to the Industrial Revolution. This reaction first crystallized in France in 1789 and from there spread throughout the continent in the following century.
E1 The French Revolution
The French Revolution (1789-1799) comprised a series of events that transformed the political, social, and ideological atmosphere of modern Europe. These events were set in motion when the aristocracy, refusing to be taxed, made it necessary for King Louis XVI to revive the moribund Estates-General in the spring of 1789. Few suspected that this decision would unleash elemental and irresistible forces of discontent. Although they had different ends in view, aristocrats, bourgeois, sans-culottes (the urban poor), and peasants were united in their determination to alter the conditions of their existence. Accompanying this assertion of self-interest was a body of abstract ideas that gave direction to revolutionary energies. In particular, Jean Jacques Rousseau’s doctrine of popular sovereignty inspired the more articulate leaders of the third estate (the common people). When the National Assembly proclaimed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in August 1789, it intended to serve notice to the rest of Europe that it had discovered universally valid principles of government.
E1a The Reign of Terror
The constitutional monarchy that had evolved by 1791 was as unsatisfactory to the king as it was to the increasingly powerful and vocal faction called Jacobins. In the Legislative Assembly (1791-1792), they and the Girondins, another faction, agitated for a republic at the same time as they engineered a declaration of war against Austria (April 1792). When French forces suffered initial reversals, revolutionary temperatures rose even higher, and in September the newly formed National Convention promptly proclaimed France a republic. On January 21, 1793, Louis XVI was executed, and during the ensuing year and a half, the country was ruled by dictators, whose dreams of moral perfection and hatred of hypocrisy inspired a reign of terror that made the guillotine the symbol of political messianism. The moral fury of the Committee of Public Safety recognized no territorial boundary, and its members prosecuted the escalating war against a coalition of European powers. In part, their success can be attributed to the national conscription that was instituted in August 1793; it demonstrated the awesome military potential of a nation in arms. Eventually, however, fear invaded the committee itself; in July 1794 Maximilien Robespierre, its own leading member, was arrested and executed. During the reaction that followed, the French quickly forgot the “republic of virtue” and welcomed vice almost as a symbol of liberty.
E1b Napoleon’s Rise to Power
The much-maligned government of the subsequent Directory (1795-1799) attempted to assimilate the least controversial elements of the revolutionary heritage and to deliver the coup de grace to messianism. Determined to open careers to talent, it made possible the rapid rise to power of General Napoleon Bonaparte. With the connivance of two directors, Napoleon staged a coup d’état in November 1799, ruled as a dictator, and in 1804 crowned himself emperor. A student of the Enlightenment who came of age during the Revolution, Napoleon was the last of the enlightened absolutists. As part of his program to substitute universal reason for particularistic history, he promulgated the Code Napoléon, a uniform system of law, and brought education under national control. As between the revolutionary principles of liberty and equality, he preferred the latter in the knowledge that it could be promoted only by a strong central authority.
E2 The Napoleonic Wars
In foreign affairs, Napoleon renewed Louis XIV’s expansionism with a firm belief in judiciously selected principles of the Enlightenment. He abolished ancient privileges and imposed equality before the law in the territories—and these included most of continental Europe—that he added to the French Empire by force of arms. In his passion for centralized control, he sacrificed historical complexities to the requirements of administrative convenience, the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine being a case in point.
What Napoleon failed to appreciate was the extent to which larger administrative units and egalitarian reform promoted national consciousness. Just as his success was predicated upon French national enthusiasm, so his fall was hastened by the development of national consciousness in other European peoples. The Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815) differed from those of Louis XIV in that they were not merely between states, but between nation-states. After a series of disasters, above all the campaign in Russia, Napoleon was defeated and European power brought back into better balance; the so-called Hundred Days (1815) that followed his escape from Elba constituted a desperate and hopeless final gamble. With leaders of the Revolution, Napoleon had increased the power of the centralized state and added an explosive mixture of nationalism.
E2a Liberalism, Nationalism, and Socialism
After Napoleon’s defeat, the victorious allies assembled in Vienna, bent upon restoring the old order (see Congress of Vienna). Trumpeting the principle of legitimacy, Austrian foreign minister Prince Klemens von Metternich recalled the Bourbons to France, secured Habsburg hegemony in the German- and Italian-speaking areas of central Europe, and forged a general agreement—Concert of Europe—to police the continent. His masterful performance, however, could only be a holding action. French revolutionary ideas conspired with the specter of industrialization and a rapidly growing population to subvert any effort to turn back the clock.
E2b The Romantics
Even more ominous, the romantic imagination had been excited by the stirring drama of revolution and war. Rejecting rational calculation and classical restraint, romantics invented an idealized Napoleon and lent to liberalism, socialism, and nationalism an emotive fervor. As heirs of the Enlightenment and representatives of the bourgeoisie, the liberals campaigned for constitutional government, secular education, and a market economy that would liberate the productive forces of capitalism. Their appeal, although real, was limited to a relatively small segment of the population and was soon eclipsed by that of rival ideologies. In part, this was because of their indifference to the increasingly volatile “social question,” to which utopian socialists such as Charles Fourier, Henri de Saint-Simon, and Robert Owen offered provocative, if fanciful, answers. More important, liberalism failed to generate the kind of fanatical enthusiasm that attended the rise of national consciousness. Set in motion by the French Revolution, Napoleon, and the seminal writings of German historian Johann Gottfried von Herder, romantic nationalism outstripped every competing ideology, particularly in the lands that lay east of the Rhine. As Christianity began to lose its hold on individual lives, leaders such as Giuseppe Mazzini in Italy and Adam Mickiewicz in Poland were able to impart to national consciousness a messianic character.
E2c Revolutions and “Scientific” Socialism
Metternich’s vigilance notwithstanding, these several ideologies could not be defused, and between 1815 and 1848, Europe was shaken three times by revolutionary eruptions. In 1848 the flames of revolt swept across almost all of Europe, sparing only England and Russia. When the ashes had finally cooled, however, it was clear that romantic revolution had burned itself out. To be sure, Metternich had been driven out of Austria, and France had proclaimed the Second Republic, but the majority of uprisings had failed, and apocalyptic dreams had not become realities. The restoration experiment, however, was at an end. Railroads, industrialization, and a burgeoning urban population were altering Europe’s landscape at the same time that materialistic thinking began to challenge the romantic primacy of poetry and philosophy. “Science” was becoming a shibboleth, the guarantor of inexorable progress. In 1851 London’s Great Exhibition paid homage to the century’s technological achievements. Charles Darwin, despite his vision of a savage nature, promised the “survival of the fittest.” Karl Marx and German revolutionist Friedrich Engels scoffed at utopianism and worked out a “scientific” socialism that was self-certifying.
E2d Practical Politics
In politics, the torch was passed to adherents of realpolitik (German for “practical politics”). Thus, the liberal, but pragmatic, Count Camillo di Cavour succeeded where Mazzini had failed; he unified Italy by combining skillful diplomacy with the employment of regular armies. Rejecting the uncompromising defiance of Hungarian revolutionary Lajos Kossuth, Hungarian statesman Ferenc Deák negotiated home rule for Hungary within the context of the Habsburg monarchy. In France, Napoleon III forged a modernizing dictatorship that coordinated industrialization, welfare programs, and social discipline. Moreover, in the most important event of the third quarter of the century, Otto von Bismarck unified Germany. Convinced that the great questions of his time could only be decided by “blood and iron,” he used wars against Denmark, Austria, and France to establish the new German nation-state as Europe’s leading power. Nevertheless, even the legendary chancellor, a Prussian patriot indifferent to ideology, was compelled to make concessions to the socialists and the nationalists. His ultimate failure to isolate diplomacy from national passion helped pave the road to World War I (1914-1918).
F The 20th Century
For most Europeans, the years from 1871 to 1914 constituted La Belle Epoque (“the beautiful times”). Science had made life more comfortable and secure, representative government had achieved wide acceptance in principle, and continued progress was confidently expected. Proud of their accomplishments and convinced that history had assigned them a civilizing mission, Europe’s powers laid colonial claim to vast territories in Africa and Asia. Some believed, however, that Europe was dancing on a volcano. Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and German sociologist Max Weber cautioned against a facile optimism and dismissed the liberal conception of rational humanity, while artists such as Dutch Vincent van Gogh and Norwegian Edvard Munch explored the darker regions of the human heart. Such forebodings began to seem less eccentric in the light of contemporary challenges to the liberal consensus. A new and virulent strain of anti-Semitism infected the political life of Austria-Hungary, Russia, and France; in the home of the revolution, the Dreyfus affair threatened to bring down the Third Republic. National rivalries were exacerbated by imperial competition, and the nationality problem in the Hungarian half of the Habsburg monarchy intensified as a result of the government’s Magyarization policies and the example German and Italian unifications set for the Slavic peoples.
As the industrial working class grew in number and organized strength, Marxist social-democratic parties pressured European governments to equalize conditions as well as opportunities. In the midst of an increasingly unsettled atmosphere, Emperor William II of Germany dismissed Bismarck in 1890. For two decades the Iron Chancellor had served as Europe’s “honest broker,” juggling with great dexterity a bewildering array of alliances and alignments and thereby maintaining the peace. None of his successors possessed the skill needed to preserve Bismarck’s system, and when the incompetent emperor jettisoned realpolitik in favor of Weltpolitik (imperial politics), England, France, and Russia formed the Triple Entente.
F1 The World Wars
The German danger, coupled with Russian-Austrian rivalry in the Balkans, created a diplomatic configuration that presented difficulties far too great for the mediocre men who headed European foreign offices on the eve of 1914. When Serbian terrorist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, he ignited the diplomatic powder keg.
F1a World War I
The enthusiasm with which the European peoples greeted the outbreak of hostilities during World War I (1914-1918) quickly turned to horror as casualty lists lengthened and limited aims became irrelevant. What had been projected as a brief war between states became a four-year struggle between peoples. When the guns finally did fall silent in the last weeks of 1918, the German, Austrian, and Russian empires had collapsed, and the greater part of a generation of young men lay dead. A portent of things to come was that the principal figure at the Paris Peace Conference (1919) was United States president Woodrow Wilson. Determined to make the world “safe for democracy,” Wilson had led the United States into war with Germany in 1917. As he was issuing a clarion call for a democratic Europe, Vladimir Ilich Lenin, the Bolshevik leader who had seized power in the Russian Revolution of 1917, was summoning the European proletariat to class war and offering to supply the ideological keys to a Communist state. Turning a deaf ear to both prophets of a world transformed, France and England insisted upon a punitive peace, and Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey were obliged to sign treaties that had nothing to do with messianic dreams.
F1b The Interwar Period
In the wake of the catastrophic war and an influenza epidemic that claimed 20 million lives worldwide, many Europeans believed, with German philosopher Oswald Spengler, that they were witnessing the decline of the West. Signs of hope, to be sure, could still be found; the League of Nations had been created, and the principle of self-determination was said to have triumphed in east central Europe. Russia had rid itself of tsarist autocracy, and imperial Germany had become a republic. The League of Nations exerted little influence, however, and nationalism continued to be a double-edged sword. The creation of nation-states in Central Europe necessarily entailed national minorities, because ethnicity could not be the sole criterion for the construction of defensible frontiers. The tsars had been replaced by Bolsheviks, who refused to recognize the legitimacy of any European government. Most important, perhaps, the Treaty of Versailles, with its war-guilt clause, had wounded German national pride, and Italians were convinced that they had been denied their rightful share of the postwar spoils.
Exploiting national discontent and fear of communism, Benito Mussolini established a Fascist dictatorship in 1922 (see Fascism). Although his political doctrine was vague and contradictory, he recognized that in an age of mass politics, a blend of nationalism and socialism possessed the greatest revolutionary potential. In Germany, inflation and depression provided Adolf Hitler with an opportunity to combine the same two revolutionary ideologies. For all his nihilism, Hitler never doubted that the National Socialist German Workers’ party was the promising vehicle for his ambition (see National Socialism). As Lenin’s successor, Joseph Stalin subordinated international to national communism; proclaiming “socialism in one country,” he erected a governmental apparatus that was unrivaled in its pervasiveness.
F1c World War II
In the face of the growing belligerence of these totalitarian states and the confirmed isolationism of the United States, the European democracies found themselves on the defensive. Under the leadership of Neville Chamberlain, England and France adopted a policy of appeasement, which was finally abandoned only after the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. As World War II began, the stunning victories of the German armies persuaded almost everyone but Winston Churchill that Hitler’s “new order” was Europe’s destiny. But after 1941, when Hitler ordered an attack on the USSR and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the USSR and the United States joined a stubborn England in a concerted effort to compel Germany to surrender unconditionally. The tide turned in 1942 and 1943, and after the Normandy (Normandie) invasion in June 1944, Germany and its remaining allies succumbed in the wake of bitter fighting on two fronts. In the spring of 1945, Hitler committed suicide and a ravaged Germany surrendered to the Allied powers.
F2 The Postwar Era
In the final days of war, advancing units of the United States and Soviet armies met near the German town of Torgau. This dramatic encounter symbolized the decline of European power and the division of the continent into United States and Soviet spheres of influence. Before long, the tension and suspicion engendered by the geographical proximity of the world’s two superpowers took the form of the Cold War, a test of resolve that was particularly nerve-racking at the dawn of the atomic age.
F2a East-West Divisions
Having sustained staggering losses during the war, the USSR was determined to establish a buffer zone in Eastern Europe. Between 1945 and 1948, Soviet-sponsored dictators contrived to seize power in Europe’s war-torn heartland. In Germany, the pivotal arena, the zones of Allied occupation began to harden into political entities; by 1949, West and East German governments had been organized, finalizing the division of the continent. Alarmed by the ruthless imposition of Communist governments in Eastern Europe and by the vulnerability of a Western Europe that lay in economic ruin, U.S. secretary of state George C. Marshall proposed a far-reaching program of aid designed to speed European recovery (see European Recovery Program). Rejected by the Soviet-dominated governments to the East, the Marshall Plan made possible a miraculous economic recovery in the West. The creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949 further evidenced Western Europe’s dependence upon the United States.
No longer masters of their own destiny, the European nations, particularly England and France, were forced to dismantle their far-flung empires. During the first two postwar decades a stunning process of decolonization occurred, which had been prepared in part by the rise of the national movements in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East in the period between the wars. This decline of empire reflected a European crisis that was as much spiritual as it was political. Shattering revelations concerning Nazi death camps and painful memories of collaboration were transmuted into a sense of general guilt.
F2b Resistance to Soviet Control
Nevertheless, Europe proved remarkably resilient. Almost from the first, the Soviet leaders learned that the fierce national pride that animates the peoples of Eastern Europe could not easily be suppressed. In 1948 they were unable to prevent Josip Broz Tito, a resistance fighter and loyal Communist, from embarking on a distinctly Yugoslav road (see Communism). In 1953, the year of Stalin’s death, the East Germans rioted, and in 1956 the Hungarians waged a heroic if ill-fated battle against their Soviet masters. In 1968 Soviet control was tested in Czechoslovakia, where Communist leader Alexander Dubček began to liberalize Czech life during a brief period that became known as the Prague Spring. Again, Soviet military force, along with troops from other countries of the Warsaw Pact—the military alliance adopted in Eastern Europe to counter NATO—crushed the experiment, but voices of resistance and reform continued to be heard. The USSR itself faced nationalist pressures as the constituent republics began to repudiate central government.
F2c Resistance to U.S. Influence
Far more welcome than the Soviets, the Americans had addressed Europeans as partners in an Atlantic alliance. Some, however, perceived dangers in America’s embrace. Chief among these proud Europeans was General Charles de Gaulle, who became president of France in 1958. Refusing to concede a permanent presence in Western Europe to the United States, de Gaulle ended military collaboration with NATO and began to develop France’s own nuclear deterrent. Because of the “special relationship” Britain was then cultivating with the United States, the French president vetoed British membership in the European Economic Community, or EEC (Common Market). De Gaulle had a vision of a Europe extending from the Atlantic to the Urals and advocated a loose federation of independent states. This vision was opposed by those who believed that a more integral union was both necessary and possible. The first step in that direction had been taken in 1951, when France, West Germany, Italy, and the Low Countries agreed to establish the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). This was followed in 1957 by the formation of the EEC. Although a considerable economic success, the Common Market did not evolve into a Western European political union as rapidly as some of its founders had hoped.
F3 The End of the Cold War
From the 1960s to the 1980s, strict conformity to the Communist system in the USSR discouraged economic innovation and punished dissent. Consequently, the economy stagnated. Despite this, the Soviet Union continued to increase its military strength and act more assertively around the world, a trend that culminated in the invasion of Afghanistan in 1980. As the Cold War progressed, however, it gradually became clear to the Soviet leadership that they could not win a full-scale war with the United States, primarily because their defense costs were already straining the inefficient Soviet economy.
In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet leader. Gorbachev wanted to secure Western aid to modernize the Soviet economy. To achieve this end, he reduced defense spending and worked to ease international tensions. He also wanted to make government less repressive and more responsive to popular concerns, and he urged the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe to do the same. In the early 1980s the USSR had regularly provided military support for Eastern European governments to contain political protests and strife. By the late 1980s, however, economic conditions in Eastern Europe were deteriorating so rapidly that Communist governments could no longer hold back the tide of public protest. In 1989 Gorbachev made it clear that Eastern European governments could not expect Soviet military aid to suppress domestic unrest.
F3a Collapse of the USSR
In 1989 nationalist and democratic protests in Eastern Europe escalated rapidly into revolutions that swept Communists from power. By the end of the year, many Eastern European countries—including Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria—had new governments that pledged themselves to liberal democracy and market economies. In Germany, the Berlin Wall, which had separated East and West Berlin, was opened in 1989, and East and West Germany reunited the following year. The two major organizations of Soviet control over Eastern Europe, the military Warsaw Pact and the economic Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON), were dissolved in 1991.
Gorbachev’s ambition to modernize the Soviet economy under the continued supremacy of the Communist Party failed. His reforms had allowed other political and economic views to be expressed. Popular opposition to Communist rule grew, as did nationalist agitation in the Soviet republics against the domination of Russia. When the three Baltic republics (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) seceded in 1991, it was the beginning of the end of the USSR. By the end of 1991, the USSR had been replaced by 15 independent states.
Russia, the largest of these independent states, persuaded all but the three Baltic nations to form a loose intergovernmental association, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The new governments of the successor states, including that of Russia, introduced a form of liberal democracy and accepted the need to establish free-market economies.
F3b Partition of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia
Yugoslavia had remained apart from the Soviet bloc after 1948, when it had split with the USSR after conflicts over Communist doctrine, but Yugoslavia’s brand of national Communism also collapsed violently in 1991. Until that time the country had been a federation of six separate republics—Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro—and had comprised several ethnic groups, but strict Communist control had been able to keep internal conflicts in check. However, after the fall of the Communists, many of the republics began to demand more autonomy for themselves. At the same time, the federal government, which was dominated by the Serb ethnic group, wanted to increase centralization and Serb influence. Ethnic conflicts and resentment against the Serb population led the republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia to secede. The secessions were opposed by Serbia, and in Croatia and Bosnia, where there were large Serb minorities, violent conflict broke out. The bloodshed did not end until 1996, after the United Nations endorsed military intervention and policing by NATO forces (see Wars of Yugoslav Succession). Nationalist disputes also brought about the end of Czechoslovakia, but its 1993 separation into the Czech Republic and Slovakia was achieved peacefully.
F3c Political Questions
Western Europe welcomed the transition to democracy in Eastern Europe and the former USSR and promised economic assistance to many Eastern countries. Initially, Western governments believed that the end of the Cold War would permit them to significantly reduce their defense spending. All Western European governments cut defense budgets and level of armed forces, and the United States reduced the number of American military personnel and bases in Europe.
However, while the balance of power in Europe may have changed, Russia was still a major force and a nuclear power. The new state of Ukraine also had a nuclear capacity. This led to concerns about the political stability of these new countries. A consensus emerged in the West that any large reduction in NATO troop strengths would be unwise and that American participation in the defense of Western Europe was still important. While NATO no longer had an obvious enemy or target, it continued to take responsibility for European security.
F3d Economic Problems
When the Eastern European nations moved to a capitalist economy, they often encountered severe economic problems. After years of Communist protection and subsidization, many Eastern European industries were unable to compete in a free-market economy. Unemployment and inflation rose, but the Eastern European countries did not have effective social security systems to deal with such problems. In some countries economic hardship led voters to return reconstituted Communist parties to government. However, these parties stressed their commitment to democratic principles and market economics, and changes in government were achieved democratically.
F3e Beginnings of Cooperation
Links between West and East continued to develop. NATO established a Partnership for Peace agreement with all Eastern countries, including Russia, in which these nations could share information, conduct joint military exercises, and participate in peacekeeping operations with NATO forces. In 1999, despite Russian concerns and objections over the growing strength of the organization, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic officially joined NATO. This marked the first time that countries of the former Warsaw Pact had been allowed to join NATO (with the exception of East Germany, which became part of the organization with the reunification of Germany in 1990), and it was seen by many as an important step toward further European cooperation and integration.
In addition to growing relations with NATO, many Eastern countries also had economic and trade agreements with the former EEC, which by this time had become first the European Community (EC) and then, in 1993, the European Union (EU). Although the EU did not immediately offer membership to Eastern European countries, by the late 1990s all European nations belonged to several European cooperative organizations, including the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
F4 The Growth of Cooperation and Integration
The cooperation and integration in Western Europe that had begun with the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community had continued to grow in the 1950s and 1960s. However, the admission of new members to the EEC or further integration of the EEC was impossible while Charles de Gaulle was president of France. De Gaulle opposed any possible reduction of French authority in the EEC. De Gaulle resigned in 1969, and the new French president, Georges Pompidou, was more receptive to expansion. In 1970 the six member states of the EEC, by this time renamed European Community, or EC, agreed to consider applications for new members. The enlargement process was successful. Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom joined in 1973. Greece became a member in 1980, and Portugal and Spain joined in 1986.
Less successful was another agreement made by the six original members of the EEC in 1970. They had agreed to establish by 1980 an Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), in which the economies and currencies of the member states would be integrated. The timetable for EMU was quickly destroyed by instability in the international monetary system, the quadrupling of oil prices in 1973, and economic recession. However, progress was made gradually, and in the mid-1970s two structural funds, the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund, began to provide grants for economic restructuring in the less-developed areas of the EC. In addition, the European Monetary System (EMS) was established in 1979 and linked the exchange rates of members’ currencies to the strong and stable West German deutsche mark. The EMS helped to create a zone of relative monetary stability in Europe.
F4a The Single European Act
By the early 1980s several issues, including worries about escalating EC costs and disputes among member states, had arisen in the community. These problems led to the 1987 Single European Act (SEA), which committed the EC to establishing a single market—in which all trade barriers and customs frontiers would be eliminated—by the end of 1992. In addition, the SEA committed EC member states to adopting common policies in areas ranging from employment and taxation to health and the environment.
After 1987 the budgetary system of the EC was radically restructured, a social charter outlining workers’ and citizens’ rights was accepted, and the debate on monetary union was reopened. In 1988 and 1989 the EC established two intergovernmental conferences (IGCs), meetings of member governments to discuss amending or changing the founding treaties of the EC. One IGC considered economic and monetary union, and the other worked to further political integration. The IGCs submitted their reports in 1991, and the founding treaties of the EC were reworked to create a framework and timetable for political and economic union.
F4b Economic and Monetary Union
This reworking resulted in the Treaty on European Union (also called the Maastricht Treaty). The treaty set 1999 as the deadline for monetary union and the adoption of a single currency. The treaty also set strict monetary criteria that members had to meet in order for monetary union to occur. These criteria related to level of inflation, size of government deficit, level of interest rates, and stability of the national currency.
The treaty also called for cooperation among member nations on foreign and security policies, created the Cohesion Fund to help the poorer members meet the requirements for monetary union, and transformed the EC into the European Union. However, some aspects of the treaty, especially the move to a single currency, alarmed European electorates. This alarm delayed ratification of the treaty and the inauguration of the EU until 1993.
Many member countries found it difficult to meet the criteria to adopt the single currency, and their efforts to do so sometimes produced more economic problems, including higher unemployment. In 1998, however, the EU declared that all members except Greece were eligible to adopt the single currency, but the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Sweden declined to do so. Greece later met the criteria and in 2000 was invited to adopt the single currency. The new currency, called the euro, was introduced in 1999 for accounting purposes and electronic money transfers. Euro-denominated coins and banknotes entered circulation in 2002 and replaced the currencies of countries participating in monetary union. Many EU supporters saw the establishment of a single currency as essential if the EU was to be a major international player and as an important step toward political union.
F4c Expansion
After 1987 other Western European countries sought EC/EU membership, and Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined in 1994. However, after the ratification of the Treaty on European Union, the EU focused more on consolidation than on innovation or expansion. Although the EU received membership applications after 1994 from all the new democracies of Eastern Europe, it did not immediately act on them.
In 1997 the EU agreed to begin membership negotiations with Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia. Clearly, however, if the EU accepted the Eastern European countries, it would need to significantly revise EU institutions, finances, and policies to accommodate the weaker economies and less-developed social programs of these nations. These issues have caused the EU to move slowly on accepting the Eastern Europe nations.
F5 The Future of Europe
The most powerful force in modern European history has been nationalism, which has been at the same time both unifying and divisive. The horrors of World War II showed the potentially disastrous results of nationalism and demonstrated the need for cooperation and integration to maintain peace. With the beginning of the Cold War, Europe was divided into two armed camps. Eastern Europe became a client of the USSR, controlled by the threat of Soviet military intervention, while Western Europe sought and welcomed American involvement. After 1945 Europe lived in a state of tension, the likely battleground of any direct conflict between the world’s two superpowers.
However, the Cold War era also provided stability and peace. The battle lines in Europe were so clearly drawn that both sides knew that the slightest trespass could result in total war. However, stability did not necessarily equal prosperity, as Communist suppression froze Eastern Europe politically and economically. By contrast, the American protective umbrella allowed the Western European nations to prosper economically and to develop closer cooperation and integration.
The fall of Communism after 1989 brought a new uncertainty to Europe. Other than a common concern about the stability of the former Soviet republics, there is no clear consensus on how to achieve security in a Europe that now possesses some 40 states. All belong to the OSCE, but its authority and resources are limited. The EU may eventually develop its own defense capability and accept more members, but until then, European security will remain in the hands of NATO and will continue to depend on American involvement. NATO has developed a capacity to intervene in territorial disputes in Europe. It demonstrated in the former Yugoslavia how it can act in collaboration with the UN and the OSCE as a peacekeeping force in situations that are not only military problems. Moreover, in 1999 NATO demonstrated its role in maintaining European security by conducting an air campaign against Serbia in an attempt to halt aggression against ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo (administered by UN). For these reasons, Eastern countries see NATO as the guarantor of their independence and wish to follow the lead of Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic in joining it.
In addition to the question of stability, several violent conflicts between ethnic groups remain unresolved in Eastern Europe and Russia. These problems could potentially be overcome if states are prepared to grant a degree of autonomy to ethnic groups, as has largely happened in Western Europe. That possibility will become more likely as Eastern governments become more familiar with the political accommodations that are part of a democratic state. Moreover, a regard for human and group rights is a condition for receiving Western aid and for admission to the Western network of international organizations.
Western Europeans are also concerned about mass migration to the West from the East where countries have found the transition to a market economy very difficult. Despite injections of Western aid, the problems of economic dislocation, collapsing industries, and high unemployment were endemic in Eastern Europe during the 1990s. While some in Western Europe want a more open market that includes all of Europe, others fear that removing border controls would lead to a large influx of immigrants seeking employment or greater social security benefits in the West.
An equal worry is that substantial immigration could inflame public opposition to foreigners in the West. Some Western Europeans feel that immigration from developing countries dilutes traditional cultural values and threatens national sovereignty and distinctiveness. Although such sentiments are confined to the political fringes, they could become more problematic if immigration from Eastern Europe increases significantly.
Europe therefore faces a dilemma. The West wants closer economic integration with the East but fears what the consequences might be for its own societies and economies. It has preferred to encourage Eastern Europe to solve its own problems, providing assistance for economic development while trying to keep the Eastern states at arms’ length. This dilemma pervades all East-West relations, and it will be a major issue in the 21st century. It is apparent in defense and security policy, especially over the role of NATO and its recent expansion to the east. It is also central to the expansion of the EU. Although the EU is committed in principle to admitting members from Eastern Europe, it has yet to address what that will mean for its own structures, policies, and finances. At the same time, the EU fears that enlargement would encourage immigration from East to West. The nature of future political and economic union will be affected by how the EU expands its membership.
The EU has become the focus of integration and cooperation in Europe and an important international player. However, while it is the largest trading bloc in the world, the EU’s political influence lags far behind its economic power. Its ability to become a major political force will depend on the outcome of two situations. First, on how far the EU can persuade its member states to adopt a single and coherent foreign and security policy. Second, on whether the euro successfully establishes itself as a major world currency.
The European future in the next century remains uncertain, with many issues to be resolved. However, the continent has reason to be optimistic. It is, overall, a happier place than it ever has been. Bodies such as NATO and the EU have made cooperation the norm. Western countries are locked together in a multitude of cooperative institutions and exercises that make war almost inconceivable. National differences in policies and priorities will remain, but cooperation will continue because without it no European country can guarantee its security or economic prosperity.
The task for Western Europe will be to ensure that the new democracies of Eastern Europe are not kept out of that cooperation. The peaceful turnover of governments in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, which sometimes brought Communists back to power, indicates that free elections and multiparty democracy have begun to replace the one-party systems and political repression of the past. The integrationist dream of a United States of Europe may still lie in the distant future, but a peaceful and prosperous Europe united in common aims and working for common solutions to shared problems is certainly a possibility. However, achieving this goal will require both political will and, even more so, political understanding of each nation’s difficulties.

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