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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.


Delouche, Frederic, ed. Illustrated History of Europe: A Unique Portrait of Europe's Common History. Trans. Richard Mayne. Holt, 1993. For high school to adult readers.

Peterson, David. Europe. Children's Press, 1998. An overview of the geography, wildlife, people, and history of Europe. For younger readers.

Rady, Martyn. Collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1995. For readers in grades 7 and up. Counter-Reformation

Forster, Marc R. The Counter-Reformation in the Villages: Religion and Reform in the Bishopric of Speyer, 1560-1720. Cornell University Press, 1992. This case study captures the reaction of villagers to the Counter Reformation.

Jones, Martin D. The Counter Reformation: Religion and Society in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge University Press, 1995. Collection of short writings from period; good resource for classroom use.

Lindberg, Carter. The European Reformations. Blackwell, 1996. Well-illustrated survey of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation.

Olin, John C. The Catholic Reformation: Savonarola to Ignatious Loyola: Reform in the Church, 1495-1540. Harper, 1969. Fordham, 1993. Presents writings from the Counter Reformation era.

Woronoff, Jon, ed. Historical Dictionary of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Scarecrow, 2000. A one-volume reference that summarizes and clarifies the vast literature on these eras. Middle Ages

Bunson, Matthew. Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. Facts on File, 1995. More than 2,000 entries cover the people, places, and events of the Middle Ages.

Cantor, Norman F. The Civilization of the Middle Ages. Rev. ed. HarperCollins, 1993. Originally published in 1964, Cantor's one-volume study remains one of the most accessible treatments on the subject.

Cantor, Norman F. Medieval Lives: Eight Charismatic Men and Women of the Middle Ages. HarperCollins, 1994. Major and minor historical figures on the issues of their times.

Duby, Georges, and Philippe Aries, eds. A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Belknap, 1988, 1993. A fascinating and revealing study of the intimate and familial lives of medieval people.

Eamon, William. Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture. Princeton University Press, 1994. A book of medieval secrets, from stain removal potions to plague cures and love potions.

Herlihy, David. Medieval Households. Harvard University Press, 1985. Argues that the medieval period defined the modern notion of family, especially affection toward children.

Hooper, Nicholas, and Matthew Bennett. The Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: The Middle Ages, 768-1487. Cambridge University Press, 1995. This illustrated popular history traces the development of European warfare from Charlemagne to the War of the Roses.

Jordan, William Chester, ed. The Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia for Students. 4 vols. Scribner, 1996. Illustrated reference work with more than 700 entries; for younger readers.

McKitterick, Rosamond, ed. The New Cambridge Medieval History. 7 vols. Cambridge University Press, 1995-1998.

Platt, Colin. The Architecture of Medieval Britain: A Social History. Yale University Press, 1990. Life in medieval England is illuminated through this study of the architectural heritage of the Middle Ages.

Shahar, Shulamith. Childhood in the Middle Ages. Routledge, 1990. Medieval children and the care given them. World War I

Eisenhower, John S. Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I. Free Press, 2001. A vivid account of Pershing's command of the American Expeditionary Force.

Ferguson, Niall. The Pity of War: Explaining World War I. Basic, 2000. A re-assessment of the causes of the Great War.

Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. Oxford University Press, 2000. Award-winning treatment of the Great War and the revolutionary changes that followed the war.

Gilbert, Martin. The First World War: A Complete History. Holt, 1994. Strong narrative highlights a chronological account of the war.

Gwyn, Sandra. Tapestry of War: A Private View of Canadians in the Great War. HarperCollins, 1992. How World War I shaped Canadian lives; based on personal memoirs and letters.

Keegan, John. The First World War. Knopf, 1999. A riveting account based on letters and diaries.

Pope, Stephen, ed. The Dictionary of the First World War. St. Martin's, 1995. Information on battles, commanders, and tactics; excellent reference.

Tuchman, Barbara W. The Guns of August. Bantam, 1976. Pulitzer Prize-winning history dramatizes beginning of World War I from British, French, Belgian, Russian, and German perspectives.

Winter, J. M. The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century. Penguin Studio, 1996. Companion book to a popular eight-hour PBS television documentary of the same name. World War II

Bischof, Werner. After the War. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997. A photojournalist's journey across Europe in the war's aftermath.

Dear, I. C. B., and M. R. D. Foot, eds. The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford University Press, 1995, 2001. A compendium of facts and figures relevant to World War II.

Dunnigan, James F. Dirty Little Secrets of World War II. Morrow, 1994, 1998. An illuminating exposé of military information pertaining to the war that, for propaganda purposes, was kept from the public.

Keegan, John. The Second World War. Viking/Penguin, 1990. A lively narrative by a military historian.

Murray, Williamson, and Allan R. Millett. A War to Be Won: Fighting the Second World War. Harvard University Press, 2000. A single-volume rendering of the conflict.

Overy, R. J. Why the Allies Won. Norton, 1996. An exploration and analysis of reasons for the Allied victory over the Axis powers.

Prange, Gordon W. At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor. Viking, 2002. An account based on extensive interviews with both Japanese and American participants.

Weinberg, Gerhard L. A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II. Cambridge University Press, 1994. Political and strategic history of World War II. Renaissance

Aston, Margaret, ed. The Panorama of the Renaissance. Abrams, 1996. Renaissance paintings from European galleries.

Burckhardt, Jacob. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. Viking Penguin, 1990. A classic study of the Italian Renaissance, originally published in 1935.

Cairns, Trevor. Renaissance and Reformation. Cambridge University Press, 1987. A solid treatment of two significant movements of the 16th century.

Halliwell, Sarah, ed. The Renaissance: Artists and Writers. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1998. Biographical sketches and illustrations covering the lives of 13 Renaissance artists and writers.

Trevor-Roper, Hugh. Renaissance Essays. University of Chicago Press, 1989. Essays by an eminent Renaissance scholar.

Zophy, Jonathan W. A Short History of the Renaissance and Reformation Europe: Dances Over Fire and Water. Prentice Hall, 1995. Enlightenment, Age of

Chartier, Roger.Trans. Lydia G. Cochrane. The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution. Duke University Press, 1991. A provocative argument that the Enlightenment was only one element in a wide range of cultural developments that led to secularization.

Gay, Peter. The Enlightenment: An Interpretation. 2 vols. Peter Smith, 1996. A social history of the philosophers and the movements they fostered.

Goodman, Dena. The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment. Cornell University Press, 1994. Biographical sketches enrich this well-narrated study of the culture of the French Enlightenment.

Israel, Jonathan I. Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750. Oxford University Press, 2002. A cultural history of the movement that lay the foundations of our modern world.

Porter, Roy. The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment. Norton, 2000, 2001. Argues that Britain played a greater role in the Enlightenment than has been acknowledged.

Wilson, Ellen J., and Peter H. Reill, eds. Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment. Facts on File, 1996. A good introduction to the period that explains many of the day's intellectuals and their writings. Reformation

Cairns, Trevor. Renaissance and Reformation. Cambridge University Press, 1987. On two significant movements of the 16th century.

Collinson, Patrick. The Reformation: A History. Modern Library, 2004. A concise introduction to the religious upheaval of the 16th century.

Hillerbrand, Hans J., ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. 4 vols. Oxford University Press, 1996. Covers the diversity of religious life in the 16th century.

Lindberg, Carter. The European Reformations. Blackwell, 1996. A strong narrative supports this well-illustrated survey of the Reformation and the Counter Reformation.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. The Reformation: A History. Viking, 2004. Winner of the National Book Award for history.

Zophy, Jonathan W. A Short History of the Renaissance and Reformation Europe: Dances Over Fire and Water. Prentice Hall, 1995. Surveys both periods in chronological order. European Union

Bomberg, Elizabeth, and Alexander Stubb. The European Union: How Does It Work? Oxford University Press, 2003. An introduction to the EU's operations, key structures, and principal players.

Cook, Chris, and John Paxton. European Political Facts: 1900-1996. 5th ed. St. Martin's, 2000. Highly readable chronological overview.

Dinan, Desmond. Encyclopedia of the European Union. Lynne Rienner, 1998. Entries on EU institutions, individuals, policies, and terms.

Pagden, Anthony, ed. The Idea of Europe: From Antiquity to the European Union. Cambridge University Press, 2001. A strong historical study on what it means, and has meant, to be European.

Pinder, John. The European Union: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2001. A coherent introduction to the evolution of the European Union.

Reid, T.R. The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy. Penguin, 2004. Explains how the European Union is positioning itself to become the second superpower.

Vanthoor, Wim F. A Chronological History of the European Union 1946-1998. Elgar, 1999. Traces the development of European integration from the end of World War II to the launch of the Euro in 1998.


Smith, David A., M.A., Ph.D. Associate Professor, State University of New York at Buffalo. Contributor to Economic Geography and other publications.

Carmichael, Leonard, Ph.D., D.Sc., LL.D. Late Vice President for Research and Exploration, National Geographic Society.

Congdon, Lee, M.A., Ph.D. Professor of History, James Madison University. Author of The Young Luka’cs. Contributor to historical journals.

Cheilik, Michael 8., M.A., Ph.D. Associate Professor of History, Lehman College of the City University of New York. Author of Ancient History: From Its Beginnings to the Fall of Rome.

Stein, Robert M., M.A., Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Humanities, State University of New York at Purchase.

Urwin, Derek W., B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Professor of Politics and International Relations, University of Aberdeen. Author ofA Political History of Western Europe Since 1945 and The Community of Europe.

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Article key phrases:

Ural River, Cabo da Roca, smallest continent, Communist nations, Ereb, Caucasus Mountains, Ural Mountains, Tarifa, Eastern European countries, Caspian Sea, Eastern bloc, age of exploration, European artists, Urals, southern Spain, new territories, Greek mythology, European nations, West Germany, largest population, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR, world wars, ancient Greeks, voyages, Punta, Western Europe, World War II, Europa, Romans, continents, Renaissance, Portugal, France, continent, sunset, Australia, Norway, Spain, Africa, power, philosophy, fine art, Europe, Asia, world, architects, Britain, government, literature, Americas, area, contributions

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