• Unit 2: Europe

    Let's begin our study of the world's regions in Europe. While humans did not originate in Europe, and we do not consider it the "cradle of civilization", this region has profoundly affected the world's other regions, primarily due to colonization. Europe's geography has been an essential component of its economic history. Its geography influenced the movement of its people, and its natural resources facilitated its economic development during the Agrarian and Industrial Revolutions.

    However, Europe's socioeconomic success has contributed to the challenges it now faces. The influx of immigrants from places it once colonized has led to a rise in nationalism. Globalization has also contributed to forces that divide rather than unify many Europeans. In this unit, we also investigate themes we introduced in Unit 1 as part of the European context.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

    • 2.1: Maps of Europe

      Let's begin our examination of Europe by studying a political map.

    • 2.2: Europe's Physical Geography and Boundaries

      As a world region, Europe is relatively small. Its physical geography ranges from places below sea level, such as the Zuider Zee of the Netherlands in the Northern Lowlands, to Mont Blanc in the High Alps, which straddles the border of France and Italy.

    • 2.3: Europe's Shifting Political Landscape

      We can certainly devote an entire course to the history of European culture (and to that of every region we study in this course). But let's take a brief look at some general themes from a geographical perspective.

    • 2.4: European Exploration Sets the Stage for Colonialism

      Colonialism refers to the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country. This control includes exploiting the country economically and occupying it with settlers from the colonizing country. Geography facilitated European colonization across the world. Although many European countries are relatively small, they were among the major colonial powers because they had ocean access.

      Smaller countries with less land area and fewer natural resources often looked for new territories to expand. For example, Belgium, England, France, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain had disproportionate control over much of the world from the 1400s until World War II.

      See the map in Figure 2.2 to visualize how the Europeans divided the continent of Africa among themselves. Note that Belgium exploited the Belgian Congo for its rubber. The Belgian Congo was more than 75 times larger than the country of Belgium in Europe. Note that the Belgian Congo became the Republic of the Congo in 1960 (later the Democratic Republic of the Congo) when it finally gained its independence from Belgium.

      Africa's colonial history mirrors the colonial experiences of many countries around the world. The colonial powers drew the borders for many countries, and many of these same political boundaries remain today (often with disastrous effects). Many colonial residents also speak the language of their colonizers. For example, Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, which Portugal colonized for its mineral resources from 1532–1822.

    • 2.5: The European Union

      In many ways, the organization of the European Union (EU) is a reflection of its region. The EU arose out of shared economic and political interests among the member states – it grew from 12 original members in 1992 to 28 when Croatia entered in 2013 and 27 when the United Kingdom withdrew in 2020. Switzerland and Norway were never members, while Turkey is not considered a part of the EU despite its membership application in 1987.

    • 2.6: Europe's Geography and Economic Development

      How did the geography of Europe contribute to the Agrarian and Industrial Revolutions that advanced Europe's economic development? Note that these events, in turn, affected Europe's geography by irrevocably altering the human and physical landscape.

    • 2.7: Historical Migration Patterns in Europe

      Much of Europe's inter- and intraregional migration aligns with the concepts of core and periphery and a rural-to-urban shift. Various push and pull factors have contributed to migration, such as employment opportunities, war, environmental hazards, governmental policies, and religious persecution.

    • 2.8: Does a European Identity Exist?

      The concept of identity is difficult to define. Establishing a European identity for countries that have fought wars and competed with each other for centuries has been challenging. The EU leaders adopted an anthem (Ode to Joy), a motto (United in Diversity), a flag (with a circle of 12 stars on a blue field), a common currency (the Euro €), and a holiday (Europe Day on May 9th). Citizens of EU member countries who identify as European distinguish themselves from other parts of the world, but their identification with their home country remains strong.

    • 2.9: Demographic Changes in Europe

      Globalization and war precipitated the arrival of large numbers of immigrants in Europe. This region is the preferred destination for many fleeing desperate situations, and the war in Syria triggered an international Syrian refugee crisis. In 2015, 1.3 million Syrians sought asylum in Europe. Religion is a strong component of identity, and most Europeans have trended toward secularism. This trend conflicts with the fact that many of Europe's immigrants are Muslim. Some Europeans fear a higher birth rate among immigrant populations will "dilute" their own. Demographic shifts across the continent will likely continue, especially as Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine causes further migration and instability.

    • Unit 2 Assessment

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