GEOG101 Study Guide

Unit 2: Europe

2a. Describe the climate types and physical landforms of the European continent

  • Why do some parts of Europe have moderate climates even though it is a northern continent?
  • How have Europe's rivers and mountain ranges shaped its cultural and economic landscape?
  • Explain the factors that influence the location of Europe's major agricultural operations.
  • Explain how Europe's geography yielded an abundance of biodiversity and contributed to its decline.

As a world region, Europe is relatively small. Its physical geography, however, ranges from places below sea level such as the Zuider Zee in the Northern Lowlands to Mont Blanc in the High Alps. The Northern Lowlands support much of Europe's agricultural activity. The Alpine region has served as a barrier to movement and as a contributor to the more temperate type C climate of the Mediterranean region. The ocean, particularly the Gulf Stream, makes these temperate regions of Europe possible. The farther one travels away from the coastlines, however, the less temperate the climate becomes. Thus, winters in Warsaw are much colder than those in Amsterdam even though they are both at about 52° N.

Although rivers, such as the Rhine and the Danube, have separated places, they also connect them. Europe has long depended on these rivers as trade routes. Europe also depends on natural resources and raw materials that its physical geography provides. Retrieving and using these materials has, however, contributed to biodiversity loss and environmental damage in Europe. Burning fossil fuels, for example, has caused air pollution and acid rain resulting in damage to forests including the Black Forest in southwest Germany.



2b. Explain how Europe's physical geography and natural resources have supported its development

  • Why is Europe's historical development considered to be a model study in regional geography?
  • What are the characteristics that define Europe as an urbanized realm?
  • How did the Roman Empire and the Vikings facilitate mercantilism?
  • Explain how Europe's agrarian, industrial, and political revolutions are related.

Much of Europe is characterized by access to fresh water, good soils, various minerals, forests, temperate climate, flat terrain, rivers, and coastlines.

  • These resources have facilitated Europe's movement through the five stages of economic development. Lacking such resources can increase the challenges to attaining a post-industrial society.
  • As a post-industrial society, Europe's population has undergone the rural-to-urban shift. It is a highly urbanized realm, where family size is small and population growth is low. As a result, there is a deficit in the supply of low-priced labor, leading to an increase in immigration.
  • The Romans and the Vikings recognized the value of Europe's physical geography and natural resources. Both groups connected Europe to the outside world through infrastructure and navigation.
  • This expanded connection to the outside world led to Europe's Agrarian Revolution, particularly in Britain, where agricultural production increased dramatically. Europe's rivers, minerals, and forests, among other resources, fueled the Industrial Revolution. Access to Europe's vast resources within the realm contributed to the political revolution.

Europe's physical geography and natural resources, among other factors, play a role in its development. Because these factors vary over space, world regions move along the development path at different rates.


  • Introducing the Realm: the opening paragraph. 
  • Historical Development Patterns: trace the influence of the Roman Empire and the Viking era, colonialism, the agrarian, industrial, and political revolutions, the rural-to-urban shift, population growth, and cultural forces on Europe. 


2c. Describe how European colonialism changed or influenced other countries

  • How did the Roman Empire and the Vikings facilitate European colonialism?
  • What factors motivated Europe to colonize other parts of the world?
  • What evidence is there for European colonialism in countries like the United States, Canada, and India, among others?

European colonialism has had a dramatic effect on the world. The ability for countries to colonize other parts of the world has been facilitated by geography: ocean access. It is no coincidence that, despite their size, many small European countries, such as Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Spain, were among the major colonial powers. These countries all have ocean access. Smaller countries have less land area and natural resources so they often look elsewhere to compensate. Portugal, for example, was seeking mineral resources and colonized Brazil, where the official language is Portuguese.



2d. Summarize the impact of the rural-to-urban shift and its effect on urbanization

  • What are the factors that make the region known as the British Isles most similar to the region of Central and Western Europe?
  • What role has the rural-to-urban shift played in the development of Europe's core economic region, its central business districts (CBD), and primate cities?
  • How has the rural-to-urban shift played in the declining size of the European family?

As increasing numbers of rural residents move to urban places for better opportunities, these places become more densely populated. People from many different backgrounds adapt to live and work in close proximity. The level of urbanization varies by region and sub-region within the European realm.

  • The patterns of development of the regions within the British Isles and the countries of Central and Western Europe are similar for a variety of reasons, including small family sizes, urbanization, industrialization, technology, high incomes, and involvement in economic globalization.
  • The proportion of people living in rural places is declining overall in the European realm, although this rural-to-urban shift is not as strong in Southern Europe as it is in other regions.
  • As cities grow outward, the center often remains as the hub or central business district (CBD). Some cities, including London, may have more than one CBD. In the case of Paris, to preserve the historic character of the original city center on the Seine, the CBD is located about three kilometers to the west. As more people move into these cities, they tend to live outside the CBD.
  • Some cities grow so large due, in part, to an influx of people they become primate cities because they are dramatically larger than the next largest city in the region or administrative unit. Budapest, for example, is almost fourteen times larger than the next biggest city in Hungary.
  • In addition to the attraction of cities for rural Europeans, the same "pull" forces are bringing immigrants to Europe's cities. 

As the rural-to-urban shift has changed the size, density, and composition of Europe's cities, it results in the declining size of its families. There are a number of reasons for this including, for example, the higher cost of living in an urban rather than a rural environment.



2e. Identify the three main language groups and the three most prevalent religions in Europe

  • How are the three main language groups and the three branches of Christianity connected?
  • Describe where each of the three most prevalent religions are geographically located.
  • Why is Islam the fastest growing religion in Europe?

The three main language groups are the Germanic, Romance, and Slavic language groups, and the three most prevalent religions in Europe are Catholic Christianity, Orthodox Christianity, and Protestant Christianity.

  • Romance languages dominate Southern Europe, much of Central Europe, and a few countries in Eastern Europe, such as Hungary, Romania, and Moldova.
  • Because the Catholic religion has its origins in Rome, it dominates Southern Europe and parts of Central and Eastern Europe. Although not all of the areas where Catholicism is prevalent speak Romance languages, many of them do.
  • With the exception of Hungary, Romania, and Moldova, the Slavic languages are common in parts of Eastern Europe.
  • Given their proximity to Constantinople (now Istanbul), Orthodox Christianity is the prevalent religion in Eastern Europe and part of Southern Europe (Greece).
  • Orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe speak a Slavic language.

Although it is not a prevalent religion in the European realm, Islam is the fastest growing religion there, due, in large part, to the "pull" factors of Europe's core economic region and the "push" factors in the immigrants' home countries.

Review Historical Development Patterns, including Table 2.1 and Figure 2.10. 


2f. Discuss initiatives to encourage European unification

  • Explain how modern transportation and communication technology have integrated the countries of the European realm.
  • From a human geography perspective, what are the characteristics that define a European identity?
  • Why have economic considerations driven European unification more than cultural characteristics?
  • What are the centripetal forces that serve to keep the countries of the EU together?

Centripetal forces are typically emphasized when trying to bring the countries of Europe together. For example, there have been efforts to remind Europeans of their common heritage and forge symbols such as a flag, a motto, an anthem, around which they can strengthen their shared identity. Greater integration can be achieved physically through upgrades to railway links, building bridges and canals, and securing gigabit connectivity for everyone, among numerous other projects. Many Europeans, however, see the value of a unified Europe from an economic rather than a cultural perspective. A unified Europe has more leverage to negotiate in the global economy



2g. Summarize how globalization has increased with the advent of the European Union

  • What is the effect on the cultural landscapes of EU countries now that it is easier to cross borders?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of sharing a currency such as the euro with other countries?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages to EU citizens now that the EU negotiates international trade agreements rather than their individual countries?

The advent of the European Union (EU) has increased globalization by integrating many more countries into the process.

  • It has facilitated the entry of countries that were previously unable to reap the local benefits of globalization. The member countries, however, have little control over who gets elected to the European Commission. It is the European Commission that acts on their behalf in international negotiations, but the process of electing the Commissioners is not transparent.
  • Sharing a common currency is convenient and can help inflation low, among other benefits. It can, however, lull member countries into a false sense of security, leading to few incentives for countries to practice fiscal responsibility and undertake structural reforms. 
  • Within the European Union, it is now possible to freely travel between member countries and, in many cases, use the same currency. Products may be cheaper in a neighboring country than the traditionally crafted product in another country. People from other countries may be willing to work for lower wages than the resident labor pool. 

Although its member countries are now able to influence the world market through the EU, there is also increasing concern among some of its citizens that the cost of this influence is too high.



2h. Explain the challenges that the regions of Europe have had in retaining cultural identity and uniqueness

  • Explain how Europe's physical geography has contributed to devolution.
  • Why is Spain not considered a nation-state?
  • What are the centrifugal forces that led to the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU?
  • What are the aspects of physical and human geography leading Eastern Europe to be known as a shatterbelt?

For many people around the world, regardless of region, globalization is diluting their identity. As people, businesses, and governments become increasingly interdependent, they sense their uniqueness slipping away.

  • Europe and its countries straddle a varied physical landscape that has resulted in many different cultures. The country of Spain, for example, has undergone devolution and now consists of seventeen autonomous communities. These communities predate the Spanish Empire, having developed their own culture, language, and identity through separation from others often by natural features.
  • Spain, like many other countries, is not a nation-state because it includes more than one nation. Not everyone in Spain has a common culture, shares traits such as religion, language, and historical experience. When a group of people believe the rest of the country does not share this identity, they may seek greater autonomy from the central government as Galicia did from Spain, for example.
  • The United Kingdom's departure from the EU is a response to globalization. Although separated from the EU by physical geography and currency, the United Kingdom voted to return to its former place in the global economy. Many of its citizens were particularly concerned about immigration and a loss of national identity; they believed the economic stagnation in the de-industrialized North was the result of EU membership.
  • The mountainous terrain of Eastern Europe, particularly in the region that was the Former Yugoslavia, has long separated people. Furthermore, its geographic location meant that warring armies from the East and West routinely invaded it as they sought to conquer each other. The result is that this area is inhabited by peoples whose heritage comes from numerous locations. When different nations are forced together under one central government, it is not surprising when they break apart.

Formal boundaries obscure the variation they contain, both physical and human. There are common threads that unite what is within, but they may not be enough to hold a state or international organization together.



Unit 2 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes terms that students need to know to successfully complete the final exam for the course. 

  • acid rain
  • Agrarian Revolution
  • Alpine region
  • Catholic Christianity
  • central business district (CBD)
  • centripetal forces
  • colonialism
  • core economic region
  • currency
  • devolution
  • economic development
  • economic stagnation
  • European Union (EU)
  • global economy 
  • globalization
  • Germanic languages 
  • Gulf Stream
  • national identity
  • immigration
  • Industrial Revolution
  • international organization 
  • Islam 
  • nation-state
  • Northern Lowlands
  • Orthodox Christianity
  • post-industrial society
  • primate cities
  • Protestant Christianity 
  • "pull" factors
  • "push" factors
  • Romance languages
  • rural-to-urban shift
  • Slavic languages
  • state 
  • urbanization