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Introduction

Europe orthographic Caucasus Urals boundary (with borders).svg

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

Since around 1850, Europe is most commonly considered to be separated from Asia by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas and the waterways of the Turkish Straits. Although the term "continent" implies physical geography, the land border is somewhat arbitrary and has moved since its first conception in classical antiquity. The division of Eurasia into two continents reflects East-West cultural, linguistic and ethnic differences, some of which vary on a spectrum rather than with a sharp dividing line. The border does not follow political boundaries, with Turkey, Russia and Kazakhstan being transcontinental countries.

Europe covers about 10,180,000 square kilometres (3,930,000 sq mi), or 2% of the Earth's surface (6.8% of land area). Politically, Europe is divided into about fifty sovereign states of which the Russian Federation is the largest and most populous, spanning 39% of the continent and comprising 15% of its population. Europe had a total population of about 741 million (about 11% of the world population) . The European climate is largely affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent, even at latitudes along which the climate in Asia and North America is severe. Further from the sea, seasonal differences are more noticeable than close to the coast.

Featured panorama

Valletta, Malta
Credit: Myriam Thyes

A panoramic view of Valletta, the capital of Malta, as seen from Senglea across the Grand Harbour. The city is named after Jean Parisot de la Valette, Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitaller who successfully defended the island from an Ottoman invasion in 1565. The City of Valletta was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.



Selected article

The Bal des Ardents depicted in a 15th-century miniature from Froissart's Chronicles. The Duchess of Berry holds her blue skirts over a barely visible Charles VI of France as the dancers tear at their burning costumes. One dancer has leapt into the wine vat; in the gallery above, musicians continue to play.
The Bal des Ardents was a masquerade ball held on 28 January 1393 in Paris at which Charles VI of France performed in a dance with five members of the French nobility. Four of the dancers were killed in a fire caused by a torch brought in by a spectator, Charles' brother Louis, Duke of Orléans. King Charles and the remaining dancer, the noble knight Ogier de Nantouillet, survived. The ball was one of a number of events intended to entertain the young king, who the previous summer had suffered an attack of insanity. The event undermined confidence in Charles' capacity to rule; Parisians considered it proof of courtly decadence and threatened to rebel against the more powerful members of the nobility. The public's outrage forced the king and his brother Orléans, whom a contemporary chronicler accused of attempted regicide and sorcery, into offering penance for the event.

Charles' wife, Isabeau of Bavaria, held the ball to honor the remarriage of a lady-in-waiting. Scholars believe it may have been a traditional charivari, with the dancers disguised as wild men, mythical beings often associated with demonology, that were commonly represented in medieval Europe and documented in revels of Tudor England. The event was chronicled by contemporary writers such as the Monk of St Denis and Jean Froissart, and illustrated in a number of 15th-century illuminated manuscripts by painters such as the Master of Anthony of Burgundy. The incident later provided inspiration for a scene in Edgar Allan Poe's short story "Hop-Frog".


Featured portrait

Queen Wilhelmina & Juliana
Credit: Bain News Service

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands with her daughter and successor Princess Juliana, circa 1914. Wilhelmina was queen regnant from 1890 to 1948, longer than any other Dutch monarch. Outside the Netherlands she is primarily remembered for her role in the Second World War, in which she proved to be a great inspiration to the Dutch resistance, as well as a prominent leader of the Dutch government in exile. Juliana became queen regnant in 1948 after her mother's abdication and ruled until her own abdication in 1980, succeeded by her daughter, Beatrix.

Selected image

Panel of glazed tiles from Jorge Colaço (1922) representing an episode of the battle of Aljubarrota (1385) between the Portuguese and Castillian armies.
Credit: Joaquim Alves Gaspar

Panel of azulejo (Portuguese blue glazed tiles) by artist Jorge Colaço (1922) representing an episode of the Battle of Aljubarrota (1385) between the Portuguese and Castilian armies. The Ala dos Namorados ("Wing of the fiancés") depicted in this scene was the left wing of the Portuguese defense formation.

Selected biography

Portrait of Kepler by an unknown artist, 1610
Johannes Kepler was a German Lutheran mathematician, astronomer and astrologer, and a key figure in the 17th century astronomical revolution. He is best known for his eponymous laws of planetary motion, codified by later astronomers based on his works Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome of Copernican Astronomy. Before Kepler, planets' paths were computed by combinations of the circular motions of the celestial orbs. After Kepler, astronomers shifted their attention from orbs to orbits—paths that could be represented mathematically as an ellipse. Kepler's laws also provided one of the foundations for Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation. During his career Kepler was a mathematics teacher at a Graz seminary school, an assistant to Tycho Brahe, the court mathematician to Emperor Rudolf II, a mathematics teacher in Linz, Austria, and an adviser to General Wallenstein. He also did fundamental work in the field of optics and helped to legitimize the telescopic discoveries of his contemporary Galileo Galilei.


Featured location

Flag of Germany
Germany is a federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe. It includes 16 constituent states, covers an area of 357,021 square kilometres (137,847 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With about 82 million inhabitants, Germany is the most populous member state of the European Union. After the United States, it is the second most popular immigration destination in the world. Germany's capital and largest metropolis is Berlin. Major urban areas include Ruhr, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Düsseldorf.

Various Germanic tribes have occupied the northern parts of modern Germany since classical antiquity. A region named Germania was documented before 100 AD. During the Migration Period the Germanic tribes expanded southward. Beginning in the 10th century, German territories formed a central part of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 16th century, northern German regions became the centre of the Protestant Reformation.


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