Europe is, historically and politically, the most important of the five great divisions of the world, though, next to Australia, the smallest in size, and is also the most densely populated. There have been several theories as to the origin of the name Europe. The old mythological one was that it was from Europa, who was carried off by Zeus; another that it came from Eurus, the southwest wind; and still another, that it means Broad Land. The latest suggestion is that the name was first given by the Phoenician traders from the word Erebh, meaning darkness, and applied to the country as the land of sunset or the west.
Europe was the source of production for most of the works in this collection and many of the works are about local scenery in the region. There are many different nations and cultures within the tiny European landmass which all had distinct identities and histories and created unique cultural works. Constantly shifting alliances meant allies one day and at war the next and historical grievances drove a lot of conflicts.
Overall the highest quality works come out of Europe especially in terms of illustrations where Germany, Britain and France remain some of the best in the entire collection. These works serve as valuable historical and primary source material for the many cultures, events and general history of Europe especially as seen through different cultural perspectives.
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The early history of Europe is that of Rome, Greece and the Byzantine empire, (which see). On the death of Theodosius (395 B. C.) the Roman empire was divided finally into two parts: the Latin empire or Empire of the West, with Rome as its capital; and the Greek empire or Empire of the East, the capital of which was at Constantinople. Beyond the boundaries of the Roman world was a great barbaric people, divided into two parts: the German or Teutonic, next to the western empire; and the Slavonic or Scythian, next to the eastern. The German barbarians were divided into tribes and nations: Goths, Burgundians, Alamanni, Vandals, Longobards, Franks, Angles, Saxons, etc. Farther away were the nomadic Alans. The Slavs, ancestors of the modern Russians, Poles and others, lived farther east and took small share in the history of the time. The Gothic tribes were mostly found in the region between the Vistula, Danube, Black Sea and the Don. This region was invaded by the Huns from Central Asia, and its inhabitants pushed westward, causing the great Gothic invasion. Gaul was overrun chiefly by Visigoths, Burgundians and Franks; Spain by Vandals, Suevi and Visigoths; Africa by Vandals, crossing from Spain. Italy suffered a number of invasions; and Britain, even before being abandoned by its Roman garrison, became as early as 367 a prey to Angles and Saxons.
In the latter part of the 8th century the Frankish empire of Charlemagne extended from the Ebro to the Elbe and from the North Sea to Rome, the Franks having conquered both the Goths of France and the Burgundians. The two great divisions of Neustria (the kingdom of the west Franks) and Austrasia (the kingdom of the east Franks, Franconia, not at all corresponding to what was later known as Austria) became the starting-points of the kingdoms and nations of France and Germany. Where Hungary is now were the Avars, while to the east of the northern portions of the Frankish realms was the region of Slavonia. Nothing but the little kingdom of Asturia was left of the Gothic power in Spain; the rest formed the Moslem sultanate of Cordova, the Mohammedans having established themselves in Spain in 711. Most of England and part of Scotland were now occupied by the English or Anglo-Saxons.
The eastern empire had considerably diminished. In the 12th century the kingdom of the east Franks was the successor of the western empire, known as the Germanic or Holy Roman empire, extending from the North Sea to the states of the church under the dominion of the popes. In southern Italy was the Norman kingdom of Sicily. Henry II of Anjou was king of England and lord of Normandy, Anjou, Brittany and Aquitaine; the remainder of France being a kingdom under the successor of the kings of the west Franks. In Spain the Christian kingdoms of Leon, Castile and Aragon were growing at the expense of the sultanate of Cordova. Poland and Russia became consolidated states, the heathen Prussians and Lithuanians being their northern neighbors. The Hungarians were in their present dominions; Bulgaria and Servia on the north still limited the decreasing Eastern empire, which on the east was threatened by the Seljuk Turks.
At the Reformation, in the 16th century, Charles V was not only emperor of Germany, but king of Spain (the Moslems having been driven out from their last strongholds in Granada), Sardinia, Sicily and Naples, and ruler of the Netherlands and the county of Burgundy. Ferdinand I, archduke of Austria and afterward emperor, obtained by marriage Silesia, Bohemia and a part of Hungary, the rest belonging to Turkey. At the end of the Thirty Years' War (1648) the power of the empire was weakened, while that of France increased, she having acquired most of the kingdom and duchy of Burgundy—she absorbed the country in 1674—and seized Strassburg and its territory in 1681. Savoy was becoming an Italian power.
Spain still held the Spanish Netherlands and a great part of Italy. The Protestant Netherlands and Switzerland became independent states. Sweden was one of the great powers, having acquired territories from Germany, Poland and Russia. The ancient possessions of Denmark, in the northern peninsula, Sweden acquired in 1658. The duchy of Prussia became independent of Poland in 1647. Early in the 16th century Poland had been one of the most powerful states of Europe, a great part of Russia being under its sway. She now lost in power and territory, while Russia steadily grew. Turkey held part of the former Eastern empire, the Austrian princes the remainder. Venice was the most important native Italian power, and Genoa held Corsica till 1768.
Before the French Revolution Poland had ceased to exist as a state; Prussia had risen to greatness and Russia's territory had increased largely; while Sweden had lost the leadership of northern Europe. The Spanish Netherlands belonged to Austria since 1713; and French Bourbons held the parts of Italy that had been Spanish. The French Revolution began a series of changes ending in the extension of Napoleon's empire over Germany west of the Rhine, great parts of northern Germany, the Netherlands and most of Italy; a portion being directly united with the empire; another held separately by Napoleon himself as his kingdom of Italy; while his brother-in-law was king of Naples, and his brother king of Spain. After the fall of the empire France retired within her old limits; the smaller German princes formed a loose confederation, of which Austria assumed the presidency. Italy was parceled out among despotic princes, the Venetian dominions becoming Austrian. The Netherlands became once more a kingdom, but finally separated into Holland and Belgium.
The chief changes in Europe, since the middle of the 19th century, have been the union of German states in one empire, under the headship of Prussia, and the restoration to it of Alsace and Lorraine from France; the retirement of Austria out of Germany and her reorganization as the Austro-Hungarian monarchy; the forming of the Italian kingdom; and the gradual lessening of Turkish territory by the independence of Rumania, Servia, Montenegro and Bulgaria. Other recent features of interest in Europe have been the urgent demand in the chief countries for a reduction in national expenditures on armies and navies, accompanied by a simultaneous demand for the reference of all disputes, political and industrial, to arbitration. A further matter of interest, has been the initiation of a permanent tribunal of arbitration at the Hague, Andrew Carnegie having generously offered to meet the cost of a great palace of peace to be erected there. Meanwhile, the nations have been engaged in furthering the educational, scientific, industrial and social progress of their respective peoples and in seeking to modify the socialistic trend of the times, while giving a beneficial turn to reform and the abatment of the current tendency towards revolution. See E. A. Freeman's Historical Geography of Europe and Primer of the History of Europe.
In the early 1900s the religion of Europeans was largely Christianity, though there are Buddhist Kalmucks in southern Russia and pagans among the Lapps, Finns, Samoyeds and Tcheremisses. The Turks, many Albanians and some Russian Tartars and Slavs are Mohammedans (6,629,000). There are 6,456,000 Jews. The Roman Catholic church has 160,165,000 adherents, the Greek church 89,196,000, while the various Protestant churches include about 80,812,000.
Europe has a total length, from Cape St. Vincent on the southwest to the mouth of Kara River on the northeast, of 3,400 miles, and is 2,400 miles broad from North Cape in Norway to Cape Matapan, the most southern point of Greece. Not including islands, the area of the continent is 3,800,000 square miles, being about one third that of Africa, a fourth of America and a fifth of Asia—not much exceeding the total area of the United States. Its indented coast-line, caused by its great irregularity and the number of deep inlets and gulfs, is more extensive, in proportion to its size, than that of either of the other great natural divisions of the globe, being about 40,000 miles.
It is divided physically into two great portions—the great plain in the northeast and the highlands from near the center toward the southwest; the mountainous peninsula of Scandinavia lying apart from both. The plain occupies about two thirds (2,500,000 square miles) of the entire continent, reaching from the eastern boundary north to the Arctic Ocean, south to the Caucasus and Black Sea and westward over the whole extent of the continent, gradually narrowing as it approaches its western limit. Its shape is triangular, the base resting on the eastern boundary and the apex on the shores of Holland. It separates the two mountain systems of Europe—the Scandinavian on the north (highest summit 7,566 feet) and the Pyrenees, Alps, Carpathian, Balkan and Caucasus ranges on the south.
The mass of the Alps, with an area of nearly 100,000 square miles, forms the center of the mountain system of southern and western Europe, stretching down on the four sides toward France, Germany, Hungary and Italy, the highest summit being 15,732 feet. The other mountain ranges are the Pyrenees, 11,170 feet; Carpathians, 8,343; Balkans, 9,750; Apennines, 9,574; and the Sierra Nevada, 11,660; and in Sicily, Etna, 10,850 feet. The observatory on Etna (9,075 feet) is, since 1882, the highest inhabited spot in Europe, being nearly 1,000 feet higher than the celebrated hospice on the Great St. Bernard. Europe is surrounded by water on three sides.
The White Sea enters from the Arctic Ocean; the German Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea enter from the Atlantic. Scandinavia in the north and Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and the Crimea in the south are the most important peninsulas. Excepting Iceland, the islands closely cluster around the mainland, the chief being Great Britain and Ireland, Nova Zembla, Sardinia, Corsica and Crete (Candia). The lakes are small as compared with America or Africa. The largest rivers are the Volga, 1,977 miles; Danube, 1,740; Ural, 1,450; Don, 1,125; Kama, 1,055; Petchora, 975; and the Rhine, 765.
The natural history of Europe agrees very much with that of the same latitudes of Asia. The climate of the larger part is temperate, though parts of Sweden, Norway and Russia lie within the arctic circle; and portions of Spain, Sicily and Greece are about 12 degrees from the northern tropic. The temperature of western and northern Europe is raised by the Gulf Stream, the winds from the dry desert land in Africa and the large amount of moisture from the Atlantic above that found elsewhere in similar latitudes. The effect is so great that the northern limit of some plants is later reached on the Atlantic shores than in the more central parts of Europe, where the winters are much colder and the average temperature of the year is lower. Plants which require a mild winter will not grow in the north and scarcely even in the center of Europe; but they advance along the western coast under the influence of the ocean climate.
The myrtle, though not native, grows in the south of England, the date-palm in the south of Europe; and among animals a species of ape is found on the rock of Gibraltar, while some strictly African birds are frequent visitors; and many birds, such as the swallow, cuckoo etc. are common to Europe and Africa, migrating in summer to northern regions and returning in winter to the warm south. Many of the plants found in the south of Europe have probably originally been brought from Africa or the east—the myrtle, vine, olive, orange, lemon, fig, peach, almond, apricot etc. are instances; while some are certainly natives of Europe, as, for example, the apple, pear, plum and cherry.
Among the wild animals at the present time the bison is still reckoned, and the ox at no very remote period. The reindeer inhabits the extreme north, while the elk, stag, fallow-deer and roebuck are found further south; the ibex exists on the high central mountains; and there are two species of antelope, the Alpine chamois and the saiga of the Russian plains. Other animals are the civet, ichneumon, muskrat, porcupine, bear, fox, lynx and wolf. The fisheries of the European seas are valuable, more particularly the herring and cod in the north and the tunney, anchovy etc. in the Mediterranean.
The New Student's Reference Work (1914) pg. 632-635