Glencoe World Geography

Chapter 12: The Cultural Geography of Europe

Chapter Overviews

Europe is a heavily populated continent, with most people living in cities concentrated in geographically favorable areas. The countries have diverse histories and cultures. While each country tries to maintain its national identity, the region is moving toward European unity.

Population Patterns Europe has a diverse population with many ethnic groups. While these groups live together peacefully in most countries, ethnic tensions exist on the Balkan Peninsula. Europeans are working toward greater unity, based on a commitment to democracy and free markets. The population density is greater in Europe than on any other continent except Asia, with most people concentrated in areas with fertile soil, favorable climates, mineral resources, and inland waterways. The Industrial Revolution changed Europe to an urban society. Cities today face problems of overcrowding and pollution, but they also are combining old and new ways of life in unique ways. Labor shortages during the 1950s and 1960s brought many immigrants to Europe. Despite these immigrants, Europe's overall population is shrinking.

History and Government Because of the closeness to the sea and passes through mountain ranges, people have easily moved and settled in the region. The first humans lived in Europe more than a million years ago. Early cultures include ancient Greece and Rome. By the late A.D. 300s, Christianity began to dominate European history, although Judaism and Islam also influenced the region. Feudalism replaced centralized governments during the Middle Ages. The Renaissance brought many scientific advances and explorations into other regions of the world. Political and economic revolutions spread the ideals of democracy and brought industrial capitalism and communism. At the end of two world wars, Europe became divided into communist and non-communist countries, but communism collapsed during the 1990s. The European Union continues to bring the people of the region closer together.

Cultures and Lifestyles Europe is richly diverse in its culture. There are about 50 different languages, with more than 100 dialects. Most languages belong to the Indo-European language family. Christianity is the primary religion, although other religions exist as well. In some areas, such as Northern Ireland and the Balkan Peninsula, religion has divided Europeans. European art forms have spread around the world. Early art forms show a close relationship to religion, while beginning in the 1500s and 1600s, everyday subjects became included. Except for areas of conflict, Europeans enjoy a high standard of living and education. Many countries offer complete social welfare programs, although family life and support are important. Europeans enjoy a variety of sports. Festivities are often linked to religious holidays or celebrations of historical dates or people.

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