When you think about the origins of Western civilization, your thoughts almost certainly turn towards the continent of Europe. Though it’s far from being the first place where mankind’s first civilizations gained their foothold, it is the place where many of the precepts that rule Western culture and discourse originated. But there’s more to be discovered in Europe than just “origins,” of course. It’s the home many diverse peoples, countries, and territories. It offers many different climates and landscapes, as well.
Maybe you live somewhere in Europe. Maybe you’re one of our readers from elsewhere in the world, and you’re thinking about planning a trip! No matter who you are, or where you’ve come from, there’s plenty about Europe that is absolutely worth learning. Read on, to do so!
The ‘Base Camp’ of Western Civilization
Though it’s accompanied by many regions in North and South America, Europe is often thought of as a bastion of “Western civilization.” This is only slightly ironic, being that much of Europe is east of the Prime Meridian—the line that separates Earth’s hemispheres. The inference, then, has more to do with culture than the boundaries drawn on maps. And Europe is a continent that is just as rich with diverse cultures as any other of the world’s continents.
Western civilization, however, is largely regarded as having begun in Greece. The subsequent rise and fall of the Roman Empire, too, did much to establish the precedent of democracy, democratic process, and the governmental models that are still used in many nations, today. The literature and culture that these ancient civilizations are built on are still widely read by people today. And furthermore, Europe was the place where the industrial revolution began. Britain’s first forays into manufacturing and mechanical processes contributed to a shift in the world economy that we’re still on, today. Manufacturing as we know it simply wouldn’t exist without the early pioneers of the industrial revolution.
Europe, the Continent
In spite of how densely populated European countries tend to be, it is far from being the largest continent on Earth. In fact, it’s the sixth-largest, which means that according to the seven-continent model, there’s only one other that’s smaller—Australia. In terms of landmass alone, then, the continent of Europe is quite small. Of course, most considerations of Europe’s landmass don’t account for all of the isles and surrounding territories that aren’t part of the “mainland.”
It’s divided from Asia by the Ural mountain range and is bordered by three different oceans—the Atlantic to the west, the Arctic to the north, and the Indian Ocean to the south. Regardless of the continent’s size, its access to prominent seaways gives it a major trade advantage with just about every other entity in the world, which is something that has helped to keep Europe’s economy thriving for as long as civilization has existed.
Every continent on Earth—even Antarctica—is occupied by an increasingly diverse number of people. Few are the countries that don’t have some degree of immigrant population. And those immigrants have been arriving over hundreds, if not thousands of years.
That being said, Europe is among the most diverse continents on the planet, primarily because of the confluence of so many different nations and peoples that have arrived at it. More than any other region of the world
Because Europe is so densely populated, it’s impossible to point towards any particular place on the continent where most of that population resides. In order to approach the subject objectively, we’ve made a list of major population centers that aren’t organized by country. They’re organized by the approximate number of citizens in each city, respective to the actual territories of those cities.
You might be surprised upon seeing which of these is the more populated!
- Istanbul, Turkey: 14,804,116 people
- Moscow, Russia: 13,197,596 people
- London, UK: 8,673,713 people
- St. Petersburg, Russia: 5,225,690 people
- Berlin, Germany: 3,562,166 people
- Madrid, Spain: 3,165,235 people
- Kiev, Ukraine: 2,909,491 people
- Rome, Italy: 2,874,038 people
- Paris, France: 2,241,346 people
- Bucharest, Romania: 2,106,144 people
- Minsk, Belarus: 1,949,400 people
- Vienna, Austria: 1,840,573 people
Some of you might have noticed something slightly odd about this list. Maybe that depends on where you live, but many find it slightly odd that Russia would occupy two prominent spots, high on a list of European city populations!
We have more to say, below, about the geographical connections between the continents of Asia and Europe, but Russia is a key feature in how people read those maps. Because the Ural Mountains divide Europe and Asia in most continental models, everything west of the Ural range is thought to be in Europe, regardless of countries’ borders. Similarly, everything east is said to be in Asia.
Well, Russia straddles that line, and a vast majority of Russia’s population resides in the more temperate climate that’s found west of the Ural Mountains.
Throughout Europe, you’ll find quite a few different climate regions. However, since the continent is north of the equator—far north in some places—you’re not going to find any of the tropical regions that you might otherwise have found closer to it. The exceptions to this are in the southernmost regions of the continent, in the Meditteranean. However, even these places aren’t too far separated from what most would consider “temperate.”
In fact, much of Europe has a temperate climate, reaching peaks and lows seasonally, at appropriate times of the year. The summer months are often particularly hot, while the fall and winter months are when people start to see snowfall. Northern Europe can see adjustments to those temperate climates based on where the regions are settled, globally—further from the equator, and closer to the northern, arctic pole.
Interestingly, Europe has quite a diverse variety of landscapes, throughout its many countries. One of the first that we should discuss, however, is that which cuts right through the western corner of Russia. The Ural Mountains separate this segment of the country from the rest of it, and technically, this part of Russia actually resides on the continent of Europe, rather than that of Asia—where the rest of Russia is. Commonly, this leads to the conflation of these two continents into “Eurasia.” However, the continent models used in most English-speaking countries simply acknowledge that part of Russia extends into a different continent, and therefore is exacted to the influences of the countries bordering that region.
Given that many continental boundaries are used to also dictate the boundaries of countries, this is quite the outlier. It’s not unprecedented, but it is an interesting part of Europe’s landscape.
But it’s not the only interesting thing going on with the actual landmass and landscape of the European continent. Even considering its size—smaller, relative to other continents of the planet—it is bordered by
How Big is Europe?
We’ve already spoken briefly about Europe’s relative size in comparison to the planet’s other continents, but it’s important to realize just how it stacks up. And we’re not just talking about landmass, of course; we’re also talking about the approximate population. For a continent that is certainly not the largest geographically, it absolutely has a large number of people living on it, and on the isles and surrounding territories that aren’t part of the mainland.
According to measurements of mainland landmass, Europe is only the sixth-largest continent. Seeing it compared to others will give you a clearer understanding of just how wildly different some of the continents are in terms of size.
- Europe: 10,180,000 square kilometers
- Asia: 43,820,000 square kilometers
- Africa: 30,370,000 square kilometers
- North America: 24,490,000 square kilometers
- South America: 17,840,000 square kilometers
- Antarctica: 13,720,000 square kilometers
- Australia: 9,008,500 square kilometers
As you can see, Europe fits right into that niche between Antarctica and Australia—the second-smallest continent, beaten only by one. However, the lower size of Europe’s landmass is absolutely offset by the significantly higher ratio of its population.
And on the other end of that spectrum is the ranking of continents based on the number of people living on them. In this regard, Europe is far from being the sixth-largest continent; in fact, it’s the third-largest, ranking ahead of even North and South America!
Part of this can be attributed to Europe’s history as a mainstay of modern civilizations. The continent’s population density has always been significant, and only during the past century has the growth of Europe began to slip behind the continents of Africa and Asia.
- Europe: 738,442,000 people
- Asia: 4,393,296,000 people
- Africa: 1,186,178,000 people
- North America: 573,777,000 people
- South America: 418,447,000 people
- Australia: 39,331,000 people
- Antarctica*: 0-4,490 people
* – Antarctica has no permanent population, and thus the number of people living on the continent fluctuates every season.
Another reason that Europe is able to have such a high population density is the fact that so much of it can support human life. Agriculture is prolific across the entire continent, where other continents might have large parts of their interior that aren’t suitable for raising animals or crops.
We hope that our brief guide has given you a crash course on the continent of Europe! If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to give them voice in the comments section, below!