History of Europe

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Europa Regina in Heinrich Bünting's Itinerarium Sacrae Scripturae (1582)

The history of Europe is the history of the people on the European continent , from its first settlement to the present.

Classical antiquity began in Ancient Greece , which is generally considered to be the beginning of Western civilization and which had an immense influence on language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, science, and the arts. The Greek culture, which had spread over large parts of the eastern Mediterranean during the Hellenistic period, was adopted by the Roman Empire , which began to spread after the conquest of Italy in the 3rd century BC. From Italy gradually spread over the entire Mediterranean area and reached its greatest extent in the early 2nd century AD. The Roman Emperor Constantine the Great promoted the rise of Christianity to the state religion in the empire with the Constantinian turn and moved his residence to the east of the empire to Constantinople , today's Istanbul .

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, large parts of Southeast Europe remained under the control of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium), while the area of ​​the former Western Roman Empire experienced an unstable period during the migration of peoples and several Germanic-Romanic empires were formed here. Charlemagne , crowned emperor (in the West) by the Pope in 800, ruled large parts of Western Europe, which was soon attacked by Vikings , Muslims ( Islamic expansion already since the 7th century) and Magyars ( Hungarian invasions ). The Paderborn epic , a work of the Carolingian Renaissance , which embraced the West , declared him “Father of Europe” ( pater Europæ ). As the Early Middle Ages progressed , a number of new empires emerged in Europe and a reshaping of the Roman heritage took place. The European Middle Ages were shaped, among other things, by the emergence of feudalism , an estate system of rule and a strong role for the Christian religion in culture and everyday life. The Mongol storm in the middle of the 13th century and the plague epidemic in the middle of the 14th century dealt heavy blows to the European feudal system .

The Renaissance , the renewed cultural revival of Greco-Roman antiquity, began in Florence in the 14th century . The spread of book printing , based on the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in Mainz , promoted the movements of humanism and the Reformation . The age of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation was marked by numerous religious wars , which ended in the Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The Christian Reconquista of Spain and Portugal led to the Age of Discovery in North and South America, Africa and Asia, the establishment of European colonial empires and the " Columbian Exchange ", the exchange of plants and animals between the eastern and western hemisphere.

The industrial revolution , starting from Great Britain , promoted the mechanization of work processes and international trade. The Enlightenment called for the separation of powers . It was the harbinger of the French Revolution of 1789, from which Napoleon emerged as the new ruler of France , who fought several wars until 1815 .

The first half of the 19th century was marked by further revolutions from which the bourgeoisie and the working class in France and England emerged stronger. In 1861 the Kingdom of Italy and in 1871 the German Empire came into being as nation states, like most of the states of Europe at the time in the form of constitutional monarchies . Towards the end of the 19th century, as a result of imperialism, the competition between the major European powers intensified until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The Russian October Revolution of 1917 led to the formation of the communist Soviet Union . Dissatisfaction with the results of the First World War and the Great Depression of 1929 favored the rise of National Socialism in Germany, Fascism in Italy, Franquism in Spain and ultimately led to World War II .

After the end of the war in 1945, Europe was separated during the Cold War period by the “ Iron Curtain ” between the US-dominated West and the Eastern bloc, which was dominated by the Soviet Union . In 1989 the Iron Curtain fell and communist power eroded in all Eastern Bloc countries. This caused a change in the system of government in the GDR, Poland, Hungary, the ČSSR, as well as in Bulgaria and Romania. By 1991 most of the Soviet constituent states became independent and the Soviet Union itself dissolved. From 1991 onwards Yugoslavia fell apart. With the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc, the geopolitical situation in Europe changed fundamentally, which resulted in opportunities to deepen integration as well as to prepare for expansions in the East as part of European unification. With the EU enlargement , most of the states and areas of the former Eastern bloc joined the EU by 2007 .

The influence of history on the cultures of Europe can be mapped geographically in six different " historical cultural regions ".

Satellite view
Political Organization (2006)

Origin of the term "Europe"


There are three theses on etymology, none of which can be definitively verified. One explanation for the word Europe refers to the Phoenician word ereb for "dark, evening, setting". From the point of view of the Phoenicians, who settled on the eastern Mediterranean coast, it would mean “land of the setting sun” or “occident”.

Another theory refers to the Greek: The word Εὐρώπη Europe is a compound perceived from ancient Greek εὐρύς Eurys "far" and ὄψ ops "view", "face" - hence Europe "the [woman] with the wide view."

A third explanation relates to various female deities who were nicknamed Europa and which was transferred to the continent.


Titian: The Rape of Europe , 1559–1562, panel painting, 185 × 205 cm,
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston

There are various legends of the kidnapping of Europe in Greek mythology . Ovid tells in “ Metamorphoses ” that Europe , the daughter of the Phoenician king Agenor , went for a walk with her companions on the beach of the Mediterranean . Zeus fell in love with the beautiful girl and decided to kidnap her. He took the form of a white bull emerging from the sea and approaching Europe. The girl stroked the extremely beautiful, trusting animal and finally found herself ready to climb onto its back. Thereupon the bull rose and rushed into the sea, which he crossed with Europa on his back. Zeus kidnapped Europe to Crete , where he revealed himself to her in his divine form. He fathered three sons with her: Minos , Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon . Due to a promise made by Aphrodite , the continent to which Crete belongs was named after her.

Prehistory and early history


The oldest records of representatives of the genus Homo currently come from the Sierra de Atapuerca in Spain and are up to 1.2 million years old. Even older fossil finds from Georgia (outside the current borders of Europe) are 1.8 million years old and are known as " Homo georgicus ". In northern Alpine Europe, the oldest settlement horizon with Homo heidelbergensis began around 600,000 years ago. The assignment of the finds to an independent species is, however, controversial; Many paleoanthropologists refer to the members of the first wave of emigration from Africa ( out-of-Africa theory ) uniformly as Homo erectus , who settled in Java around 1.8 million years ago .

While the development of Homo sapiens in Africa started about 160,000 years ago from the remaining populations of Homo erectus , Europe became the domain of Homo heidelbergensis, which had already developed here from Homo erectus , and of the Neanderthals that emerged from it . It was not until about 35,000 years ago that Homo sapiens came to Europe in a second wave of emigration of the genus Homo (cf. human expansion ) and gradually replaced the Neanderthals (cf. Cro-Magnon man ). With the Neolithic and Bronze Ages , a long history of great cultural and economic achievements began in Europe, first in the Mediterranean, then also in the north and east.

For Northern Europe , several ice ages were decisive for the further development of the geological formations in particular . These glaciations affected what is now Scandinavia , Iceland , Ireland , northern Germany , Poland and Russia . The last major glaciation period lasted from around 23,000 to 10,000 BC. Chr.

A distinction is essentially made


The time after the end of the last glaciation in Europe is known as the Mesolithic . Dense forests spread across Europe and the few people who lived nomadically in small clans of around 20 people as hunters and gatherers had to get used to the new environmental conditions.

Neolithic, Neolithic

In a long development, beginning in the 10th millennium BC. BC, agriculture began to develop in the Fertile Crescent . This development, also known as the " Neolithic Revolution ", spread in the 6th millennium BC. To Europe.

To the west, this expansion ran along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, to the northwest along the Danube into western Central Europe. To the northeast around or along the coasts of the Black Sea. The routes of spread to the east have so far been little explored.

There are references to permanent human settlements ( Homo sapiens ) from 5000 BC. Chr. From this time, for example, settlement remains of the band ceramists were found on the Lahn in Wetzlar-Dalheim . The half-timbered houses are each 30 meters long. They are protected by a ditch around two meters deep and a wall in front of them. To ensure the water supply, there were two independent wells within the fortification.

Bronze age

Until around 1800 BC In the whole of Europe, the processing of bronze was established ( beginning of the Bronze Age ).

Iron age

Around 800 BC Chr. People began in Central Europe with the smelting of iron . The carriers were the cultures of the Hallstatt and Latène periods , which were ascribed to the Illyrians and Celts .

High cultures

The first high culture in Europe was that of the Minoans on the island of Crete , which began around 2000 BC. Began. Strongly influenced by this, originated on the nearby Greek mainland from around 1700 BC. The Mycenaean culture .

Around the same time, the Celts spread across Central Europe to Spain and today's Turkey . Since they left no written record, knowledge about them is fragmentary. The Romans met them and wrote several things about them. These records and archaeological digs form the core of our information about this very influential culture. The Celts ( Gauls ) represented a serious, if little organized opponent for the Romans. In the last three centuries BC. The Romans conquered the whole of southern and southeastern Europe as well as large parts of central and western Europe



The Athenian Acropolis

At the end of the Bronze Age , the older Greek rulers collapsed and a new civilization grew in their place. The Greek civilization was a collection of city-states ( Poleis ), the most important of which were Athens and Sparta , which had different forms of government . Culturally significant achievements in politics (such as democracy ), philosophy , mathematics , physics , sports , theater , literature, historiography and music arose in ancient Greece . The city-states founded several colonies (see Greek colonization ) on the coasts of the Mediterranean , especially in Asia Minor , Sicily and southern Italy.

The Greeks were the first culture to develop an idea of ​​a continent "Europe" and also to give it its name. It was probably created as a demarcation to the "Asian" perceived culture of the Persians, which was perceived as a threat to their own way of life due to their expansion. With "Europe" was meant primarily the Greek world of the Mediterranean from Spain to the Black Sea, but there was already an awareness that the geographical area extends further north, for example with Herodotus.

In the early 5th century BC The Greeks succeeded in defending against the Achaemenid Empire in the Persian Wars , but in the second half of the 5th century BC. There were fights for hegemony in the Greek motherland between Athens and Sparta ( Peloponnesian War ), in the early 4th century BC. Between Sparta on the one hand and Thebes and its allies on the other. Middle of the 4th century BC Finally, Greece came under the rule of King Philip II of Macedonia , who in 338 BC. BC defeated the allied Athenians and Thebans in the battle of Chaironeia . In the course of the campaigns of Philip's son Alexander the Great , Greek culture spread to India and brought the Greeks into contact with other cultures, which resulted in a new development, Hellenism . From now on, the city-states were no longer the politically relevant players, but the Diadochian empires , until they lost power one after the other and their remaining territories were largely incorporated by the Romans.


The Roman Empire at the time of its greatest expansion under Trajan († 117 AD)

After the royal period , Rome changed (according to legend around 509 BC, but probably not until the early 5th century BC) to a republic in which politics was carried out by a relatively small and affluent class. Rome inherited much of the knowledge of the Greeks when it spread from Italy . The Romans took advantage of the fact that their opponents were unable to unite against Rome and that Rome was able to mobilize large numbers of troops. The only real threat to Rome's rise came from the Phoenician colony of Carthage . With the decisive defeat of Carthage at the end of the 3rd century BC BC (see Punic Wars ) Rome finally rose to the undisputed supremacy in the western Mediterranean . From the 2nd century BC BC Rome extended its sphere of influence to the Hellenistic powers in the east, where Egypt was last in 30 BC. Fell to Rome. The republic was established in the late 2nd century BC. Plagued by almost a hundred years of civil war . Gaius Iulius Caesar laid the foundation for the abolition of the republic, which took place at the end of the 1st century BC through victories over his political rivals. Under Augustus to the Roman Empire ( principate ) was transformed.

The Roman Empire never saw itself as a “European empire”, but as an empire on the “mare nostrum”, the Mediterranean : it had its center there and controlled all regions that bordered the Mediterranean. The European idea played no political role, but the cultural achievements (language, law, architecture) had a decisive influence on the idea of ​​Europe in later ages.

By 100 Rome had pushed its frontier in the north on the Rhine and Danube and also conquered Britain; in the east the Roman influence extended to Mesopotamia . Under Emperor Trajan in the 2nd century the Roman Empire reached its greatest expansion. In the east, however, Roman expansion was hampered by the Parthian Empire and (since the early 3rd century) the Sassanid Empire . The Augustan Peace , also known as the Pax Romana , was weakened by civil wars during the imperial crisis of the 3rd century . Subsequently, Emperor Diocletian succeeded in decisively stabilizing the empire through administrative reforms, and late antiquity began . His successor Constantine promoted Christianity ( Constantinian turn ), which was raised to the state religion in the empire under Theodosius I at the end of the 4th century. The imperial church was formed , although theological conflicts repeatedly had to be resolved (see Arianism , Monophysitism ).

Through the division of the empire of 395 , the empire was divided into a western (until 476) and an eastern domain. The empire came under considerable pressure from outside (by the Teutons on the Rhine and Danube) and in the east (by the Sassanid Empire). After all, the emperors in the west had hardly any de facto power, but were largely dependent on the powerful army masters. The economically stronger East, on the other hand, survived the crises of the 5th century intact, but was almost always in a state of war in the 6th century (see Justinian I and the Roman-Persian Wars ).

Migration and End of Antiquity

Europe from 476 to 493 (map from 1874)

At the end of the 4th century, with the advance of the Huns into Eastern Europe, the so-called migration of peoples began, which triggered a wave-like flight of several (mainly Germanic) tribal groups and which ended with the Lombards invading Italy in 568. Many aspects of the great migration are now viewed in a more differentiated manner. In this context it is emphasized that the invading Germanic groups were less interested in destruction than in participating in the ancient culture, which was still cultivated in the Germanic-Romanic successor kingdoms in the 6th century. In the year 476 there was the " fall " of the Western Roman Empire , which was hardly perceived as such by contemporaries (because in Constantinople there was still an emperor) and only became more important in retrospect.

After the end of antiquity , more or less long-lived new formations of various empires determined the historical landscape in Western Europe . The Hellenistic Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire after its capital Byzantium in modern times, could hold out for another millennium until its capital was conquered in 1453.

The expansion of the Arabs , which began in the 30s of the 7th century, brought Islamic culture to the Mediterranean coasts, from Asia Minor via Sicily to Spain . The rapid Arab conquests were also a result of the weakening of Eastern Rome, which until 628 had been at war with the Sassanid Empire . Ostrom was able to hold a residual empire and thus bring the Arab advance to the east to a standstill. The intrusion of the Arabs into the Mediterranean world marked the final end of antiquity , whereby the epoch boundary between late antiquity and the early Middle Ages is fluid.

middle Ages

Conquests of Charlemagne
Europe , 814

In the period of transition from late antiquity to the early Middle Ages , the Merovingian period , urban culture withered, trade declined sharply, and people returned to rural communities. The feudalism replaced the Roman central administration. The only institution that survived the collapse of the Western Empire was the church , which preserved part of Roman cultural heritage and was a focus of education and science outside of Byzantium until the 14th century . Byzantium was at the height of power under Emperor Basil II , but subsequently lost several territories and influence.

After the coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III. to the Roman emperor in the year 800 (with which the ancient Roman empire was renewed in the minds of contemporaries) the new main residence of the emperor Aachen became a center of art and science and thus gave the impetus for the Carolingian renaissance , the revitalization of culture with a return to the Antiquity. Charles conquered large parts of Italy and other surrounding countries and thus enlarged his empire (see map). He got help from the Pope , who could no longer rely on the protection of the Byzantine Empire . In this way, the Pope initially became a liege-man of the Emperor, who protected Rome from the danger of the Lombards and Saracens , but later the Pope's goods became an independent Papal State in central Italy.

The division of the empire among his descendants led to the emergence of the West Franconian Empire , from which France emerged in the 9th and 10th centuries , and the East Franconian Empire , from which the Holy Roman Empire (although only known as the Holy Roman Empire since 1254) with the coronation of Otto I in 962 has been. During and after the Wars of Succession, the feudal system gained in importance. The Roman-German Empire never developed into a nation state and represented an explicit universal claim (see Reich idea ). The position of the kingship against the strong sovereigns was comparatively very weak, so that a consensual form of rule developed.

The Norman conquest of England and southern Italy were milestones in European history. The House of Plantagenet was established in England in the 12th century and also had considerable holdings in the Kingdom of France. This led to repeated, also military, conflicts with the French crown , which consolidated its power more strongly from the late 12th century. The height of this development was marked by the Hundred Years War in the 14th and 15th centuries. A Norman kingdom emerged in southern Italy and Sicily, which fell to the Hohenstaufen in the late 12th century before falling to the House of Anjou in the 1260s .

In the 11th century, the independent city-states of Italy such as Venice and Florence experienced an economic and cultural boom, while the first universities in Europe were founded in Italy . In addition to the Holy Roman Empire, France and the Papal States formed the kingdoms as England , Spain (see Reconquista ), Kingdom of Hungary , the Kingdom of Poland and the Kievan Rus . In contrast, Germany and Italy remained fragmented into a large number of small feudal states and independent cities that were only formally subordinate to the emperor.

In the Oriental Schism of 1054, the church split into the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church. This led to a lasting alienation between the regions in which these denominations were predominant. A low point of development was the conquest and sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade in 1204. In the late 11th century, the Crusades began in the Middle East, which continued with varying degrees of intensity into the 13th century.

The province of al-Andalus in 720

In the Middle Ages, there was also the most sustained rule of non-European powers over parts of Europe. The Avars controlled large parts of the Balkans towards the end of the 6th century , but their power was already in decline by the 7th century. In the 790s, the Avars were defeated by the Franks under Charlemagne, the remainder of the Avars was in a final process of dissolution in the early 9th century. In April 711 the Umayyad invasion began in southern Spain, which laid the foundation for Arab rule over the Iberian Peninsula that lasted until 1492 . At its greatest extent, the rulership included not only today's Spain, Portugal but also parts of southern France. The Toledo School of Translators in particular translated Arabic texts from the fields of astronomy , physics , alchemy and mathematics into Latin and Castilian . The knowledge gained in this way came to Italy, among other places, and had a strong influence on the development of scholasticism, for example . In the early 1220s, the Mongol invasion of Europe began under the generals of Genghis Khan , Jebe and Subutai . In what is now Ukraine, they first defeated a Russian army in the Battle of the Kalka . From 1237 Jötschi and Batu Khan conquered most of the Russian principalities. They penetrated into what is now Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria by 1241 and were victorious in the Battle of Liegnitz (Poland) and the Battle of Muhi (Hungary). These conquests became the Golden Horde , which was a major power factor until 1502. As a result of the Pax Mongolica , there was also increased travel activity in both directions and a technology transfer to Europe.

One of the greatest disasters that struck Europe was the black plague . There have been a number of epidemics, but the most serious of all was the " Black Death " from 1346 to 1352, which probably killed a third of Europe's population. The pandemic first occurred in Asia and entered Europe via the trade routes. In connection with the outbreak of the plague, there were also persecutions of Jews .

The end of the Middle Ages is usually associated with the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the final conquest of the Byzantine Empire by the Ottomans . The Ottomans made Constantinople the new capital of the Ottoman Empire , which lasted until 1919 and, in its greatest extent, included the Middle East , North Africa , the Crimea , the Caucasus and the Balkans .

Renaissance and Reformation

Raphael Santi : The School of Athens (1510/11), Rooms of the Vatican , Rome

In the 15th century, at the end of the Middle Ages , powerful nation-states such as France, England and Poland-Lithuania had emerged. The church, on the other hand, had lost much of its power through corruption , internal disagreements, and the spread of culture that led to the advancement of art, philosophy , science, and technology in the Renaissance era.

In the struggle for supremacy in Europe, the new nation states were constantly in a state of political change and embroiled in wars. Political wars and wars of religion devastated the continent, especially with the breakout of the Reformation (from 1520 onwards from a pan-European perspective), which Martin Luther contributed to with his dissemination of the theses on indulgence in 1517 . The " age of religious schism " led to a break between Catholicism and Protestantism . In England, King Henry VIII broke with Rome and declared himself head of the Church. In Germany, the Reformation united the various Protestant princes against the Catholic emperors from the House of Habsburg . In France, after eight Huguenot Wars , with the massacre of Bartholomew's Night in 1572 as the climax, the situation was temporarily calmed down with the Edict of Nantes in 1598.

Colonial expansion

The numerous wars did not prevent the new states from exploring and conquering large parts of the world, especially in the newly discovered America . In the early 16th century, Spain and Portugal , leading the way in exploration, were the first to establish colonies in South America and trading posts on the coasts of Africa and Asia , but France, England and the Netherlands soon followed suit.

Spain had control of large parts of South America and the Philippines . Britain had all of Australia , New Zealand , India, and much of Africa and North America ; France controlled Canada and parts of India (both lost to Great Britain in 1763), parts of Southeast Asia ( French Indochina ) and large parts of Africa. The Netherlands got Indonesia and some islands in the Caribbean , Portugal got Brazil and several areas in Africa and Asia. Later other powers such as Russia , Germany , Belgium , Italy , outside Europe the USA and Japan acquired some colonies.

The American War of Independence , which led to the United States' declaration of independence in 1776 , as well as the declarations of independence of the South American states set limits to European colonization.

17th and 18th centuries

Versailles in 1715

During these two centuries, religious and dynastic tensions reached their climax in the Thirty Years' War from 1618 to 1648, the longest war period in which almost the entire continent was involved. This war began with the so-called lintel of the Prague window and ended with the Peace of Westphalia , which gave the territorial lords in the Holy Roman Empire extensive sovereignty and initiated the development of nation states. The Thirty Years' War devastated and depopulated whole areas, and it took more than a generation for the population to recover. The medieval feudal order largely dissolved in the 17th century. The counts and princes lost a lot of wealth with the steady independence of the population and in the end the only thing left for the emperor was the powerlessness of the empire, whereby small states began and the nation states were further strengthened and absolutism developed into the predominant form of government.

The changed power structure left a lasting impression in the culture and in the collective memory of the people, which had emerged from this dissatisfaction and the consequences of the war and which now slowly led to the rise of the bourgeoisie . With the resulting upswing in trade, mercantilism emerged as an economic form.

A shock was repeated in Europe in 1683 with the second siege of Vienna by the Turks after 1529 . Through the intervention of the Pope, a comprehensive coalition for defense against the Turks was formed . The strongest military power in Europe at the time, France under the “Sun King” Louis XIV , did not participate in the coalition, but used the fact that the German emperor was busy defending against the Turks to continue his wars of reunion .

In intellectual history, the renaissance was continued by the philosophy of the Enlightenment , which weakened the position of religion and laid the foundation for the first democratic movements . The natural sciences made great strides; With inventions like the steam engine , the industrial revolution began in the late 18th century , and the economy developed into early capitalism . From 1756 onwards, the Seven Years' War of Prussia and Great Britain on one side was waged against Austria , France and Russia on the other. The main change on the continent was the rise of Prussia to a great power , the global political result was that France lost a large part of its colonies to Great Britain, which thereby laid the foundation for its world empire .

The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789

Towards the end of the 18th century, King Louis XVI's refusal . of France, supported by the nobility and the church, to give the so-called third estate more influence, to the French Revolution of 1789. It was a decisive attempt to create a new state based on the principles of freedom, equality, fraternity ( Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité ) to accomplish. The king was executed, the republic was proclaimed in France and a kind of democratic government was established. In the ensuing turmoil, which was triggered, among other things, by the declarations of war by most of the European monarchies, General Napoleon Bonaparte took power after the coup d'état of 18th Brumaire VIII . The separation of executive and legislative , i.e. the separation of powers between legislation and control, was now carried out in France and was the beginning of the end of feudalism throughout Europe. In order to prevent the French Revolution from spreading and changes in the power structure in Europe, the coalition wars began at the end of the 18th century .

19th century

Europe after the Congress of Vienna in 1815

In the numerous wars of the Napoleonic era , Napoleon defeated the Habsburg Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire several times, who in 1804 assumed the title of " Emperor of Austria " and, after the formation of the so-called Rhine Confederation in 1806, laid down the Roman-German imperial crown, which marked the end of the Holy Roman Reich meant as a state. Russia was also militarily defeated by Napoleon several times and Prussia also suffered a heavy defeat in 1806/07. Napoleon temporarily re-established a Polish state in the form of the Duchy of Warsaw , which had been destroyed by Prussia, Austria and Russia in the late 18th century . In 1804 he was appointed French emperor. In 1815 he was finally beaten at Waterloo .

After the defeat of France, the other European powers tried at the Vienna Congress of 1814/1815 under the leadership of the Austrian State Chancellor Prince von Metternich and during the period of Vormärz between 1815 and 1848, with the help of restoration measures, to restore the situation before 1789. However, in the long term they were unable to stop the spread of the revolutionary movements. The middle class was heavily influenced by the democratic ideals of the French Revolution. In addition, the industrial revolution brought about profound economic and social changes in the course of the 19th century. The working class was increasingly influenced by socialist , communist and anarchist ideas, especially the theories summarized by Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto of 1848. Further destabilization came through the founding of nationalist movements in Germany, Italy and Poland, among others, which demanded national unity and / or the liberation from foreign rule. As a result of these developments, there were a large number of attempts at coups and independence wars between 1815 and 1871, such as the July Revolution of 1830 or the revolutions of 1848/49 . Even if the revolutionaries were often defeated, most states had received a constitution by 1871 and were no longer governed in an absolutist way . In 1871, after the three wars of unification (1864 German-Danish War , 1866 German War against Austria and 1870/1871 German-French War ), Germany was proclaimed German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm I in Palace of Versailles . Its policy was largely determined by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck until 1890 , see also Otto von Bismarck's alliance policy .

Europe in 1890

As in Germany, after the failure of the democratically and liberally-minded revolutions and independence movements in the Italian principalities, Italian unification was achieved . After three wars of independence against Austria, the Italian nation state emerged as the Kingdom of Italy under Sardinian leadership. In 1861 the Sardinian King Victor Emmanuel II was proclaimed King of Italy. Its Prime Minister, Count Camillo Benso von Cavour, played a role for Sardinia-Piedmont and Italy that was similar to that of Bismarck for Prussia and the German Empire. In France, after the fall of Emperor Napoleon III. as a result of the French defeat in the war against Prussia and the other German states for the proclamation of the Third French Republic . In the course of the upheavals in France in 1871, the Parisian citizens and workers rose against the Prussian-friendly policies of the young republic and founded the Paris Commune . It is considered to be the first attempt at a socialist-communist revolution, but was bloodily suppressed after just a few weeks. The last decades of the 19th century were characterized by increasing economic and power-political competition between the great powers of Central Europe, especially the German Empire, France and Great Britain. This competition led, among other things, to increased militarization of the respective societies, an arms race , the " Race for Africa " and Asia (" Great Game ") and to a high point of imperialism and nationalism . In the long term, these developments led to the First World War , especially after the dissolution of the Bismarck alliance system under Kaiser Wilhelm II , which had ensured a certain degree of interstate stability until 1890 .

Early 20th Century: World Wars

Europe on the eve of World War I, 1914

The 20th century brought dramatic changes in the power structure within Europe and the loss of its cultural and economic dominance over the other continents.

The rivalries between the European powers escalated during the Belle Époque until the First World War was triggered in 1914 . The Central Powers Germany, Austria-Hungary , the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria faced the Entente , consisting of France, Great Britain and Russia, which were reinforced by Italy in 1915 and by the USA and other states in 1917. Despite the defeat of Russia in 1917, the Entente won at the end of 1918 . The war was a major cause of the October Revolution that led to the establishment of the Soviet Union .

In the Treaty of Versailles , the victorious Germany imposed harsh conditions on what the other Paris suburb treaties instead of in the area of the former Austro-Hungarian empire multinational state a number of new countries such as Austria , Hungary , Poland , the Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were created with the theoretical aim to promote self-determination of peoples . In the following decades, fear of communism and the global economic crisis led to the takeover of authoritarian and totalitarian governments: Fascists in Italy (1922), National Socialists in Germany (1933), Francoists in Spain (after the end of the civil war in 1939) and in many other countries like in Hungary.

After Germany and Japan had come together in 1936 via the Anti-Comintern Pact , which Italy joined in 1937 and which was supplemented by military cooperation in the three-power pact in 1940 , Nazi Germany , encouraged by the Munich Agreement of 1938 and based on a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union , dissolved on May 1. September 1939 with the attack on Poland end the Second World War . After initial successes, including the occupation of Poland, France and the Balkans until 1940, Germany took over by waging war against the Soviet Union and declaring war on the USA in support of Japan. After initial successes, the Wehrmacht was stopped in December 1941 in the Battle of Moscow and suffered a decisive defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad a year later . The Allied forces won the first and second battles of El Alamein in North Africa , occupied Italy from 1943 and recaptured France in 1944 with Operation Overlord . In the spring of 1945 Germany was occupied from the east by Soviet troops and from the west by US and British troops. In many places the advancing Allied soldiers were presented with a horror. In thousands of concentration and satellite concentration camps in Germany and in the occupied territories were millions of Jews, Gypsies, Social Democrats, Communists, clergy, unable to work, Soviet POWs and Polish civilians shot or gassed, many starved to death or died of disease. One week after Hitler's suicide , the Wehrmacht unconditionally surrendered on May 8, 1945. Japan surrendered in August 1945 after the USA had destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs .

From the end of World War II to the end of the Cold War

Military alliances during the Cold War

The two world wars, especially the second, ended Europe's preeminent role in the world. The map of Europe was redrawn when the continent became the main area of ​​tension in the Cold War between the newly emerged superpowers , the capitalist USA and the communist Soviet Union . The “ Iron Curtain ” formed the dividing line between the Western world and the Soviet-ruled Eastern Bloc with Poland , Czechoslovakia , Hungary , Romania , Bulgaria and the GDR . Militarily, the US-led NATO and the Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact faced each other.

Member States and candidate countries of the EU

Starting from Western and Central Europe, a process of economic and political integration began within the Western-oriented states : The European Economic Community developed from a coal and steel union (1957), which was replaced by the European Union after the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 .

In Eastern Europe, the communist satellite states developed a strong need for freedom, which, despite some setbacks (1956 in Hungary , 1968 in the CSSR ), after the weakening of the Soviet Union due to economic policy mistakes and an overload caused by the arms race, ultimately led to the end of the division of Europe. The Eastern Bloc dissolved after the fall of the Iron Curtain from autumn 1989, followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union until the end of 1991 and the dissolution of Yugoslavia from 1991. The Iron Curtain , which divided the European continent into two completely separate blocks during the Cold War had been eliminated. In the GDR, the turning point and peaceful revolution led to the end of the SED government and resulted in German reunification. As a result of the loss of power of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the removal of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, a number of new states were formed in Eastern Europe and the European Union expanded.

After the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact

At first it appeared that the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the blocs due to general disarmament could lead to a peace dividend and far-reaching democratization . And there was broad agreement in the majority of European countries that economic development should be shaped by deregulation and globalization . The Washington Consensus of 1990 and the reorganization of the GATT into the WTO with stronger powers should force tariffs to be dismantled. On the other hand, criticism of this policy arose from Attac (founded in 1998) or the Nobel laureate in economics Joseph E. Stiglitz in The Shadows of Globalization (2002). The breakup of Yugoslavia and even more the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 in the USA by al-Qaida ended this hope for peace. There were also terrorist attacks in Europe: in Madrid (2004) and in London (2005).

Russia returned to a more nationalistic policy under Gorbachev's successor Boris Yeltsin . Business leaders enriched themselves disproportionately while much of the population became impoverished. From 2000, Vladimir Putin re-established state authority using dictatorial methods, but allowed serious human rights violations in the internal conflict with Chechnya . During the 2008 Caucasus War , Russia clearly emerged as a hegemonic power.

European integration continued to make progress through the introduction of a common currency , the euro , in now 17 countries of the European Union and through the expansion of the European Union to include Poland, the Czech Republic , Slovakia , Hungary , Estonia , Latvia , Lithuania , Slovenia , Malta and the Republic of Cyprus on May 1, 2004 and Bulgaria and Romania on January 1, 2007. With the Treaty of Lisbon of 2009 (signed in 2007, finally ratified on December 1, 2009) the structure was adapted to the new situation after a constitutional treaty in 2005 failed because of negative votes in referendums in France and the Netherlands .

In 2009, in the wake of the global financial crisis , Greece got into a severe financial crisis due to its high debts , which developed into the euro crisis in 2010 , against which a European stability mechanism was developed. This prevented a catastrophe with new measures, but the fundamental crisis has not yet been ended. Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy were also hit by these economic crises. While Ireland was able to stabilize its economy in 2012/2013, the other countries, but especially Greece, are still heavily indebted.

In March 2014, parallel to a revolution in Ukraine , the Crimean peninsula was annexed , controlled by Russia and supported by the Russian military. According to the published figures, a hastily improvised vote by the population resulted in a clear majority of more than 90% in favor of joining Russia - despite the impossibility of speaking out in favor of the status quo. 100 UN states condemned the vote, which could not be a basis for a change in the status of Crimea.

Historical cultural regions

Historic regions

In contrast to other continents, for which various models for dividing cultures (out of date) or cultural areas were developed at the beginning of the 20th century , Europe was left out for a long time due to the enormously differentiated development and the merging of peoples into nation states. It is only since the work of the Hungarian historian Jenő Szűcs , who died in 1988, that a classification based on the “historical regions of Europe” has been seriously discussed.

The map shows the cultural areas suggested by Christian Giordano in 2002 based on the “world system theory” by Immanuel Wallerstein .

see. Cultural areas in Europe according to Hunter and Whitten
Historic region Historical similarities Example states
Periphery Remote, marginal and sparsely populated large areas, often subsistence farming Iceland , Scotland , large parts of Fennoscandia
Northwest Europe Origin of capitalism , industrial society and modern democracies England , Belgium , Netherlands , Luxembourg , France , Germany , Switzerland
Central Eastern Europe Raw material supplier for NW Europe, feudalism and refeudalization , serfdom , latifundia agriculture and "aristocratic democracy" Lithuania , Latvia , Poland , Hungary , Romania
Eastern Europe Technologically backward agricultural states , serfdom, feudalism and refeudalization, “breeding ground” for communism Russia , Belarus , Ukraine
Mediterranea Western Roman "cultural followers", aristocracy and latifundia agriculture Portugal , Spain , Italy
Southeast Europe Eastern Roman "cultural followers", Ottoman feudal system , often subsistence farming Serbia , Croatia , Albania , Bulgaria , Greece


Collective works

  • Handbook of European History. Edited by Theodor Schieder . 7 volumes. Stuttgart 1968–1987.
  • Manual of the history of Europe. Edited by Peter Blickle . Ten volumes, Stuttgart 2000 ff.
  • Penguin History of Europe . Edited by David Cannadine. London 2001 ff. [Laid out in 8 volumes, not yet completed]
  • Propylaea history of Europe. Six volumes, Berlin 1975 ff., ISBN 3-549-05529-3 (several reprints).
  • CH Beck history of Europe. CH Beck, Munich 2010ff. [currently eight volumes published, not yet completed]

Individual works

Web links

Wikisource: Europe  - Sources and Full Texts
Commons : History of Europe  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Dieter Hägermann: Karl der Große, Herrscher des Abendlandes , Berlin et al. 2000, ISBN 3-549-05826-8 , p. 10.
  2. Monika Franz: Fundamentals of European Identity, Part I , BLZ report 02/2004, archived copy ( memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.blz.bayern.de
  3. Ovid , Metamorphoses ii.833-875
  4. E. Carbonell et al. (2008): The first hominin of Europe. Nature 452, pp. 465-469.
  5. For the history of antiquity in general see for example: The Cambridge Ancient History . 14th vol. 2nd edition. Cambridge 1970ff .; Hans-Joachim Gehrke , Helmuth Schneider (ed.): History of antiquity. 4th expanded and updated edition. Stuttgart / Weimar 2013.
  6. Monika Franz: Fundamentals of European Identity, Part I , BLZ report 02/2004, archived copy ( memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.blz.bayern.de
  7. Monika Franz: Fundamentals of European Identity, Part I , BLZ report 02/2004, archived copy ( memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.blz.bayern.de
  8. See Walter Pohl : Die Völkerwanderung. 2nd edition Stuttgart 2005.
  9. Walter Pohl : The Avars. 2nd edition Munich 2002.
  10. ^ Georg Bossong: The Moorish Spain. History and culture. Beck, Munich 2010, p. 73ff.
  11. JLI Fennell: The Crisis of Medieval Russia 1200-1304. London 1983, p. 89.
  12. Bertold Spuler: The Golden Horde. The Mongols in Russia 1223-1502. 2nd edition, Wiesbaden 1965.
  13. ^ Donald Lach: Asia in the Making of Europe I. Chicago 1965, p. 82.
  14. UN General Assembly adopts resolution affirming Ukraine's territorial integrity Xinhua , March 28, 2014 The General Assembly underscores that the March 16 referendum held in Crimea "having no validity, cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or of the city of Sevastopol. "
  15. ^ Christian Giordano: Interdependent diversity: The historical regions of Europe. in: Karl Kaser u. a. (Ed.): Europe and the borders in the head , Wieser-Verlag, Klagenfurt 2003, pp. 113-134.