Europe & Eurasia: Geography of the Land Mass

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  • 0:08 Where Is Europe?
  • 0:36 Waterways
  • 2:19 Mountains
  • 3:25 Climate
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

The settlements of Europe, from snowy Norway to sunny Sicily, have all been affected by the geography of their local surroundings. In this lesson, we discuss the influence of geography on Europe as a whole.

Where Is Europe

Answering the question 'Where is Europe?' sounds easy enough. After all, it's here:

Map of Europe
map of europe

But where does it end? What makes Europe different from the area around it? For our purposes, we'll call Europe the Western part of Eurasia, a massive landmass that stretches from Ireland to Indonesia. However, Europe is only a small part of that landmass, reaching from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean.

Waterways

More than any other continent, Europe is influenced by water. After all, if you take away all the boundaries and just look at Europe from outer space, it is nothing more than a peninsula with many smaller peninsulas and islands around it. In fact, water has influenced practically every civilization to develop in Europe.

The most influential waterways have been the seas that surround Europe, namely the Mediterranean Sea to the south, but also the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The Mediterranean Sea was the home to many of the world's oldest civilizations, from the Greeks and Romans to the Phoenicians and Byzantines. In fact, the sea is so important that many people break it up into smaller seas. For example, you'll often hear people talk about the Aegean Sea when talking about the Greeks, because it was the water that surrounded so many of the ancient Greek city-states. But the other seas are important, too. The Vikings could have never launched their raids without the Baltic and the North Seas, and a part of the North Sea called the English Channel kept Britain free from invasion for most of its history.

However, it's not just salt water that's important to Europe. Many rivers cross the continent. Some of these you may have already heard of because they flow through big cities, like the Seine in Paris or the Tiber in Rome. One of the biggest rivers in Europe has served as a border for some of its greatest empires. Historically, France and Germany, two of Europe's most important countries, have had the Rhine as their boundary. On the other hand, the Danube serves as connector between many of Europe's cultures in the southeast, allowing for better communication. Both rivers, as well as others such as the Rhone and the Volga, provide water for crops.

Mountains

Whereas rivers allowed for greater communication, Europe's mountain ranges often stopped it. The most famous group of mountains in Europe is the Alps, which sits between Italy and the rest of Europe. These mountains have kept Italy safe for much of its history, although invaders such as Hannibal and Napoleon often crossed them.

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