Europe as the planets 6th largest continent includes 47 countries and assorted dependencies, islands and territories.
The beginnings of civilization in Europe can be traced to very ancient times, but they are not as old as the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. The Roman and Greek cultures flourished in Europe, and European civilization—language, technology, political concepts, and the Christian religion—have been spread throughout the world by European colonists and immigrants. Throughout history, Europe has been the scene of many great and destructive wars that have ravaged both rural and urban areas. Once embraced by vast and powerful empires and kingdoms, successful nationalistic uprisings (especially in the 19th cent.) divided the continent into many sovereign states. The political fragmentation led to economic competition and political strife among the states.
Europe, second smallest of the worlds continents, composed of the westward-projecting peninsulas of Eurasia (the great landmass that it shares with Asia) and occupying nearly one-fifteenth of the worlds total land area. It is bordered on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the south (west to east) by the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, the Kuma-Manych Depression, and the Caspian Sea. The continents eastern boundary (north to south) runs along the Ural Mountains and then roughly southwest along the Emba (Zhem) River, terminating at the northern Caspian coast.
Europes recognized surface area covers about 4,000,000 sq mi (10,360,000 sq km) or 2% of the Earths surface, and about 6.8% of its land area. That broad territory reveals no simple unity of geologic structure, landform, relief, or climate. In exacting geographic definitions, Europe is really not a continent, but part of the peninsula of Eurasia which includes all of Europe and Asia. However, it is still widely referred to as an individual continent.
The climate of Europe varies from subtropical to polar. The Mediterranean climate of the south is dry and warm. The western and northwestern parts have a mild, generally humid climate, influenced by the North Atlantic Drift. In central and eastern Europe the climate is of the humid continental-type with cool summers. In the northeast subarctic and tundra climates are found. All of Europe is subject to the moderating influence of prevailing westerly winds from the Atlantic Ocean and, consequently, its climates are found at higher latitudes than similar climates on other continents.
All in all, Europe enjoys a considerable and long-exploited resource base of soil, forest, sea, and minerals (notably coal), but its people are increasingly its principal resource. The continent, excluding Russia, contains less than one-tenth of the total population of the world, but in general its people are well educated and highly skilled. Europe also supports high densities of population, concentrated in urban-industrial regions.
Within the complex of European languages, three major divisions stand out: Romance, Germanic, and Slavic. All three are derived from a parent Indo-European language of the early migrants to Europe from southwestern Asia. The Romance languages mostly include French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian. The Germanic Languages include German, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Icelandic. The Slavic languages are characteristic of eastern and southeastern Europe and of Russia.
The majority of primary culture groups in Europe have a single dominant religion, although the English, German, Swiss, Hungarian, and Netherlandic groups are noteworthy for the coexistence of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.