Geography 180
Europe Lecture Notes 7

WESTERN EUROPE: France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands

   FRANCE (and Germany)
    France has more coastline, but fewer good ports, more rivers, but fewer that are
     navigable, than Germany
    France is more agricultural, Germany is more industrial; there are many canals in both,
     but more in Germany
    Except for Paris, Germany is more urbanized than France
    Paris is a classic PRIMATE CITY, having the site and situation on the Seine River, at
     the confluence of other navigable rivers (Marne)
      Site: actual physical attributes, islands in the Seine, flatness of the Paris basin, well-
         watered and temperate climate, fertile soils
      Situation: its relationship to other places, hinterland (room to expand and resource
         base), and regional framework of competing towns situated in a low well-watered
         basin, near the coast on a navigable river (for small ships), and a dense road and rail
         transportation network: All roads lead to Paris!
    Paris's center and hearth is the Isle de la Cité, a defensible Roman outpost 2,000 years
     ago. Now the center of a large agricultural area, market and a hinterland and, of course,
     one of the world’s greatest cities.

The islands of Paris in the River Seine. The large island to the west is Isle de la Citie. Notre
Dame Cathedral is located on its eastern end. The small island is Isle de St. Louis.


The French also had a global empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. Until 1803, when the young
United States bought it from Napoleon, it included one third of North America, the Louisiana

The French Empire

The Louisiana Purchase territory is shown in green.

The country was divided into East and West Germany after WWII. German Reunification was
achieved at the end of the Cold War in 1989. The border between the two was called the Iron
Curtain by Winston Churchill. The Iron Curtain also separated the rest of eastern Europe, the
Eastern Block, from western Europe.


                                                                       Kostbade and Wheeler, 1993

   West and East Berlin were also partitioned after WWII into Russian, English, American
    and French quarters. The divided city lay inside East Germany and East Berlin (Russian
    quarter) was East Germany's capital. After the erection of the Berlin Wall by the
    Soviet-dominated East Germans in 1961, movement to and from West Berlin was only
    possible with the permission of the Soviets and the East German government. About 1
    million people lived in East Berlin and 2 million in West Berlin, separated by the heavily
    guarded wall, which was finally opened in 1989. Most of it was torn down in the early
    1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 192 people died and several hundred more
    were shot or otherwise injured trying to escape East Berlin over the life of the wall.

West and East Berlin

                                                                       Goodes World Atlas, 1978.

Dr. Patricia Kelley at the Wall in 2002

                                                                              Thor Hansen, 2002

   Germany’s past has been dominated by much warfare and fragmentation, conquest and
    their naked military aggression in two world wars in the 20th century, the second of which
    was accompanied by the hideous holocaust of European Jews and other “enemies” of
    Hitler’s racial purity mania. http://www.holocaust-history.org/
   In the second half of the 20th and into the 21st centuries, Germany has emerged as an
    economic and political world leader. Standards of living are among the highest in the
    world and Germany enjoys friendly relations with many countries, including some that
    were invaded generations ago.
   The German Ruhr Valley, a small tributary of the Rhine (Rein) River, is one of the most
    important manufacturing regions in Europe and the world, was devastated in two world
    wars and rebuilt after WWII under the US Marshall Plan

BENELUX: Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg
 The “Low Countries” on the western North European Plain
 These countries are well-developed and have been the location of significant population
  centers with significant agricultural and industrial activity for centuries.
 Their climate is moderated by the North Atlantic Drift of the Gulf Stream and there are
  many important navigable rivers and canals in each of them. Luxembourg is land-locked.
 The Netherlands is the largest of the three in terms of land area and population
 All three are intensively cultivated and densely populated.

   The Polders of the Netherlands are land reclaimed from the sea. The work began in
    the 1200s and continues into the 21st century. All of the polder lands are below sea
    level and intensively settled and farmed.

                      The Polders from about 1200 AD to the late 1980s

Left: Polders in the 1970s from space False Color Infrared image on which vegetation appears
pink and bare land and urban areas are light blue. Right: Polders in 2007 Google Earth.

           Noordoostpolder 2005

   Rotterdam (Netherlands) is the world's largest port in terms of tonnage handled is the
    terminus for goods from the Ruhr and the Rhine, a break in bulk point for ocean going
    vessel and river barges.
   Ranstaad is a conurbation (cities that coalesce) of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and The
    Hague. It is in a prime location for world trade, via English Channel and Atlantic Ocean
    and its situation near Europe’s 3 most productive countries, England, France, and
    Germany. Not only do French agricultural products move through Rotterdam, the metal
    and high tech German productivity to and from the Ruhr is processed through the port.
   Holland is the name of 2 of 11 provinces of the Netherlands--North and South Holland on
    the North Sea, where the Ranstaad conurbation is located. It is the historic heartland of
    the Netherlands, the location of most of the population, most of the industry, and most of
    the agriculture.
   Once a power to be reckoned with in colonial times, those enterprises were based in
    Amsterdam and Antwerp. Today Rotterdam handles most of the German and other
    international trade, Antwerp handles Netherlands’s trade, and Amsterdam is in decline as
    a port, but booming with tourism.
   Belgium's capital, Brussels, has become an international administrative center for
    hundreds of international corporations, a financial center, and also the home of the
    European Common Market (EEC) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and one of
    the homes of the new European Union, the other is Strasbourg, France.
   Flemish, a Germanic language similar to Dutch, is spoken in northern Belgium and
    Walloon, a French variation, in the South. People in Luxembourg speak Luxembourgian,
    French, German and English.


                                                                     Kostbade and Wheeler, 1993

   Both countries are landlocked in the mountainous Alps
   Austria has more cultivable land (upper Danube valley), more lumber, more mineral
    resources (iron, bauxite, coal, oil)
   Austrians are German-speaking and many are Roman Catholics; The Swiss speak
    German, French, Italian, Romansch, and are about 40% Protestant and 46% Catholic.
   The Swiss have a superior standard of living to most Austrians and have overcome their
    restrictive land-locked mountain environment. Prosperity and long-lived political and
    military neutrality (the Swiss “Army” patrols on bicycles!) have meant that the various
    linguistic and religious groups have coexisted peacefully with the country and with the
    rest of Europe, even the Nazis, for centuries
   Swiss are more industrialized, employing tremendous hydroelectric power and have a
    highly skilled labor force.
   They are the long-lived middlemen in interregional trade, guarding the mountain passes
    between northwestern Europe and the Mediterranean region, since the Roman period.
   Now they are also professional tourist pleasers.
   The Swiss population is clustered on a central plateau with Bern (capital), Zurich
    (largest), Geneva (international financial headquarters, banking and insurance Swiss
    Banks) found on the plateau or its periphery. They have had centuries of stability,
    sovereignty, NEUTRALITY, and peaceful Alpine isolation.

      Most agriculture is dairying (high prices), practicing TRANSHUMANCE, the seasonal
       movement of herds, usually with their owners or keepers, in this case, up the mountain in
       the summer, down in the winter.
      They export high quality manufactured goods, although they have to import almost all the
       raw materials needed.
      Austria is younger, has been less stable than Switzerland, and was a casualty of WWI, as
       a remnant of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
      It was occupied by the Nazis, and incorporated into Nazi Germany in 1938. It has really
       only been independent since 1955.
      For much of the last century, Austria looked eastward to the USSR, with Danube Valley
       (its most important region) and Vienna (a world class city) both on its eastern end.


Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, and Iceland

General Characteristics of the Region
    A region of peninsulas (Scandinavia and Jutland) and many islands

   All except Denmark’s border with Germany is separated by water from the European
    Core. All are located to the north, isolated and out of the European and global
   Their natural resources are limited. All have D and E climates, poor soils (except
    Denmark, which is part of the North European Plain and is Cfb (Marine West Coast).
    Norway and Sweden have steep slopes and few minerals. Finland is flat and heavily
    eroded by glaciation and has little good agricultural land. Estonia is more fortunate, but
    still located at a high latitude. Timber and fish have long been the most important
    resources. Until recently the most important energy sources have been wood and water
    power; but recently NORTH SEA OIL AND GAS (especially for Norway, Sweden and
    Denmark, and also the UK), have improved their economic situation, if not their
   The all have comparatively small populations, about 25 million in all 6 countries (less
    than in Benelux), most live on the coastal periphery and clustered in cities. Copenhagen
    and Stockholm are the largest cities of the region.
   They are the northernmost group of nation states, each with a democratic representative
   Their languages (except for Finnish and Estonian) are mutually intelligible and a subset
    of the Germanic group.
   Most people are at least nominally Lutheran.
   It was all heavily glaciated during the Pleistocene Epoch, with many fjords carved by
    glaciers in the mountainous backbone of Norway and Sweden. Fjords make excellent
    ports and waterways, hence Nordic people have always been strongly oriented to the sea:
    The so-called Vikings, Jutes, and others launched many raids on the British Isles and
    other parts of Europe from such fjords. There is a Viking village, L’Anse aux Meadows,
    in Newfoundland that dates to the 11th century AD.
   http://www.thesalmons.org/lynn/wh-lanse.html

                 Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland

       COLD Df climate supports Boreal forests throughout much of the region, therefore
        although there’s a short growing season, there’s plenty of timber

      The mountainous, central backbone of the Scandinavian Peninsula in Norway and
       Sweden (known as Scandina or the Kjølen Range), receives much of the acid rain
       originating in the European Industrial Core
      Sweden has better agriculture, grains grow (rain shadow of Kjølen Range) and
       southern Sweden is geomorpholocially part of the North European Plain, as are
       Denmark and Estonia.

   Fishing, timber, hydro-electric power, North Sea Oil
   Heavy orographic precipitation on west coastline, which is heavily fjorded
   Boreal Forests and tundra
   Cfb, Df, Et climates from south to north
   Small population, with most located in Oslo and the southwest coastal area

   Economic activities similar to Norway's, but more developed with more heavy and
    high- tech industry. Manufacturing is scattered in many southwestern cities and
    around the lake plateau on the Baltic. Raw materials are more plentiful, they produce
    lumber, furniture, stainless steel, cars (Volvos and Saabs), ships, electronics, textiles
   It’s in the Rain Shadow, so has less moisture than Norway, but enjoys a lot of cheap
    hydro-electric power from snow melt in Kjølens (now more commonly known as
   It has a long Baltic coast line, but is isolated from the Atlantic mainstream, as
    shipping must pass through the Baltic and two choke points, the Skagerrak and
    Kattegat north and east of Denmark respectively.
   It has long history of international neutrality

    Finland is too wet for much agriculture, but excels in fishing and merchant marines.
    Df and Et climates with Boreal forests to the south and tundra vegetation then ice in
     the north.
    Forest products, some agriculture for domestic use, few minerals
    Like Sweden, Finland’s location on the Baltic has been isolating
    Also its (former) Soviet neighbor (and occupier) hindered its modern development.
    Its language belongs to a family known as Finno-Ugrian, which is a non Indo-
     European language that is (distantly) related to the Magyar language of Hungary and
     Romania and more closely related to Estonian.
    Finnish topography is rather flat and rocky at the surface as a result of glacial erosion,
     rather than flat and fertile like the North European coastal plain deposits, therefore
     agriculture is not only limited by climate, but also by soil type.
    Finland has experienced a recent boom in high tech industry, especially
     communications (Nokia cell phones)

       An island micro-state with a population of under 300,000, most of whom live in
       Three quarters of the island is barren and treeless
       It was settled by Norwegians in the 9th century AD and was dominated by Norway
        until 1918, then Denmark until 1944, when it became independent.
       The heavily glaciated island is geologically active, as it sits astride the spreading
        Atlantic Ridge. Earth quakes, volcanoes, and thermal energy are quite common.
        Most of the nation’s energy comes from naturally occurring steam or hydro-electric
       85% of all exports are fish
       Very isolated with very cold winters and short summers
       Cfc, Df, and E climates

      Smallest land area in Nordic Europe, but second largest population (about 5 million)
       after Sweden
      Composed of the Jutland Peninsula and many islands, the largest of which is Zealand,
       where Copenhagen is located.
      Mild, moist climate Cf (50-57 degrees N) and low relief with intensive agriculture
       and dairying, most of which is exported to the UK and Germany
      Copenhagen is its primate city, a good port, known as a “break in bulk” point for
       ocean going ships and smaller Baltic ships

      Estonia was colonized by the Danes, the Germans, the Swedes, the Poles and the
      It was fully independent in 1920 but the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939 returned Estonia to
       the Soviets. It regained independence in 1990. Although the US never recognized
       this annexation, Estonia was known as one of the Baltic SSRs during the second half
       of the 20th century.
      It shares many physical and cultural similarities with Finland

Nordic Europe and Mediterranean Europe have some interesting similarities: Peripheral
location, many peninsulas and islands, climatic homogeneity, high degrees of cultural
homogeneity. Obviously, they occupy northerly and southerly latitudes and the Mediterranean
has a huge population and a longer human occupation.

MEDITERRANEAN EUROPE: Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal (although not technically on the
Mediterranean), plus southern France and the coastal Adriatic countries, which share the climate
and topography

       3 peninsulas, Iberian, Italian, Balkan
       Many large and small islands, all volcanic
       Alpine topography throughout the region, but less so in Spain because of the Spanish
        Meseta or central plateau.

   The Mediterranean climate (Csa) influences them all (36-46 degrees N). It is warm to hot
    and droughty in the summer when the Saharan STH moves over the region and cool and
    moist in the short winter season.
     The Mediterranean region is separated from the European Core area by mountains:
       Greece by the Balkans; Iberia by the Pyrenees; Italy by the Alps. While this makes
       overland travel difficult, it has not been as isolating as it might seem. The Greeks and

       Romans sailed through the Mediterranean Sea and into the coastal waters of the Atlantic
       through Gibraltar, where they both reached the British Isles. And of course, Hannibal
       crossed the Alps to sack Rome—with elephants! http://www.barca.fsnet.co.uk/
      Greek and Roman cultural heritage still evident
      All languages, except Greek, are based in Latin (see Europe Lecture 4)
      The classical Mediterranean-type agriculture still in evidence. It involves three basic
       strategies, sometimes referred to as a 3-legged stool:
       1. Winter cropping of grains such as wheat and barley. When there is enough moisture,
           no irrigation needed. The harvest festivals are in the spring rather than the fall as in
           the mid-latitude agricultural systems.
       2. Summer culture of drought resistant vine and tree crops, most notably grapes (wine,
           raisins, and table), and olives (butter was and is seldom used because the environment
           is generally poor for cattle (except in Spain). Olive oil is preferred for cooking and
           other uses. Roman writers were disgusted by Germanic peoples’ habit of eating of
       3. Herding of small animals, goats, sheep, and pigs, which are more agile on the rocky
           slopes. Pigs ate the mast (acorns) from the oaks that are abundant there. Animals
           were rarely eaten for meat (especially among the lower classes) but the milk from
           goats and sheep was (and more rarely is) used to make cheese.
      Transhumance was and is practiced as people moved their animals upslope to better grass
       in the summer.
      Some areas of Mediterranean Europe able to afford some summer irrigation now.

Many similarities with Nordic Europe
   Peninsularity
   Mountainous
   Poor soils, homogenous climate (similar throughout both regions, although they’re two
      different climate types)
   Separated from the European Core
   Religious homogeneities, Mediterranean Catholicism (except for Greek Orthodoxy) and
      Nordic Lutheranism
   Language similarities: All the Romance languages are closely related (Greek excepted)
      as are four of the six Germanic Nordic languages
   Both have limited mineral wealth, although Spain has some Fe and coal, but most
   Both have a potential natural vegetation regime that is a forest type. There’s still a lot of
      (Boreal) type forest in Nordic Europe. The Mediterranean region has been largely
      denuded of its chaparral-type vegetation, known as maquis.

    North Lombardy, Po Valley (more northern, not really a Mediterranean-type climate,
     because it’s moister)
    Better agriculture in the north, which is closer to the trans-Alpine routes to core area
    Hydroelectric power in northern Italy, which also has a skilled and cosmopolitan
     labor force. They make precision instruments, high quality cars, and ships in such
     cities as Milan, Turin, Genoa: Italy's industrial core
    The North, or Padania, is considered part of the developed, industrial European core
    The South, or Mezzorgiorno, is economically stagnant and poorer even though Rome
     is there

SPAIN AND PORTUGAL: The Iberian Peninsula
   The population are concentrated in the coastal lowlands, and the Meseta Central of
     Spain, where Madrid was established 1561, other cities are much older
   Latifundia, a land tenure system where a few favored elites own most of the good
     land, is still widespread Spain. This system was exported to the New World, where it
     has been fomenting social unrest ever since.
   Spain’s major industrial center is in Catalonia, in the Ebro River Valley around
   Rice was brought to Spain and Portugal and Italy by explorers and is now an
     important crop there, as are tomatoes, peppers
   Spain had a huge and lasting colonial influence in the New World from the American
     Southwest to the tip of South America (Tierra del Fuego). The Portuguese colonized
     Brazil in the New World and Mozambique and Angola in Africa. They both had
     limited colonial activity in Asia and Africa.
   Spanish and Portuguese are Romance languages
   Spain was a monarchy from 1572, it was declared a republic in 1931
   Portugal has been a separate monarchy since 1143 AD

   The birthplace of western civilization
   Densely settled coastal lowlands, especially around Athens
   Very poor, heavily deforested from centuries of occupation and poor agricultural
   Greece is hot in the summer and very mountainous.
   Much of it is very beautiful, especially in the Aegean, which is heavily visited by
    tourists, although the same is true of the ancient sites on the mainland.
   Athens is one of the most traffic-clogged cities in the world. Although the Parthenon
    (one of the world’s most important ancient monuments) is there, most of the city
    away from the old Turkish Quarter at the monument’s base (the Plaka, a tourist trap)
    was built in the mid-twentieth century.
   The Greeks have a long standing antipathy with the Turks as a result a holy war
    between Greek Orthodox Christians and Muslims. The Turks held all Greek lands by
    the 1500s, and the Greeks finally only gained a fitful independence in 1918. After

    WWI, the Greeks attempted to annex a part of Turkey that had had Greek speakers
    living there before the poet Homer (700BC). They failed and all the Greeks living on
    Turkish soil (over a million) were driven to Greece. This created terrible economic
    and social problems in an already poor country. The two nations have also been
    fighting over the island of Cyprus for decades. Halting steps toward peace have been
    made lately as a result of the two nations helping each other’s people after terrible
    earthquakes in each country in the 1990s.
   The religion has ties to the Bishopric of Constantinople (formerly the Eastern Roman
    or Byzantine Empire), paralleling the Catholic relationship to Rome.

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