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Europe is conventionally considered one of the seven continents of Earth which, in this case, is more a cultural and political distinction than a physiographic one, leading to some dispute as to Europe's actual borders. Physically and geologically, Europe is a subcontinent or large peninsula, forming the westernmost part of Eurasia.

Europe is bounded to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Mediterranean and, according to the traditional geographic definition, by the Caucasus. Europe's boundary to the east is vague, but has traditionally been given as the divide of the Ural Mountains and the Caspian Sea to the southeast: The Urals are considered by most to be a geographical and tectonic landmark separating Asia from Europe.

Brief History of Europe

As part of the Old World, Europe has a long history of cultural and economic achievement, starting as far back as the Paleolithic. The recent discovery at Monte Poggiolo, Italy, of thousands of stones shaped by human hands, and tentatively carbon-dated to 800,000 years ago, may prove to be of particular importance.

The origins of Western democratic and individualistic culture are often attributed to Ancient Greece, though numerous other distinct influences, in particular Christianity, can also be credited with the spread of concepts such as egalitarianism and universality of law.

The Roman Empire divided the continent along the Rhine and Danube rivers for several centuries.

After the decline of the Roman Empire, Europe entered a long period of changes arising from what is known as the Age of Migrations. That period has been known as the "Dark Ages" to Renaissance thinkers. During this time, the Ottoman Empire conquered the Byzantine capital Constantinople (now Istanbul). This effectively finished the Byzantine Empire, so the Ottoman Empire became one of the greatest powers in Europe. Isolated monastic communities in Ireland and elsewhere carefully safeguarded and compiled written knowledge accumulated previously. The Renaissance and the New Monarchs marked the start of a period of discovery, exploration, and increase in scientific knowledge. In the 15th century, Portugal opened the age of discoveries, soon followed by Spain. They were later joined by France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in building large colonial empires with vast holdings in Africa, the Americas, and Asia.

After the age of discovery, the ideas of democracy took hold in Europe. Struggles for independence arose, most notably in France during the period known as the French Revolution. This led to vast upheaval in Europe as these revolutionary ideas propagated across the continent. The rise of democracy led to increased tension within Europe on top of the tension already existing due to competition within the New World. The most famous of these conflicts happened when Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power and set out on a conquest, forming a new French Empire, which soon collapsed. After these conquests Europe stabilised, but the old foundations were already beginning to crumble.

The Industrial Revolution started in the United Kingdom in the late 18th century, leading to a move away from agriculture, much greater general prosperity and a corresponding increase in population. Many of the states in Europe took their present form in the aftermath of World War I. From the end of World War II through the end of the Cold War, Europe was divided into two major political and economic blocks: Communist nations in Eastern Europe (with the exceptions of Turkey and Greece) and Capitalist countries in Southern Europe and Western Europe. About 1990, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Eastern Block disintegrated.

Information provided by Wikipedia

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