Europe contains about 3,900,000 square miles of surface, and is separated from Asia by the Caucasus, Caspian Sea, River Ural, and Uralian Mountains. It is about 3000 miles long and 2400 broad, about two-thirds being plain and table-land and one-third mountain land. The chief mountain ranges are those which run through Norway and Sweden in a north-westerly direction, and the mountain system along the south part from Portugal to Turkey. This last includes the Pyrenees, which runs from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean, the highest peak of which is Mont Maladeta (11,500 feet); the Alps, the highest point of which is Mont Blanc (15,748 feet); the Apennines, the highest point of which is Mont Viso (12,586 feet); the Carpathian Mountains, extending from Presburg in Hungary towards the sources of the Waag and March, the highest point being Mont Lemnitz (7962 feet); and the Balkan range, which may be considered a continuation of the Alps eastward, runs as far as the Black Sea, together with many inferior ranges and branches.

The climate of Europe embraces a range from the temperate to extreme cold. It is bounded by the Arctic Ocean on the north, Asia eastward, the Mediterranean Sea southward, and the Atlantic Ocean to the westward; it contains two great inland seas, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. There are three great volcanoes in Europe, Hecla, Vesuvius, and Etna, but the plains of Auvergne contain many which are extinct.


Northwestern portion of Old World and smallest of its grand divisions. Extreme length northeast and southwest, 3500 miles extreme breadth, over 2,400 miles; coast line not less than 20,000 miles.

Sq. Miles.
Andorra 175 5,800 Andorra 1,000
Austro-Hungary 240,942 37,883,226 Vienna 1,103,857
Belgium 11,373 5,655,197 Brussels 389,782
Bulgaria 24,360 2,007,919 Sophia 20,501
Denmark 13,784 1,969,039 Copenhagen 273,323
England and Wales 58,186 25,974,439 London 4,766,661
France 204,177 37,672,048 Paris 2,269,023
Germany 212,028 45,234,061 Berlin 1,122,360
Greece 25,111 1,979,453 Athens 84,903
Ireland 32,531 5,174,836 Dublin 418,910
Italy 114,410 28,459,628 Rome 273,268
Montenegro 3,550 250,000 Cetigne 2,000
Netherlands 12,648 4,225,065 The Hague 127,931
Norway 122,869 1,806,900 Christiania 124,155
Portugal 36,510 4,306,554 Lisbon 246,343
Rumania 48,307 5,376,060 Bukharest 221,805
Russia 2,041,402 86,486,959 St. Petersburg 929,100
San Marino 32 7,816 San Marino 6,000
Scotland 29,820 3,735,573 Edinburgh 236,002
Servia 18,800 1,865,683 Belgrade 37,500
Spain 191,100 16,064,859 Madrid 397,816
Sweden 170,979 4,603,595 Stockholm 194,469
Switzerland 15,992 2,846,102 Bern 44,087
Turkey 63,850 4,490,000 Constantinople 600,000

Lengths of Rivers

Danube 1,725 Loire 600
Don 1,300 Oder 550
Dneiper 1,230 Petchora 900
Dwina 700 Rhine 600
Elbe 737 Vistula 690
Kama 1,400 Volga 2,400

Areas Seas and Lakes

Square Miles.Square Miles.
Azov 14,000 Geneva 336
Baltic 154,570 Ladoga 5,190
Black 185,000 Ogena 3,400
Constance 200 Wener 3,120
Enara 685 White 4,500

Production of Raw Silk

Italy 6,600,000 lbs.France 19,149,000 lbs.


Russia 250,000 tons 90,000 tons
Great Britain 26,000 "130,000 "
France 50,000 "70,000 "
Germany 15,000 "35,000 "
Netherlands 80,000 "65,000 "


Nottingham.Persons employed,10,500.Value products,$29,782,980
The Continent.Persons employed,535,000.Value products,28,128,370

Annual Mineral Productions

Lead, Cornwall 70,000 tons Tin, Great Britain 15,000 tons
Lead, Cordova 30,000 "Quicksilver, Spain 1,000 "
Coffee imported, Europe 270,000 tons
Tea " Great Britain 140,000,000 lbs.

Map of Europe

Map of Northern Europe

Map of Southern Europe

From its political and historical importance Europe has always been regarded as one of the great divisions of the earth's surface though it is not a separate and independent mass. It is, rather, a great peninsula of what is sometimes called Eurasia —i.e. the continent of Europe and Asia combined—that extends westward its many arms between the Arctic Ocean on the north, the Atlantic on the west, and the Mediterranean Sea on the south.

Its name seems to have been derived from the Semitic word ereb, meaning “the land of the setting sun,” and came into use among the Greeks and Latins in very early times as Europa.

Outline and Extent. The most striking feature of its outline is that of its great irregularity, the deep inlets and gulfs of the ocean which penetrate its mass, and the peninsulas which run from it.

The greatest distance between its extreme north and south points—the North Cape of Norway and Cape Matapan in Greece—is about twenty-four hundred miles; and from east to west—from Cape La Roca, or the “Rock of Lisbon,” to Cape Apsheron, the eastern extremity of the Caucasus range, on the Caspian—about three thousand miles.

European Gulfs and Inlets

On the north the White Sea, so called from the ice and snow which bind it up for more than half the year, reaches in from the Arctic Ocean. From the Atlantic, the shallow North Sea, or German Ocean, and the English Channel  (called La Manche, or “The Sleeve,” by the French) break in to separate the British Isles from the mainland; and from the former the Skager Rak, “the crooked and boisterous strait,” leads through the Kattegat, the “Cat's Throat,” and the “Belts” of the Danish islands, to the Baltic, or the “East Sea” of the Germans, and its continuations, the Gulfs of Bothnia, Finland, and Riga.

Farther southward, the stormy Bay of Biscay, named from the Basque province of Vizcaya, sweeps in along the northern coast of Spain, and beyond the Peninsula the narrow Strait of Gibraltar  leads into the great Mediterranean, which stretches eastward for twenty-three hundred miles.

The Mediterranean and Its Arms

Among the many branches of this great basin are the Gallic Sea, running north toward Gaul, between Spain and the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, forming the stormy Gulf of the Lion and that of Genoa; the Tyrrhenian Sea, between Sardinia and Italy; the Ionian Sea  and the Adriatic  running north from it, between Italy and the Balkan peninsula, towards the ancient seaport of Adria, perhaps the oldest in Europe.

Beyond Greece, the island-studded Ægean leads north to the narrow inlet of the Dardanelles, opening into the little Sea of Marmora, named from its marble-yielding islands, and from that by the Bosporus  or Oxford (the canal of Constantinople), into the second great Mediterranean basin, the Black Sea  or Euxine, with its offshoot the shallow Sea of Azof. The Caspian Sea, forms part of the natural frontier between Europe and Asia.

The indented seaboard of Europe measures not less than sixty thousand miles.

Peninsulas of Europe

Between each of these branches of the sea there run out corresponding promontories and peninsulas of the mainland. These are most numerous on the south side, where we find the CrimeaTurkey  and GreeceItaly  and Spain, bordered by the islands of the Archipelago, by Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, and the Baleares.

The western or Atlantic side presents the greatest peninsula, that of Scandinavia, and the most important island group, that of the British Isles. The Danish peninsula is remarkable as the only one in Europe, and indeed in almost any part of the world, that points northward.

Surface Characteristics

The great lowland of Europe lies toward the east, embracing the vast continental area of Russia, and sending out arms westward round the Gulf of Bothnia and the Swedish side of the Baltic, and through North Germany and Denmark, to form the lowlands of Holland and Belgium and of Western France, along the shores of the Bay of Biscay, as far as the rise of the Pyrenees.

The vast central area of the Russian lowland has almost everywhere the same character, woods and marshes  alternating with cultivated land, affording a superfluity of grain, which is sent down by the rivers to the seaports of the Baltic and the Black Sea; but along its northern border, next the icy Arctic Sea, lie the moss-covered swamps called the Tundras, the soil of which is never thawed for more than a yard's depth; all its southern margin toward the Black Sea and the Caspian is a treeless steppe, over which at some seasons the grasses shoot up above a man's height, concealing the pasturing herds.

Remarkable Surface of Finland

Finland is one of the most remarkable regions of the great European plain; its granite floor, elevated above the sea-level probably in a recent geological period, is worn into thousands of angular lake-basins, which form a perfect network over its surface; to the sailor on the Baltic its margin presents a girdle of steep cliffs guarded by a fringe of rocky islets or skerries. The cliffy Aland Islands are detached fragments of this remarkable formation.

Lowlands of Western Europe

The eastern portions of the North German plain, as far as the Oder, have the same character, the same corn-yielding clay soil, as the adjoining lowlands in Russia; but farther west, round the capital city of Berlin, the plain becomes less fertile, in some parts sandy and bare. Beyond the Elbe, in Hanover, the Lüneburg heath  covers a large part of the plain; next it lie the moors, marshes, and fens of Oldenburg and the borders of Holland, where cattle and horses are the wealth of the land; and beyond these the highly cultivated lowlands on each side of the Rhine delta, separated by the heaths and moors of Brabant, which run out toward the lower Scheldt like a dividing wedge between Holland and Belgium.

Passing into France, and across the broad river basins of its lowlands which open to the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay, we come upon the great wine-yielding lands, such as Champagne  and the vineyards of the Gironde, with the corn country of Brie northeast of Paris, and of Touraine, on the Loire between these; and lastly, at the extremity of this branch of the European plain, to the Landes  along the coast between the mouth of the Gironde and the Pyrenees, composed of sandy heaths and marshes.

Isolated Lowlands of Europe

Of these, two of large extent occur in the basin of the river Danube, separated by the gorge of the “Iron Gate,” formed where the Balkan and Carpathian ranges approach most closely. The upper plain, circled about on all sides by mountains, is that of Hungary, over which corn fields interchange with pastoral steppes well stocked with horses and cattle, sheep and swine, merging in some parts into marsh lands or into dusty sand flats. Where the plain begins to rise to the sunny hills, the Hungarian grape ripens to yield its famous wines. The lower plain of the Danube, which might be called a branch of the vast Russian lowland, is that of Roumania, with its far-stretching treeless heaths and pasture lands supporting great herds of cattle and horses, passing into wide reed swamps which characterize the delta of the Danube.

Corresponding to the Roumanian plain is that of Lombardy, perhaps the most productive region of Europe, in which the irrigated meadows may be six times mowed in the year, and where wheat, maize, and rice, and wine and dairy produce, are yielded in vast quantity.

Mountains and Highlands

Europe presents two great mountain regions; a southern, extending along the northern border of the Mediterranean from Turkey to Spain, in continuation of the chief line of the heights of Asia; and a northern, appearing in Scandinavia and Britain, separated from the former by the western branch of the great lowland that we have been noticing.

The Alpine Region

The Alps  rise as the central mass of the southern mountain region of Europe. The many groups comprised in this series of heights which curve round the plain of Lombardy arrange themselves into three generally recognized divisions:—The Western Alps, the groups lying between the Gulf of Genoa and the Little St. Bernard Pass; the Central Alps, extending from the St. Bernard to the pass named the Stilfser Joch; and the Eastern Alps beyond this. The central mass is the highest, rising with majestic forms from deep valleys up to sharp riven peaks, high above the line of permanent snow; its wings to east and west decrease in elevation towards the Gallic Sea and the plain of the Danube on either side. All the less jagged heights are mantled in snows, from which glacier streams descend. The largest of these ice streams are the Aletsch glacier from the group of the Finsteraarhorn, and those of the frequented valley of Chamounix, descending from Mont Blanc, the monarch of the Alps.

Famous Alpine Passes

The passes of the Alps have always had importance as the gates of traffic from North Italy to the rest of Europe; some of them, such as the two St. Bernard Passes, are under the protection of friendly monks; but railroads have now been constructed to pass the great barrier by the tunnels of Mont Cenis in the west, of St. Gothard in the center, and the Simplon farther east (opened 1906), by a line over the Brenner Pass from Innsbruck to Bozen, and by an eastern road over the Semmering from Vienna to Graz.

Southward the Alps fall steeply to the low plain of Lombardy, but a mass of lesser highlands and plateaus extends northward from them over central Europe to the border of the plain of Northern Germany.

Outlying Spurs of the Alps

The first division is the long limestone range of the Jura, with its magnificent pine forests. Beyond, bordering the Rhine valley, rises the Schwarzwald, or Black Forest, then the Odenwald  and the Rhön  mountains, leading into the Vogelsberg  and Taunus, and to the outlying Harz, the farthest north of the central European heights. Turning eastward, we reach the Thüringerwald, the Fichtel Gebirge, and the metalliferous or Erz Gebirge ; then across the Elbe, in Saxon Switzerland, come the Riesen Gebirge  (the Giant Range), and the Sudetic Mountains, extending to the Oder. Turning south again towards the Alps, the Mährische Höhen  (the Mavorian heights) are reached, and joining with these to close in the high valley of the Upper Elbe, the high Böhmerwald, the forest mountain of Bohemia. Almost all the area of South Germany, including Würtemberg, Bavaria, and Bohemia, enclosed by these heights, which extend northward from the Alpine mass, is high plateau land.

Highlands of France

Westward of these central European heights, beyond the Rhone, rises the range of the Cevennes  in France, extending from near the Pyrenees northward through the Forez  and Côte d'Or  to the plateau of Langres, to the Vosges  and Hardt, the undulating plateau of Ardennes  covered with beech and oak wood, and the volcanic group of the Eifel, skirting the Rhine valley. More centrally in France, contrasting with the adjoining long range of the Cevennes, the volcanic cones and domes of Auvergne  rise from bare lava-covered plateaus.

Pyrenees and Spanish Peninsula

Shut off from the rest of Europe by the Pyrenees  whose high and close barrier admits easy passage only round its flanks, is the Spanish Peninsula, which, excepting in its river valleys, and along some parts of the seaboard, is a continuous highland. A number of mountain ranges, supporting broad plateaus between, traverse it from east to west. Along its northern edge the Cantabrian  mountains prolong the high line of the Pyrenees; centrally rise the Sierras of Guadarrama  and Estrella ; farther south the Sierra Morena, and along the Mediterranean border the Sierra Nevada  of Granada. Throughout the summer the table-lands of Castile, bare and treeless, are burned up by the hot sun, but through the chilly winter they are swept by violent winds. The herdsman who wears a broad-brimmed hat for protection against the excessive heat during the day, a few hours later puts on his thick warm cloak; in the same way, after the almost rainless summer, follows a cold winter with ice and snow.

Mountains of Italy and the Balkans

The Apennines  prolong the Maritime Alps, and run like a backbone through the peninsula of Italy. Cleared of its natural wood, and scorched by the southern sun, this range is generally dreary and barren in aspect, like a long wall, with few peaks or salient points to recall the magnificent forms of the Alps. The volcano of Vesuvius, the only active one in all the continental part of Europe, rises over the coast plain of Campania.

The lines of the eastern wing of the Alps are prolonged north-eastward across the Danube by the grand curve of the wooded Carpathians  and Transylvania Alps, circling round the plain of Hungary. Southeastward they branch into the many ranges which support between them the confused mass of highlands of Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Montenegro, of Servia and Albania. Farther on these heights take more definite shape in the range of the Balkan  which runs east to the Black Sea, in the mass of the Rhodope  mountains extending south-eastward to the Ægean Sea, and in the Pindus  range, which gives shape to Greece, and runs out into the Mediterranean in the peninsulas of the Morea.

Mass of the Caucasus

Distinct from all the rest of the southern highlands of Europe stands the huge mass of the Caucasus, the natural frontier of Europe on the southeast, rising like a wall from the flat isthmus between the Black Sea and the Caspian. Its close parallel chains are united by high plateaus cut into by deep narrow transverse gorges of extreme depth. Though attaining far greater heights than the Alps and reaching several thousand feet above the limit of perennial snows, the glaciers and snow-fields of the Caucasus are small and insignificant in comparison with those of the Alps. This is owing to the dryness of the region in which they stand, and the small snowfall over them.

Scandinavian Mountain Groups

In the north European mountain region the mass of heights which form the Scandinavian peninsula are by far the most important. These present no definite range, but are rather a collection of broad plateaus topped with moor or snow-field, cut into by long steep-walled “fiords” on the Atlantic side, and resembling the Alps in the pine woods of their slopes, in their lakes and extensive glaciers, though they are nowhere of very great altitude.

The main field, which is applied to most of the Scandinavian mountain groups, suggests their plateau form; the Hardanger FieldYmes Field, and Dovre Field, with the Jostedals Brae  (or ice-brae—glacier), are the most prominent of the southern heights of Norway; in the north the broken heights which run along the Atlantic and Arctic borders of the peninsula have the general name of the Kiölen. The heather-covered hills of Scotland—the Grampians and west coast mountains—as well as those of Cumberland and Wales farther south in Great Britain, belong to the same system as that of the Scandinavian heights.

Surface of European Islands

We have formerly noticed that almost all the European islands are high. In the Mediterranean we find the island of Crete reaching to upwards of eight thousand feet in Mount Ida ; Sicily, with its volcano of Etna  nine thousand six hundred and fifty-two feet; Sardinia with Mount Gennargentu  (six thousand two hundred and ninety feet); Corsica, with Monte Rotondo  (nine thousand and sixty-five feet); Iceland, on the border of the Arctic seas, recalling Norway in its grand fiords, rises high in its mass of volcanic jökulls (Oræfa, six thousand four hundred and eight feet; Hecla, five thousand one hundred and ten feet), covered in between with accumulated snows and glaciers; Spitzbergen's  black peaks, which give its name, also rise high from its white glacier fields.

Chain of the Ural

Separate and distinct in character and direction from the mountains of the rest of Europe, is the long chain of the Ural, rich in gold, platinum, iron, and copper. It takes its name probably from the Tartar word meaning “belt,” which well expresses the length and continuity of this remarkable line of heights, stretching along the eastern border of the great European plain for more than twelve hundred miles. In height, however, the Ural is insignificant. Another separated height, that of the forest-covered Valdai hills in Western Russia, would scarcely be worthy of mention among the European highlands if it did not form the water-parting of the greatest of European rivers, the Volga.