GEOGRAPHY OF EUROPE:
A TEACHING LEARNING UNIT
Europe is a vitally important region for geography study in the 2000's for many reasons. For example, nations who have been in conflict for many years are now cooperating in political, economic, military and other ways. It is a region with over 580 million people who are highly educated, skilled, productive and have a high level of living. Several of Europe's countries are the best and strongest allies of the United States. Of historical importance is the fact that Europe was the origin of the American colonialists and, through conflict and cooperation, our culture has been greatly influenced by Europe. Finally, through various treaties and economic agreements the health and security of the United States is related to its interactions with Europe.
There are many good reference sources for a geographic study of Europe. The general outline of the content part of this unit is one the author developed and has taught for over 40 years. It is an intellectual tool for organizing data, asking questions and making relationships for any place and may be found at the website of the Florida Geographic Alliance (http://getp.freac.fsu.edu/fga/) Here the model, or outline, is explained and discussed. Much of the content of this unit has come from the college geography textbook CONCEPTS AND REGIONS IN GEOGRAPHY, written by Drs. H. J. deBlij and Peter Muller. It is published by John Wiley and Sons and is available with a very helpful set of teaching materials. It is suggested that a teacher, who wishes to teach this unit, purchase several of these texts for reference and research activities. Additional help may be gained from a visit to http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook, a factual reference on every nation in the world developed by the Central Intelligence Agency of the U.S. government.
Teachers and students should feel free to use this entire unit, not as a formal guide to follow, but as a series of suggestions to start from, both in content, and as a way to become familiar with the methodology of geography. From the unit approach, the content, the use of maps, and teaching/learning strategies this study should help students and teachers learn how to study a region of the world. This is achieved by knowing what questions to ask, how to organize data, and how to use the methodological concepts, or principles of areal distribution and spatial interaction to analyze a country (or any non-political region). This is critical in order to better understand other places and current affairs as an informed citizen.
WHAT MAKES THIS A GEOGRAPHY UNIT?
This unit is a geographic study because it is the examination of a defined place, the continent called Europe. It is a spatial analysis of selected aspects of the region. It includes the study of : Location and Physical Characteristics; Population and Cultural Characteristics; History; Major Economic Activity and Land Use; and, some of the Problems and Prospects of the region. Maps, the primary tool of the geographer, are used to show the specific location of some factors and the general, or relative, location of other data. The geographic methodologies of areal distribution and spatial interaction of phenomena are used to provide analysis and understanding to the place called Europe. Areal distributution looks at aspects such as density, pattern, diffusion, dispersion of phenomena. This also demands good place description. When looking at spatial relationships, or interaction, the geographer examines the relationships of phenomena within place and the interaction of places. It is the use of these methodologies, not the content studied, that makes our study geography.
Cognitive: (Note: Each of the concepts and generalizations that follow
provides a cognition objective) In addition, several additional cognitive
objectives can be identified by understanding the methods of geographic
study. These apply to the study of every world region, large or small.
To understand that:
- Location, both absolute and relative, has an influence on the physical and
cultural character of a place.
- Every place has a unique set of physical characteristics which suggest and
limit man's activity (or lack thereof) but it does not dictate what humans do on the land.
- Every place has a unique set of cultural characteristics which, as they interact
with the physical setting, gives each place a spatial personality. (Note: Every nation, or any other place, has a "spatial personality." This is the sum of their people's strengths, weaknesses, needs, and objectives, which add up to a personality or character for that place. No two paces have the same "spatial personality."
- Each nation has a unique history which contributes to spatial personality.
- Every place has some level of economic activity based on their natural resources and the attitudes, objectives and technical skills of its people.
- Every place has a unique set of problems and prospects, conditions that encourage or hinder the population in their quest for an acceptable level of living.
- Each of the above factors, or characteristics, physical, cultural, historical, economic, and problem and prospect can be assigned a location. That is, it can be mapped. It is the function of geography to analyze and explain that spatial distribution and interaction.
To be able to:
- The significance of the phrase "Europe is a peninsula of peninsulas."
- The effect the North Atlantic current has on the climate and culture of
- The factors that influenced the industrial revolution in Europe and
its spatial diffusion.
- The impact of economic wealth on the population growth in Europe in the early 2000's.
- The European movement away from national conflict to cooperation.
- The areal differentiation of cultural and physical phenomena within Europe.
- The impact of the physical environment on the economic and social systems of the various nations.
- The impact of the Marshall Plan on the political and economic health of the receiving nations following World War Two.
- The obstacles each nation had to overcome to adopt the Euro.
- The welfare policies of the EU to help underdeveloped areas of the member states and the Mediterranean countries outside the Union.
Relative Location- The regional position or situation of a place relative to the position of other places.
Infrastructure- The foundations of a society: urban centers, transport networks, communications, energy distribution systems, farms, factories, mines, and such facilities as schools, hospitals, postal services, and police and armed forces.
Nation State- A country whose population possesses a substantial degree of cultural homogeneity and unity.
Centrifugal Force- A term employed to designate forces That tend to divide a country-such as internal religious, linguistic, ethnic, or ideological differences.
Centripetal Force- Forces that unite and bind a country together-such as a strong national culture, shared Ideological objectives, and a common faith.
Spatial Interaction---The interaction of phenomena within a space, or the interaction of spaces or places.
Areal Distribution---The location or distribution of phenomena within an area or place.
Complimentarity- Exists when to regions, through an exchange of raw materials and/or finished products, can specifically satisfy each other's demands.
Primate City- A country's largest city-ranking atop the urban hierarchy-most expressive of the national culture and usually (but not always) the capital city as well.
Site- The internal locational attributes of an urban center, including its local spatial organization and physical setting.
Situation- The external locational attributes of an urban center; its relative location or regional position with reference to other non-local places.
Conurbation- General term used to identify a large multi- metropolitan complex formed by the coalescence of two or or more major urban areas.
Balkanization- The fragmentation of a region into smaller, often hostile political units.
Shatterbelt- Region caught between stronger, colliding external cultural-political forces, under persistent stress, and often fragmented by aggressive rivals.
Irredentism- A policy of cultural extension and potential political expansion by a state aimed at a community of its nationals living in a neighboring state.
Distance Decay (can overcome complimentarity)- The various degenerative effects of distance on human spatial structures and interactions.
Mercantilism- Protectionist policy of European states during sixteenth to eighteenth centuries that promoted a state's economic position in the contest with rival powers.
Value added- The increased value added to a product or resource due to the manufacturing process or a change in location.
-Europe has been called a peninsula of peninsulas located at the western
extremity of the Eurasian landmass.
-Its location has, historically, allowed maximum efficiency for contact with the rest of the world.
-Historically, several European countries established colonial empires that, even today, give Europe an important role in economic and political affairs.
-The natural environment has much diversity and is endowed with many valuable mineral resources.
-The various regions of Europe are very different and therefore produce different goods to sell. The differences from place to place is called spatial differentiation and the transfer of goods from where they are produced to where they are needed, is functional specialization.
-Europe's level of manufacturing, education, levels of living, and general levels of development decrease from west to east and from north to south.
-Several European nations are plagued by centrifugal forces that include separatist feelings of some of their citizens and by immigrant problems stirred by weak economic conditions.
-Europe's population is generally well off, highly urbanized, well educated, and enjoys long life expectancies.
-European families are having very few children, natural increase is zero and some nations are having a population decline.
-Europe has taken great strides toward political and economic integration in order to take its place as a strong competitive region.
I. Location and Physical Characteristics
a. Location- Mathematical and Relative Eurasia, Peninsula of Peninsulas, North Atlantic Drift, Problem of Eastern boundary
b. Landforms- Western uplands, North European Plain, Alpine System, Central Uplands. Rivers, Seas, Islands Thames, Rhine, Rhone, Seine, Elbe, Po, Oder, Vistula, Danube, Dneiper, Volga
c. Climate, Vegetation, Soils Gulf Stream ( North Atlantic Drift), Humid temperate (no dry season),Continental (humid cold), Cold Polar, Highland Vegetation-(From north to South) Tundra, Needleleaf, Mixed, Broadleaf (N. European Plain), Grass and trees(Iberian Peninsula),Grass (N. of Black Sea), Dry Shrub in S. Italy. Best soils in Chernozem belt with broad belt of medium fertile soils in N. European Plain (s. France north and east to Urals) Note relationship between climate, vegetation and soil.
d. Natural resources Coal in United Kingdom, French/German border, Ruhr, Czech, S. Poland, Donetsk Basin Iron ore- U.K.(gone), Lorraine, Spain, Northern Scandinavia, Ukraine, SW Russia. Oil deposits- North Sea, Rumania (historic), Volga/Urals, Baku. Minor deposits of lead, bauxite, Zinc and copper.
II. POPULATION AND CULTURAL CHARACTERISTICS
a. Number (583million people in 39 countries)
b. Urbanization and higher per capita income influence families to have fewer children. This is happening in Europe, particularly Western Europe.
c. Ethnic Character- Teutonic: English, Scandinavian and German groups; Romanic: Western Med. and France: Slavic: Western and eastern; Greek; Hungarian.
d. Education, wealth and health conditions are higher from west to east.
e. National and international culture (incl. religion, nationalism and internationalism)
III. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
a. Post Roman period (Dark Ages) O to 1000 AD
b. Pressure from East (Mongols)
c. Conflict- Crusades/ church 1000-1300s
d. Exploration/migration 1400-1700s (est.)
f. World Wars I and II
g. Post World War II (Marshall Plan) Cold War (direction of influence)
h. EEC, Common Market. European Union
When several countries join together to achieve economic, and social (including military) goals, it is called supranationalism. This has happened in
Europe where past history has included too much conflict and war. European nations, most of which are rather small, have decided cooperation is much more profitable than continual conflict. The following is a very generalized list of some of these efforts:
1947-52 Marshall Plan
1952 European Coal and Steel Community
1957 European Economic Community (Common Market) 6 nations
1967 European Community (all customs duties eliminated and common external tariffs were adopted).
1991 European Union (presently 15 members)
2002 A new monetary unit called the Euro adopted by 12 of the EU countries.
2003 FSU study in Europe
IV. MAJOR ECONOMIC ACTIVITY AND LAND USE
A. Overview main manufacturing areas.
London, UK Midlands, Stockholm/Helsinki, Brussels, Ruhr, Paris, Lyon, Zurich, Hamburg, Prague, Krakow, Milan, Vienna, Budapest, Donetsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Volga/Ural. Both the industrial and agricultural revolutions began in Europe. Industrialism encouraged the development of cities that, in turn, created markets for agricultural produce. Britain had developed an empire and a government policy, called mercantilism, which encouraged the strengthened the British economy through the imposition of tariffs and other laws which allowed the British to import low value raw materials which were manufactured in England and then sold as high value products all over the empire. This economic step call "value added" benefits the manufacturing country at the expense of the country that sells the raw materials. In general, the colonial policies of numerous European nations still impact areas in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Europe has a great variety of physical and cultural features, well developed resources, good infrastructure (roads, power, communications, sea ports) etc. These conditions encourage regional specialization and complementarity. Geographers call these relationships spatial interaction.
Several new centers that have gained much control over their economic policies are called "Four Motors of Europe". They are: (1) Rhone/Alps- France. Centered in Lyon; (2) Lombardy- Italy. Centered in Milan; (3) Catalonia- Spain. Centered in Barcelona; (4) Baden/Wurttemberg- Germany. Centered in Stuttgart.
Very general and brief comments about selected European countries are:
Germany- Dominant. Diversified economy. Marshall Plan important. Biggest challenge came when Western Germany chose to unify with former Communist Germany and was responsible for rebuilding a capitalist economy.
France- Large country. Long coasts, but no good deep water port. Mixed economy with a large agricultural sector. Tourism and specialty, high value products. Good social infrastructure.
Benelux is the name of the three small countries of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg, in west Europe. In 1944 they established a customs union and have been important to the development of the European Union (EU) of today. Brussels is a headquarters of the EU and is the administrative center for NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Europe's largest port is Rotterdam. It serves all of western Europe and has even taken over much shipping for the UK because the larger ships and a lack of modern port facilities make London and the Thames a port of the past.
Switzerland- One of oldest nations. Four languages. Specialized products such as watches, electronic goods, fine metal products, tourism and banking services.
Austria is also an Alpine state. It is a part of the core area because of its historic ties to Germany. However, it's capital Vienna, is in the extreme eastern part of the country and it has many ties to Hungary. The Danube River is a major transportation tie to the east. In fact, the Danube has been linked by canal to the Rhine in the west enabling a small ship or barge to go from the Black Sea to the North Sea through the heart of Europe.
British Isles- Industrial revolution dependent on water and coal power and iron (long gone). London dominant not only in UK, but in Europe, as a business center is now being challenged by several cities, most notably Frankfort. Rotterdam has replaced London as the important European port.
Ireland- 1840's potato famine caused poverty and mass migration. A new spurt of growth began in about 1980 and with an educated, cheap labor, the service based economy produces electronic parts and specialty goods and is now a healthy, growing economy.
North Europe- Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Estonia and Iceland. 25 million people. All have difficult environments, cold, poor soils, limited natural resources and long distances, which lead to economic isolation. However, they have democratic political systems, very high incomes, good social services (but very high taxes), healthy economies built on crafted, high value goods (specialized steel goods, for example) Norway and Denmark benefit from North Sea oil. These nations search for and found a way to meet the needs of the rest of Europe. (complimentarity). Estonia is still trying to escape from the pressures from Russia.
Mediterranean Europe includes Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta. The Med region is separated from the European core. It is south of the Alpine highlands of the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Transylvanian mountains. It has a very long coastline and includes many islands. In general this area does NOT share those characteristics of the North European countries such as high per capita income, and good social services. Of course, some islands of better living do exist. The Northern parts of Italy and Spain are the best examples.
Italy's progressive north includes Milan, the country's largest city, Venice, Florence and Turin. This area, sometimes referred to as the Po Valley, Has very modern industry, healthy agriculture and a classics based tourism industry. Some groups, called separatists, Have suggested that this part of the country become a new nation. The historically poor south of Sicily, Sardinia and lower part of the "boot" called Mezzogiorno get by through the transfer of money from the rest of Italy and the European Union. Rome is a political, religious and tourist center, the economic center has shifted north.
The Iberian Peninsula, Portugal and Spain, are boardered by the Pyrenees, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Straits of Gibraltar. Gibraltar, the territory, is governed by the United Kingdom. Spain has a growing economy based on some iron ore, electronics and tourism. A major problem is an ethnic conflict with the Basques in the north who wish to establish their own country. Violence is a common occurrence in this conflict.
Portugal has a weak economy based on the growing of some grains, fishing and wine production. Tourism and grants from the European Union are important to the stability of Portugal.
Greece and Cyprus are areas of potential conflict. Both have weak economies and threatening neighbors. The unstable Balkans region is an outside threat and a group called 17 November is a secret organization that bombs and murders almost at will. The Greek government seems to drag its feet when it comes to controlling these terrorists. Greece, by per capita income, is the poorest country in the European Union. Cyprus is an island divided between Greek and Turkish peoples who have a distinct dislike for each other.
Malta is the smallest nation in the Med. It has a rich and important history as a port, military base and outpost for many empires of the past. It served as a hospital base during the Crusades and was even mentioned in the Bible as the place where the apostle Paul was shipwrecked. It was very important in World War II as a base for the allied forces. Shipping and tourism give Malta a high standard of living.
Eastern Europe- Largest area of Europe and has the most countries outside the core. Each of the countries suffers some disadvantages due to being on the periphery of the region. From the North European Plain in the north to the rugged highlands in the south both the physical and cultural environments are characterized by diversity. The region has been blessed with many mineral resources and some good soils, but it has also been an area of convergence of many people for centuries. This mix of East
Asians, Middle Eastern people and various Western Europeans, a mix of ethnic and cultural differences has been the source of chronic conflict. The changing boundaries has led this area to be called a "shatter belt" and the resultant mixture of many cultures has been called "balkanization". The invasions of the Mongols, Romans, Crusaders, Muslims and Russians has made this region a battleground throughout history.
Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus make up the northern group of nations with the first three having access to the Baltic Sea. Poland is the stronger of these nations and has generally been agricultural in the north and industrial in the southeast. This industrial area became one of the most polluted areas of the world under the Soviet Union Communists. Agriculture, under the Soviets, was weakened and soil pollution is a major problem.
Latvia, historically, has been oriented to Western Europe and Riga is very much a representative city of that area although the Soviets dominated the economy and many Russians moved into the country. Nearly half of the population today is Russian. Lithuania has shared these problems plus the area of Kaliningrad was kept as a Soviet port on the Baltic and helped tie the countries economy to the East. Belarus has been a battleground for many years. It is very dependent on Russia economically and politically and is a very weak nation. Latvia and Lithuania hope to gain membership in the European Union.
The landlocked center of Eastern Europe includes the nations of Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The first two countries were together called Czechoslovakia before what is called the "velvet divorce" (a peaceful separation agreed to by both parties). Today, the Czech Republic is the leader in technology and a successful economy while Slovakia is the poorest state in the area. Prague, the capital of the Republic, is a modern city oriented to the west, especially Germany, by way of the Elbe River. Hungary has lost citizens to several of the sates around it. However, Hungary has a good economic system, good resource base and is among the frontrunners to join the European Union.
Of the countries facing the Black Sea, is Eastern Europe's most populous country, the Ukraine. In spite of often being caught between the east and the west, it is potentially an economically strong country that is agrarian west of the Dnieper River and urban, industrial and Russified to the east. Its problems are basically the instability of its government and stress caused by its past dependence on the Russian system. The Ukraine has access to international shipping lanes, good natural resources, good farm production, an educated and skilled labor force and a large domestic market. Its prime resource is its black, fertile soil, called by the Russian term Chernozem.
Moldova is an impoverished, landlocked country created by the Soviet Union. It has many problems due to its dependence on its neighbors and a population that is mainly Romanian and Russian. Romania and Bulgaria need economic and political reform. Both have an outlet on the Black Sea, but both are very poor and do not have many opportunities to improve their position.
Yugoslavia and its neighbors are a result of "devolution" a process whereby a country, or region, disintegrates into two or more parts. Yugoslavia splintered into five countries after the Soviet collapse. Conflict became intense due to hatred between Muslims and Christians, Serbs and other ethnic groups and the United States and the European Union became involved in the warfare. Slovenia has the best chance of gaining membership in the EU. The others, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and the Serb state, Yugoslavia are all in transition. They do not have stability in either government or economy and the region is a world trouble spot. Albania was a unique communist state that tried to go its own way without the Soviet Union and received much of its help from China. Today it is the only Muslim state in Europe and it is a very poor nation with an uncertain future.
B. Globalism and Tariffs
Each nation wishes to produce its goods as cheaply as possible, keep its workers employed, protect its markets, buy other countries goods at a low price and sell its goods as profitably as possible, etc. Many of these goals are contradictory. Using the cheap labor of a foreign country helps a company make a profit, but it also may put some of its own workers out of a job. A nation may place a tariff on some goods to protect its businesses, but it may get unhappy when another country does the same. The United States got into this bind in 2002.
The agrarian revolution preceded the industrial revolution and made it possible to support the growing and more urbanized populations of the 17th and 18th centuries. Many small town's serve as farm centers where the farmer lives and goes out to the fields each day. This is changing as corporate farming is causing larger farms and more mechanization is utilized. Some countries, particularly France which is agriculturally oriented with string farm unions, has fought the elimination or lessening of farm subsidies. The EU can feed itself with cooperation and planning.
From potatoes and cool climate crops in the north to Mediterranean, warm climate crops, Europe has a diversity that encourages trade of farm products (complimentarity). Denmark , a country with few resources, has developed a strong economy by producing chicken and pork and other foodstuffs needed by German manufacturing centers. A major farm problem is the soil and water pollution in several areas, particularly in the former Soviet nations.
D. Economic development is based on- peace, level of technology, fiscal soundness, imports and exports, natural resources, economic, political and social stability, travel infrastructure and size of market.
V. PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS
A.European Union- A European organization of 15 Nations that have decided to cooperate in an economic, political, social union. They have different reasons for unification. Many were too small to be economically or militarily successful while others learned from history that cooperation was more successful than warring with one another. This is an example of "supranationalism". The member countries are: Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Greece, Sweden, Finland and Austria. In 1999, eleven of the EU members formed the European Monetary Union which eliminated the existing currencies and adopted the euro, a new form of currency. The main nation that chose not to join the monetary Union was the United Kingdom. People traveling in much of the EU do not now have to have visas or passports and within the fifteen, they do not have to go through the effort to have their currency changed. Some have predicted that supranationalism will develop into a United States of Europe. The EU includes 380 million people and represents the largest world market and produces about 40% of the world's exports. Other near neighbors are petitioning the EU for membership.
Iceland is negotiating for membership in the EU. A problem is the drafting of a fishing policy Iceland can accept. Ten countries are ahead of Iceland for consideration for membership, so it will be 5-10 years before they can be considered.
Turkey is another country asking to be included but several problems exist, including human rights issues (with the Kurds), and border conflicts with Greece, an existing member. Turkey has been a strong member of NATO ( North American Treaty Organization) and it would give the EU a presence in the Middle East with borders on Syria, Iraq and Iran, all Muslim countries.
An important policy of the EU has been development aid to the countries bordering on the south and east Mediterranean Sea. Over 810 million dollars in aid has gone for social and economic development. In this area the EU and the US are in disagreement over the existence of a Palestinian state with the EU for it and the US, in strong support of Israel, against.
B. Immigrants- Two factors (called push-pull factors) are presenting problems for most of the larger countries of Europe. First, prosperity after WWII created a situation that encouraged immigration of people from poor countries, especially former colonies, to do the low paying work in Europe. Then, as the economy slowed those people were thrown out of work and they were resented by the nationals who took their jobs. In addition, some immigrants came to be feared as terrorists. Examples of this situation are: South Asians and Caribbean people in the United Kingdom, Turkish people in Germany, Algerians in France, etc. Germany had very liberal immigration laws and many from the Balkans war zone flooded into that nation. Many have no jobs and need social assistance which places a burden on the host nation.
C. Rich and poor regions- A policy of the EU that has been a burden on many of the EU members, yet of crucial help to some, is the rule which requires the Union to give economic subsidies to poor areas within member countries. The United Kingdom has benefited from aid given to economically depressed urban areas. Germany was helped by aid to the eastern part of the country after unification. Other examples are to the long term, very poor areas of Italy, Portugal and Greece. This redistribution of wealth has been a political discussion for a long time. Some of the wealthy places do not want to share their hard earned capital with the less fortunate, while others feel that aid to a depressed area helps the group at large because people can become more productive and if they have money they will be a market for the richer part of the Union.
TEACHING AND LEARNING STRATEGIESFollowing are additional suggested teaching and learning strategies. Each of the psychomotor objectives are also strategies for working with this unit of learning.
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY OF COLLEGE LEVEL WORLD REGIONAL TEXTS
DeBlij, H.J. and Muller, P.O. CONCEPTS AND REGIONS IN GEOGRAPHY. John Wiley and Sons. 2002.
Rowntree, et.al. DIVERSITY AMID GLOBALIZATION. Prentice Hall. 2000.
Salter,et.al. WORLD REGIONAL GEOGRAPHY. Saunders College Publications. 1998.