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History of Europe


The History of human settlement on the European continent begins between 45,000 & 25,000 BC. But the first ever written account of civilization is 'The Iliad' & 'The Odyssey', that talk about the Greek civilization were published around 700 BC. Though civilization existed before this time in various places like Crete where the Minoan civilization flourished and also in Italy where a lineage of Etruscan kings ruled, there is no literary evidence available. So we begin our analysis of history from  the Greek civilization.


They are ancient Greek epic poems written by Poet Homer, that talks about  the Trojan wars, between Sparta & Troy. There was a fierce rivalry between the Greeks and Trojans. But the reason for the final battle has been considered to be the abduction of the Spartan queen, Helen to Troy by a Trojan prince, Paris. This enraged her husband and the King of Sparta, Agamemnon; who in collaboration with his brother led the entire army of all Greek states on Troy. In spite of their numbers the Greeks were losing the battle. Finally they had an idea. They constructed a huge horse like structure that could accommodate hundreds of soldiers and then they acted as if they had retreated. In celebration of their victory, the Trojans dragged the horse inside their walls. That night those men came out of their hiding place and opened the fort’s doors for the Greek army that marched in and burned down the entire city of Troy.


The civilization that existed in the various city states of ancient Greece like Athens, Thebes, Sparta and Cornith is referred as the Greek civilization. It became very famous for its rich culture & philosophy that left a very deep impression on European culture, language, traditions as well as ideas in the years to come. Famous philosophers like Plato & Socrates lived during this time & it could be said that arguments & discussions were in the air. In their free time most Greeks came together and indulged in discussions about various topics. Socrates was imprisoned and later killed due to his revolutionary ideas that often challenged authority. City-states of Athens & Cornith became the center of maritime trade as well as other commercial activities in Europe. As some of these states gained superiority over others a conflict began among all these states. One of the major conflicts was the Pelopnnesian war between Athens & the other Greek states under the leadership of Sparta. Sparta finally won this war & with this the glorious period of Classical Greece ended. After this Greece was dominated & captured by King Philip II of Macedonia; who after the annexation tried to adopt the Greek culture. Alexander the Great was the Son of Philip.


He has often been considered the greatest warrior in the history of mankind. He set out from his small kingdom of Macedonia to become the Master of the World. He brought the Persian supremacy to an end and became the lord of Asia. He expanded his empire up to Egypt and North Africa in the south and up to India in the East. Finally he was defeated by the Indian king Porus. After his death in 323 BC, his empire disintegrated into the hands of his various Generals. Ptolemy took control of Egypt, which flourished under his successors. Alexander once quoted “There is nothing impossible to the one who will try” & his life is the finest example of this.


The birth of the Roman Empire can be dated back to 509 BC where on the banks of River Tiberius, two brothers, Remus & Romalus, founded the city of Rome. According to a myth, these brothers were brought up by a pack of wolves. For years after its inception, Rome functioned as a republic controlled by its Senate. Finally, in 44 BC after the death of Julius Caesar, his nephew Augustus became the first Roman Emperor. After this Rome became the largest & the most important city in the world.


He was a General in the Roman army. He has been credited for Roman victory  in the Punic Wars against Carthage (A southern kingdom that was the greatest rival to the Roman Empire). He was to become the first Roman Emperor but was murdered during his accession ceremony by his friends.  His death raged a civil war with his nephew, Augustus on one side & Caesar's murderers on the other.


She was one of the last Egyptian Pharaohs and has often been called the most beautiful woman ever  born. Caesar fell in love with her but she betrayed him. Marc Antony, the closest ally of Caesar and most eligible candidate to the Roman throne fell for the swindle of her beauty. They both jointly ruled Egypt till they were defeated by Augustus & Egypt was merged into the Roman Empire.


Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity was born in. He  questioned the prevailing Pagan religion and stressed the existence of only one god. Christianity began to gain popularity and as a result, the Roman Empire began to persecute the Christians. Even then, Christian faith spread to various corners of the World.


Gladiator sport was the favorite pastime of the Roman people. Many slaves were brought from different corners of the Empire & they were supposed to fight each other in gigantic arenas like the colosseum. This brutality of the Romans was avenged by a slave named Spartacus, who freed himself and others from the Roman clutches & proclaimed that slaves should be freed & are eligible to equal rights. For the next three hundred years, Rome grew to become the most powerful kingdom in the world and the center of trade and commerce.

305 AD

The Roman Empire had expanded beyond limits impossible to manage. For administrative & political ease the Emperor Diocletian divided the empire into two separate empires, the eastern & the Western, each ruled by a separate king.

313 AD

The Eastern emperor Constantine the Great passed the Edict of Milan that allowed people to legally practice Christianity as a faith.

476 AD

The Barbaric tribes from the North like the Goths & the Franks had been continuously attacking the Western Roman Empire. The place of the monarchy had since long been only that of a figurehead. Finally the Roman Empire fell & Rome was burned down by the attacking tribes. After this various parts of Europe were controlled by various tribes like the Franks of France.


Even after the collapse of Rome in the west, a new power was breeding in the East at Constantinople under the deep influence of Greek culture. Christianity was the main religion of the Empire. These emperors were never at good terms with the Muslim rulers in Asia & often indulged in conflicts with them. This empire lasted till 1453 AD, when the Muslim Turks took over  Constantinople.


In Western Europe, a new Christian empire was breeding under the leadership of a king named Charlamange in Germany. He was coronated by the Pope. This empire lasted till the 19th century & played an important role in the Crusades. So it was called the Holy Roman Empire.


On account of the theological & political differences arising between The East & The West, the Christian church disintegrated into the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church.


William the Great of Normandy in France conquered territory in England & in this way English culture was deeply influenced by French ideas as well as the French language.


It was the first document forced onto an English King by a group of his subjects in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect their privileges. Under this no freeman could be punished accept under the law of the land. So it can be considered the first ever attempt to provide the people with constitutional rights.

1095-1291 AD: THE CRUSADES

In the importance of the Roman Catholic Church in European politics increased. At the same time the dominance of Muslim emperors was increasing not only in the Mediterranean but also in parts of Europe like Spain. The Muslim Turks had captured the Holy land of Jerusalem and disallowed pilgrims from visiting it. As a result, inspired by the Pope, Christian kingdoms in Europe led by the Franks & the Holy Roman Empire in Germany sent their men to free the pious land of Jerusalem & these missions were called the Holy wars or the Crusades. Even though these wars were meant to fight the Turks, unity of the Christians broke down and they ended up plundering each other's kingdoms. For example the fourth crusade ended with the sacking of Constantinople. Many of the European cities like Venice prospered due to the spoils of these raids. They accumulated huge wealth by plundering other lands during the Crusades.


The Middle Ages in Europe are better known as the Dark Ages as they were dormant times for scientific innovation & new thinking. The society was unusually bent towards religion. The Pope commanded the loyalty of the people. Apart   from  this, around 1350 the Black Death or the Plaque proved to be a setback that killed one third of the population of  Europe. As a result, the economy failed to grow during this time.


This was an internal power conflict between the French royalty and a faction of royal lineage supported by England. Finally the English, who claimed the throne, were defeated and banished.

JOAN   OF   ARCS   (1412-1431AD)

During the Hundred Years war, Joan who was the daughter   of a peasant she had god in her dream who told her about how England can be defeated. Following this, Joan led the French army to victory becoming a French war heroine and earned her title. Later during the Dark ages she was framed to be a witch and  burned to death.


The Turkish Empire under the Ottoman Sultans was strengthening in various areas of Asia Minor & Turkey.  Finally after the capture of Constantinople, they laid the foundation of an empire that was to exist till the 20th century.


It means 'Rebirth' & refers to the rebirth of knowledge & free thinking that had lost its importance due to the dominance of religion. Newer & better ideas spread into various fields like literature, art, science, philosophy, politics & religion etc. In art, various painters like Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Bernini etc. introduced new liberalist ideas & concepts. For example, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with naked bodies of humans; such ideas were often proved to be offensive to the Church. Similarly, Nicholas Copernicus gave the first map of the Solar System with the Sun at its center & Charles Darwin gave the Theory of Evolution. Many of these scientific breakthroughs were contradictory to the  ideas & theories promoted by the Catholic Church. This initially led to differences of opinion that later took the form of conflicts between the new thinkers and Church that was not ready to give up its orthodox ideas. The people were gradually losing their confidence in the Church due to its corrupt & unjust practices. Finally in 1517, a clergyman named Martin Luther King gave shape to this movement against the church by hanging a declaration of new ideas on his church door called the '95' thesis that became the basis of the Protestant reformation movement. Various other Protestants like John Calvin, Zwingli etc. propagated the movement through Europe.


This was a very important aspect of the Renaissance era. After the Muslim capture of Constantinople, the trade with Asia came to a standstill & so many sailors and explorers set out to find a sea route to the East. In 1498, Vasco Da Gama made his way to India through the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa. Columbus discovered the American continent in 1492. In this way, trade with Asia, Africa & America contributed significantly to the economy & later led to the colonization of these lands by European settlers.



He was an Italian polymath: painter,sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer.  Some of his most famous works include the design of the helicopter, The Mona Lisa, The Vitruvian man, &  the Last Supper.

MICHEL ANGELO (1475-1564 AD) 


He was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer. He has often been called the Renaissance man. Few of his most famous works are the sculpture of David, the Wall of the Sistine Chappel, The Last Judgement etc.

SIR ISAAC NEWTON (1643 -1727 AD) 


He was an English scientist, who has been considered to be the greatest physicist and mathematician of all times due to his contribution to the Theory of gravitation as well as the various fields of mathematics especially Calculus.


He was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works consist of about 38 plays like "Julius Caeser", "The Merchant of Venice", 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems.


During the reign of Charles I, the Parliamentarians executed the king and established a Commonwealth of England under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. During this time, UK was ruled by the Parliament but due to internal power conflicts, the Commonwealth later became the protectorate with Cromwell as the Lord Protector. Cromwell's death left the army leaderless and the parliament in a state of despair. Finally, Charles II returned as the monarch of England but the system of government followed thereon was a Parliamentary Monarchy, giving equal power to the king as well as the Parliament. Though this revolt was unsuccessful, it has a very important role in the story of liberty & democracy.


The French society was divided into various classes. The poor were oppressed and were forced to live in terrible conditions when the royalty was enjoying luxuries. The economy was suffering from a depression and the king Louis  XVI was inefficient and unconcerned with the condition of his subjects. In response to such callous attitude of the king, the French workers and farmers united and decided to bring the monarchy to an end. In 1789, they stormed a prison fortress called Bastille, this marked the beginning of the revolution & finally 3 years later, they overthrew Louis and executed him. After this a weak governing body was established to look after the affairs. Seeing an opportunity, Austria & Prussia waged war on France. Initially the French won, but soon their position became worse off. This led to a period of distrust & terror and finally resulted in a civil war. This power struggle took the lives of many people & the guillotine became the symbol of the period.



In this period of distress, a young general named Napoleon took over the control of the ailing French state.He brought order in the state affairs & was proclaimed the French emperor. Under his leadership, France fought  various   European powers & attained a dominant position in Europe. His  position weakened  after his Russian invasion, in which he faced a major defeat. As a result he was exiled in an island called Elba. He soon escaped to fight his final battle at Waterloo against the allied forces of England & Austria, which he lost.


This period witnessed major changes in various industrial technologies used in manufacturing goods transport, mining etc. During this time the total income of the world increased by 60 times. Manual labor intensive technology was replaced by automation. James Watt discovered the Steam engine that found various applications in textile & other industries. George Stephenson introduced the first railway engine called 'The Rocket'. This gave Europe an edge in industrial production. The growth of Europe was also fuelled due to colonization as their colonies gave them a ready market to sell their products.


Karl Marx and Frederick Engles in the book "The Communist manifesto" laid down the idea of Socialism.   Marx believed that human history is full of class struggles between the poor and the rich. Capitalism that was born out of the industrial revolution led to a situation in which the poor  were getting poorer and the rich richer, so he gave the way out of these problems through Socialism. This theory lays stress on the idea of unionism to give a say to the workers in company management and to distribute resources equally according to the need of every person and not as per their ability.


Influenced by the French revolution & other nationalist sentiments, the Italian people wanted a unified nation of their own. The major opposition was the Austrian empire that held the northern part of Italy.  Finally under the leadership of Garibaldi & Mazzini, Italy was united. Victor Emanuel II, an associate freedom fighter became the first king of unified Italy.


Due to breakdown of certain diplomatic communication between France & Prussia, the French declared war on Prussia, as a result the other German territories agreed to help. Finally the Germans won & this  gave birth to a unified Germany under the rule of King Wilhem I of Prussia. Otto Won Bismarck, a minister of Prussia, oversaw the unification became the First German Chancellor.


This military conflict involving all major military powers of the time, centered in Europe is called the Great War or the First World War. It was fought between two military groups, the allied powers that consisted of England, France, Russia etc & the Central powers that comprised of Germany, Austria & the ottoman empire of the Middle East. The immediate cause for the war is considered to be the assassination of the crown prince to the throne of Austria. As a result a major conflict arose that took the lives of millions of young soldiers. Finally, the Central powers lost their dominance and began to fall apart. In 1917, Russia left the war & the US took its place driving the Germans out of their captured lands. Finally the German forces surrendered & the allied forces won the war.


The Russian empire under the Tsar Nicholas II was actively involved in the war, when  a revolution  to dethrone the monarch &  convert Russia into a sovereign state took place. It was a communist revolution, led by Vladamir Lenin and influenced by the Socialist ideas of Karl Marx. It took place on 7th November & in its aftermath, the Tsar was banished & Russia left the war after a peace treaty with  Germany. The other leaders of the movement were Joseph Stalin, Trotsky etc. After the death of Lenin, Stalin developed the mechanism to support socialism through central planning and strict regulation of the markets.


This Treaty was signed with Germany, as per which it was held responsible for the war and was forced to  pay a sum equivalent to 31.4 billion marks as war damages to all the nations involved. This treaty also  gave birth to the League of Nations to maintain peace in the world.


In the  aftermath  of the First World   War, the   German economy was in a very poor condition tarnished under the burden of debt & with very high inflation. Hitler used this sorry state of affairs to gain the popularity   of the   people   & blamed   the   Jews   and   other minorities for the problems. His party   the   National   Socialist German workers party or The NAZI was often involved in acts of violence against the Jews. He became  the chancellor of Germany & soon a dictator.


He was a German-Swiss theoretical physicist, philosopher and author who has often been called the Father of Modern physics credited for the Theory of Relativity & the Photoelectric effect. His famous equation of E=MC2 contributed greatly to the invention of the Nuclear bomb.

1939-1945: THE WORLD WAR II

In early September of 1939, Hitler's Germany captured Poland and soon declared war on England & France. This evolved into a global conflict with USA, Britain, France & Russia (The allied forces) on one side and the Axis powers comprising of Japan, Germany & Italy on the other. As the war continued, Germany captured major part of Europe including France, Czechoslovakia etc. Germany was fighting on three fronts, the Eastern front with Russia, on the Western front with England & in North Africa with USA. Soon the game changed and German armies were forced to retreat as they started losing out in North Africa & in the east. The final blow to Hitler came in 1944, when thousands of allied troops landed on the French coast at Normandy and started marching inwards to vacate the French territory from German occupation. Then in 1945 when the allied armies were at the walls of Berlin, Hitler committed suicide and with this the war in Europe came to an end. With this the European territory was divided into two parts, the Communist Eastern part under Soviet Russia and the Western part that supported the allies. The World War II took the lives of about 73 million soldiers and civilians.


He   was   an   Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism. He came to power in Italy and supported Hitler in the War.



He was a British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the  Second World War (WWII). He is widely regarded as one of the great wartime leaders.


This treaty marks the establishment of the European Union. It was first signed by only 6 nations: West Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg & Netherlands. It aimed to prevent internal conflicts between these nations & also to increase economic co-operation.


During the Cold war, the Soviets had constructed this wall to separate western Germany from the Eastern part that was under their control. Then after the fall of Soviet Union under Gorbechov, this wall was brought down as a sign of peace between the US and USSR. This reunified Germany.


The European Union evolved into a major organization with many member nations. Finally 12 countries that were EU members accepted a common currency.


The EU saw its biggest enlargement to date when Malta,   Cyprus, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary joined   the Union. Currently, the EU is the   most   powerful union in the world with 27 member countries and a GDP of 16.


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