Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance with an astonishing cultural heritage
The earliest concrete signs of written European culture can be found in Hellenic Greece. Homer (800 B.C.?), Hesiod (753 B.C.) and Kallinos (728 B.C.) are three of the oldest poets in Europe. The Romans believed that their city was founded in 753 B.C. Modern archaeologists and historians believe that the area of modern day Rome has been inhabited since at least 1000 to 800 B.C.
From 300 A.D. Christianity in Europe started to spread. Around 500 A.D. the Roman Empire collapsed, with France at that time coming under the rule of the Merovingians, Spain coming under occupation from North African Berber Muslims and other countries essentially invaded by various barbarian groups. In 714, the Carolingian empire was founded and lasted until 911 occupying large parts of Western Europe. The period after this date is often called the high-middle ages and lasted until around 1300 which saw a shift to urbanisation across Europe, initiating in Western Europe, and gave rise to universities. This was followed by the late middle ages which ended around 1500, giving birth to a period of European history normally refered to as the Renaissance or the re-birth. The people of this period actively rediscovered classical Greco-Roman culture and it was followed by a reformation of Christianity, with the rise of new sects in Europe, most notably Protestantism.
Between 1492 - 1972 many European nations (like Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Russia, France and the Netherlands) ruled or had ruled over most of the known world, with the exception of East Asia (Mainland China, Japan and Tibet) and parts of Antarctica. This was called colonialism and was stopped after WWII in favour of a more humane, liberal and cost-effective method called globalism.
The European Union
Europe, prior to the conclusion of World War II, was a region ravaged by large-scale "total war". National leaders realized after World War II that closer socio-economic and political integration was needed to ensure that such tragedies never happened again. Starting with humble beginnings, the EU's first inception was the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951. The founding group of nations were Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy and the Netherlands. Impressed with the results of the union, the six countries pressed on and in 1956 signed the Treaty of Rome, with the ultimate goal of creating a common market — the European Economic Community (EEC). In 1967, the union was formalised further with a the creation of a single European Commission, as well as a Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
Post-1967 the EU continued to rapidly grow; Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined in 1973. Greece joined in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986 and Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995. To date, Norway and Switzerland have resisted membership for historical and economic reasons. The EU pressed on with economic integration and launched the euro (€) across several nations on 1 January 2002. Currently, 18 nations, plus Kosovo, use the euro as their official currency. In addition, San Marino, the Vatican, Monaco, Andorra and Montenegro, which are also not EU members, have been granted official permission to use the euro.
In 2004, a further 10 countries joined the EU. These were: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. In 2007, Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU, and as of 2011, Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia, and Turkey are official applicants.
The Most Frequently Asked Travel Questions about Europe
Where To Stay & Best Hotels in Europe - updated Dec 2023
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