Europe Today Chapter 12
NorthernEurope Iceland’s huge chunks of moving ice are centuries old. Iceland, however, is not a bitter cold wasteland. It has a relatively mild climate even though it is near the Arctic Circle. The people of Iceland have adjusted to living in this climate and have made efficient use of the country’s resources.
The United Kingdom Main Idea Once the center of a worldwide empire, the United Kingdom has had a great impact on the rest of the world. Geography and You Have you ever seen a picture of Big Ben, the large clock tower located in London? Big Ben is a symbol of the United Kingdom. Read to find out more about this country in the North Atlantic.
The UK It is easy to be confused by the different names for the island nation off the northwest coast of mainland Europe. People sometimes call it Great Britain, the British Isles, or simply England. The true name, though, is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or the United Kingdom.
The UK The country includes four separate regions, which you can see in Three of them—England, Scotland, and Wales— make up the island of Great Britain. The fourth region, Northern Ireland, occupies a corner of the nearby island of Ireland. (The rest of that island is a completely independent country known as the Republic of Ireland.)
Who Am I? All the people of the United Kingdom can be described as British. Sometimes, though, people differentiate among them by referring to the English, the Scots, the Welsh, or the Irish.
An Island Great Britain is separated from the rest of Europe by the English Channel. Historically, this body of water both connected and protected the British. They were close enough to the mainland to share in European culture.
The Land Rolling fertile plains cover the southern and eastern areas of England. These plains support productive farms. Rough highlands and mountains are found to the north and west in Scotland and Wales. Poor soil and a cold climate make farming difficult in these areas, but many people herd sheep.
The Thames In southeastern England, the Thames (TEHMZ) River helped make London a center for world trade. Today, shipping is much less important than it once was, and the Thames riverbanks in London are lined with apartment buildings rather than warehouses. London, however, remains a world center of finance and business.
UK’s Economy • More than 250 years ago, British inventors and scientists sparked the Industrial Revolution. Today, the United Kingdom is still a major industrial and trading country. Manufactured goods and machinery are its leading exports.
The Government • The government of the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy. A king or queen serves as head of state and takes part in ceremonies, but elected officials actively run the government.
Human Rights • The British trace the roots of this form of government to the early 1200s. At that time, nobles forced King John of England to sign the Magna Carta, a document that took away some of the king’s powers. For example, the king could no longer collect taxes unless a group of nobles agreed. Also, people accused of crimes had a right to fair trials by their peers, or equals.
Rights Grow • Gradually, a lawmaking body called Parliament arose. In 1628 Parliament decided that King Charles I had misused his power. It forced him to sign the Petition of Right, which said that taxes could be enacted only if Parliament approved. In addition, the king could not imprison people unless they were convicted of a crime. As time passed, more limits were placed on the ruler’s authority.
Parliament • Today, the United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy as well as a constitutional monarchy. Voters elect members of Parliament, and the leader of the party with the most elected officials becomes prime minister, or head of the government. The prime minister can propose new laws, but only Parliament can put them into action.
Other Areas • Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have regional legislatures that have control over matters such as health care and education. The Scottish Parliament even has the power to raise or lower taxes in Scotland.
The People • With more than 60 million people, the United Kingdom is the third-most-populous country in Europe. Nearly 9 of every 10 people live in cities. London is by far the largest city
The Republic of Ireland • Main Idea Ireland is growing economically, but a territorial dispute remains unsettled. • Geography and You Why do you think Ireland is called the Emerald Isle? Read to find out about Ireland and its resources.
Ireland • When people speak of Ireland, they usually mean the Republic of Ireland. This is the Catholic country that occupies the southern five-sixths of the island of Ireland. The country won its independence from the United Kingdom in 1922. The British, meanwhile, keep control of Northern Ireland, where most people are Protestants.
The land • Ireland has the shape of a shallow bowl. The interior is a lowland plain with gently rolling hills. The coastal areas are rocky highlands and towering cliffs.
The low Lands • Ireland’s regular rainfall produces lush, green fields. The landscape stays so green year-round that the country is nicknamed the Emerald Isle. Low-lying areas are rich in peat, or plants that have partly decayed in water. Peat is dug from bogs, or low swampy lands. It is then dried and can be burned for fuel.
The Economy • Irish farmers raise sheep and cattle and grow vegetables such as sugar beets and potatoes. Potatoes were Ireland’s chief food in the 1800s.When disease destroyed the potato crop in the 1840s, more than one million people died. Another million left for the United States and other countries.
Productivity • The Irish work in industries that produce clothing, pharmaceuticals, and computer equipment. In recent years, the increased productivity of Irish workers has helped Ireland’s economy. Productivity is a measure of how much work a person does in a specific amount of time. When workers produce more goods, companies earn higher profits and the workers earn higher incomes.
The People • The Irish trace their ancestry to the Celts, who settled the island hundreds of years ago. Irish Gaelic, a Celtic language, and English are Ireland’s two languages. About 60 percent of the Irish live in cities or towns. Nearly one-third live in Dublin, the capital.
Conflict Over Northern Ireland The Irish are also strong Catholics, and many of their Catholic neighbors in Northern Ireland would like to unite with them. However, most Protestants in Northern Ireland—who are the dominant group there—wish to remain part of the United Kingdom. This dispute over Northern Ireland has led to violence, especially from the 1960s to the 1990s, which ends 1998
Scandinavia • Main Idea The Scandinavian countries have similar cultures and high standards of living. • Geography and You How would you like to live in a place where the sun never sets in midsummer? The Land of the Midnight Sun lies in the far north of Europe. Read on to see how the people there, known as Scandinavians, adapt to their environment.
Scandinavia the northernmost part of Europe, is made up of five nations: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. These countries have related histories and, except for Finland, share similar cultures. They also have standards of living that are among the world’s highest.
The Land • Although Scandinavia lies north, warm winds from the North Atlantic Current give its southern and western areas a relatively mild climate. Central Scandinavia has long, cold winters and short, warm summers. The northernmost part of Scandinavia near the Arctic Circle, however, has a very cold climate.
Scandinavia’s physical landscape • is quite varied because of its large size. Many islands dot the jagged coastlines. Lowland plains stretch over Denmark and the southern part of Sweden and Finland. Mountains form a backbone along the border of Norway and Sweden. Forests and lakes cover much of Sweden and Finland. In the far north, above the Arctic Circle, the land is barren tundra that remains frozen for most of the year.
Two countries—Iceland and Norway— • have special features. The island of Iceland sits in an area of the North Atlantic Ocean where two of Earth’s tectonic plates meet The two plates are pulling away from each other, allowing hot magma to rise to surface. This creates hot springs and geysers (GY∙zuhrs), which are springs that shoot hot water and steam into the air. Iceland also has about 200 volcanoes
Norway, • meanwhile, is known for its many beautiful fjords (fee∙AWRDS), or narrow inlets of the sea. Steep cliffs or slopes surround the fjords, which were carved by glaciers long ago. Fjords provide inland waterways that supply fish for food and export.
The Economies • The countries of Scandinavia are wealthy and prosperous. Their economies are based on a mix of agriculture, manufacturing, and service industries. Although farmland is limited, most Scandinavian countries produce most of the food they need. Fishing is an important industry, especially in Norway and Iceland.
For energy • Norway relies on its own oil and natural gas, taken from fields under the North Sea. Iceland taps the molten rock beneath its surface to make geothermal energy. This is electricity produced by natural underground sources of steam. Iceland also uses hydroelectric power. Finland takes advantage of its fast running rivers to generate hydroelectric power as well. Sweden uses a combination of nuclear power and oil.
Some Scandinavian countries • have abundant mineral and forest resources that support various industries. Sweden has reserves of iron ore that it uses to produce steel for a variety of products, including cars such as Saabs and Volvos. Shipbuilding is important in Finland and Denmark, as are wood and wood product industries in Finland and Sweden.
The peoples of Norway, Sweden, Denmark • and Iceland share ethnic ties and speak related languages. They mostly descend from Germanic peoples who settled Scandinavia thousands of years ago. The ancestors of Finland’s people, however, probably came from what is now Siberia in Russia. As a result, the Finnish language and culture differ from those of the other Scandinavian countries.
Exploration • During the Middle Ages, Scandinavian sailors and traders known as Vikings raided areas of western Europe and explored the North Atlantic Ocean, even reaching America. They also laid the foundation of the modern nations of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland.
Governments • Today, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are constitutional monarchies with governments similar to that of the United Kingdom. Finland and Iceland are republics with elected presidents. Iceland’s parliament, the Althing, first met in a.d. 930, making it one of the oldest surviving legislatures in the world.
welfare states • The Scandinavian countries take pride in providing extensive services to their citizens. As welfare states, they not only help the needy, but they also offer health care, child care, elder care, and retirement benefits to all. In return for these services, the people pay some of the highest taxes in the world.
Section 2 Europe’sHeartland
France and theBenelux Countries • Main Idea France and the Benelux countries are important cultural, agricultural, and manufacturing centers of Europe. • Geography and You When you think of France, perhaps you picture the Eiffel Tower in Paris. There is, of course, much more to the country, as you will read.
Benelux countries • France is in the heart of western Europe. Its three small neighbors to the northeast are known as the Benelux countries. The group name comes from the first syllables of the individual country names—Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
France • is the second-largest country in Europe. It is slightly smaller than the state of Texas. The landscape in France varies widely. Most of northern France is part of the vast Northern European Plain. In the south, high mountain ranges separate the country from Spain, Italy, and Switzerland. Rivers, such the Seine (SAYN) and the Loire (LWAHR), link France’s different regions.
specialization • Most of France has a mild or warm climate and rich soil that is ideal for farming. France’s agriculture is characterized by specialization. This means focusing efforts on certain activities to make the best use of resources. growing grapes and making wines. Farmers also use the milk of dairy cattle and sheep to produce about 250 kinds of world-famous cheese.
high-technology industries • France relies on industry as well a agriculture. Workers in traditional industries make cars and trucks, chemicals, textiles, and processed foods. France also has new high-technology industries, which include making computers and other products that require sophisticated engineering.
France’s People and Culture Most French trace their ancestry to the Celts, Romans, and Germanic peoples of early Europe. The majority speak French and consider themselves to be Roman Catholic. Islam is France’s second religion, because so many people have migrated from Muslim countries in Africa. Most of France’s 60.7 million people live in urban areas. Almost 10 million make their homes in Paris, one of Europe’s largest cities.
The French Revolution • The late 1700s also influenced the Western world. It brought about the decline of powerful monarchies and the rise of democracies. Today France is a democratic republic with both a president, elected by the people, and a prime minister, appointed by the president. The president has a great deal of power and can even dismiss the legislature, forcing new elections to be held.
The Benelux Countries The small Benelux countries—Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg—have much in common. Their lands are low, flat, and densely populated. Most people live in cities, work in businesses or factories, and enjoy a high standard of living. All three nations are also parliamentary democracies with monarchs as heads of state.
Belgium • has long been a trade and manufacturing center. With relatively few natural resources of its own, the country imports the raw materials to make and export vehicles, chemicals, and textiles.
bilingual • In Flanders, to the north and west of Brussels, most people speak Dutch and are known as Flemings. In Wallonia, the areas south and east of Brussels, most people speak French and are known as Walloons. The population of the Brussels region comes from both language groups. As a result, the Brussels region is officially bilingual, using two languages.
Netherlands • To the north of Belgium is the Netherlands, whose people are known as the Dutch. About 25 percent of the Netherlands lies below sea level. The Dutch have built dikes, or banks of soil, to control and confine the sea as seen in Figure 2. They drain and pump the wetlands dry. The drained lands, • called polders, have rich farming soil.