Northern Europe

Arctic Ring of Fire Alpide belt
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A composed satellite photograph of islands and continental areas in and surrounding the North Sea and Baltic Sea.

Northern Europe is a loosely defined geographical region in Europe. Narrower definitions may describe Northern Europe as being roughly north of the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, which is about 54°N, or may be based on other geographical factors such as climate and ecology. A broader definition would include the area of Europe north of the Alps (but excluding Eastern Europe).

Historically, when Europe was dominated by the Roman Empire, everything not near the Mediterranean region was termed Northern European[citation needed], including southern Germany, all of the Low Countries, and Austria. This meaning is still used today in some contexts, for example, discussions of the Northern Renaissance.

During the Early Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church expanded into Northern Europe and spread Catholicism among the Germanic peoples.[1] Catholic Christianity reached the Vikings and other Scandinavians in later centuries. The Latin alphabet gradually replaced the runic alphabet in Scandinavia and England as the influence of Christianity spread northward from Rome, leading to English, German, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Icelandic.


Northern Europe might be defined roughly to include some or all of the following areas: British Isles, Fennoscandia, the peninsula of Jutland, the Baltic plain that lies to the east and the many islands that lie offshore from mainland Northern Europe and the main European continent. In some cases, Greenland is also included.

The area is partly mountainous, including the northern volcanic islands of Iceland and Jan Mayen, and the mountainous western seaboard, Scotland and Scandinavia, and also often includes part of the large plain east of the Baltic sea.

The entire region's climate is at least mildly affected by the Gulf Stream. From the west climates vary from maritime and maritime subarctic climates. In the north and central climates are generally subarctic or Arctic and to the east climates are mostly subarctic and temperate/continental.

Just as both climate and relief are variable across the region, so too is vegetation, with sparse tundra in the north and high mountains, boreal forest on the north-eastern and central regions temperate coniferous forests (formerly of which a majority was in the Scottish Highlands and south west Norway) and temperate broadleaf forests growing in the south, west and temperate east.


Various definitions of Northern Europe often include the Nordic countries, and may also include some or all of the Baltic states, the British Isles, northern Germany, northern Belarus and northwest Russia.

CIA World Factbook

Regions of Europe based on CIA World Factbook:
  Northern Europe
  Western Europe
  Central Europe
  Southwest Europe
  Southern Europe
  Southeast Europe
  Eastern Europe

In the CIA World Factbook, the description of each country includes information about "Location" under the heading "Geography", where the country is classified into a region. The following countries are included in their classification "Northern Europe":[2]

as well as the dependent areas

In this classification, stagnant since the Cold War era, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are classified as being in Eastern Europe, while the UK and Ireland are included in Western Europe.


European sub-regions according to EuroVoc:
  Northern Europe
  Western Europe
  Southern Europe
  Central and Eastern Europe

EuroVoc is a multilingual thesaurus maintained by the Publications Office of the European Union, giving definitions of terms for official use. In the definition of "Northern Europe", the following countries are included:[3]

as well as the dependent area

In this classification, the UK and Ireland are included in Western Europe.


Language branches in Northern Europe
  North Germanic (Iceland, Scandinavia and Faroe Islands)
  Finnic (Estonia, Finland)
  Baltic (Latvia, Lithuania)

Countries in Northern Europe generally have developed economies and some of the highest standards of living in the world. They often score highly on surveys measuring quality of life, such as the Human Development Index. Aside from the United Kingdom, they generally have a small population relative to their size, most of whom live in cities. Most peoples living in Northern Europe are traditionally Protestant Christians, although many are non-practicing. There are also growing numbers of non-religious people and people of other religions, especially Muslims, due to immigration. In the United Kingdom, there are also significant numbers of Indian religions such as Hindus and Sikhs, due to the large South Asian diaspora. The quality of education in much of Northern Europe is rated highly in international rankings, with Estonia and Finland topping the list among the OECD countries in Europe. The Hansa group in the European Union comprises most of the Northern European states.


In 43 AD, the Roman Empire invaded Britain and subdued the Celtic Britons after over forty years of brutal warfare and failed native uprisings. In 410, the Romans abandoned Britain as the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons invaded.

Viking raids and division of the Frankish Empire at the Treaty of Verdun in 843

Many Vikings died in battles in continental Europe, and in 844 they lost many men and ships to King Ramiro in northern Spain.[4] A few months later, another fleet took Seville, only to be driven off with further heavy losses.[5] In 912, the Franks decided to give the Viking King Rollo land along the English Channel coast in exchange for peace. This land was named "Normandy" for the Norse "Northmen", and the Norse settlers became known as "Normans", adopting the French culture and language and becoming French vassals. In 1066, the Normans went on to conquer England in the first successful cross-Channel invasion since Roman times.[6]

Spain's powerful world empire of the 16th and 17th centuries ultimately yielded command of the seas to England.

See also


  1. ^ Tanner, Norman. New Short History of the Catholic Church. p. 41.
  2. ^ CIA. "The World Factbook".
  3. ^ Publications Office of the European Union. "EU Vocabularies 7206 Europe". EuroVoc.
  4. ^ Haywood, John (2015). Northmen: The Viking Saga, AD 793–1241. p. 166. ISBN 9781781855225.
  5. ^ Brink, Stefan; Price, Neil (2008). The Viking World. Routledge. p. 464.
  6. ^ Grant, R.G. (3 January 2011). Battle at Sea: 3,000 Years of Naval Warfare. ISBN 9780756657017.