European History Overview

European history is the study of the societies, cultures, economics, and politics of Europeans of the past. These courses highlight the historical events and transformations which significantly shaped European societies into their current — often divergent — manifestations. For instance, during the Middle Ages, Europe was predominantly ruled by kings and lords in a system of feudalism. This had long-lasting effects on the power structures of European countries, especially the United Kingdom, where the monarchy continues to hold influence now. However, for some countries like France, the revolution against monarchical authority characterized many of the enduring features of local politics today, such as French Republicanism.

Contact through trade and war has led to many shared cultural elements between the countries of Europe, whose borders have historically shifted throughout the ages. Current-day Europe is usually understood as having four regions: Northern Europe (such as Sweden), Western Europe (such as the United Kingdom or France), Central Europe (such as Germany or Italy), and Eastern Europe (such as Poland or Hungary). Similarities within these regions have been reinforced by shared histories, such as the legacy of communism in Eastern Europe due to the strong influence of the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1991.

Our courses offer an overview of European history by tracing the people and cultures of Europe from after the ancient Western civilizations of the Greeks and Romans until the current day. Emerging from what is commonly referred to as the Middle or Dark Ages, an economic and sociocultural upswing known as the Renaissance began in the 14th century. It was this revival of intellectual traditions from classical antiquity which helped shape the values of natural rights and scientific progress seen in the Enlightenment in the late 17th and 18th centuries. This intellectual movement marks the start of the modern age by laying the foundations for the Industrial Revolution, which transformed economic and social systems, and for the rise of new democratic institutions of governance.

Yet, as these courses demonstrate, European projects reached far beyond their own borders — especially during the Age of Exploration which led to the discovery of the New World in 1492 and the era of colonialization and imperialism which swiftly followed. The rising competition among European powers to economically profit from and exert their influence over foreign lands — including in Africa and South Asia — led to various conflicts, exploding in two World Wars between 1918 and 1945. Although the post-war period led to an eclipse of European powers and the rise of two superpowers — the United States and the Soviet Union — Europe continues to hold an impactful cultural legacy. Because of the widespread effects of the events of Europe's past, learners of European history will have a better understanding of World history and the world of the 21st century.

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European History Topics

European History Resources offers multiple courses to help learners of all grade levels identify the most important events of European history and understand their significance. Browse our European history resources by chronological era — like the Middle Ages, by theme — like art, or by learning objective — like AP European History. Topical lessons are versatile enough to suit various goals, from supplementing in-class learning to providing teachers or tutors with content for the classroom.

History of Europe Courses and Lessons offers courses in European history which tackle social, political, cultural, and economic aspects, as well as important historical figures, in a concise yet meaningful way. Our easily browsable library offers an array of thematic lessons that will serve the learning needs and interests any learner. Teachers or tutors may also find useful material to help supplement learning by providing additional content to encourage their students' learning. Chronologically follow our lessons on the different ages of European history, from the rebirth of Classical thought in the Renaissance to the rebuilding of European democracies after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Thoughout European history, the impact of events was far-reaching, which makes this subject crucial to understanding the world today.

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Homeschooling and Europe's History offers AP European History: Homeschool Curriculum that comprehensively treats the subject in a 27-chapter course following Europe's timeline. European history teaches valuable lessons about the world today, from the art and cultural revolutions of the Renaissance in the 15th century to the rebuilding of Europe in the post-war era. This course aims to inform and pique the interests of students by concisely describing the major events and shifts that took place in Europe over the ages. It also dives deep into certain topics, such as the philosophical works of Enlightenment thinkers or the politics behind the birth of supranational structures like NATO. This course also provides lessons on historical writing to prepare students for the AP European history exam. Learners can also track their progress by checking how well they have understood the course by taking a 50-question practice test.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is European history?

    European history is the study of the society, politics, economics, and cultures of Europeans from the past. Europe includes current-day countries like the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Poland, and Sweden. By looking at the major shifts in the ways people lived, conceptualized those in power, and made sense of the world, learners can better understand Europe today.

  • When did Europe's history begin?

    European history dates back to ancient times. Following ancient empires is the Middle Ages, a time when feudalism, or the military rule of kings or barons, was the most common political system. During this period, a number of significant events occurred, such as the first English charter of rights known as the Magna Carta in 1215 or the invention of the printing press which fueled an intellectual revolution known as the Renaissance in 1450. Although the feudalist hierarchy headed by the king was prominent at the start of Europe's history, the evolution of power structures during this time led to growing notions of democracy.

  • What are three events from European history?

    There were many important events in European history, including the Age of Discovery, the Industrial Revolution, and the World Wars. The Age of Discovery (the 1400s-1600s) refers to a time when Europeans explored and conquered new lands, leading to the foundation of colonies in the New World. The Industrial Revolution (the 1750s-1850s) began in Great Britain and forever changed the way goods were manufactured. The World Wars (1918-1945) saw rising tensions over nationalism and imperialism between European nations boil over in widespread war. The impact of these events was felt across the world.