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Europe

Patterns of Economic Development

cork oak, regions of Germany, fabricated metals, European Free Trade Association, EFTA

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Europe has long been a world leader in economic activities. As the birthplace of modern science and of the Industrial Revolution, Europe acquired technological superiority over the rest of the world, which gave it unquestioned dominance in the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution, which began in England in the 18th century and from there spread throughout the world, was a transformation involving the use of complex machinery and resulting in greatly increased agricultural production and new forms of economic organization. An important impetus for growth since the mid-20th century has been the formation of supranational organizations such as the European Union (EU), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Forestry and Fishing

The northern forests, which extend from Norway through northern European Russia, are the main sources of forest products in Europe. Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia all have relatively large forestry industries, producing pulpwood, wood for construction, and other products. In southern Europe, both Spain and Portugal produce a variety of cork products from the cork oak. Although all of the coastal European countries engage in some commercial fishing, the industry is especially important in the northern countries, particularly Norway and Denmark. Spain, Russia, Britain, and Poland also are major fishing nations.

Manufacturing

Since the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing has been a dominant force in shaping ways of life in Europe. Northern and central England were early centers of modern manufacturing, as were the Ruhr and Saxony (Sachsen) regions of Germany, northern France, Silesia in Poland, and Ukraine. Products such as iron and steel, fabricated metals, textiles, clothing, ships, motor vehicles, and railroad equipment have long been important European manufactures, and a great variety of other items also are produced. The production of chemicals and electronic equipment and other high-technology items have been leading growth industries of the post-World War II period. On the whole, manufacturing is particularly concentrated in the central part of the continent (an area including England, eastern and southern France, northern Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, southern Norway, and southern Sweden) and in European Russia and Ukraine.

Energy

Europe consumes great quantities of energy. The leading energy sources are coal (including lignite), petroleum, natural gas, nuclear power, and waterpower. Norway, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and Spain all have major hydroelectric installations, which contribute large portions of the annual output of electricity. Nuclear power is important in France; Britain; Germany; Belgium; Lithuania, Ukraine, and other former Soviet republics; Sweden; Switzerland; Finland; and Bulgaria.

International Trade

Almost all European countries conduct large amounts of international trade. Much of the trade is intracontinental, especially among members of the European Union, but Europeans also engage in large-scale trade with nations of other continents. Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and The Netherlands are among the world’s greatest trading nations. A large portion of European intercontinental trade involves the exporting of manufactured goods and the importing of raw materials.



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