Lesson Plan - Get It!
If you were to divide Europe into parts, how would you divide it? What would be your criteria for grouping countries? Why would you even do that?
Europe may be one continent, but it has traditionally been divided into parts based on religion, political ideology, and socioeconomic status.
In 1054, Europe was first divided into two parts: Western Europe and Eastern Europe. This division came about as a result of the Great Schism of 1054, which divided Europe’s — and consequently the world’s — religions. Since the schism, or split, western countries have predominately practiced the Roman Catholic or Protestant faith, while eastern countries have predominately practiced the Orthodox faith. While all of these denominations are considered part of the Christian faith, their practices and forms of worship can vary.
Today, Europe is often divided into three or four sections, with Central Europe and Northern Europe also being thrown into the mix. While religion still plays a role in these divisions, political ideology and culture have grown to play an even greater role.
In this lesson, you will study the history and culture of Western Europe. Before you get started, make a list of all the countries you think are a part of Western Europe. You can use the map below to help you. You should also write a few sentences describing what you think life is like in Western Europe. Be sure to write about such things as climate, terrain, resources, and government.
The countries considered to be a part of Western Europe can look slightly different depending on the organization or government making the list. The United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) classifies seven countries as part of Western Europe:
- United Kingdom
The CIA also says the following three countries are part of Southwest Europe, meaning they are also often grouped with Western European countries:
Find each of these countries on the map above.
- Where are they located in relation to one another?
- Are they all neighbors?
- What geographical features does each of these countries have in common?
Now that you know which countries make up Western Europe, take a look at the Köppen climate map below to get an idea of what the climate is like in Western Europe. The Köppen climate classification system is one of the most commonly used systems for identifying climate zones. It is named for the person who invented it, Russian climatologist Wladimir Köppen. Write down each of the climate zones that make up Western Europe:
Western Europe has a mostly oceanic climate. The region is a peninsula, meaning it is surrounded by water on three sides. The United Kingdom, which is part of Western Europe, is an island surrounded by water on all sides. This means Western Europe receives a lot of moisture from the Atlantic Ocean. Precipitation is common throughout the year. The ocean also moderates temperatures throughout the year, providing cool summers and winters. The southern parts of Western Europe experience more of a Mediterranean climate. There, the summers are mostly hot and dry, while the winters are mostly cool and wet.
There is not one language that is predominately spoken in Western Europe; rather, there are many different languages used. Look at the language map below. Write down the languages spoken in Western Europe:
Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license
You can see there are a number of languages used throughout Western Europe, but the most common languages are English, French, Spanish, German, and Dutch.
Economy and resources
Western Europe’s access to the Atlantic Ocean makes it an excellent region for trade, and Western Europe is considered one of the wealthiest regions in the world. Western Europe offers a wide variety of natural resources, including an abundance of energy resources. Spain and France have large coal reserves, while Great Britain and Ireland have substantial natural gas reserves. Great Britain also has some offshore oil reserves. Minerals such as zinc, copper, lead, and uranium can be found throughout the region as well. This large supply of resources and easy access to trade routes have allowed the governments of Western Europe to prosper, thereby enabling their citizens to live comfortable lifestyles.
In addition to natural resources, Western Europe also has a large tourism industry. It is one of the most visited regions in the world because every year millions of people flock to Western Europe to experience its history and culture. This industry also helps to generate large profits for the region.
Remember, Western Europe is not a country. Rather, it is a region formed by several similar countries with common interests. Therefore, each country in Western Europe has its own form of government and its own political leaders. Most countries in Western Europe are a constitutional monarchy or a democratic republic.
Under a constitutional monarchy, a monarch is the head of state and has limited powers, which are defined by a constitution. Power is shared between the monarch, who inherits power through his or her birthright, and a government of elected members.
A democratic republic is a combination of a republic and a democracy. Under a democratic republic, power is held by elected officials and power ultimately lies with those who are entitled to vote. Unlike a democracy, not all people are given the right to vote in a democratic republic.
- Based on what you have learned so far, does Western Europe seem like a place you would want to visit?
- How does the region compare to where you live?
Now that you have learned the basic facts about the region, move on to the Got It? section to research each Western European country in more detail.
NOTE: All information in this lesson is circa 2017.