Europe: more than the sum of its parts?

The purpose of this lesson idea is to enhance knowledge of European history, and to give students an insight into how large, continent-wide developments affect (and are affected by) different countries.


Students go to the TimeMap of World history, and look at the maps and read through the pages on Europe from AD 1453 through to AD 2005.

They list the major developments which shaped European history from the 15th century onwards.

[The list might include: The conquests of the Ottoman empire, The Renaissance, Centralization of government, The Reformation, Overseas exploration and empire, The Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution, The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, Industrialization, World War 1, World War 2, The Cold War, The EU]

Dividing into groups, each group now chooses one European country, and views the maps/reads the pages for the same dates as above.

[For the purposes of this exercise, probably the most fruitful countries to chose would be Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Russia, Sweden, Holland]

They think about which of the major European developments listed above involved their selected country.

Write three columns:

Not affected by… Affected by…. Played a major role in…..

Enter a tick in the appropriate column. In the case of the last two columns, also enter a date (approximate or actual) when the country began to be affected by the development in this way.

Wrap up

Each group presents their findings. They state what developments did or did not affect their country, why, and in what way (if the atlas isn’t explicit about these things, they should hazard a guess; as often as not it will largely be down to geography). They should distinguish between the short-term and long-term affects of the development on their country.

Then the class considers one (or if time, both) the following questions:

1. To what extent are the successive developments in European history connected to one another by a chain of cause and effect?

2. Is the history of Europe the history of its individual countries, or is it more than this?


Take one of the following developments and, looking at the information for Europe and the selected country, describe the development in European terms, and then highlight your selected country’s role within it.

The Reformation

French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars

Back to AP world history page