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Cheat Sheet

European History For Dummies

European history has had numerous great turns and changes over the centuries with its mighty empires forming, expanding, exploring and warring, and revolutions of all kinds through the centuries, which can split into four major eras. Have a look at the key dates of events that shaped Europe.

Key Dates in Ancient Europe

The ancient world is full of dramatic events and fascinating characters. Here’s a taster of the main events that occurred in Europe in BC (Before Christ) and the first 500 years AD (Anno Domini, or ‘Year of Our Lord’)

Year Event
c3000 BC Bronze Age in southern Europe
c4000 BC Neolithic culture at its height in northern Europe
c2000 BC Iron Age in northern Europe
c1700 BC Construction of palace of King Minos at Knossos, Crete
c1550 BC Earthquakes destroy Minoan civilisation
509 BC Roman Republic established
431–404 BC Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta
336–323 BC Alexander the Great conquers Persia (modern-day Iran)
216 BC Hannibal defeats Romans at Battle of Cannae
146 BC Romans destroy Carthage and conquer Greece
49 BC Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon: Roman civil war
27 BC Octavian becomes Roman Emperor Augustus
AD 313 Edict of Milan: Constantine accepts Christianity
AD 395 Roman Empire divides in two
AD 410 Rome sacked by Alaric, king of the Visigoths
AD 476 Last western Roman emperor deposed

Key Dates in Europe’s Middle Ages

The Middle Ages in European history have a bad press, as if everyone was barbaric and always burning witches and torturing people. But it was a time when Europeans achieved their most breathtaking achievements in art and architecture, and set in place much of the thinking and ideas we rely on today.

Year Event
529 St Benedict founds the monastery of Monte Cassino
711 Muslim invasion of Spain
732 Charles Martel defeats Arabs at Battle of Poitiers
787 Viking raid on Lindisfarne
800 Charlemagne crowned ‘Roman’ emperor in the west
1054 Schism between ‘Catholic’ Roman Church and ‘Orthodox’ Greek Church
1066 Norman conquest of England
1071 Battle of Manzikert: Turks overrun Anatolia
1099 Jerusalem falls to First Crusade
1204 Fourth Crusade sacks Constantinople
1241 Mongols overrun eastern Europe
1337 Start of the Hundred Year’s War
AD 313 Edict of Milan: Constantine accepts Christianity
AD 395 Roman Empire divides in two
AD 410 Rome sacked by Alaric, king of the Visigoths
AD 476 Last western Roman emperor deposed
1346 Black Death arrives in western Europe
1309–1417 The Great Schism
1450 Gutenberg’s printing press
1453 Fall of Constantinople
1492 Fall of Granada: Moors expelled from Spain; Columbus lands in the New World

Key Dates in Early Modern Europe

Early Modern Europe underwent some dramatic twists with empires expanding and religious conflicts raging while science and technology developments made leaps and bounds. Here are some key milestones during this time.

Year Event
1517 Luther’s 95 theses launch the Reformation
1526 Battle of Mohács: Ottoman Turks conquer Hungary
1581 Dutch declare independence from Spain
1618–48 Thirty Years’ War
1683 Turks defeated outside Vienna
1703 Peter I founds St Petersburg
1713 Treaty of Utrecht ends War of Spanish Succession
1740 Frederick II of Prussia invades Silesia

Key Dates in Modern Europe

A great number of decisive political wars and revolutions took place in the last two centuries; struggles for independence and liberation, industrialisation, nationalism and European integration. Take look at some of the landmark events that changed Europe in Modern history.

Year Event
1789 Fall of the Bastille: start of the French Revolution
1804 Napoleon crowned Emperor of France
1815 Battle of Waterloo: Napoleon exiled to St Helena
1829 Greece wins independence from Ottoman Empire
1833 Slavery abolished in British Empire
1848 Revolutions across Europe
1854–6 Crimean War
1860–1 Unification of Italy
1861 Alexander II emancipates Russian serfs
1870–1 Franco-Prussian War; proclamation of German empire
1914–18 First World War
1917 Russian Revolution
1919 Treaty of Versailles
1936–9 Spanish Civil War
1939–45 Second World War
1941 Operation Barbarossa: German invasion of Russia
1949 Formation of NATO
1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary; Suez crisis
1957 Treaty of Rome founds the European Economic Community
1975 Democracy restored in Spain
1985 Mikhail Gorbachev in power in Russia
1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall: anti-communist revolutions across eastern Europe
1992 Yugoslavia civil war starts
2002 Adoption of the Euro
2004 European Union enlarges to 25 member states
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