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).
Farming in Europe is generally of the mixed type, in which a variety of crops and animal products are produced in the same region. The European portion of the former USSR is one of the few large regions where one-product agriculture predominates. The Mediterranean nations maintain a distinctive type of agriculture, dominated by the production of wheat, olives, grapes, and citrus fruit. In most of these countries farming plays a more important role in the national economy than in the northern countries. Throughout much of western Europe dairying and meat production are major activities. To the east, crops become more important. In the nations of the Balkan Peninsula, crops account for some 60 percent of agricultural production, and in Ukraine, wheat production overshadows all other agriculture. Europe as a whole is particularly noted for its great output of wheat, barley, oats, rye, corn, potatoes, beans, peas, and sugar beets. Besides dairy and beef cattle, large numbers of pigs, sheep, goats, and poultry are raised by Europeans. In the late 20th century Europe was self-sufficient in most basic farm products. On most farmland advanced agricultural techniques, including the application of modern machinery and chemical fertilizers, were used, but in parts of southern and southeastern Europe, traditional, relatively inefficient techniques were still dominant. For much of the period when the Communists held power, agriculture in the countries of the Eastern bloc (with the exception of Poland and Yugoslavia) and the USSR was based on large, state-owned farms and state-dominated collectives.
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. © "Europe" © Emmanuel Buchot and Encarta
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