Although there are more than 160 recognized ethnic groups in Europe, diversity within countries varies widely. For instance, the United Kingdom has a population made up of many various groups, while countries such as Ireland and the Scandanavian nations (Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and Norway) and Denmark, are dominated, for the most part, by just one or two ethnic groups.
The most densely populated area of Northern Europe is the British Isles, which includes Ireland and the United Kingdom (Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland). First settled by Celts, an Indo-European group arriving 2,500 to 3,000 years ago, the British Isles were repeatedly invaded, notably by Romans and Normans. In recent years, however, their diversity has increased dramatically because they have accepted waves of immigrants from South Asia and the West Indies. Refugees fleeing mainland Europe after World War II also tended to settle in the UK.
Immigration is lower in the mostly homogeneous Scandanavian countries, which share a Germanic background, similar languages, and a more or less common lifestyle.
The United Kingdom has the highest population density in Northern Europe, and Denmark and Ireland — which share its temperate climate — are not far behind. The northern Scandanavian countries (Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland) are less densely populated because of less hospitable climate; most people cling to the coasts.
Internal migration such as urbanization — movement to cities often encouraged by rural poverty — has changed the character of the area somewhat, as has external migration such as the mass exodus (1.6 million) from Ireland during the potato famine.
Three large urban centers dominate the cities of northern Europe. London — the capital of the United Kingdom — holds about 8.5 million people, while Stockholm — capital of Sweden — has 1.3 million residents. Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, is another relatively large city and a popular tourist destination.
Boehm, Richard G. “Northern Europe: Population Patterns.” World Geography and Cultures. Columbus: Glencoe/McGraw Hill, 2012.
“Rural Development – Europe’s Population density.” Image. Rural Development – Europe’s Population density. European Rural Development Project, 23 April 2002. Web. http://www.iiasa.ac.at/Research/ERD/DB/mapdb/map_9.htm.
Study Questions (just in case):
1. Which are the three largest most important urban areas in Northern Europe?
2. Why do more people live in the southern countries — Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Denmark?
3. Which countries are most homogeneous? Why?