European History

No matter how knowledgeable you are about European history, there's always more to learn! Get an in-depth look at European history in these articles.


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Why Did Napoleon Lose the Battle of Waterloo?

Lots of things contributed to Napoleon's loss at Waterloo — including bad weather, superior British defense tactics and perhaps a bad case of hemorrhoids.

Murder! Money! Power! Art! Meet the Medici Family

This wealthy banking dynasty of Florence rubbed shoulders with Michelangelo, Botticelli and Galileo. They counted two popes and two queens in their clan. How did they get so powerful, and how did they lose it all?

How Did Constantinople Become Istanbul?

The modern city of Istanbul, Turkey, has a long and tumultuous history. Once known as Constantinople, it was the capital of the Ottoman Empire, the center of cultural and religious activity and a hub for trade in Eurasia.

Göbekli Tepe: The Temple That Hints at What Humans Were Up to 11,000 Years Ago

Göbekli Tepe is thought to be a possible archaeological bridge between nomadic hunter-gatherer societies and stable, settled agricultural communities that built temples and produced art.

Meet the Trebuchet, the Castle-crushing Catapult of the Middle Ages

Before the advent of gunpowder, enemy combatants used a powerful siege weapon called a trebuchet to forcefully launch projectiles — sometimes a large stone, a decapitated human head or a dead horse — at intended targets.

From William the Bastard to William the Conqueror: The King Who Transformed England

This brilliant, ruthless leader invaded England in 1066 and utterly changed the course of British history. In fact, he is the 'father' of every British monarch since.

The Druids: Philosophers, Politicians, Priests or Sorcerers?

The Druids were a class of Celtic-speaking purveyors of magical and religious practice who inhabited northwestern Europe around 2,000 years ago, but almost everything we know about them is from secondhand sources.

How Centuries of Inbreeding Led to the Distinctive 'Habsburg Jaw'

Many of the kings and queens of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty had a distinctive facial malady known as the Habsburg jaw. What caused it?

'Veni, Vidi, Vici' Is Not a Humble Brag at All

"I came, I saw, I conquered" encapsulates Julius Caesar's entire approach to ruling.

The Treaty of Versailles: Did the End of WWI Cause the Start of WWII?

In 1919, 30 nations met to formulate the Treaty of Versailles, the treaty to end World War 1. The Allied nations wanted Germany to pay huge fines and take responsibility for starting the war. But were the terms too harsh?

Do All Scottish Families Have a Tartan?

The kilt is synonymous with Scotland but does that mean everyone with a Scottish surname has his or her own tartan?

Albania's Doomsday Bunkers Fed a Dictator's Paranoia

In the 1970s, Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha ordered a massive building program of bunkers throughout the country, allegedly for protection. But their real purpose was to create fear and paranoia in its citizens.

17th-century Plague Doctors Were the Stuff of Nightmares

Contaminated water, poor hygiene and the lack of sanitation caused most epidemics prior to the 20th century, but the plague doctors believed that germs were spread through the skin and nose and they costumed themselves accordingly.

Is Holland the Same as the Netherlands?

People often use the words Holland and the Netherlands interchangeably when talking about the country in Western Europe. Are the two places the same?

Shhh! Don't Tell. There's a Secret Apartment Atop the Eiffel Tower

Did you know that the iconic monument in the French capital city is topped by a secret apartment? But who built it, and why?

Groom of the Stool: A Crappy Job With Royal Benefits

It may sound degrading to modern ears, but the groom of the stool, the person who helped the British king with his toileting duties, had an extremely prestigious position and was a close confidant of the monarch.

The Strange History of Neuschwanstein Castle is No Disney Fairy Tale

This very famous castle (and the inspiration for Cinderella's castle at Disneyland) was built for just one person, often called Mad King Ludwig. But was he really insane or just slandered by his enemies?

Big Ben Is Getting a Big Facelift

The famed London clock tower marks 160 years in silence as its historic restoration continues.

Notre Dame Cathedral: What It Took to Build Her

One of the most famous buildings in the world has burned. What did it take to build it in the first place?

Norway's Ridiculously Short Border Fence

What was behind the building of possibly the world's shortest border fence?

How the European Union Works

Britain has voted to leave the European Union, a group of 28 European countries. What does the EU do and why would countries want to leave — or join — it?

Drought Reveals Ancient Henge in Ireland

Ireland's severe drought has been alarming to some, but a new archaeological discovery has provided a silver lining.

What's the Difference Between England, the U.K. and Great Britain?

There's a whale of a difference between the United Kingdom and Great Britain. But whatever you do, don't call someone from Scotland "English."

Medieval Villagers Mutilated Corpses to Prevent the Dead From Rising

A mass grave from a medieval England village provides archaeological evidence that people wanted those lain to rest to stay that way.


Knight, in the Middle Ages, a warrior horseman. A knight was called Sir, and was usually of a noble or a genteel family.