The Making of Europe: A geological history


By Graham Park

This is an interesting book for those of us who are curious about the complex origins, variety and geological history of the continent of Europe. In particular, it covers and explains the background to its distinct regions and landscapes – from the flat plains of Northern Europe to the Alps and related mountains of the south.

The Making of Europe sets itself a difficult task, because, while Europe is a clearly defined political entity, it is really part of a larger continent from a plate tectonic point of view, namely Eurasia. Nevertheless, it does provide a fascinating read.

It explains that, very broadly, the continent’s current shape arose about 200myrs ago through the accretion of various distinct geological components, some of which have travelled considerable distances across the globe. (Consider, for example, the progress of the UK, which has travelled from far south of the equator to its current position in the Northern Hemisphere.) Since then, its coastline has changed significantly, largely as a result of sea level changes.

More specifically and, as you would expect, the book covers (among many other things): the construction and growth of Baltica as a ‘Proto-Europe’ (including its immensely ancient Precambrian core – the European Craton – which was, in turn, made up of even older components); and the Caledonian Orogeny, the Hercynian Orogenic Cycle and the Alpine Orogeny. It also deals with the technical detail that a reader needs about plate tectonics and shows how this relates to what we can see today.

The guide is beautifully illustrated, with both colour photographs and copious maps and diagrams. The reader is assumed to have an understanding of basic geological terms and concepts. However, more technical terms are defined in a glossary at the end of the book. Graham Park is the Emeritus Professor of Tectonic Geology at the University of Keele and the author of the popular books: Introducing Geology and Introducing Tectonics, Rock Structures and Mountain Belts, which are also published by Dunedin.

I read this book with great interest and would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the continent, not at the level of local rocks and so on, but on the grand scale that plate tectonics allows.

The Making of Europe: A Geological History, by Graham Park, Dunedin Academic Press Ltd, Edinburgh (2014). 164 pages (paperback), ISBN: 978-17-80460-43-7

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