Although France has a strong national identity, the people of each region have their own tra- ditions and way of life. The Paris Basin in the north is the center of France’s main manu- facturing center. Paris, the capi- tal city, is its center. The south- west is famous for wine grapes. Bordeaux is its main city. In southern France, the Rhône River flows between two mountain areas. The Massif Central is west of the Rhône. The snow-covered Alps separate France from Italy. In 1965, a tunnel was built through the mountains. Between the Alps and the Mediter- ranean Sea is a coastal land called the French Riviera. Its beautiful beaches attract many tourists. Marseille is the busiest seaport in France and the second busiest in Western Europe. The Rhine River, in eastern France, forms part of France’s border with Germany. This region has large deposits of iron ore and coal. For hundreds of years, France was ruled by kings. In 1789, the French Revolution ended the monarchy. Since then, France has had many forms of government. The French language helps to unify the French people. The French are proud of their philosophers and artists. France is a wealthy nation but has faced some economic problems. A recession, or long decline in business activity, caused many people to lose their jobs in the 1990s.

1 - Where is the center of France’s manufacturing region?
2 - Map Skills What countries of Central Western Europe border France?


The area that is now Germany was divid- ed for hundreds of years into small states. Prussia began to unite the German states in the late 1700s. Germany was defeated in World War I and had to pay the win- ning countries reparations, money for war damages. The payments caused eco- nomic hardships and inflation, quickly rising prices. In 1929, many Germans lost their jobs during a worldwide economic depression. In the early 1930s, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party took power. Hitler blamed Jews and others for Germany’s problems. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, begin- ning World War II. The Nazis killed mil- lions of Jews and other people in concen- tration camps. Germany was finally defeated in 1945. After World War II, Germany was divid- ed into Communist East Germany and democratic West Germany. In November 1989, the Berlin Wall, which had divided East and West Berlin, came down. The two countries reunited in October 1990. Germany has three geographic regions. The south has high mountains, the center has hills, low peaks, and plateaus, and the north is flat. Farming, manufacturing, and trade are important indus- tries. The Rhine and Elbe rivers flow through one of the world’s most important indus- trial centers. The Ruhr Valley, rich in coal, produces most of Germany’s iron and steel. Ger- many rebuilt its economy after World War II. By 1999, it was the leading industrial country in Western Europe.


3 - Why is the Ruhr Valley important to Germany
4 - Map Skills What mountain range is in southern Germany?


The word Benelux comes from the first letters of Belgium, Netherlands, and Lux- embourg. They are also called the Low Countries because so much of their land is low and flat. They are small in area, but their total population is almost as large as Canada’s. One fifth of the Netherlands is land taken from the sea. When the Romans conquered the area, they built dikes, walls of earth and rock to hold back the sea. Later, the Dutch people reclaimed land by building dikes around a piece of land and pumping water out into canals. They call this reclaimed land a polder. Beginning in the 1200s, the Dutch used windmills to power the pumps that remove water from the land. The Dutch use more than half their land for agriculture. Belgium has two main ethnic groups who speak different languages. The Wal- loons speak French. The Flemings speak Flemish, a dialect of Dutch. For many years, French was the only official lan- guage, even though more people spoke Flemish. In 1898, Flemish also became an official language. More recently, Belgium decentralized its government. It trans- ferred power to smaller regions.
Luxembourg is the smallest Benelux country. Its people speak French, German, and Luxembourgish, a dialect of German. Luxembourg has one of the highest stan- dards of living in Europe. It has many high-tech businesses and service indus- tries. It trades mostly with other countries of the European Union.

5 - How do the Dutch use the land they took from the sea?
6 - Chart Skills Which Benelux country has the largest population?


The Alps cover more than half the area of both Switzerland and Austria. Both coun- tries are landlocked, meaning they do not have a coast on the sea.Switzerland has three official lan- guages: French, German, and Italian. The country is a confederation, a loose organization of states. It was formed in 1291 when three cantons, or states, united. Today, there are 26 cantons in the confederation. Each has its own language, religion, customs, and ways of making a living. Switzerland is neutral, and has not taken sides in wars between other countries in more than 200 years. The Swiss have one of the world’s high- est standards of living. Milk from dairy farms is used in making chocolate and cheese. Switzerland is also known for products like watches, which need skilled labor. Austria has had its present borders only since the end of World War I. For many years before then, it was part of the Austro- Hungarian Empire. The empire controlled much of Eastern Europe in the late 1800s. It collapsed after its defeat in World War I. Austrians speak German. Most people live in the eastern lowlands, where land is flat or hilly. Austria has mineral resources, such as iron ore, which are used for industry. Other economic activities include dairy farming and manufacturing. Vienna, the capital, was once one of the world’s largest cities.


7 - Which war brought an end to the Austro-Hungarian Empire?
8 - Graph Skills About how many refugees have gone to Switzerland?