As a cultural area distinct from the considerably larger geographical one, the Continent (continental Europe) was, on the eve of the period of liberal political ascendance and major influence in the way of life, the territory inhabited by peoples whose civilisation was founded on the concepts, methods of thinking, values and institutions of Western Christianity (see Chapter 3). It included most of the large westernmost peninsula of the Eurasian land mass, extending from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and the adjacent Scandinavian and Baltic countries. It corresponded to what is now called West Europe (less Greece), plus the territories of four states, and parts of the territories of two, of what is now known as East Europe (the area detached politically and culturally from the rest through the establishment of communist dictatorships in 1944–8); it also included Soviet districts inhabited until the end of the Second World War by Poles and Germans, or once brought within the orbit of catholic Europe by mediaeval crusading expansion.
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