There is no satisfactory definition of the term 'continental Europe' that will fit the facts and events of economic history. A purely geographical definition cannot help much, for it would include the whole continent of Europe without the British Isles. A better approach seems to be to consider the continent and its economic connections with the seas surrounding it, and then to take into account the varying influences of the chief economic centres and lines of communication.
From the late fifteenth century onwards the Atlantic side of Europe became particularly important as a result of the great discoveries and changes in world trade routes. First Spain and Portugal, then the whole area from the Bay of Biscay along the French coast to the Netherlands, became the centre of gravity. In particular, the Netherlands benefited from an extremely favourable position for trade and from the effects of the revolt against the Spanish state. The North Sea area, that is the British Isles and the coast from Dutch Friesland to Jutland and Norway, should also be included in this economic centre.
The Atlantic seaboard of Europe had its own hinterland, which included parts of France, especially along the Garonne, Loire and Seine. It drew on the border region east of the lie de France along the Maas, Scheldt and Rhine, reaching deep into Germany. It also influenced parts of Westphalia and Lower Saxony, stretching along the Rivers Weser and Elbe as far as