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The earliest accounts of European ethnography date to Classical Antiquity.Herodotus described the Scythians and Thraco-Illyrians. Dicaearchus gave a description of Greece itself besides accounts of western and northern Europe.In the 19th century, ethnicity was discussed in terms of scientific racism, and the ethnic groups of Europe were grouped into a number of "races", Mediterranean, Alpine and Nordic, all part of a larger "Caucasian" group.The beginnings of ethnic geography as an academic subdiscipline lie in the period following World War I, in the context of nationalism, and in the 1930s exploitation for the purposes of fascist and Nazi propaganda so that it was only in the 1960s that ethnic geography began to thrive as a bona fide academic subdiscipline.The Indigenous peoples of Europe are the focus of European ethnology, the field of anthropology related to the various indigenous groups that reside in the nations of Europe.According to German monograph Minderheitenrechte in Europa co-edited by Pan and Pfeil (2002) there are 87 distinct peoples of Europe, of which 33 form the majority population in at least one sovereign state, while the remaining 54 constitute ethnic minorities.These eight groups between themselves account for some 465 million or about 65% of European population: are members of diasporas of non-European origin.The population of the European Union, with some five hundred million residents, accounts for two thirds of the European population.
Western There is no precise or universally accepted definition of the terms "ethnic group" or "nationality".A pre-Roman stage of Proto-Basque can only be reconstructed with great uncertainty.Regarding the European Bronze Age, the only secure reconstruction is that of Proto-Greek (ca. A Proto-Italo-Celtic ancestor of both Italic and Celtic (assumed for the Bell beaker period), and a Proto-Balto-Slavic language (assumed for roughly the Corded Ware horizon) has been postulated with less confidence.William Rubruck, while most notable for his account of the Mongols, in his account of his journey to Asia also gives accounts of the Tatars and the Alans.Saxo Grammaticus and Adam of Bremen give an account of pre-Christian Scandinavia.
In the context of European ethnography in particular, the terms ethnic group, people, nationality or ethno-linguistic group, are used as mostly synonymous, although preference may vary in usage with respect to the situation specific to the individual countries of Europe.