Pollen data are the most important source of information with respect to late Quaternary vegetation history. Broad-scale palaeovegetation patterns have been subjectively inferred from mapped pollen data by previous authors. In this study, multivariate classification was applied to European pollen data for the last 13 000 yr. The resulting clusters are mapped at millennial intervals and can be equated with vegetation units. The maps portray the changing vegetation of Europe since the last glacial. They reveal the impermanence of the assemblages of species that ecologists recognise as communities. The dominant patterns in the maps also change through time, indicating important changes in palaeoenvironmental conditions and in the alignment of major environmental gradients. Human impact upon European vegetation history is seen to be relatively unimportant when the vegetation is viewed at a continental scale.