We present initial results of a study on the variability of wind speeds across Europe over the past 140 yr, making use of the recent Twentieth Century Reanalysis data set, which includes uncertainty estimates from an ensemble method of reanalysis. Maps of the means and standard deviations of daily wind speeds, and the Weibull-distribution parameters, show the expected features, such as the strong, highly-variable wind in the north-east Atlantic. We do not find any clear, strong long-term trends in wind speeds across Europe, and the variability between decades is large. We examine how different years and decades are related in the long-term context, by looking at the ranking of annual mean wind speeds. Picking a region covering eastern England as an example, our analyses show that the wind speeds there over the past ~ 20 yr are within the range expected from natural variability, but do not span the full range of variability of the 140-yr data set. The calendar-year 2010 is however found to have the lowest mean wind speed on record for this region.