Britain in the 1960’sCategory: Land + People
The Physical Background
The British Isles form a group lying off the north-west coast of Europe with a total area of about 121,600 square miles. The largest islands are Great Britain proper (comprising the mainlands of England, Wales and Scotland) and Ireland (comprising Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic). Off the southern coast of England is the Isle of Wight and off the extreme south-west are the Isles of Scilly; off North Wales is Anglesey. Western Scotland is fringed by numerous islands and to the far north are the important groups of the Orkneys and Shetlands. All these form administrative counties of the mainland, but the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea and the Channel Islands between Great Britain and France have a large measure of administrative autonomy and are not part of England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
England (including the county of Monmouth on the Welsh border) has a total area (including inland water) of 50,327 square miles and is divided into 40 geographical or 49 administrative counties.
Wales (including Monmouthshire) with a total area of 8,017 square miles, has 13 counties; Scotland, including its 186 inhabited islands, has a total area of 30,411 square miles and is divided into 33 counties; and Northern Ireland, consisting of six counties, has a total area of 5,459 square miles.
Together, these countries constitute the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with a total area of 94, 214 square miles. The total land area of the United Kingdom (excluding inland water) is 93,018 square miles: England, 50,051; Wales and Monmouthshire, 7,966; Scotland, 29,795; and Northern Ireland, 5,206 square miles.
Care must be taken when studying British statistics to note whether they refer to England as defined above, to England and Wales (considered together for many administrative and other purposes), to Great Britain, which comprises England, Wales and Scotland, or the United Kingdom as a whole. The position is further complicated by the fact that the county of Monmouth is sometimes included with England.
The fauna of the British Isles is, in general, similar to that of north-western Europe, though there are fewer species. Some of the larger mammals, including the wolf, the bear, the boar and the reindeer, have become extinct; but red deer, protected for sporting reasons, flourish in the Scottish Highlands and on Exmoor. There are foxes in most rural areas, and otters are found along many rivers and streams. Seals may be seen on various parts of the coast.
There are about 430 species of birds, including many song-birds. About 230 species are resident and the rest are regular visitors to Britain.
Reptiles and amphibians are few. The former are represented by three species of snakes, of which only the adder is venomous. There are no snakes in Ireland.
River and lake fish include salmon, trout, perch, roach, grayling and pike.
There are more than 21,000 different kinds of insects, most of them small, in the British Isles. The insect fauna in Britain is less varied than that of continental Europe and lacks a number of common European species. With modern methods of pest control, extensive insect damage to crops or timber and serious outbreaks of diseases commonly spread by insects are exceptional in Britain.
The Demographic Background
The people who now inhabit the British Isles are descended mainly from the people who inhabited them nearly nine centuries ago. It is neither possible nor suitable to attempt here to estimate the relative importance of various early peoples — pre-Celts, Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons and the Norsemen, including the Danes—in the ancestry of the present English, Scots, Welsh and Irish. It is significant, however, that over most of England and the Lowlands of Scotland the language which soon came to predominate was English, mainly a marriage of Anglo - Saxon and Norman - French, while the use of Celtic languages persisted in Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, the Highlands of Scotland and in Ireland.
The enumerated population of the United Kingdom at the census taken on 23rd April, 1961, was 52,675,556, excluding persons in the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, which are not strictly parts of the United Kingdom.
Between the 1961 census and June 1962 the population increased faster than at any time in the past 40 years owing to natural increase and exceptionally high net gain from migration. The population of the United Kingdom taken as a whole is predominantly urban and suburban. The greatest concentration of population in Britain is in the London area.
Britain, An official handbook, 1964 edition, London.