The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandCategory: Land + People
Countries of the UK and Their Capitals. Great Britain. Britain. England. The British Isles; 5,500 Islands. Two Main Islands. Location
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK) occupies the territory of the British Isles. It consists of four main countries which are: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the official name of the state which is sometimes referred to as Great Britain or Britain (after its major isle), England (after its major historic part) or the British Isles.
The UK is an island state: it is composed of some 5,500 islands, large and small. The two main islands are: Great Britain (in which are England, Wales and Scotland) to the east and Ireland (in which are Northern Ireland and the independent Irish Republic) to the west. They are separated by the Irish Sea.
The UK is one of the world’s smaller countries (it is twice smaller than France or Spain), with an area of some 244,100 square kilometres. The UK is situated off the northwest coast of Europe between the Atlantic Ocean on the north and northwest and the North Sea on the east and is separated from the European continent by the English Channel (or La Manche) and the Strait of Dover (or Pas de Calais).
The population of the United Kingdom is over 57 million people. There are fourteen other countries in the world with more people.
English is not the only language which people use in the UK. English is the official language. But some people speak Scottish in western Scotland, Welsh—in parts of northern and central Wales, and Irish in Northern Ireland.
The flag of the United Kingdom, known as the Union Jack, is made up of three crosses. The up-right red cross is the cross of St. George, the patron saint of England. The white diagonal cross is the cross of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. The red diagonal cross is the cross of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
The Island of Great Britain
Lowland and Highland Britain. Mountains and Hills. The Chief Rivers. The Lake District. The Largest Cities
Great Britain is the name of the largest island of the British Isles and it is made up of England, Scotland and Wales, it does not include Northern Ireland. In everyday speech ‘Great Britain’ is used to mean the United Kingdom. Geographically, the island of Great Britain is subdivided into two main regions — Lowland Britain and Highland Britain. Lowland Britain comprises southern and eastern England. Highland Britain consists of Scotland, most of Wales, the Pennines, and the Lake District. The Pennine Chain extends southward from the Cheviot Hills into the Midlands, a plains region with low hills and valleys.
England is separated from Scotland by the Cheviot Hills, running from east to west.
The chief rivers of Great Britain are: the Severn, flowing along the border between England and Wales, tributaries of which include the Avon, famed by Shakespeare; the Thames, which flows eastward to the port of London and some others. The swiftest flowing river in the British Isles is the Spey. Part of the border between Scotland and England is along the lower reaches of the Tweed, near which is made the woollen fabric that bears its name.
There are many lakes in Great Britain. On the northwest side of the Pennine system lies the Lake District, containing the beautiful lakes which give it its name. This district is widely known for its association with the history of English literature and especially with the name of William Wordsworth (1770-1850), the founder of the Lake School of poets.
The largest cities of Great Britain are: London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol, Leeds, Edinburgh. The most important ports are: London, Liverpool, Southampton, Belfast, Glasgow and Cardiff.
The Largest Part of the UK. Population. Location. The Sea in the History of England. Rivers. “Dales”. Industries
Of the four parts which make up Great Britain England is the largest, the most industrial and most densely populated part of the United Kingdom. Over 46 million people out of the population of the UK live in England.
The greatest concentrations of population are in London, Birmingham and northwest industrial cities. The coasts of England are washed by the North Sea, the Irish Sea, the English Channel and the Strait of Dover. No part of England is more than 120 kilometres from the sea.
It is interesting to note that the sea has been important in the history of England. It was a good protection against the attacks of outside peoples. Fishing has always been an important industry, especially in the east. The sea also has a great effect on England’s climate.
There are many rivers in England. The longest is the Severn (388 km), the most important is the Thames (354 km). The rivers are of great importance for communication and especially for carrying goods.
England is mostly a lowland country. There are upland regions in the north and the southwest, but the rest of England is almost flat.
Northern England, Midlands and South England—each part of England is different. Lake District in Northern England with its lakes, mountains and valleys is a favourite holiday resort. On either side of the Pennines the plains of Yorkshire and Lancashire stretch to the sea. Swift rivers that flow down from the hills into valleys are called “dales”.
The wool industry is centred in Leeds and Bradford, the cotton industry in Manchester, the iron ore goes to the steel, heavy machinery and shipbuilding industries of Newcastle and other cities. The industries of Midlands with Birmingham as its chief city produce metal goods, from motor cars and railway engines to pins and buttons. The Midland plain makes farming land.
In South England between Highlands lie Lowlands. In this part of England are found some of the oldest British settlements and traces of ancient monuments such as Stonehenge. London is the chief city of South England.
Location. Population. Its Importance in the Life of Britain. The City, the West End and the East End. The Best-Known Streets and Sights
When we think of Paris, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon and other European capitals, we think of them as ‘cities’. When we think of the whole of modern London, the capital city of England and the United Kingdom, that great area covering several hundred square kilometres, we do not think of it as ‘a city’, not even as a city and its suburbs. Modern London is not one city that has steadily become larger through the centuries; it is a number of cities, towns, and villages that have, during the past centuries, grown together to make one vast urban area.
London is situated upon both banks of the River Thames, it is the largest city in Britain and one of the largest in the world. Its population is about 7 million people.
London dominates the life of Britain. It is the chief port of the country and the most important commercial, manufacturing and cultural centre. There is little heavy industry in London, but there is a wide range of light industry in Greater London.
London consists of three parts: the City of London, the West End and the East End.
The City extends over an area of about 2.6 square kilometres in the heart of London. About half a million people work in the City but only less than 6000 live here. It is the financial centre of the UK with many banks, offices and Stock Exchange. But the City is also a market for goods of almost every kind, from all parts of the world.
The West End can be called the centre of London. Here are the historical palaces as well as the famous parks. Hyde Park with its Speaker’s Corner is also here. Among other paries are Kensington Gardens, St. James’s Park. In the West End is Buckingham Palace which is the Queen’s residence, and the Palace of Westminster which is the seat of Parliament.
The best-known streets here are Whitehall with important Government offices, Downing Street, the London residence of Prime Minister and the place where the Cabinet meets, Fleet Street where most newspapers have their offices, Harley Street where the highest paid doctors live, and some others.
The name ‘West End’ came to be associated with wealth, luxury, and goods of high quality. It is the area of the largest department stores, cinemas and hotels. There are about 40 theatres, several concert halls, many museums including the British Museum, and the best art galleries.
It is in the West End where the University of London is centred with Bloomsbury as London’s student quarter.
Visitors with plenty of money to spend and who come chiefly for enjoyment are likely to pass most of their time in the West End.
The Port of London is to the east of the City. Here, today are kilometres and kilometres of docks, and the great industrial areas that depend upon shipping. This is the East End of London, unattractive in appearance, but very important to the country’s commerce.
In recent times London has grown so large, that the Government has decided that it must spread no farther. It is now surrounded by a ‘green belt’, a belt of agricultural and wooded land on which new
buildings may be put up only with the permission of the planning authorities.
Location. Three Main Regions. Population and Its Distribution. Lochs. Aberdeen and Glasgow. Edinburgh and Edinburgh Festival
Although Scotland takes up one third of the territory of the British Isles, its population is not very big. It is the most northern part of the island of Great Britain and is not far away from the Arctic Circle.
That’s why it is not densely populated: its population is a little over 5 million people. The Cheviot Hills mark the boundary between England and Scotland. Apart from this land link with England, Scotland is surrounded by sea.
Scotland includes the Hebrides off the west coast, and the Orkney and Shetland Islands off the north coast. It is bounded by the North Sea on the east.
Scotland is divided into three regions: the Highlands, which is the most northern and the most underpopulated area with a harsh climate, the Lowlands, which is the most industrial region, with about three quarters of the population, and the Southern Uplands, with hills, which border on England.
The Highlands of Scotland are among the oldest mountains in the world. They reach their highest point in Ben Nevis (1343 m). Many valleys between the hills are filled with lakes, called lochs. The best-known is Loch Ness where as some people think a large monster lives. The most important city here is Aberdeen which is the oil centre of Scotland. Ships and helicopters travel from Aberdeen to the North Sea oil rigs. Work on an oil rig is difficult and dangerous.
Most of the population of Scotland is concentrated in the Lowlands. Here, on the Clyde, is Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city. Shipbuilding is one of its most important industries, other industries are iron and steel, heavy and light engineering and coal-mining. It’s an industrial city and an important port in the UK. It’s a grim city because of the greyness of its houses many of which are not suitable tor living and need repairs or rebuilding. Although Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city it is not the capital. Glasgow is the centre of working class movement and has glorious revolutionary traditions.
Scotland had been an independent state and was forcefully joined into the UK after a long struggle for its independence in 1707.
One of the things that people associate with Scotland is the kilt.
The kilt is a relic of the time when the clan system existed in the Highlands. Everybody in the clan had the same family name, like MacDonald or MacGregor (Mac means “son of’). The clan had its own territory and was ruled by a chieftain. Each clan had its own tartan.
Edinburgh has been the capital since the 15th century, when its fortified castle was the centre of Scotland’s resistance to its enemies. Edinburgh is a cultural centre of Scotland. It is associated with the names of George Gordon Byron and Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns and Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. It is also associated with the world-famous Edinburgh Festival of Music and Drama. The Festival was first held in 1947 and has been held annually ever since. Its emblem is a thistle. The Edinburgh International Festival of 1987 was devoted to this country. Our musicians, dancers and singers were a great success.
Landscape. The Welsh. Minerals. Industries. Cardiff. Swansea. Culture
Another constituent country of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is Wales. The Welsh call their country Cymru, and themselves they call Cymry, a word which has the same root as “comrader” (friend, or comrade). The population of Wales is over 3 million people. About 75 per cent of the people of Wales live in towns and urban districts.
The living standards of people in Wales are lower than in England, the unemployment rate is higher. South Wales has a rich tradition of struggle for more jobs and better working conditions in mines.
Wales is a highland country of old, hard rocks. North Wales is a country of mountains and deep valleys, South Wales is a land of high hills and wide valleys. The pride of Wales in scenery is Snowdonia, the region of high mountains. Snowdon is the highest mountain in England and Wales.
Except for coal, mineral resources are limited, and include gold, silver, lead, and copper. South Wales is more developed: coal-mining, steel production, electronics, electrical engineering and chemicals can be found here.
The capital of Wales is Cardiff, the largest city of Wales. Cardiff is situated near the mouth of the Taff River. It is an important industrial city and a port. It is also an administrative and educational centre.
The second largest city in Wales is Swansea where mainly steel production can be found. Since World War II there has been intensive development in the metals industries especially in the south and southeast.
The Welsh people, especially in rural areas, are fond of folk music, singing, poetry and drama. Welsh literature is one of the oldest in Europe. There are many choirs in Wales, the standard of singing is high and the love of good music is widespread. Now there is a growing movement of revival of Welsh culture from which sprang the revival of Eisteddfod. Eisteddfod in the form of the gathering of bards had occasionally been in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Now Eisteddfod is a festival of Welsh culture. It includes competitions in prose, poetry and singing.
Location. History. Struggle for Reunification. Scenery. Industries. Belfast
Northern Ireland is the smallest component of the United Kingdom. It occupies northeast of the island of Ireland, only one-sixth of its
territory. Northern Ireland contains six of the nine counties of the historic province of Ulster and that is why the name “Ulster” is sometimes used as equivalent to Northern Ireland. Its capital city is Belfast.
For seven centuries Ireland was a colony of Britain. Due to the colonial policy of British imperialists the Irish nation was forcefully partitioned. As a result of hard struggle of the Irish people for independence the larger part of Ireland (26 counties) gained the status of a British dominion in 1921. Much later, in 1949 it was officially proclaimed an independent state, the Irish Free State or Eire. The industrial northeast (Northern Ireland with its 6 counties) was retained by Great Britain as its smallest component. But the progressive forces of both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland are for the reunification of the country, against social deprivation which is at its worst among catholics. They believe that British withdrawal from Ireland is the only way to achieve peace. Each day that British troops remain in Ireland is a day longer that the Irish people have to wait for freedom.
If one asks an Irishman away from home what he misses most about Ireland, he will probably tell you “the greenness”. Irish poets put it in a different way when they call Ireland “the Emerald Isle”. Is the grass really greener in Ireland? The fact is that the winds usually blow in from the Atlantic Ocean and make the air and soil warm and damp. Grass grows well in such a climate and it makes the island look so beautiful.
There are low hills and peaks of rocks in the northwest, while the northeast sector of the island is a plateau. The Mourne Mountains in the southeast slope down to Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles. The rivers of Ireland are short, but deep. The largest river is the Shannon.
The population of Northern Ireland is about 1.5 million people. 53 per cent of the total population live in urban areas. The whole economy of Northern Ireland is closely integrated with that of Great Britain. It has its roots in three basic industries —agriculture, textiles and shipbuilding. The largest industry is agriculture conducted for the most part on small family farms. It occupies about 72 per cent of the land area.
Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland is the leading industrial centre and a large port. Its chief industries are the production of linen and other textiles, clothing, shipbuilding, engineering.
Early Inhabitants. The British Nation. Distribution of the Population. National Minorities. Languages
The population of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is over 57 million people. The population lives mostly in towns and cities and their suburbs. Four out of every five people live in towns.
The distribution of the population is rather uneven. Over 46 million people live in England, over 3 million in Wales, a little over 5 million in Scotland and about 1.5 million in Northern Ireland.
Greater London, the south and the southeast are the most densely populated areas. Only London’s population is over 7 million. Most of the mountainous parts of the UK including much of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Pennine Chain in northern England are very sparsely populated.
The UK is inhabited by the English, the Scots, the Welsh, and the Irish who constitute the British nation. The British are the descendants of different peoples who settled in the British Isles at different times.
The earliest known people of Britain were of Iberian origin. Then followed a long succession of invaders including the Celts, the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Danes and at last in 1066 the Normans. It was the last time Britain was invaded.
Now there are also many people of all colours and races in the U K. These are mostly former inhabitants of the former British colonies. These people, called “the coloureds”, came to the UK in search of better living standards as their own countries had been impoverished by centuries of the British colonial oppression.
English is the official language of the UK. Besides standard literary English there are several regional and social dialects. A well-known example is the cockney of East Londoners. The Scottish and Irish forms of Gaelic survive in some parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Wales is officially bilingual, Welsh is spoken by about a fifth of its population. Welsh is the first language in most of the western counties of Wales and at least formally has the same status as English. Nowadays there is a growing movement in Wales and Scotland for a revival of national culture and languages.