WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT GREAT BRITAIN
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WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT GREAT BRITAIN
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland lies at the northwestern edge of Europe, separated from the European mainland by the English Channel, the North Sea, and the narrow Strait of Dover. It consists of the formerly separate kingdoms of England and Scotland and the principality of Wales—which are collectively referred to as Great Britain—and the six counties of Northern Ireland, which elected to remain within the United Kingdom in 1921 when southern Ireland withdrew to form the Irish Free State (after 1949, the Republic of Ireland, or Eire).
The loss of Ireland and its withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Nations in 1949 rendered politically obsolete the use of the collective term British Isles. Other integral parts of the United Kingdom are the outlying Hebrides, Orkney Islands, and Shetland Islands, off the coast of Scotland; Anglesey (see Gwynedd), off the coast of Wales; and the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles, off the southwest coast of England. Separate from the kingdom but administered by the crown, each with its own laws and systems of taxation, are the Isle of Man, located in the Irish Sea; and the Channel Islands, located off the northwest coast of France.
England is the largest and most populous unit in the kingdom, with an area of 130,439 ‹ (50,363 ś) and a population (1994 est.) of 48,707,500. Wales, located to the west and separated from England by a boundary dating back to the Middle Ages, has an area of 20,768 ‹ (8,018 ś) and 2,913,000 inhabitants; it became part of the English kingdom in 1282 but continues to maintain a separate language and national identity.
Scotland—with an area of 78,772 ‹ (30,414 ś) and 5,132,400 inhabitants—lies to the north, separated from England by a boundary that extends from Solway Firth (estuary) on the west, across the sparsely populated Cheviot Hills, to the north of Berwick upon Tweed. Scotland and England were ruled by the same monarchs after 1603 and were united in 1707 to form the kingdom of Great Britain. Ireland was made an integral part of the kingdom in 1801, changing the official name to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The present name was adopted after the partition of Ireland in 1921. Northern Ireland has an area of 14,121 ‹ (5,452 ś) and a population of 1,641,700.
Commonly described as "in Europe but not of it," Great Britain and Ireland remained relatively isolated from world events until the 15th century when the Age of Discovery placed them on the world's newly charted sea-lanes and trading routes.Increasingly, the island nation looked away from Europe in later centuries and across the seas to the Americas, India, the Far East, southern and interior Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.Overseas colonies were established, forming the enormous British Empire.
Many of these colonies chose to retain trade and other ties to Britain when granted independence and are today part of the Commonwealth; because of these ties, however, the United Kingdom's entry into the European Union (EU) in 1973 was preceded by lengthy negotiations and dispute.The Industrial Revolution began in the United Kingdom, which in the 19th century became the world's preeminent industrial and trading nation.
In the 20th century, however, competition from more recently industrialized countries as well as the loss of its colonies (which had provided raw materials for Britain's industries and markets for their finished products) brought an economic decline. In the 1960s and 1970s severe labor disputes, unprecedented inflation, and declining exports contributed to a series of economic crises.During the Industrial Revolution the country became rapidly urbanized, and today more than 70% of the total population is concentrated in cities occupying 10% of the total land area.
To protect the remaining countryside, national planning legislation has established ten national parks in the most scenic areas, including Dartmoor, the Lake District, the Pennines, the Snowdonia, the Pembrokeshire coast, North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Northumbria, Exmoor, and the Brecon Beacons. Other areas are also protected as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
LAND AND RESOURCES
Despite its small size, variety of scene is the main characteristic of the United Kingdom.
The largest area of flat plain occurs in The Fens, located on the east coast around The Wash. Before they were drained to produce a rich agricultural landscape similar to the polders in the Netherlands, The Fens were an area of marshland. Smaller flat areas are found along the River Humber estuary farther north on the east coast; along the Thames below London; and in Romney Marsh, in the southeastern county of Kent. Elsewhere, lowland England in the south and east is rolling country with a variety of landforms reflecting differences in underlying rock types.