England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Its mainland is located in the southern and central part of the island of Great Britain in the North Atlantic. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; and adjoins the Irish Sea to the north-west, the Celtic Sea to the south-west, the North Sea to the east, and the English Channel separating it from continental Europe to the south. In addition to the mainland, England consists of over 100 smaller islands, including the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight. The population of England is about 51 million, making up around 84% of the United Kingdom total.
England became a unified state in the year 927 and takes its name from the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes who settled Great Britain during the 5th and 6th centuries. England has had a significant cultural and legal impact on the wider world being the place of origin of the English language, the Church of England and English law, which forms the basis of the common law legal systems of countries around the world. It formed the world's oldest parliamentary system and consequently the innovations that came from it have been widely adopted by other nations. During the 18th century England gave birth to the Industrial Revolution and became the first country in the world to industrialise. It is home to the Royal Society, which laid the foundations of modern experimental science.]
England is a predominantly lowland country, although there are upland regions in the north (including the Lake District, Pennines and Yorkshire Moors) and in the south and south west (including Dartmoor, the Cotswolds, and the North and South Downs). The area has been settled by humans who have adopted various cultures for over 29,000 years. London, England's capital, is the largest metropolian area in the United Kingdom and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. The population of England is concentrated in London and the South East, as well as conurbations in the Midlands, the North West, the North East and Yorkshire, all of which developed as major industrial regions during the 19th century.
The Kingdom of England (including Wales) remained a sovereign state until 1 May 1707, when the Acts of Union, putting into effect the terms agreed in the Treaty of Union the previous year, resulted in political union with the Kingdom of Scotland to create the united Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1800, Great Britain was united with Ireland through another Act of Union 1800 to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922 the Irish Free State was established as a separate dominion, but the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act in 1927 reincorporated into the kingdom six Irish counties to officially create the current United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest. In addition to the mainland, Scotland consists of over 790 islands including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.
Edinburgh, the country's capital and second largest city, is one of Europe's largest financial centres. Edinburgh was the hub of the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century, which transformed Scotland into one of the commercial, intellectual and industrial powerhouses of Europe. Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, was once one of the world's leading industrial cities and now lies at the centre of the Greater Glasgow conurbation. Scottish waters consist of a large sector of the North Atlantic and the North Sea, containing the largest oil reserves in the European Union.
The Kingdom of Scotland was an independent sovereign state before 1 May 1707 when it entered into a political union with the Kingdom of England to create the united Kingdom of Great Britain. This union resulted from the Treaty of Union agreed in 1706 and enacted by the twin Acts of Union passed by the Parliaments of both countries, despite widespread protest across Scotland. Scotland's legal system continues to be separate from those of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and Scotland still constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in public and in private law. The continued independence of Scots law, the Scottish education system, and the Church of Scotland have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and Scottish national identity since the Union. Although Scotland is no longer a separate sovereign state, the constitutional future of Scotland continues to give rise to debate.
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom, bordered by England to its east, and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It is also an elective region of the European Union. Wales has a population estimated at three million and is officially bilingual, with both Welsh and English having equal status; the majority use English as their first language.
Once a Celtic land, and considered one of the Celtic nations, a distinct Welsh national identity emerged in the early fifth century, after the Roman withdrawal from Britain. The 13th-century defeat of Llewelyn by Edward I completed the Anglo-Norman conquest of Wales and brought about centuries of English occupation. Wales was subsequently incorporated into England with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, creating the legal entity known today as England and Wales. However, distinctive Welsh politics developed in the 19th century, and in 1881 the Welsh Sunday Closing Act became the first legislation applied exclusively to Wales. In 1955 Cardiff was proclaimed as national capital and in 1999 the National Assembly for Wales was created, which holds responsibility for a range of devolved matters.
The capital Cardiff is Wales's largest city with 317,500 people. For a period it was the biggest coal port in the world and, for a few years before World War One, handled a greater tonnage of cargo than either London or Liverpool. Two-thirds of the Welsh population live in South Wales, with another concentration in eastern North Wales. Many tourists have been drawn to Wales's "wild... and picturesque" landscapes. From the late 19th century onwards, Wales acquired its popular image as the "land of song", attributable in part to the revival of the eisteddfod tradition. Actors, singers and other artists are celebrated in Wales today, often achieving international success. Cardiff is the largest media centre in the UK outside of London.
Llywelyn the Great founded the Principality of Wales in 1216. Just over a hundred years after the Edwardian Conquest, Owain Glyndŵr briefly restored independence in the early 15th century, to what was to become modern Wales. Traditionally the British Royal Family have bestowed the courtesy title of 'Prince of Wales' upon the heir apparent of the reigning monarch. Wales is sometimes referred to as the 'Principality of Wales', or just the 'principality', although this has no modern geographical or constitutional basis.
Ireland is the third-largest island in Europe, and the twentieth-largest island in the world. It lies to the north-west of continental Europe and is surrounded by hundreds of islands and islets. To the east of Ireland, separated by the Irish Sea, is the island of Great Britain. Politically, the sovereign state of Ireland (described as the Republic of Ireland) covers five-sixths of the island, with Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) covering the remainder in the north-east.
The first settlements in Ireland date from 8000 BC. By 200 BC Celtic migration and influence had come to dominate the island. Relatively small scale settlements of both the Vikings and Normans in the Middle Ages gave way to complete English domination by the 1600s. Protestant English rule resulted in the marginalisation of the Catholic majority, although in the north-east, Protestants were in the majority due to the Plantation of Ulster. Ireland became part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801. A famine in the mid-1800s caused large-scale death and emigration. The Irish War of Independence ended in 1921 with the British Government proposing a truce and during which the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed, creating the Irish Free State. This was a Dominion within the British Empire, with effective internal independence but still constitutionally linked with the British Crown. Northern Ireland, consisting of six of the 32 Irish counties which had been established as a devolved region under the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, immediately exercised its option under the treaty to retain its existing status within the United Kingdom. The Free State left the Commonwealth to become a republic in 1949. In 1973 both parts of Ireland joined the European Community. Conflict in Northern Ireland led to much unrest from the late 1960s until the 1990s, which subsided following a peace deal in 1998.
The population of the island is slightly over 6 million (2006), with 4.5 million in the Republic and an estimated almost 1.75 million in Northern Ireland. This is a significant increase from a modern historic low in the 1960s, but still much lower than the peak population of over 8 million in the early 19th century, prior to the Great Famine.
The name Ireland derives from the name of the Celtic goddess Ériu (in modern Irish, Éire) with the addition of the Germanic word land. Most other western European names for Ireland, such as Spanish Irlanda, derive from the same source.
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