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Great Britain is a large island surrounded by around 1,000 small islands and islets. It houses England, Scotland and Wales along with their capitals. Great Britain lies to the northwest of Continental Europe. It belongs to the island group British Isles.
Fast Facts
Continent: Europe
Countries: England, Scotland and Wales, together form the Great Britain.
Capital(s): London is the capital of United Kingdom and England. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, and Cardiff is the capital of Wales.
Area: 88,745 sq miles
Population: 62.74 million (2011 census), includes the population of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland
Currency: UK £
National Anthem: God Save the Queen (is mainly played when the Queen makes a public appearance, at the end of Remembrance Day services, and at medal ceremonies)
Official Language: English
Religion: Christianity
Long, Long Ago...
✦ How was Great Britain formed? Towards the conclusion of the Pleistocene Ice Age, isostatic depression of the Earth's crust and the melting of glaciers caused the sea levels to rise. Before the Ice Age, Great Britain was a peninsula. The rise in the sea level also resulted in the formation of the English Channel. In the Iron Age, Britons who spoke the Celtic language inhabited Great Britain. After being conquered by the Romans, the province came to be known as the ancient Roman province of Britannia. After the decline of the Roman Empire, the Britons assimilated with the Germanic tribes. They together, were called the English people.
✦ Traces of the ancient man from around 700,000 years ago have been found in Great Britain. The skeleton of the Cheddar Man was found in the Cheddar Gorge near Bristol, along with fossils of antelopes, brown bears and other animals native to Europe.
About the Name 'Great Britain'
✦ Great Britain was known as the land of Albinos and hence its name was Albion. Britain derived its name from Britannia, a word used by the Romans for the British Isles.
✦ The word 'Great' was prefixed to 'Britain' to name the political unit of Britain. So, Britain is an island while the geopolitical unit is referred to as Great Britain.
Great Britain map
✦ England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland (specifically northern Ireland) together form the United Kingdom. When the name Great Britain is used, it refers to England, Scotland, and Wales. Simply put, the United Kingdom (UK) includes Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
✦ Though the words Britain and Great Britain are used interchangeably, Britain is meant to refer to only England and Wales.
✦ Since 1922, the official name of UK is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Geography
✦ Great Britain is the largest island of the British Isles. It boasts of being the largest island of Europe and ranks ninth in the list of world's largest islands.
✦ With Ireland to its west, it occupies the largest part of the territory of state that is called United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The North Atlantic Ocean lies to the north of Great Britain while the North Sea lies to its east. Great Britain is separated from Continental Europe by the English Channel.
✦ The eastern and southern regions of Great Britain are low-lying areas while hills and mountains are found in the northern and western regions.
Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis, at a height of 1344 meters is the highest point in Great Britain.
Fenland
The lowest point in Great Britain is Holme Fen in Cambridgeshire, which is about 2.75 meters below sea level.
Countries and Their Capitals
✦ London is the capital and the largest city of United Kingdom. The capitals of England, Scotland and Wales are, London, Edinburgh, and Cardiff respectively.
London, England
London, England
✦ Occupying the central and southern regions of Great Britain, England has Wales to its west, North Sea to the east, Scotland to the north and the English Channel to the south. It occupies an area of more than 50,000 square miles and is the biggest country in Britain.

✦ The country derives its name from Englaland or land of the Angles. Angles refers to Germanic tribes that inhabited England in the Early Middle Ages.

✦ The Parliament of the United Kingdom directly governs England.

✦ England is home to some of the top universities and educational centers in the world. The English language and the English law are two of England's important contributions to society. The Industrial Revolution began in this country and England was first to become an industrialized nation.
Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland
✦ Occupying the northern region of Great Britain, Scotland has England to its south, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west and the North sea to the east. It occupies an area of more than 30,000 square miles.

✦ The country derives its name from Scotia or the land of Gales which was a term formerly used to refer to Ireland.

✦ Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and its second-largest city. It is 2010's most competitive city of the United Kingdom. It is popular as a tourist destination and is often voted as one of the best places to live.

✦ Scotland has a devolved government. The Monarch of the United Kingdom is the Head of State of Scotland. A member of the Scottish Parliament is appointed as the First Minister. The appointment is made by the Queen on nomination of the Parliament. The First Minister selects other ministers to form the Scottish Government.

✦ Scotland is famous for its freshwater lakes. It has a cultural heritage of medieval castles and it hosts many arts and music festivals, which people across the globe look forward to attend.
Cardiff, Wales
Cardiff, Wales
✦ With England to its east and the Atlantic ocean to its west, Wales occupies an area of around 8000 square miles.

✦ It derives its name from Walh, adopted from Volcae, a Celtic tribe.

✦ Cardiff is the largest city of Wales. It is the country's capital since 1955. The Wales national assembly is in Cardiff and the city is also a large cultural and media center. It is one of the flattest cities in Britain.

✦ Wales has a devolved government. The National Assembly of Wales elects a First Minister. He selects ministers who form the Welsh Government.

✦ Wales has a long history and a unique culture. It is known as the land of song. During the Industrial Revolution, mining and metallurgy developed as industries in the country. Wales also has some of the finest breweries in the world.
People and Culture
✦ Great Britain has a population of about 62 million. It is the third-most populated island in the world. Java and Honshu top the list.
✦ The culture of Great Britain is a blend of the English, Scottish and Welsh cultures which are similar in some ways and different in others. Add to this diversity, the influence of migration of people from around the world to Great Britain. This has hybridized the British culture.
✦ The English constitute a large part of Great Britain's population. The Scottish, the Irish and the Welsh also inhabit Great Britain. Lately, people from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and other parts of the world have started moving to Great Britain, leading to a rise in its population.
✦ The pure British cuisine makes use of local ingredients and simple sauces. Fish and chips is a popular takeaway dish. After the 11th century, the British were introduced to exotic spices. Meat and herb-stewing techniques were brought in by the Anglo-Saxons. When the British were ruling India, the Indian food culture influenced their cuisine. Two striking examples of the Indian influence on the British are:
  • Some think of British Asian Chicken tikka masala as Britain's national dish.
  • The British are the world's second-largest per capita tea consumers.
✦ Easter and Christmas are national public holidays in the United Kingdom.
✦ Christianity is the religion of a majority of Great Britain's population. Hinduism and Sikhism are among the other religions followed. The Church of England is the officially established Christian church. Senior bishops of this church are members of the House of Lords, the upper house of the United Kingdom's Parliament. The Methodist Church is the largest Wesleyan Methodist body in the United Kingdom. It has emerged from a movement that started in the Church of England by a small group of students who were referred to as members of the 'Holy Club' or 'Methodists'.
✦ Mainly, the English language is spoken in Great Britain. Apart from this, Welsh and Scottish are also used.
✦ The British literature is one of the oldest and the richest in the world. The British Romantic movement saw the emergence of some of world's greatest writers and the introduction of Romanticism in literature.
✦ Football, rugby, and cricket are popular among the British. The national sport of Wales is the Rugby union, while golf is the national sport of Scotland. Cricket is the national sport of England but soccer being very popular, is regarded by many, as the country's national sport.
Politics
✦ Great Britain was developed into a union of Scotland and England. The Acts of Union in 1707 caused the merger of the two countries and led to the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain. Due to the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed. The British and Irish Parliaments were combined to form the Parliament of the United Kingdom that came into effect on January 1, 1801.
Parliament house
✦ The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland also known as the British Parliament is the highest legislative body in the country. The Palace of Westminster, London houses it. The parliament is bicameral; it consists of an upper house (House of Lords) and a lower house (House of Commons), and the Queen as its third component. Bishops of the Church of England and members of the Peerage form the House of Lords, while members of the House of Commons are elected through elections held every five years.
✦ For administrative purposes and to demarcate geographical boundaries, England, Scotland and Wales are divided into counties or shires. The government structure in Great Britain is quite non-uniform owing to the different administrative structures in the three countries it comprises. Wales has a National Assembly of Wales and the Welsh Government. Locally, it is divided into counties. Scotland has a Scottish Government and a Scottish Parliament. Locally it has council areas. England is divided into regions. Geographical divisions are made by ceremonial counties.
British Flags
St. Andrew's Cross
St. Andrew's Cross
Also known as the St. Andrew's Cross or the Saltire, this flag is used by the Government of Scotland, sports teams that represent the country, and by the ordinary citizens.
Red Dragon
Red Dragon
Also known as the Red Dragon, the Government of Wales uses this flag. It is also used by Welsh sports teams and ordinary citizens.
St. George's Cross
St. George's Cross
Also known as St. George's Cross, it is used by the Church of England and also by England's sports teams and ordinary citizens.
Union Flag
Union Flag
This is recognized as the flag of Great Britain. It is the Union Flag or Union Jack and is used as the national flag by the government of United Kingdom. The design of this flag is a combination of the flags of England and Scotland, with the St. Patrick's Saltire (a red saltire that represents Ireland).
Since the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has become a unified state, the word 'British' refers to the United Kingdom. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Great Britain has emerged as a great power.