You are on page 1of 9

UNIT 1.

The United Kingdom and the


Four Nations: Situating the Country
Geographically and Politically.
Geographically Speaking

The Isle of Man


Great Britain
North
Sea

Channel Islands
Ireland

During the 19th and 20th centuries, these islands were called The British Isles, but
most people in Ireland regarded the name as outdated because it calls to mind the time
when Ireland was politically dominated by Britain.
Among the names that have been used: The north-east Atlantic archipelago, The
north-west European archipelago, IONA (Islands of the Norht Atlantic) and The
Isles. None of these widely accepted.
The most common term Great Britain and Ireland. But it ignores smaller islands.
Furthermore, politically both the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are crown
dependencies. They are not officially part of the UK. Each has internal selfgovernment, own parliament and own tax system. Both are ruled by a Lieutenant
Governor appointed by the British government.

Politically Speaking
The United
Kingdom of Great
Britain and
Northern Ireland
The United
Kingdom

Great Britain
Also referred to as
the Republic
British

Other historical and poetical names


ALBION
Used by poets and songwriters to refer to England or to Sctoland or to Great Britain as a
whole. The Romans associated Great Britain with the Latin word albus. The white
chalk cliffs around Dover are the first land formations one sights when crossing the sea
from the European mainland.
In the mythical story of the founding of Britain, Albion was a giant son of Poseidon, the
Greek god of the sea. Albion founded a country on the island and ruled there. Britain,
then called Albion after its founder, was inhabited by his Giant descendants until about
1100 years before Julius Caesars invasion of Britain, when Brutus of Troy came and
defeated the small number of Giants that remained .
William Blakes image of Albion, accompanied with the words: "Albion rose from
where he labourd at the Mill with Slaves / Giving himself for the Nations he danc'd the
dance of Eternal Death".

BRITANNIA
Britannia is the name given by the Romans to their southern British province
(approximately the area of contemporary England and Wales). It is also the name given
to the female embodiment of Britain, always wearing a helmet and a trident, symbol of
power over the sea. The figure of Britannia has been on the reverse side of many British
coins for more than 300 years. Most famously, it appears in the patriotic song Rule
Britannia.

A very brief history of Scotland


Britain had been populated by Celtic tribes. In the area we know as Scotland, there were
the Picts (tribes). The tribes living in Scotland were known as Caledonians or Scots,
which refers to the amalgamation of the different peoples in the area.
The Roman invasion of Britain started in 54BC. The Scots were never successfully
conquered. In fact, to prevent their onslaught onto the south, the Romans built Hadrians
Wall.
During the Anglo-Saxon invasion (from AD 500), Britons (Celts living in Britain) fled
to Scotland, West Wales (Devon and Cornwall) and France (which became Brittany).
Meanwhile, Scots established various kingdoms.
Vikings + Danes. From the 8th century, there were various Viking onslaughts onto the
island. They successfully colonized the country and united all English kingdoms into
one. Scotland, again, was not conquered and various nobles and kings ruled the land.
After the Norman invasion (they didnt control the whole country, just up to Scotland,
where Scottish decided to rebel) of England in 1066 there were, however, various
attempts to conquer Scotland and the country lived under constant threat from the
English, who managed to control territories in the South. This led to various rebellions,
one of them during Edward Is (Longshanks) kingdom, led by William Wallace, who
was captured, hanged and beheaded.
During the reign of Edward II in England, under the leadership of Robert the Bruce (he
united all the novels to fight against the English; he became the king of Scotland), Scots
put divisions behind and united against England. They won Scottish independence in
the Battle of Bannockburn (1314). During the Reign of Edward III in England, the
3

English forced Robert the Bruces son into exile (by English, to manipulate the Scottish
king) and placed a more subservient Scottish claimant.
Mary Queen of Scots was the last Queen of Scotland. She was Queen Elizabeth Is
cousin and was beheaded after she was charged with high treason for having plotted
against Elizabeth (Elizabeth I ordered to behead Mary Queen for treason).
When Elizabeth I died without children, James VI (The House of the Stuart ruled
Scotland and England until 1707, when they became all united The United Kingdom),
son of Mary Queen of Scots, inherited the throne of England as James I. He and his
descendants ruled both countries, which remained separate until the act of Union
(1707).
Under the Act of Union, the Scottish parliament was dissolved and some of its members
joined the English and Welsh parliament. The former two kingdoms became the United
Kingdom of Great Britain. Although they retained their legal system, they were not all
happy with the agreement. The Scottish people had to balance the loss of their ancient
independence against the need to open themselves up to a wider world and greater
opportunities than their own country could provide.
The political independence of Scotland before the Act of Union did not prevent a
gradual switch into English language and customs in southern Scotland. The kind of
English spoken there had developed into a written language known as Scots. However,
the Scottish Protestant church adopted English rather than Scotch bibles and the
glamour of the court (sitting in England) made English fashionable. English became the
standard written language, with Scots gradually becoming a dialect. In the highlands,
Gaelic (Scottish) culture and language were preserved (Gaelic culture and language are
still alive; its called Scottish-Gaelic).

A still briefer history of Wales


Wales had been inhabited by Celts and Britons, but also from people of Anglo-Saxon
and Viking origin. During the Anglo-Saxon and Viking invasion, the area of West Wales
(Devon and Cornwell) was conquered and assimilated into the English territories. The
rest of Wales was ruled by five kings. After the Norman invasion, they effectively lost
their independence and became assimilated into England in the 13th century, during the
4

reign of Edward I Longshanks (yes, Braveheart). Despite English rule, northern and
central Wales was never settled in great numbers by Saxons or Normans. The Welsh
language and culture remained strong.

The history of Ireland reduced to essentials


Ireland, originally populated by Celts (as well as Britons and Vikings) can be regarded
as the first English colony (first country they invaded 14, 15 century), its language and
culture absorbed by English-speaking, Protestant England. Anglo-Norman knights
established English law. During the Tudor period, various settlements and plantations
were established (English thought that Irish were a lower class). In 1801, the separate
Irish parliament was closed (the English got fed up with the Irish, and Ireland was
incorporated in the UK; but Ireland kept on fighting for their independence) and the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed. After fierce struggle for
independence, the Partition of Ireland took place in 1921 (19th Century Ireland became
independent; only northern Ireland is part of England).

Climate
The popular belief that it rains all the time in the United Kingdom is simply not true.
Generally speaking, the further west you go, the more rain you get. The country doesnt
usually get very cold in the winter or very hot in the summer. Again, the winters are
slightly colder in the west part of the country while the south is warmer and sunnier
than the north. The reason why people seem to talk so much about the weather has to do
with its changeability

Land and settlement


Britain has neither towering mountain ranges nor impressively large rivers, plains and
forests. What it lacks in grandeur it makes up for in variety. Overall, the south and the
east are comparatively low-lying, consisting of flat plains or gently rolling hills.
Mountainous areas are found only in the north and the west. Much of the land is used
for human habitation. Because of their love of the countryside and concern about
privacy, the English and the Welsh do not like living in blocks of flats in city centers. As
a result, cities in these areas have been built outwards rather than upwards. Almost 80%
of the people live in towns or cities.
5

Pollution
The foggy image we associate with London has, in fact, disappeared. It was not fog, but
smog (smoke + fog; caused by pollution) that gave London its fame as popularized in
the novels by Dickens and in the Sherlock Holmes stories, with lavish descriptions of
Londons pea-soupers (thick fogs). In 1952, a particularly bad smog was estimated to
have caused between 4,000 and 8,000 deaths. Water pollution was also a problem. This
situation was remedied in the 1960s and 1970s. Laws were passed which forbade the
heating of homes with open coal fires and which stopped much of the pollution from
factories. Now the most serious form of air pollution is that caused by motor cars and
weather forecasts usually have an air-quality section.

Threats from the sea


Even though Britain has not succumbed to foreign invasions since the Norman
conquest, it is under attack ... from the sea. Because of global warming, sea levels are
rising. The Atlantic waves which hit Britains north, south and west coasts are getting
taller. The east coast is actually sinking away. In 1992, a clifftop near Scarborough
collapsed ... the guests at the Holbeck hotel on top of the cliff had to leave in a hurry.
London is vulnerable to flooding due to tidal surges along the river Thames. The
Thames Barrier, completed in 1983, has been used to protect London from flooding.

London
Home to the headquarters of all government departments, the countrys parliament, its
major legal institutions, the monarch, national television networks and national
newspapers. Centre of business, banking and transport network. The original walled city
of London was quite small. The government was in the close city of Westminster.
Today, both are two areas of Central London, known as the square mile or, most
popularly, the City. Two other popular areas of London are the West End and the East
End.
The West End is known for its many theatres, cinemas and expensive shops (posh
district). The East End is known as the poorest residential area of central London.
Cultural and racial variety is enormous in London. More than 300 languages are spoken
there and its restaurants offer cuisine from more than 70 different countries.
6

Southern England and the Midlands


The county of Kent is known as the Garden of England. No heavy industry (trade,
services and light manufacturing). Did
not suffer the slow economic decline
that affected other parts of England.
(circle = Wales)
The West Country is well-known for its

rural beauty, especially so the south-west


peninsula, with its rocky coasts and numerous
small bays and wild moorlands such as Exmoor
and

Dartmoor (Lands End).

East Anglia is comparatively rural. Part of this


region known as the Fens has been reclaimed
from the sea, and much of it has a very watery,
misty feeling to it.

The
Midlands of England, mostly an industrial area.
The area south of Manchester is known as the
Potteries. MAJOR CITIES in the mid-lands:
Birmingham, Nottingham (Robin Hood) and
Stratford-upon-Avon.

Northern England
Large deposits of coal

and iron in the Pennine Mountains

allowed these areas to

lead the Industrial Revolution.

MAJOR CITIES in the

North: Liverpool, Manchester and

Newcastle.
The North of England

is identified with the noisy, dirty

factories that symbolize

the Industrial Revolution. But the

achievements of these

new industrial towns also induced

a feeling of civic pride

in their inhabitants. The decline in

heavy

however, hit the industrial north

industry,

hard. The level of unemployment is higher than in the rest of the country. Having said
that, the North of England is also characterized by breathtaking scenery. As The York
Moors (Wuthering Heights) and The Lake District.

Scotland
Three fairly clearly marked regions: southern uplands, central plain and the highlands.
In the late 20th century, this region had many of the same difficulties as the industrial
north of England, although the North Sea oil industry helped to keep unemployment
down. Glasgow is associated with heavy industry, some of the worst housing conditions
in Britain and strong artistic heritage. It was European capital of culture in 1990. It has
received many immigrants from Ireland, so there is an echo of the same divisions in the
community as they exist in Northern Ireland.

Edinburgh, the capital, is smaller than Glasgow. It is associated with scholarship, the
law and administration. The annual Edinburgh Festival of the Arts is internationally
famous.

Wales
Most people in Wales live in one small part of it, the
south-east country, which had major coal mines now
almost entirely extinct. CAPITAL CITY: Cardiff.

Northern Ireland
With the exception of Belfast, famous for its manufacture
of Linen and a shipbuilding city, this region is largely agricultural
and has several areas of spectacular natural beauty (The Giants
Causeway).