Great Britain

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The island of Great Britian, shown in red

Great Britain is an island in the northwest part of Europe. It is the biggest island on the continent, located off the northern shore of France (across the English Channel) and to the west of Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Norway (across the North Sea).

Great Britain is not the name of a state. The island is part of the sovereign state called the United Kingdom, and contains nearly all of three of its four countries: England, Scotland, and Wales. England is the biggest part of the island and its capital city is London (which is also the capital of the United Kingdom). Scotland is to the north of England, and its capital is Edinburgh. Wales is to the west of England, and its capital is Cardiff. Wales is separated from South West England by the Bristol Channel.

West of Great Britain is a smaller island called Ireland. The island of Ireland contains nearly all of the Republic of Ireland, which is a sovereign state, as well as nearly all of Northern Ireland. No part of Northern Ireland is on the island of Great Britain, but it is all part of the United Kingdom. Many people call the United Kingdom England or Great Britain, and people from other parts of the United Kingdom may not like it when people make this mistake.

Together with many other smaller islands, Ireland and Great Britain form the British Isles. Because most of the island of Ireland is not British, some people find this name inaccurate and even offensive. There is no more accurate term in common use but Great Britain and Ireland is often preferred.

Political definition[change | change source]

Great Britain is the largest island of the United Kingdom. Politically, Great Britain means England, Scotland, and Wales in combination,[1] but not Northern Ireland. It does include islands such as the Isle of Wight, Anglesey, the Isles of Scilly, the Hebrides, and the island groups of Orkney and Shetland.

It does not include the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, which are self-governing dependent territories.[1][2]

History[change | change source]

The writings of the Roman cartographer Ptolemy used the name "Great Britain" for the island in the 2nd century AD. He used the name "Megale Britannia" or "Great Britain" (Ancient Greek: Μεγάλη Βρεττανία, romanized: Μegálē Brettanía) to show the difference between this larger island and Ireland.[3] For Ireland, Ptolemy used the name "Mikra Britannia" or "Little Britain" (Μικρά Βρεττανία, Mikrá Brettanía).[3]

In the later Middle Ages, the kings of England were also the kings of Ireland. However, the two kingdoms were separate, even though they had the same king. In 1603, the two kingdoms in Great Britain (Scotland and England) also started to share the same king. In 1604, James VI and I was the first king to be named "King of Great Britain".[4] He was the king of Scotland when England's queen, Elizabeth I, died. From Elizabeth, James inherited the kingdoms of England and Ireland, whereby Great Britain (and the British Isles started) to share one king. People started to use the Union Jack flag in the time of King James, who had ordered ships to use it in 1607.[4] The flag joined the flag of Scotland and the flag of England together in one flag. However, the three kingdoms were separate.[4]

The political union that joined the kingdoms of England and Scotland happened because of the Acts of Union 1707. These acts of parliament merged the two nations' parliaments (the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England), and joined the two kingdoms into a new Kingdom of Great Britain, or the United Kingdom.[5] The whole island became one kingdom in this way on 1 May 1707, while Anne as queen.[5] The Union Jack changed to its present design, which now has another saltire.

The Parliament of Ireland and the Parliament of Great Britain also merged with one another because of the Act of Union 1800. In 1801, Great Britain and Ireland started to be one kingdom: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.[5] This happened on 1 January 1801, while George III was king.[5] The Irish Free State left the United Kingdom in 1922, and in 1927, the UK's name changed to be the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The national currency of Great Britain is the pound sterling.[6]

More reading[change | change source]

  • Marr, Andrew (2010). The Making of Modern Britain: From Queen Victoria to V.E. Day. Pan. ISBN 9780330510998.
  • Marr, Andrew (2009). A History of Modern Britain (Second ed.). Pan. ISBN 9780330511476.
  • Lynch, Michael (2008). Britain 1945-2007 (Access to History). Hodder Education. ISBN 9780340965955.
  • Lynch, Michael (2008). Britain 1900-51 (Access to History). Hodder Education. ISBN 9780340965948.
  • Deary, Terry (2010). The Horrible History of Britain and Ireland (Horrible Histories). Scholastic. ISBN 9780439953955.
  • McDowall, David (1989). An Illustrated History of Britain. Longman. ISBN 9780582749146.
  • Brocklehurst, Ruth (2008). The Usborne History of Britain. Usborne Publishing. ISBN 9780746084441.
  • Morgan, Kenneth O. (2001). The Oxford History of Britain (Third ed.). Oxford Paperbacks. ISBN 9780192801357.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Key facts about the United Kingdom". Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2008.
  2. Ademuni-Odeke (1998). Bareboat Charter (ship) Registration. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 367. ISBN 90-411-0513-1.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bradley, Richard, ed. (2019). "Chapter 1 - The Offshore Islands". The Prehistory of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge World Archaeology (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–29. doi:10.1017/9781108419925.001. ISBN 978-1-108-41992-5.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "James VI and I (1566–1625), king of Scotland, England, and Ireland". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-14592. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "Monarchs of Great Britain and the United Kingdom (1707–2017)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-92648. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  6. "GBP Currency Information". 2016. Retrieved 21 February 2016.