Geography, Economy and Population
Great Britain is situated on the British Isles lying off the northwest coast of Europe. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the northwest, north and southwest, and is separated from the European continent by the North Sea, and the English Channel. On the west, the Irish sea and North Channel separate Great Britain from Ireland. The country has a mild and rainy climate, determined by the warm current of the Gulf Stream. The prevailing winds are south-westerly. Rain is regularly distributed throughout the year. The coldest months are January and February. The average temperatures are about 16 degrees. June has the best record of sunshine. During summer the temperature occasionally rises above 27 degrees in the south; winter temperatures below –7 degrees are rare. The population of Great Britain is more than 56 million people. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The largest cities of Great Britain are London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol, Leeds and Edinburgh. Great Britain is an industrialized country. Major industries include iron and steel engineering (including motor vehicles and aircraft), textiles, plastics, cotton, chemicals, electronics, wool, shipbuilding and food products. Coal is Britain’s leading mineral resource and coal mining is the country’s most important extractive industry. Natural gas, large quantities of which have been discovered in the North sea, is another major mineral resource. The chief agricultural products are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, sugar beet, milk, and meat.
Great Britain comprises England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. It includes four nations: English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish people differ sometimes in their way of life, customs, values and traditions. Both in Wales and Scotland there are some demands for more recognition of their national distinctions. England
England occupies the largest, southern part of Great Britain. The southwest and west are largely plains, hills, and moors. The principal mountains are The Pennines, running from the N. Midlands to the Scottish border, the Cornish heights in the southwest, The Cheviot Hills, lying on the border between England and Scotland, and the Cumbrian mountains in the Lake District. The east is mainly and open, cultivated plaint. England has about 47 million inhabitants in 50 000 square miles.
The country is divided into 39 countries. Lancashire, Yorkshire, Warwickshire, Hampshire, Kent, Cheshire, Durham, Essex and Sussex are the largest and the most populated. England is highly industrialised. The development of industry started during the period of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th and early 19th century. Many important inventions, such as the invention of stream engine by James Watt were made by Englishmen. The development of industry has concentrated mainly in the north, in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Manchester used to be a major industrial and commercial centre as early as in the middle of 19th century. Now it has a variety of industries, particularly engineering. Newcastle upon Tyne is the centre of industry based on coal, iron, steel and shipbuilding. Sheffield has concentrated on the production of iron, steel and shipbuilding. Birmingham, the centre of the West Midlands, and the second largest city of England, has developed light engineering. Bicycles and motorcycles are made in the area. Birmingham is also one of the main centres of machine-tool industry. Recently there have been many changes in the structure of economy of the country. New modern industries and enterprises have developed. The biggest growth has been in banking, insurance, commerce, finance and advertising.
England has a very rich architecture. Many of the greatest cathedrals and churches were built between 1100 and 1500. They are mostly in towns which have preserved their old character. The English countryside is remarkable for its green fields and trees because there are no extremes in climate. Small villages and old market towns look beautiful with their well kept gardens and houses. England has a long coastline. Brighton, Bournemouth and Torquay are the most famous towns of the south coast. Now they are protected against any new building or development. The most beautiful natural scenery can be seen in the north-west of England in the Lake District which inspired so much the English romantic poets.
Wales is a largely mountainous country bounded on the north and west by the Irish Sea and on the south by the Bristol Channel. In the east it has its land boundary with England. The oldest son of the monarch and the successor to the English throne is given the title “Prince of Wales”.
Wales is famous for its long rivers, big lakes and high hills in the north of the country.
The whole area of Wales can be divided into three regions – the Welsh Massif, the industrial South Wales and the Welsh borderland. The Welsh Massif is mainly a plateau with much moorland, well know for its cool and rainy climate. Settlement and farmland are largely concentrated in the valleys and along the coast. The highest mountain in the north, Snowdon, is 1100 metres above the sea level. This region is called Snowdonia. The population of Wales is about 2 800 000 people. The majority of people live in the coal-mining and industrial regions of the south around Cardiff, the capital of Wales, and Swansea. There are two languages spoken in Wales – English and Welch, which is a Celtic language. Welch is the first language in most of the western parts of Wales where it is equal with English as an official language. Wales is rich in culture and history. The Welch people love music and poetry. The annual competitive festival of choral singing, and also other aspect of music, literature, and drama is known as the National Eisteddfod of Wales. The Welsh National Opera Company, which has both an English and Welsh sections, belong to the companies in Britain. The University of Wales with seven constituents institutions is the most prestigious university which also supervises nine colleges of education.
Scotland, situated to the north of England, also includes Orkneys, Shetlands, Hebrides and other islands. It is more than half as big as England. Scotland is a wonderful country – full of traditions, colour and romance – and it retains its own character and way of life.
Scotland has more than 5 million inhabitants. It has been a part of Great Britain since 1707 but the Scottish people remain very independent and proud of their culture and heritage. They speak English with regional accents and 1,5% also speak Gaelic, the ancient Scottish language (in the Highlands and the Western Isles). Scotland is a country of hills, lakes (called Lochs), swift rivers and deep valleys (glens). It can be divided into three parts: the Highland, the Lowlands and the southern uplands. The most beautiful part of Scotland id the region known as the Highlands. The highest peak id Ben Nevis, 1380 meters high. The most famous lakes are Loch Lomond and Loch Ness where the mystical monster lives.
There are four big cities in Scotland – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen. Edinburgh, the ancient capital of Scotland, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
It has become the international centre of music and drama and is famous for its annual festival – the Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama. Edinburgh is also famous for the engineering, printing and electronic industries. Glasgow, situated on the river Clyde, is known all over the world for its shipbuilding, and heavy steel manufactures although these industries have many problems now. Both the cities are situated in the Lowlands, the area which contains most of the industry and also pastures. Aberdeen is a historic royal town lying on the Scotland’s North Sea cost. Some of the oldest streets date back to the 13th and 14th centuries. Now its a busy seaport, the main centre of Scottish fishing industry, and the commercial capital of north-east Scotland.
Scotland has its own law and education system. There are also special traditions in Scotland, such as playing bagpipes and wearing kilts, which are typical pleated knee-length tartan skirts. Some eating and drinking habits are different , too. There are special meals prepared only in Scotland. One of them is haggis, which is made of the heart , liver, and lungs of sheep, oatmeal, salt, onions, spices, packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled. Scotland has many whisky distilleries with a long tradition and the Scottish whisky is world-famous.
Northern Ireland (known also as Ulster) occupies the northern fifth of Ireland. It is a part of Great Britain. Northern Ireland has a population of over 1 500 000 people. They speak English. Nearly half a million live in Belfast, the capital. There is the Queen’s University at Belfast which was founded in 1845. The city is the shopping, educational, commercial, entertainment, and service centre of Northern Ireland. It is also an important port. Chief exports of Northern Ireland are ships, aircraft, linen textiles, and also agricultural products and livestock as the country is largely agricultural. There are small farms producing pigs, cattle, milk and eggs. The principal crops are potatoes, barley, and oats.
Ireland has long been connected to Britain but the Irish Republic became independent in 1922 and Northern Ireland remained a part of Great Britain. The Irish Republic is also known as Eire. It is almost totally Catholic. Approximately two-thirds of the population of Northern Ireland is Protestant and the minority Roman Catholic. The life of people and the politics of Northern Ireland are dominated by religious and economic problems. Old hatreds between Protestants and Catholic are kept alive. In 1969 British troops were sent to keep order in Northern Ireland.
But the basis for peaceful relationship between Protestant majority and the Catholic minority has not yet been created. Many human lives have been lost. Bomb explosions and terrorist actions, many of them aimed targets within Britain, especially London, have not yet been stopped. .