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British identity
06.03.2013, 13:39


Lesson 1: The UK formation.

Why British not English?

Many foreigners say 'England' and 'English' when they mean 'Britain', or the 'UK', and 'British'. This is very annoying for the 5 million people who live in Scotland, the 2.8 million in Wales and 1.6 million in Northern Ireland who are certainly not English. (46 million people live in England.) However, the people from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England are all British. So what is the difference between the names 'Great Britain' and 'the United Kingdom' - and what about 'the British Isles'?

The United Kingdom

This is an abbreviation of 'the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'. It is often further abbreviated to 'UK', and is the political name of the country which is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (sometimes known as Ulster). Several islands off the British coast are also part of the United Kingdom (for example, the Isle of Wight, the Orkneys, Hebrides and Shetlands, and the Isles of Scilly), although the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not. However, all these islands do recognize the Queen.

Great Britain

This is the name of the island which is made up of England, Scotland and Wales and so, strictly speaking, it does not include Northern Ireland. The origin of the word 'Great' is a reference to size, because in many European languages the words for Britain and Brittany in France are the same. In fact, it was the French who first talked about Grande Bretagne! In everyday speech 'Britain' is used to mean the United Kingdom.

The British Isles

This is the geographical name that refers to all the islands off the north west coast of the European continent: Great Britain, the whole of Ireland (Northern and Southern), the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. But it is important to remember that Southern Ireland - that is the Republic of Ireland (also called 'Eire') - is completely independent. So you can see that 'The United Kingdom' is the correct name to use if you are referring to the country in a political, rather than in a geographical way. 'British' refers to people from the UK, Great Britain or the British Isles in general.

How was the United Kingdom formed?

This took centuries, and a lot of armed struggle was involved. In the 15th century, a Welsh prince, Henry Tudor, became King Henry VII of England. Then his son, King Henry VIII, united England and Wales under one Parliament in 1536. In Scotland a similar thing happened. The King of Scotland inherited the crown of England and Wales in 1603, 50 he became King James I of England and Wales and King James VI of Scotland. The Parliaments of England, Wales and Scotland were united a century later in 1707. The Scottish and Welsh are proud and independent people. In recent years there have been attempts at devolution in the two countries, particularly in Scotland where the Scottish Nationalist Party was very strong for a while. However, in a referendum in 1979 the Welsh rejected devolution and in 1979 the Scots did the same. So it seems that most Welsh and Scottish people are happy to form part of the UK even though they sometimes complain that they are dominated by England, and particularly by London.

The whole of Ireland was unit The Union Jacked with Great Britain from 1801 up until 1922. In that year the independent Republic of Ireland was formed in the South, while Northern Ireland became part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The flag of the United Kingdom, known as the Union Jack, is made up of three crosses. The upright red cross is the cross of St George, the patron saint of England. The white diagonal cross (with the arms going into the corners) is the cross of St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. The red diagonal cross is the cross of St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. St David is the patron saint of Wales.  The national anthem of the United Kingdom is 'God Save the Queen'.

Category: 10 grade | Added by: Ludmila
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