Friday, 8 January 2010
England? Britain? Great Britain? The U.K.?
The BBC correctly identified it as “Great Britain”.
Here’s the dope.
“Great Britain” is a geographical term which refers to the western european island which includes England, Scotland and Wales.
“Britain” is an historical word which far antedates the emergence of Scotland and England as nations.
The “British Isles” is another geographical term. It refers to Great Britain, and to the many small islands off the coasts of England, Scotland and Wales.
Historical and geographically Ireland is also a “British Isle”, but for political reasons that reference has been dropped.
Scotland and England have been nation states – both were monarchies, and had parliaments.
Wales has never been a nation state: - in the sense that there never was a parliament which embraced the entire Welsh homeland. That homeland was, by hook or by crook, absorbed into the English kingdom and parliament.
The island of Ireland had a number of local kingdoms, but no national government. It was colonized by both the English and the Scots.
It was not until 1922 that the 26 southern counties of Ireland were constituted as the “Irish Free State” (a Dominion within the British Commonwealth). In due course that Dominion
asserted full independence and emerged as the Republic of Ireland.
The 6 northern counties of Ireland declined to be include in the Irish Free State. They, for religious reasons, retained loyalty to the British Crown and became known as “Ulster” or as “Northern Ireland”.
The “United Kingdom” refers to the union of the kingdoms and parliaments of Scotland and England, in 1707.
Each nation had been headed by the same Monarch from 1603, when King James VI of Scotland inherited the throne of England, and became King James I of England.
Thus the Monarchs between 1603 and 1707 were Kings of Scotland and also Kings of England.
Queen Anne was the first Monarch of a United Kingdom.