1- The country and the people
Geographically speaking – lying off the north-west coast of Europe, there are two large islands and hundreds of much smaller ones. The largest island is called Great Britain. The other large is called Ireland. There is no agreement about what to call of them together. Politically speaking – in this geographical are there are two states. One of these governs most of the island of Ireland. This state is usually called The Republic of Ireland. It is also called “Eire”. Informally, it is referred to as just Ireland or the Republic. The other state has authority over the rest of the area (the whole of Great Britain, the north –eastern area of Ireland and most of the smaller islands). This is the country that is the main subject of this book. Its official name is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but this is too long for practical purposes, so it is usually know by a shorter name. At the Eurovision Song Contest, at the United Nations and in the European parliament, for instance, it is referred to as “the United Kingdom”. In everyday speech, this is often shortened to “the Uk” and in the internet and email addresses it is “.uk”. in other contexts, it is referred to as “Great Britain”. This, for example is the name you hear when a medal winner steps onto the rostrum at the Olympic Games. The abbreviation “GBP” in international bank drafts is another example of the use of this name. In writing and speaking that is not especially formal or informal, the name “Britain” is used. The normal everyday adjective, when talking about something to with the UK, is “British”. It’s not easy to keep geography and politics apart. Geographically speaking, it is clear the Great Britain, Ireland and those smaller islands belong together. So you would be a single name for them. During the nineteenth and twentieth century’s, they were generally called “The British isles”. But most people in Ireland and some people in Britain regard this name as outdated because it calls to mind the time when Ireland was politically dominated by Britain. So what can we call these islands? Among the names which have been used are the “The north-east Atlantic archipelago”, “IONA” (islands from the North Atlantic) and simply “The Isles”. But none of these has become widely accepted. The most common term at present is “Great Britain and Ireland”. But even this is not strictly correct. It is not correct geographically because it ignores all the smaller islands. And it is not correct politically because there are two small parts of the area on the maps which have special political arrangements. These are the Chanel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are “crown dependencies” and not officially part of the UK. Each has complete internal self-government, including its own parliament and its own tax system. Both are “ruled” by a Lieutenant Governor appointed by the British government. The Four Nations
People often refer to Britain by another name. They call it England. But this is not correct, and its use can make some people angry. England is only one of the four nations in this part of the world. The others are Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Their political unification was a gradual process that took several hundred years. It was completed in 1800 when the Irish parliament was joined with the parliament for England, Scotland and Wales in Westminster, so that whole area became a single state – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. However, in 1922 most of Ireland became a separate state. At one time, culture and lifestyle varied enormously across the four nations. The dominant culture of people in Ireland, Wales and Highland Scotland was Celtic that of people in England and Lowland Scotland was Germanic. This difference was reflected in the languages they spoke; people in the Celtic areas spoke Celtic languages; people in the Germanic areas spoke Germanic dialects (including the one which has developed into...
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