The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland lies off the north-west coast of Europe across the English Channel between the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It consists of two large islands (Great Britain and Ireland) and about 5 000 smaller ones (for example: the Isle of Wight, the Isles of Scilly, the Hebrides, the Shetlands, and the Channel Islands).
England is a mostly rolling land. The main mountainous regions here are the Cornish Heights (south-west), the Cambrians (Wales), the Pennines, and the Cumbrian Mountains. The highest mountain is Ben Nevis of 1 342 m and it is in the Highlands of Scotland.
The longest rivers are the Severn and the Thames. The Thames flows through the capital of London into the North Sea. The Severn flows into the Bristol Channel.
The population of GB is about 60 million. We can find the following ethnic groups in GB: the English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Ulster, Indian, Pakistani, and others. The main language is English but we can also find minority languages - Welsh, Scottish, and Irish Gaelic.
Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy with the Queen as the head of state. Her powers are limited by the constitution. The present queen is Elizabeth II. Britain is divided into four parts: England - London, Wales - Cardiff, Scotland – Edinburgh, and Northern Ireland - Belfast.
Besides London, there are others big cities in England. Oxford and Cambridge are old University towns. Stratford-upon-Avon is the birthplace of William Shakespeare. There are also cities like Brighton, Portsmouth, Sunderland, Winchester - cathedral town, Plymouth, Birmingham - the geographical heart of England and second largest town in Britain, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, and York.
Wales is sometimes called the land of castles. The best known are Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech. Scotland is the land of many special traditions which cannot be found elsewhere - playing bagpipes, woolen knitwear, wearing kilts made of tartan, producing Scotch whisky, and others.
The biggest city is Glasgow. It´s an economic and cultural centre in Scotland. The capital city is Edinburgh. The North of Scotland is a large area of lakes and mountains. The world known legend of Loch Ness comes from there.
Britain was part of the continent of Europe until about 6000 before Christ and has a very rich history. First, the Celts arrived. This was about 3000 years ago. Then the Romans invaded in 43 AD. They built camps, forts and roads throughout the land, which have been used for many centuries. The Romans stayed in Britain for about 400 years. After them, waves of Jutes, Angles, Vikings and Saxons arrived from the German lands. They drove the Celtic people into the mountains. The last successful invasion was by the French speaking Normans led by William, Duke of Normandy, who became William the Conqueror. After defeating the Saxon King Harold in 1066, he established a strong central government.
In 1215, the Magna Charta was signed by King John. It was the guarantee of rights and of the rules of law. English dynastic claims to large parts of France led to the Hundred Years´ War (1338 and 1453) and to the defeat of England. A long civil war, the War of the Roses, between the House of Lancaster and the House of York lasted from 1455-1485.
Under Queen Elizabeth I., (she ruled from 1558 to 1603) Britain became a major sea power, leading to the founding of colonies in the New World and the expansion of trade with Europe and the Orient. Scotland was united with England in 1603.
A struggle between Parliament and the Stuart kings led to a bloody Civil War (1642 -1649). Technological innovations, especially the invention of the steam engine by James Watt in 1769, the steam locomotive developed by George Stephenson, and the first public steam railway in 1825, led to the Industrial Revolution. The North American colonies were lost, but replaced by empires in Canada and India. Britain´s role in the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 strengthened its position as a leading world power. Large parts of Africa and Asia were added to the empire during the reign of Queen Victoria. Britain played a big role in World War I and II. She suffered huge economic losses. After the wars, Britain lost its leading position to other powers. The Thatcher conservative government has however increased the role of private enterprise.
The main industries are steel, metal, vehicle, shipping, banking, insurance, textile, and electronics. 30 per cent of the land is arable and the main agricultural products are grains, sugar beet, fruits, and vegetables. Lots of money is earned through cattle and sheep breeding. Britain´s natural riches are mainly coal, tin, oil, gas, iron, salt, and others. The valid currency is 1 pound which has 100 pennies. Britain’s main trading partners are Germany, the USA, and France.