The UK: History and Geography

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is situated on the British Isles. The British Isles consist of two large islands, Great Britain and Ireland, and above five thousand small islands. The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. England is the largest country of the United Kingdom, Scotland is second largest, Wales and Northern Ireland are much smaller.

The only land border connecting the UK to another country is between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The UK is washed by: the English Channel, which separates it from continental Europe; by the North Sea; by the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

The physical geography of the UK varies greatly. England consists of mostly lowlands, while Wales is mostly mountainous. Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles. The lowest point of the UK is in the Fens in England. There are a lot of rivers in GB, but they are not very long. The Severn is the longest river, while the Thames is the deepest and the most important one. The largest lake in the UK is Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland, while the deepest one is Loch Morar in Scotland. As Great Britain is an island its climate is classified as mild, temperate and humid. On the whole the weather is very changeable.

The UK has a variety of natural resources including: geological (coal, natural gas, rock salt, iron ore, silver, gold, etc.) and agricultural (arable land, wheat, barley, sheep, etc.) The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves. The UK is highly developed industrial country. It’s known as one of world’s largest producers and exporters of machinery, electronics, textile, aircraft and navigation equipment.

The economic geography. Agriculture. The UK's uplands have largely been associated with animal husbandry and forestry. However most of lowland Britain was already enclosed by processes such as assarting. Today most UK agriculture is intensive and highly mechanized. The UK is a center for grain production and dairy farming, with some areas also specializing in market gardening.

Primary industry. The UK's primary industry sector was once dominated by the coal industry. The produced tons of oil made the UK the 15th largest coal producing nation. Now the major primary industry is oil. The waters in the North Sea contain nearly half of the UK's remaining oil reserves. A closely related industry is natural gas. Most natural gas production is in the North Sea and in the Irish Sea. The UK is expected to become a net natural gas importer.

Finance and services. Now, the UK financial industry is concentrated in the City of London. London is considered to be the financial capital of the world; many banking and insurance institutions have their headquarters there. It is also the world's greatest foreign exchange market, an established leader in trading and global insurance.

Manufacturing. Today there is no heavy manufacturing industry in which UK-based firms can be considered world leaders and no product in which a UK city or region is the world leader. But the major UK cities where manufacturing flourished are Birmingham (a manufacturing and engineering center, specialized in automation as well as in the service sector), Glasgow (a shipbuilding center with a significant growth of financial and business services, communications, retail and tourism), Nottingham (a house to apparel and medicine industry) and Manchester (a leading center for manufacturing and a foundation of the textile industry).

British history is long and rich going back thousands of years. Little is known about people inhabiting the British Isles in the pre-Celtic period (before 800 BC) Some monuments built by them have been preserved such as Stonehenge, erected some time before 1000 BC.

The first Celtic tribes are believed to have come to the British isles between 800 and 700 BC. Two centuries later they were followed ancient Britons after whom the country was called Britain.

The first Roman invasion was led by Julius Caesar in 55 BC. But Britain was not conquered until some 90 years later, under Emperor Claudius, in 43 AD. The Roman occupation of Britain lasted nearly 400 years. By the time the Roman armies left around 410 AD, they had established medical practice, a language of administration and law and had created great public buildings and roads. The Roman Empire made its mark on Britain, and even today, the ruins of Roman buildings, forts, roads, and baths can be found all over Britain.

The Roman army left Britain there was no strong army to defend Britain, and three Germanic tribes - the Angle, Saxon, and Jute (the Anglo-Saxons) invaded Britain (except Wales and Scotland) from the continent and divided the country into kingdoms. This was a period when the English nation was born. From the 8th century the Anglo-Saxons had to face Scandinavian invaders – the Danes and the Norsemen sometimes refereed to as Vikings –who occupied parts of Britain and made some permanent settlements. This period is reflected in numerous toponyms, personal names and over 1000 words of Standard English. The Scandinavian invasions continued till the 11th century.

The period of feudalism started around 1066 with the beginning of governing of William the Conqueror and lasted to the 15th century. In this period the modern English nation and language came into being. It was a period of struggle for power between kings and powerful nobles a period of frequent wars, bloodshed and suffering. The most well-known was the War of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster that lasted for 30 years. But this was also a period in which the development of the wool trade and the early decline of feudalism prepared the way for England’s rise as a world power.

The period between 1485 and 1603 is known as the Tudor Period. It was a turning point in English history. England became one of the leading powers. The two famous rulers of the House of Tudor were. Henry VIII and Elisabeth I. The Elizabethan age produced the world’s greatest playwright William Shakespeare.

The first 40 years of the 17th century can be characterised as a period of growing conflict between the King and parliament, representing the interests of the bourgeosie. The conflict let to the civil war in the 1640 which resulted in the abolition of the monarchy and in Cromwell’s military rule in the middle of the century. This period ended in the Glorious Revolution which marked the end of the English bourgeoise revolution.

In the period of 1688 to 1760 England definitely took the lead in European commerce created the conditions necessary for the establishment of an empire and prepared the way for the industrial revolution. The 18th century was also of the great importance because it is the time when the united kingdom of Great Britain came into being. According to the treaty Union on 1 May 1707 the Kingdom of England (which included Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland became unified. In 1800 added the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

During the Industrial Revolution (1760 – 1850) Britain became the first industrial power in the world, “the workshop of the world”. The Victorian era which comprised the second half of the 19th century, called after queen Victoria, was a period in which Britain became the strongest world power: besides being the greatest financial and commercial power, the greatest sea power and the greatest colonial power. In was the era of the greatest colonial expansion, especially in Africa.

The 20th century is a period of the decline of Britain as a world power a period of crises of the two world wars, from which Britain emerged as a victor, but greatly weakened. It is characterised by the disintegration of Britain’s colonial empire and the effort to adjust Britain to the new situation by joining the other developed capitalist countries of western Europe in EEC.