Britain, the dominant industrial and maritime
power of the 19th century, played a leading role in
developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and
science. At its zenith, the British Empire stretched over one-fourth of
the earth's surface. The first half of the 20th century saw the UK's
strength seriously depleted in two World Wars. The second half witnessed
the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern
and prosperous European nation. As one of five permanent members of the
UN Security Council, a founding member of NATO, and of the Commonwealth,
the UK pursues a global
to foreign policy; it currently is weighing the degree of its
integration with continental Europe. A member of the EU, it chose to
remain outside of the European Monetary Union for the time being.
Constitutional reform is also a significant issue in the UK. Regional
assemblies with varying degrees of power opened in Scotland, Wales, and
Northern Ireland in 1999.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain can
be subdivided in 5 areas : Northern England,
Southern England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each
and every area has its own language, culture and historical background.
Both the English parts form the largest, most densily populated and
thriving part of the country. The capital London lies in Southeast
Ireland also belongs to the Kingdom, as well as a
number of smaller islands, such as the
desolate Hebrides west of Scotland, the Scilly Islands in the Channel
and the Shetland Islands in the North Sea. Some Islands are not really a
part of Great Britain but have strong adminitrative ties with the UK :
the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, the Channel Islands Jersey, Guernsey
and Alderney in front of the French coast. They have self-rule, but the
British are responsible for defence and foreign affairs.
Also outside of Europe remainders
can be found of the Empire
the sun never sets" : Gibraltar, islands in the Pacific and Indian Ocean
and the Falkland Islands close to Argentina. All these oversea areas are
called "British Dependent Territories".
In our links section you will find a
large number of web sites with more detailed information about the
fascinating history and landscapes of this "great" Britain.