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Close X. Learn about new offers and get more deals by joining our newsletter. Sign up now. Follow us. It is part of those islands, known geographically 7 as the British Isles but more correctly as the British-Irish Islands , which 8 lie off the north-west coast of continental Europe. The mainlands of 9 England, Scotland and Wales form the largest island with the political title of Great Britain.
Northern Ireland shares the second-largest island with 1 the Republic of Ireland Ireland or Eire , which has been independent of 2 Britain since — They are self- 7 governing Crown Dependencies which have a historical relationship with 8 the British Crown and possess their own independent legal systems, legis- 9 latures and administrative structures. However, the British government is responsible for their defence and foreign relations and can intervene if good 1 administration is not maintained.
They can be politico-economic structures for British and EU purposes; assistance and development areas; or service 2 locations for supplies of gas, water and electricity. They are often based, 3 as in figure 1. They can 8 illustrate a sense of belonging, which becomes more evident with increasing 9 distance from London and the UK government.
They may reflect a deter- mination by regional or local populations to assert their individual identi- 1 ties. These have increased in Scotland, Wales and arguably Northern 2 Ireland with the devolution of political power from London and the estab- 3 lishment — of a Parliament in Edinburgh and Assemblies in 4 Cardiff and Belfast. But smaller local government areas in these countries 5 may well react to centralized power in the capital cities.
Devolution has 6 also provoked demands for greater autonomy in some English regions such 7 as the north-east, and the RDAs may serve as future sites for devolved 8 regional government in England. But today, this identity may still be strongly focused on cities such 2 as Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Belfast, London and Cardiff or on 3 English and Welsh counties rather than the larger regional areas.
They have also conditioned the location and exploitation of industry, transport 1 systems, agriculture, fisheries, woodlands and energy supplies. Today they 2 continue to influence such activities and are tied to public concerns about 3 pollution, weather change, the state of the natural environment and the 4 quality of food products.
Some have been affected by government policies 5 such as privatization and European Union directives on agriculture and 6 fisheries. They and others object to the alleged destruction of the physical environment and the lack 1 of understanding of country life. Yet it also possesses a great diversity of physical 7 features, which surprises those visitors who expect a mainly urban and 8 industrialized country. The many beauty spots and recreation areas, such 9 as the ten National Parks in England and Wales and areas of natural beauty in Scotland and Northern Ireland, may be easily reached without much 1 expenditure of time or effort.
Most is land and the rest comprises inland water such as lakes 4 and rivers. England has 50, square miles , sq km , Wales has 5 7, 20, , Scotland has 29, 77, and Northern Ireland has 6 5, 13, England is significantly larger than the other countries and 7 also has the biggest population 49,, in a UK total of 8 59,, These factors partly explain the English dominance in British 9 history and the mixed attitudes of Scotland, Ireland and Wales towards 20 their large neighbour.
These 4 relatively small distances have aided the development of political union and 5 communications and contributed to social, economic and institutional 6 norms throughout Britain.
But, prior to the eighteenth century, there 7 were considerable obstacles to this progress, such as difficult terrain and 8 inadequate transportation. These result from a long geological and climatic history. Warmer, sub-tropical periods then created large 5 swamp forests covering lowland zones. Later, 7 the climate alternated between warmth and Arctic temperatures. During 8 the latter Ice Age periods, glaciers moved southwards over the islands, with 9 only southern England free from their effects.
This process rounded off the mountain peaks and 2 moved waste materials into lowland zones, where they were pressed into new rocks and where the scenery became softer and less folded. Parts of the coastal area have either 7 sunk under the sea or risen above it.
These processes continue today, partic- 8 ularly on the English coasts. But the melting 3 of the glaciers in the last Ice Age caused the sea level to rise. The country 4 was separated from the continent by the North Sea at its widest, and by 5 the English Channel at its narrowest, points. The shortest stretch of water 6 between the two land masses is now the Strait of Dover between Dover in 7 southern England and Calais in France 24 miles, 38 km.
Tides on the coasts and in inland rivers in addition to heavy 1 rainfall can cause flooding in many parts of the country. Substantial 2 finance is needed by local authorities to construct defences against this 3 threat.
For example, a London flood barrier was completed in across 4 the River Thames. Flooding seriously affected many low-lying inland areas 5 of Britain in —01, with people suffering property and financial loss.
It also influences the 2 coastal fish breeding grounds, on which the national fishing industry is 3 considerably dependent. The highest ground is mainly in the north and west.
The south 1 and east comprise younger, softer materials formed by weathering pro- 2 cesses, which have produced fertile soils and good agricultural condi- tions. It largely comprises fields, which are divided by 2 fences or hedges. Animal grazing land in upland zones is separated either 3 by moorland or stone walls.
The highest mountains are in Snowdonia in the 1 north-west, where the dominant peak is that of Snowdon 3, feet, 1, 2 metres.
The chief urban concentrations of people and 6 industry are around the bigger southern cities, such as the capital Cardiff, 7 Swansea and Newport. In the past, the highland nature of Wales hindered 8 conquest, agriculture and the settlement of people. The second is 8 the Central Lowlands, which contain one-fifth of the land area but three- 9 quarters of the Scottish population, most of the industrial and commercial centres and much of the cultivated land.
The third is the Southern Uplands, 1 which cover a number of hill ranges stretching towards the border with 2 England. The highest point in the Central Highlands is 6 Ben Nevis 4, feet, 1, metres , which is also the highest place in 7 Britain.
The climate, isolation and harsh physical conditions in much of 2 Scotland have made conquest, settlement and agriculture difficult. Since —22, Northern Ireland has had a 5 mile km border in the south and west with the Republic of 6 Ireland. It has a rocky northern coastline, a south-central fertile plain 7 and mountainous areas in the west, north-east and south-east.
The south- 8 eastern Mourne Mountains include the highest peak, Slieve Donard, which 9 is 2, feet high metres. Belfast lies at the mouth of the river 3 Lagan and has the biggest population concentration. But Northern Ireland 4 generally has a sparse and scattered population and is a largely rural 5 country. The climate is mainly temperate, but with variations 2 between coolness and mildness. Altitude modifies temperatures, so that 3 much of Scotland and highland areas of Wales and England are cool in 4 summer and cold in winter compared with most of England.
The high ground 5 in the west protects the lowlands of the south and east, so that annual rain- 6 fall here is moderate 30 inches, mm. March to June tend to be the 7 driest months; September to January the wettest; and drought conditions 8 are infrequent, although they do occur and can cause problems for farmers, 9 water companies and consumers. But high-pressure systems, which occur throughout the year, are stable and slow-moving, resulting in light winds and settled weather.
They 2 can give fine and dry effects, in both winter and summer. In summer, average daily sunshine varies 5 from five hours in northern Scotland to eight hours on the Isle of Wight. Sunshine can frequently mix with pollutants to give poor air 3 quality in both cities and rural areas. The weather is virtually a national 8 institution, a topic of daily conversation and for some a conditioning factor 9 in the national character.
Britons tend to think that they live in a more 20 temperate climate than is the case. But many escape abroad in summer and 1 smaller numbers in the winter. The climate usually allows a long, productive growing season without extremes.
Today, there are , farm units, ranging 5 from small farms to huge business concerns, and many are owner-occu- 6 pied. They use 76 per cent of the land area, although there is concern that 7 farmland is being increasingly used for building and recreational purposes. Some farms in eastern and northern England and Northern Ireland 6 concentrate on pig production.
Most of the other farms in 8 southern and eastern England and in eastern Scotland grow arable crops 9 such as wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, oilseed rape, and sugar beet.
But, after a prof- 4 itable period in the early s, farming is now in crisis owing to the high 5 value of the pound, a fall in farm prices and a series of disasters such as 6 BSE Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in cows , its link to CJD 7 Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, swine fever and foot and mouth 8 disease Animals have been lost, farming income has been seriously 9 reduced and many farmers have left the industry or turned to non-farming activities.
The Labour govern- 8 ment is now evaluating the future of British farming with more emphasis 9 on consumer wishes, better land management and reduction of subsidies. The fishing industry is important to the 8 national economy and is centred on a number of ports around the coasts. The fish-farming industry salmon, trout and shellfish is 2 a large and expanding business, particularly in Scotland. This is partly due to changes in fish breeding patterns 5 and a reduction in fish stocks because of overfishing.
Many fishermen have 6 become unemployed and fishing towns on the English and Scottish coasts 7 have suffered. Fishermen number 15,, with some three jobs in asso- 9 ciated occupations for every one fisherman. The need to conserve fish resources and prevent 3 overfishing is stressed. Zones have been created in which fishermen may 4 operate and quota systems operate inside and beyond the zones to restrict 5 fish catches.
Measures to limit the time fishing vessels spend at sea and to 6 decommission take out of operation fishing boats have further restricted 7 employment and the fishing fleet. Fishermen are angry with British govern- 8 ment and EU policies and their loss of livelihood.
But without fish 9 conservation, there will be reduced supplies in future. These figures amount to 5 some 10 per cent of total land area, which is considerably below the 6 European average. Some 35 per cent of productive national forests are man- 7 aged by the state Forestry Commission or government departments and the 8 rest by private owners. About 35, people are employed in the state and 9 private forestry industries and 10, are engaged in timber processing. The government has 3 encouraged tree planting programmes in Scotland, Wales and the English 4 Midlands, and allowed the sale of state woodlands to private owners in 5 order to reduce public expenditure and to increase productivity.
But such aims are not always 1 achieved and there is disquiet about some government programmes. These 5 in recent years have been badly affected by disease, unreasonable felling 6 and substantial storm damage in and The most important secondary source is electricity.
But there are prob- 6 lems with energy sources and concerns about pollution and environmental 7 damage. Most energy industries have now been privatized, but there is crit- 8 icism about their services and regulation. This is due to the growth in offshore oil and gas supplies, 1 which make a crucial contribution to the economy.
Multinational compa- 2 nies operate under government licence and extract these fuels from the North Sea and newly discovered West Atlantic fields. Development 4 of existing resources and the search for alternative forms of energy are 5 crucial for Britain and its economy.
The positions of coal and nuclear 6 power have to be debated, and further research is needed into renewable 7 energy such as solar, wind, wave and tidal power. After a reduction in the work- force and the closure of uneconomic pits in the s, the coal industry 1 was privatized and Britain produces most of its own coal needs.
But coal 2 is expensive and there is a lack of demand from big consumers, such as 3 electricity generating stations, which have moved to gas, oil and cheap coal 4 imports. More pit closures have occurred, and the future of the coal 5 industry is uncertain. But expansion of nuclear 9 power partially privatized in to satisfy energy needs is uncertain. The use of tidal and wave 3 power is being implemented on some coasts and estuaries and solar energy 4 is already provided, with plans for more research.
But their capacity is limited at 7 present to 3 per cent of all electricity production, although the Labour 8 government wishes to increase this amount to 10 per cent by British domestic and 4 industrial energy users are still extravagant when compared to other 5 European countries.
Consequently, the provision of cheap and environ- 6 mentally suitable energy for both domestic and industrial use will be a 7 problem for Britain in the future. British Telecom, competing telecommunications 6 companies and the Post Office supply most communications needs. Motorways and trunk roads are the largest elements 2 and carry most of the passenger traffic and heavy goods vehicles.
But some 3 roads are in bad condition and unable to handle the number of vehicles on 4 them, leading to traffic congestion. Expansion, modernization and repair 5 of roads are environmentally damaging and may also be inadequate to meet 6 the estimated future number of vehicles.
While the Labour government has 7 cancelled some controversial road-building programmes in an attempt to 8 cut the demand for road space and to persuade drivers to adopt alterna- 9 tive methods of transport, new road building is still planned. Britain has one of the highest densities of road 2 traffic in the world, but also a relatively good safety record in which road 3 accidents continue to decrease.
Lorries have become larger and account for 80 per cent of 6 this market. Critics campaign to transfer road haulage to the railways and 7 the publicly owned inland waterways canals. But the waterways are used 8 for only a small amount of freight transportation because of expense, 9 although they are popular for recreational purposes.
Rail freight, however, is increasing for bulk commodities. Conservative governments dereg- 3 ulated bus operations and most local bus companies have now been 4 privatized, although some services are still operated by local government 5 authorities. There has been a considerable expansion in private long- 6 distance express coach services, which are cheaper than the railways. But 7 bus services generally in Britain are underfunded and inadequate for poten- 8 tial demand.
After a hundred 1 years of private operation, the railways became state-owned in But, 2 following dismal performances by Railtrack, the government took control 3 of the company in and its future structure is uncertain. Increased electrification of lines 8 and the introduction of diesel trains such as the Inter-City s travelling 9 at a maximum speed of m. But such speeds and facilities are still inferior to those in 1 other countries. A series of fatal crashes in recent years and the resulting 5 repair of large sections of rail track caused chaos in the railway network 6 and drew attention to the shortcomings of Railtrack.
The situation is slowly 7 returning to normal but passenger totals are still depressed. There is much 8 criticism, particularly in south-east England, about the performances of 9 the privatized rail companies, fare increases, overcrowding, cancellations, 20 delays, staffing and poor services. Similar complaints are also made 1 about the London Underground system the Tube , which covers miles 2 km of railway line in the capital, and which will be partly and 3 controversially privatized.
It provides a drive-on, drive-off service Le 2 Shuttle for cars, coaches and freight vehicles, as well as passenger trains 3 Eurostar from Waterloo Station in London.
But a new high-speed rail 4 connection between Folkestone and London is still uncompleted. But 8 work and labour have declined since the great days of the ports in the past. The cargo market is now dominated by a small number of large 1 private sector groups. Both may decline further because of competition with the Channel Tunnel. There are other carriers, such as 3 British Midland International, Britannia Airways and Virgin Atlantic, 4 which run scheduled and charter passenger services on domestic and inter- 5 national routes, as well as air freight services.
All are controlled by the Civil 6 Aviation Authority CAA , an independent body which regulates the 7 industry and air traffic control. Heathrow and Gatwick Airports outside London are the 1 largest. They handle 73 per cent of air passengers and 84 per cent of 4 air cargo.
But such projects are very 1 expensive and controversial because of environmental problems, such as 2 construction work, noise, pollution and traffic. There is also disquiet about 3 plane congestion in the skies over Britain. This would arguably ease road 7 congestion, satisfy demand and improve the environment.
But such devel- 8 opments involve considerable expenses and Britain invests less in transport 9 than any other European country. Governments are reluctant to spend more public money, although the Labour government hopes to persuade 1 the private sector to invest in the transport infrastructure in partnership 2 with the state. The main suppliers are private telecommunications compa- 8 nies and the public Post Office.
British Telecom BT was privatized in 1 and provides domestic and international telephone and telecom- 2 munications systems, with 20 million domestic and 8. Although some service problems were solved, and it became an 3 influential world force, it has again experienced problems with its funding 4 and expansion programmes.
Other competitors, such as cable networks, 7 are growing rapidly and have been licensed to provide telecommunications 8 facilities and the development of broadband services. New arrivals. Switch to the audiobook. The hugely successful American Civilization provides students of American Studies with the perfect background and introductory information on contemporary American life, examining the central dimensions of American society from geography and the environment, government and politics, to religion, education, sports, media and the arts.