For those of you who know me well, I’ve always had a knack for geography. It was probably my love of maps as a kid which inspired me to travel. Today I’m going to set the record straight on the geography of the United Kingdom. I find that many Americans don’t know the difference between the UK, Great Britain, Wales, England, etc. So I’ll set the record straight.
Great Britain is an island, just North and a bit West of France. This island, Great Britain, contains three countries. England, Scotland, and Wales.
There’s also another island just West of Great Britain – Ireland.
So years ago the three countries on the island of Great Britain, England, Scotland, and Wales, as well as the island of Ireland, gradually became “united” under one government under the royal family of England… it became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. At the time, England, Scotland, and Ireland all had various similar crosses for their flags. They combined the flags of Ireland, Scotland, and England to make the “Union Jack,” today’s British Flag. The Welsh flag is a dragon so they got left out unfortunately.
Then in 1922 Ireland wanted independence so they split off and became the Republic of Ireland.
But the Protestant part of Ireland wanted to stay with the UK. This is now called Northern Ireland. (Because Northern Ireland stayed in the Union, they left the Irish Cross on the Union Flag. The Republic of Ireland adopted the Green-White-Orange flag later on.)
So today, it’s officially called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
This united kingdom contains four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The term “British” refers to anyone from the UK, while “English,” “Welsh,” and “Scottish,” refer specifically to those countries. Even though Northern Ireland isn’t technically on the Island of Great Britain, Britain tends to be an informal nickname for the whole UK, so they’d usually be considered British too.
(England is by far the most populated and wealthiest in the area, so sometimes the people from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, sometimes resent the English for pushing them around for centuries. Like the movie Braveheart or the Irish War for Independence, or the recent pushes for Scottish Independence.)