Britain includes Great Britain (comprising England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland, and lies off the northwest coast of mainland Europe. It is 500 Km wide and nearly 1,000 km long. Its closest continental neighbors France and Belgium. It lies between latitudes 50º North and 60º North. London, the capital is close to the same of latitude as Berlin, Vancouver and Warsaw. Great Britain is the largest island in Europe and the eight largest in the world. It is about the same size as Honshu the biggest of the island that make up Japan, and about twice size of Iceland of Cuba.
Although it is as closer to the North Pole as eastern Siberia or Hudson Bay Britain has a warmer climate. While the British climate is very changeable, temperatures rarely fall below –10º or go above 32º. Rainfall is fairly well distributed throughout the year. The wettest parts are the mountainous areas of the West Coast. Britain is a densely populated and industrialized nation, but much of the country is cultivated and around 10% of the land is covered by legally protected National Parks.
English is the official language, but many people know more than one language. Around 20% of the people Wales speak Welsh and children learn it in schools. About 80,000 people in Scotland speak Gaelic. For centuries people from overseas have settled in Britain to escape persecution or in search of a better standard of living. They have brought with them their languages, cultures and religions. The most widely spoken minority languages today are from the Asian sub-continent but other languages include Italian, Spanish, Greek, Turkish and Chinese. Ethnic minority communities make up about 5 % of the total population.
Population growth in Western Europe is generally low. There were 781,000 live births in Britain in 1992, or 13,5 live births per 1,000 population. The death rate is slightly lower at 11 per 1,000. The population is therefore fairly stable. The proportion of elderly people has been increasing as a result of better standards of living and health care. The percentage of young people on the population has been falling. At present only 20% of people in Britain are under the age of 16.
Although Britain is quite small in terms of land area, it has a large population of nearly 58 million, which ranks 17th in the world. With an average of 239 people per sq. km, Britain has the highest population density in Europe. Most people in Britain live in towns or cities. England has 370 people per sq. km; Scotland has 66 Wales 139 and Northern Ireland 118. London is the 17 Th most heavily populated city in the world, but still much smaller than Mexico City.
HISTORY AND POLITICS
Roman rule of England and Wales lasted from AD 43 to around AD 409. Over the next 600 years there were invasions and settlements by peoples from northern Europe.