U.K. Woes - A Little Help?

I have been laboring in ignorance for too long on this one, and an at last ready to be edjamacated:

What, exactly, is the deal with the UK? I know that the United Kingdom is composed of: England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, but I am confused on what exactly is the Great Britain part: does Great Britain=England? Or does Great Britain=England+Scotland+Wales? Or is it something else?

Is Tony Blair the Prime Minister of the UK or just of England (Great Britain?) Does the UK have leader for all four countries, or does each country have its own leader?

Is there a regular Ireland (as opposed to Northern Ireland) why is it not part of the UK?
Are there any Dopers (English [Great British?] or otherwise that can clear this up for me?

Ok, so I found a map: there IS such a thing as regular Ireland.

How come it is not part of the UK? All the fighting is in Northern Ireland, right? Does it want to become its own thing too, or does it want to become part of Ireland? How did regular Ireland escape being part of the UK?

This map also only has one star-with-a-circle-in-it, for London, which makes me think that London is the capital of the whole shebang (England, Scotland, N. Ireland, Wales). Correct?

Still no idea about the whole Great Britain=what, exactly.

Help would still be greatly appreciated,

(Great) Britain includes England, Scotland and Wales.

United Kingdom also includes Northern Ireland.

The Ireland thing has been a mess since the Battle of the Boyne was won by William of Orange. William, like England, was a Protestant. Ireland at that time was Catholic. The English had broken away from Catholicism under Henry VIII. England send troops to oppress the Catholic Irish and stole the best land for themselves – this became Protestant Northern Ireland. The Catholic Irish continued to occupy the Southern half of the country, “Ireland”. In general, the Southern half has never wished to be part of England and resents the fact they were oppressed by the Protestants and the English. The Northern half wishes England to remain involved since they have benefited in terms of political and economic power and Protestants are a minority in Ireland proper.

It was my understanding that they’re not referring to it as Great Britain anymore, because Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (and sometimes Cornwall) maintain that they aren’t “British”. So AFAIK it’s just the UK.

I believe there are small but vocal Scottish and Welsh Nationalist Groups, but like it or not, Tony Blair is their Prime Minister, too.

Yes, the Republic of Ireland is its own person, in the south. As for “why is it not part of the UK?” OH, baby, you have no idea what kind of can of worms you have just opened. I’ll just get out of the way, here, before the shooting starts…here, you can share my foxhole.

Think “a history of five hundred years of war, conquest, oppression, rape, looting, pillage, religious martyrdom, and miscellaneous governmental thuggery,” and you’ll have a pretty good idea. Britain and Ireland have “issues”. Big ones.

It’s like walking into the middle of a messy divorce hearing and asking, “Hey, whassup?” Prepare to be pelted from both sides.

Hopefully this will clear it up. “Great Britain” refers to the island which contains England, (most of) Scotland and Wales. These three entities (if I call them “countries,” I fear a firestorm of protest), along with Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and Shetland*, Orkney* and the Western Isles*, make up the United Kingdom. London is the capital of, and Mr. T. Blair the Prime Minister of, the whole shebang called the UK. (Please note that those islands with an asterisk next to them actually belong to Scotland. Scotland is also under the authority of its own regional Parliament, which has some rough taxation and law-making authority. Wales has an Assembly, which is like the Scottish Parliament but not has powerful. Northern Ireland has an Assembly but it’s not sitting right now because the politicians can’t agree with each other on, well, anything. England just has the regular Parliament which controls the whole of the UK.)

There! Isn’t that simple?

((as i hunker down in the foxhole with duck duck goose))

dear god, what have i gotten myself into with this question?

All this time I have been planning to defect myself to that place over there this thread is about (in the inevitable event that George Bush does something stupid, like appoint a knee-jerk conservative to be Secretary of Big Important Offices), but now I think that place may be too complicated for its own good.

But anyway, let me make sure I get this (I am almost glad it is complicated, because that way I feel like less of an idiot for not understanding it in the first place):

In a nutshell, Great Britain=the Island, which is made up of: England (which is not G.B.), Wales, and Scotland, and while there is lots of confusing parliamentary stuff going on, Tony Blair is the Prime Minister of everyone, even Northern Ireland, which is the other part of the UK, and is different from regular Ireland. There are serious issues between Britain (which is the whole island, not just England) and Ireland.

England is really in control, because of what Duke said about the Scottish and Walish parliments not being very powerful, and North Ireland ones not meeting. This is why Tony Blair (from England) is the head honcho, and why the capital is in London (which is in England).
phew! Clear as mud, right?

Duke, you forgot the Isle of Man.

ok, i hope you british buffs are still reading this:

the u.k. (scotland, england, wales, northern ireland) is a country.

so what are scotland, england, wales and northern ireland?

i always called them countries before, but is that correct? are they officially something else, like “states”? “territories”?

I’d call Scotland, England and Wales countries, and Northern Ireland cannot really be a country. N. Ireland is often called a province. (Sorry, but I was bsuy looking for an easy-to-follow link for you then realised you had made this last plaintive post).

Also, Wales is often (and I suspect officially) referred to as a “principality.”

The Isle of Man is not exactly part of the UK. Take a deep breath, then - I really did look for a short version, honestly. SO, tolle lege
According to the Columbia Encylopaedia Sixth Edition 2000, the U.K.

Here is a link


I’m sure quoting a gobbet of that size is OK re. copyright, but if not, sincere apologies in advance.

Ha - I’ve just realised that in your last post there you found for yourself a simple mnemonic, almost. Are they states, you asked. No, the State in question is the United Kingdom, so the U.K. is a state but not a nation, while…oh heck, I begin to see why it looks confusing. And in fact I thank you for trying to learn a bit about it. I give up for the moment, but do post when you hit another confusing bit.

You may have noticed what seems like a glaring ommission, i.e. details of the English Parliament. We have the government of the UK based in London, where Welsh, Scottish, Irish and English politicians decide on policy for the UK. Then there’s the two assemblies and the Scottish parliament. There is no government for England itself. Why? Good question.

An interesting point is is England a country? Sounds odd, but what defines a country? England seems, to me, to be defined by sport more than anything else.

Anyway, I know my little remarks will have added little useful information, but they do reinforce the fact that the UK is in a state of constitutional limbo and the path to be taken, from a politicians point of view, is a veritable minefield.

There are a lot of misconceptions here, more than I have time to adequately respond to (seeing as I have to leave for work in half an hour), but I’ll just get a few corrections in:

First of all, forget this “Southern half” thing. The Southern portion of the country takes up a lot more than half its landspace (and population).

Prior to the United Irishmen uprising of 1798 there wasn’t nearly so much of a Catholic/Protestant divide, and many of the Catholics in Ireland actually supported, or at least weren’t too bothered by, the Union with Britain. Their main grievance was the religious discrimination the governments at the time were imposing.

England didn’t get the North by “stealing the best land for themselves”, but rather by sending in settlers who were mainly Scots Presbyterians. At times these settlers actually sided with the Irish against the English, but again this is going back a couple centuries.

Northern Ireland’s wish (or more accurately, the wish of approximately 60% of its population) to remain part of the UK has absolutely zero to do with their political/economic benefits. The most hardcore loyalists, in fact, often tend to be the poorest of the NI Protestant poor. It’s simply a question of national identity, and theirs is a British identity, not an Irish one.

One last thing, Northern Ireland is referred to as a “province” by those who support its existence and a “statelet” by those who don’t. Historically, it’s part of the greater province of Ulster - don’t confuse the two!

You are kidding me ? Right ?

I’ll keep it simple, it is called the Republic of Ireland. (The place were the people who build most of the England and America come from, the place were some of the most notable literary figures of the 20th century come from, the place were Dracula was created, and so on…)

And trust me when I say that Ireland does not want to be part of the UK, and if you ever decide to visit this fair Isle my advice is don’t ask this question out loud.
Basically what ruadh says about Northern Ireland (Ulster) is correct.

Hope that clears somethings up :slight_smile:

The Historian Norman Davies has just published a 1000 pages plus entitled ‘The Isles’ which addresses this problem in detail. Among other things in his introduction, he lists various definitions of the entities Britain, Great Britain, United Kingdom etc… He shows quite clearly that government and academic sources have been unable to provide a consistent and logical definition of any of these entities.

It is impossible to understand the complexities of this question without understanding the detailed and often brutal history of the isles.

In earlier times the political power was formally ‘England’ and it was accepted that such political powers should hold other lands under its control, without the subsidiary parts being part of the hegemonic power. US Colonial documents mostly refer to England as the home country.

With the rise of nationalism (a more recent phenomena than most people suppose) the inherent tensions within this system have gradually become apparent, first with the independance struggle of the Irish, and more recently with Welsh and Scottish nationalism. This has been addressed in the usual British fashion- piecemeal, pragmatic and confused- which has led to the current status. As we have no formal constitution, it is difficult to pin down responsibilities and rights. Basically the London parliament is supreme until its power is overturned by force (Ireland) or political uprising (Scotland or Wales) or outside powers (The European Union with regard to laws in the Isle of Man about corporal punishment or in the Channel islands over off shore funds status- watch this space!)

Even in my own county (Cornwall) there is a group of politicians who claim that Cornwall is not constitutionally part of Britain because of statutes granted in the thriteenth and fourteenth century. This despite the fact that Cornwall has been effectively governed from London for all this time. This would be fine and dandy and Cornwall would make a wonderful free nation, apart from the fact that most people there want to be part of Britain, we are only 500 000 strong and are probably the poorest county inn England with virtually no industry. Still, a claim for national status gives amusement to people who need to do this sort of thing! The current campaign is painting out the English Rose from Tourist signs and replacing it with a Cornish Cross.

All told, the whole thing is a can of worms and no-one wants to do anything for fear of the whole edifice falling down.

{b]They Call Me Sneeze** are you by now planning to change your name to They Call Me Really Dreadfully Allergic or They Call Me Yawn And Give Up in Despair? :slight_smile:

Of course, should you ever have an odd desire to become a U.K. national, just ask Peter Mandelson. Sorry, localised disgraced-politician joke, please ignore, really.

You may have got more than you bargained for here; still, any other worries will appear simple in comparison.

In the Olympics and some other international compititions, people from the UK compete under the name of Great Britain. But in world cup compititions such as football (soccer), rugby, and cricket, they compete for thier home countries, i.e. England, Scotland, and Wales. One bit I’m unsure of is wether or not people from Northern Ireland play for Ireland in things like the Six Nations rugby.

Yes they do, but they have seperate football teams.

They do the Irish rugby team is a North/South combination, also teams from Nothern Ireland take part in all Ireland Championships (Gaelic Football and Hurling). But in Soccer Northern Ireland have their own team. As far as I know it is possible for people from Northern Ireland to obtain an Irish passport as opposed to a British one. It is also technically possibly for any Irish person born before 1923 to obtain a British passport because Ireland was under British control then.

Just to confuse things a bit further:

Nope, AFAIK. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not part of the UK.

This is a fascinating thread. It seems to be converging on a reasonable understanding of the geopolitics (whatever about the history), but I would like to make a couple of points:

  1. The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands (the Bailliwick of Jersey and the Bailliwick of Guernsey) are not part of the UK, but are Crown Colonies, just like Gibraltar. (I just looked down and see Floater has just made this point).

  2. Northern Ireland is not coterminous with Ulster (ruadh said this already).

  3. Norman Davies is very entertaining, and I’ve read all his books, but he’s not always to be trusted. In “The Isles” for example, he wrongly states that de Valera won the Irish Civil War. He also gets weirdly obsessive about some things (like the subject under discussion) and is extraordinarily partisan (anti-English, anti-Russian…) for a general historian.

  4. Scotland and Wales are always referred to as countries, although Wales was conquered and annexed by England in 15mumble and Scotland joined with England as a nominally equal partner to form the United Kingdom in 1707. They were therefore in law “part of the hegemonic power” with representation in parliament etc., rather than colonies.

  5. It is fashionable nowadays to say that nationalism, the nation-state, etc., are nineteenth-century inventions, and that thinking of earlier history in these terms (a la Braveheart) is anachronistic. This is not true. Check out the Declaration of Arbroath for example.

So are they part of the British Isles? Is the RoI considered part of the British Isles (geographically speaking, I can’t see the term being that popular really)? Who do the British Lions represent?