The United Kingdom is a country made up of the countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. How is that possible?
Just to clarify, the question I’m asking is: How can a country be made of countries?
Well, obviously it’s an artefact of the long and complex history of those countries, but it’s possible because there are no rules governing how countries organise themselves. The constitutent countries are not sovereign states - it is the UK that deals with other sovereign states at the international level. But internally the constituent countries operate a little like the states in a federal nation such as the USA or Germany. Although again, the history of the situation makes the various relationships between the constituent countries rather complex.
Try “nation” for one word and “country” for the other, or something else that hels you draw the distinction. The United Kingdom, as the name suggests, is the unification of formerly separate sovereignties, in this case England (with Wales), Scotland, and Ireland (which later reduced itself to only 2/3 of Ulster, which was one of the four historical regions in Ireland). All three kingdoms shared the same monarch but had separate institutions including quite different law codes. Also worth noting is that the U.K. is made up of four distinct nationalities (‘nations’ in a different meaning): England, Wales, Scotland, and (Northern) Ireland.
Now it has a single government for the whole UK, along with ‘devolved’ assemblies in the three smaller nations with varying degrees of power.
Outside the US and Australia, people might well say “Well, ‘country’ and ‘state’ mean the same thing - the area that owes allegiance to one government. So how can the U.S. describe itself as a country of 50 states?” In both cases the answer is pretty much the same: the words, which might otherwise be considered synonymous, are being used to describe two distinct things.,
The USA started out as 13 separate English colonies, which banded together as the United States of America. Different states, united.
Australia started out as a bunch of separate English colonies which united at Federation in 1901. Before 1901 there was no “Australia” as a country, it was just the name of the land-mass.
Germany as a nation didn’t exist before Otto von Bismarck federated a bunch of separate countries (Prussia, Hanover, etc) in the 1860s.
Most nations were created by federating a bunch of smaller separate states. Before there was an England there were the separate kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex, East Anglia, Essex, and so on.
Plenty of countries are made up of several historical countries - Spain consists of three of four, France a half-dozen, Italy at least twice that, and Germany and India are made up of literally hundreds of formerly independent states. The sole difference is that the UK allowed its constituant countries to keep their names and some limited authority.
All true, but I imagine the OP’s question is motivated by the sense that the constituent countries of the UK have retained their separate nationhoods to a greater degree than, say, the states of the US. Most Scottish people really do consider themselves to be of different nationality to English people. The four countries enter separate teams in some international sports tournaments such as the World Cup. They have different national anthems (although the status of those anthems is a bit vague).
I know that people in Texas, say, also consider themselves quite distinct from New Yorkers, but if you asked one of them their nationality, would they say “Texan”? Someone from Wales would quite likely say “Welsh”.
 Spain is an interesting example though - I suspect many Catalonians, not to mention Basques, would not answer “Spanish”.
And for whatever reason, the individual national identities in the conscience of the people still carry great importance within the UK. Ask someone from German or Italy what nationality they are, and they will undoubtedly say German Prussian, or Italian over Puglianese (except maybe if they are from Sicily). A British person would, for the most part, say ‘Welsh’ or ‘Scottish’. I often wonder if that’s why foreigners frequently get ‘England’ and ‘Britain’ mixed up so much, because ‘English’ is mentioned so much by English people.
And we still play against each other in many international sports, such as football and rugby, which perhaps gives the individual nations more exposure than states within other countries.
It’s complex. On the one hand I’m happy to call myself ‘British’ but it’s only half of my national identity. Interestingly, apparently immigrants and second generation immigrants more readily identify as ‘British’ above ‘English’ or other. Perhaps they perceive it as a racial descriptor.
Or what he said!
And funnily enough, neither of those was ever its own state/country/organized political entity.
There was a thread not long ago with a link to a youtube video which explains the whole caboodle in about three minutes. My search-fu is weak, unfortunately.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the England and Scotland joined together voluntarily, with the monarch of the smaller country taking over the larger?
Because countries are entirely artificial constructs, which can take whatever form you want, provided you can convince a sufficient number of people to recognize it. Roughly speaking, the United Kingdom was formed through the mergers (at various times) of previously independent countries; the constituent countries still maintain some degree of independence both intra- and internationally. The USSR was another example of a country made up of countries (15 of them); for most foreign relations purposes they operated as a single entity, with the notable exception that Belarus and the Ukraine had separate seats at the UN (though I doubt they ever voted in opposition to the USSR). Internally the 15 countries nominally had equal federal representation, though it’s hard to deny the dominance of Russia.
It can get even more complicated. In the recent census, residents of Cornwall were encouraged to record their nationality as Cornish. Cornish people do see themselves as being separate from England.
It goes even deeper.
England used to be a bunch of different countries too. Wessex, East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbira. But due to constant Viking attacks they gradually pulled together to form England in the 10th century.
The way I heard it, the U.S.S.R demanded 15 seats on the UN when it was founded in 1945; the U.S. responded by saying that if that’s the case, *we *should get 48 seats. They eventually settled on 3.
(Incidentally, it may not be PC of me, but I still think of them as White Russia and THE Ukraine).
IIRC, Scots are represented in both Scottish Parliament and U.K. Parliament, while English only have the one Parliament. Doesn’t this seem unfair?
I’ve heard Europeans insist that U.S. was flawed because laws vary state-to-state. I’d argue instead that the European Union has the opposite problem, with EU regulating France’s restaurants, etc. Indeed, in some ways the E.U. seems to be a tighter union than the U.S.A.; am I wrong?
Wasn’t it more the genealogical fact that the great grandfather of James VI married the daughter of Henry VII (and that the legitimate line of Henry VII’s older or maler children went extinct)? And since James was already VI of Scots before he became I of England, wasn’t it the smaller-country monarch who took over the larger?
That’s what I said.