Great Britain, an island country in northwestern Europe, has about 1 per cent of the world’s total population. For hundreds of years, Great Britain was one of the world’s most important countries. The Britain started the Industrial Revolution and founded the largest empire in history. For centuries, Britain ruled the seas and ranked as the world’s greatest trading nation.
By the end of World War II Britain’s power had been much reduced. Today although Great Britain is still a leading industrial and trading nation, it is no longer the world power it was once.
By the early 1950’s, GB’s empire was declining rapidly, as many of its former colonies became independent nations. Today, most of these nations are linked with it and with one another through membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. This association of free countries and other political units once under British recognizes the British monarch as head of the commonwealth. But the monarch is mainly symbolic and has no government power.
Although GB is part of Europe, it is separated from it by the North Sea on the east and by the English Channel on the south — a separation that has helped shape the independent character of the British people. Throughout its history, Britain has preferred to stay out of “European” affairs, and the channel has also helped protect GB from invasion. In May 1994, a 31-mile (50 km) railway beneath the English Channel opened. The Channel Tunnel, nicknamed “The Chunnel”, cost between 15 — 16 billion dollars and was hailed as an outstanding engineering project. It allows passengers to travel by rail from London to Paris in about 3 hours.
Most British people do not think of themselves as Europeans, but they do not generally consider themselves to be “British”. GB is made up of four countries united under one government. These countries are England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Although all British people share certain customs and traditions, each country has its own dialect, culture, history and traditions. The union of these countries is called The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.