What is the difference between the UK, England, and Great Britain?

Some people often use the names the UK, Great Britain, and England to have the same meaning and significance as each other, much to the ire of the natives. Oftentimes, the name “England” is used to refer to all the islands in the UK and near it. However, this notion can be offending to the people of Wales and Scotland, as there is a significant cultural and geographical difference between the three regions.

The major difference between the UK, Great Britain, and England is that the first one is a sovereign state, the second one is supposed to identify an island, and the last one is a part of an island.

To set things straight, it is crucial to note that the United Kingdom is an independent country, and its capital city is London. The official name of this country is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The country consists of the island of Great Britain as well as the north portion of the island of Ireland. The rest of the island where Northern Island is located is another independent country called the Republic of Ireland.

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Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland was first named the Irish Free State after it gained independence during the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1922. It once had the status of Dominion, a semi-independent polity that was controlled by the British Empire. However, the Irish Free State eventually created its own constitution to govern over its people in 1937, and the state was renamed as “Ireland.” When the Republic of Ireland Act 1948 was passed as a law, the country of Ireland became a republic in 1949. 

Despite the divide between the Republic of Ireland and the UK-owned Northern Ireland, the two areas have a good relationship since 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was signed and the violence caused by “The Troubles,” a series of conflicts between the inhabitants of Southern and Northern Ireland, was put to an end. In December 1955, the Republic of Ireland became an official member of the United Nations, and it also joined the European Economic Community (ECC) in 1973. The ECC was a regional organization that became the processor for the European Union. Interestingly, the Republic of Ireland is still a member of the European Union, while the United Kingdom formally exited from the organization in January 2020, although the process for the country’s withdrawal began in March 2017 after signing Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

Great Britain

Great Britain, also called Britain, is the name of the island that constitutes the majority of the United Kingdom. With an area of 209,331 square kilometers, Great Britain lies northwest of France and east of Ireland. Great Britain is called that way because it is the largest (or in the name’s case, greatest) island of the British Isles, which also includes the island of Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, and 6,000 smaller islands. To put it simply, Great Britain is the territory of the United Kingdom minus Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands in the south, and the Isle of Man to the west.

Furthermore, Great Britain is composed of three autonomous regions, namely Wales, Scotland, and England. Wales is located in the southwest portion of Great Britain, England is found in the southeast, and Scotland occupies the north. England is currently the largest of the three regions in terms of area and population. These three regions differ in terms of culture and lifestyle, and they also have some sort of autonomy regarding their internal governance. In fact, the Kingdom of Scotland was once a sovereign state, along with the Kingdom of Ireland, but they were unified into one kingdom (United Kingdom) when James VI of Scotland inherited England and Ireland in 1603 during an event called the Union of the Crowns.

Before the unification, the Kingdom of England had been established by the Anglo-Saxons in the late 9th century. In 1536, King Henry VIII enacted a law that united Wales with the Kingdom of England. Then, in the year 1603, the Scottish king James VI inherited the English throne from Elizabeth I, and the Union of the Crowns was officially declared. In 1707, the Act of Union was passed by the English and Scottish parliaments to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1801, the parliament of Ireland also decided to join the kingdom, establishing the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. However, the southern colonies of Ireland decided to withdraw from the union and declared independence in 1922, and the withdrawal formed the Irish Free State. Because of the change in the size of its territory, the kingdom underwent another name change in the year 1927, becoming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The name remains unchanged for more than 90 years.

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