Great Britain

Britain lies off the north-west coast of Europe across the English Channel. It consists of two large islands - Great Britain and Ireland - and about 5,000 smaller ones. Its neighbours are Ireland to west and France to south-east. England is mostly rolling land. The Highlands of Scotland are the highest mountains in Britain. The longest rivers are the Severn and the Thames.

Population is about 57,000,000 people. In Britain, we can find the following ethnic groups: English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh. The majority of people speak English.

The Celts arrived 2500 to 3000 years ago. England was added to the Roman Empire in 43 AD. Under Queen Elizabeth I (second half of 16. century) Britain became a major sea power. Large parts of Africa and Asia were added to the empire during the reign of Queen Victoria (second half of the last century).

National economy
The main industries are steel, metals, vehicles, shipbuilding, shipping, banking, insurance, textiles, chemicals, electronics, aircraft, machinery, and distilling. The main agricultural products are corn, sugar beet, fruit, and vegetables. Britain is rich in coal, tin, oil, gas, chalk and lead.

Government type and administration
Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy with the Queen as the head of state. Britain is divided into four parts: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The capital of the whole Britain is London. Other big cities are Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, and Edinburgh. Britain is the member of nearly all important international organisations - UN, NATO and OECD.

Interesting places
Besides London, which is in the centre of each tourist's attention, there are many other fascinating places:
Oxford and Cambridge are the old university towns.
Stratford-upon-Avon is the birthplace of William Shakespeare.
Resorts such as Brighton and Portsmouth have fine sandy beaches.
Canterbury is an ancient city with a majestic cathedral. Birmingham is the second largest city in Britain.

Scotland is a historically and culturally separate country from England. It has its own legal and educational system and currency. The biggest city is Glasgow and the capital is Edinburgh.

Legislative and Executive Powers, Political Parties
The Constitution of the UK is unwritten; it is based on custom, tradition and common law. The main body is Parliament. It consists of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. British parliamentary system is one of the oldest in the world (13th century) The Prime Minister appoints a team of main ministers as the Cabinet. There are two main political parties: the Labour Party (left) and the Conservative Party (right).

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