Islands of the North Atlantic Part 2 - The Dis-United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
This is part two of The Islands of the North Atlantic. In the first part of this occasional series of articles, I set the scene for what the United Kingdom is by tackling some common misconceptions of what the United Kingdom isn't.
- This is not the United Kingdom You're Looking For
- The Dis-united Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
- The Geographies of England - An Exercise in Complexity
- Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh Geographies - Simplicity not Complexity
- Crown Dependencies, Overseas Territories and the Commonwealth of Nations
But the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland that we know today only dates back to 1922, so I'm going to start with what the United Kingdom was and for that we need to go back to circa 927 CE and the Kingdom of England.
Expansion, Unions, Contraction and Disunion
It's 1200 CE and the political makeup of the British Isles is very different to today. King John sits on the throne of the Kingdom of England, which had emerged from the Heptarchy of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria, Kent, Essex, Sussex and Wessex in 927 CE.
Wales is still a series of independent kingdoms and wouldn't be semi-united as the Principality of Wales until 1216 CE. Scotland has been a single independent kingdom since 843 CE and Ireland was a series of regional dynasties trying to gain overall control and had seen the first of many incursions and invasions by English monarchs some 30 years earlier.
In 1282 CE, with Edward I on the English throne, Wales is finally invaded and becomes a set of satellites of the Kingdom of England, with only the Principality of Wales in the north and west of the country being under direct English rule.
By 1707 CE, the Treaty of Union had been signed a year earlier, uniting Scotland with England and Wales and with the Acts of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain now covers all of island of Great Britain.
The Acts of Union of 1800, signed into law in both the Parliament of Great Britain and the Parliament of Ireland united and created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The islands of Ireland and Great Britain would remain part of the then United Kingdom until 1922.
After the First World War calls for Irish home rule grew; the failure and suppression of the Easter Uprising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence between 1919 and 1921 culminated in the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921 and in December of the following year, the majority of Ireland united under the Irish Free State. Six counties in Ulster opted out of the treaty forming what is now Northern Ireland and this resultant union renamed the United Kingdom to the current United Kingdom of Great Britiain and Northern Ireland in 1927. The Irish Free State remained until 1937 with the adoption of a new constitution and the creation of the current state of Ireland.
United, For Now
This whistle stop tour from the early 11th Century to the modern day misses out and skips over vast swathes of history, deliberately so. I've opted only to mention key events that have changed the map of what would become today's United Kingdom.
Whilst the British Parliament still sits in London's Westminster, control of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and the Welsh Senedd in Cardiff since 1999 and the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast since 1998's Good Friday Agreement.
England remains the sole country in the United Kingdom without devolved government or representation.
Despite devolution, calls for independence in Scotland and Wales remain, with the pro independence Scottish Nationalist Party and Plaid Cymru political parties continuing to campaign for referenda on independence. Whether the impact of 2020's departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union will accelerate the independence campaigns remains a point for long discussion and debate.
To date, the current United Kingdom has remained in place for almost 100 years. Whether this persists for another 100 years is a matter for much crystal ball gazing.
Next time ...
Now that the United Kingdom as a whole has been dissected and examined, it's time to dig into the geographies of each of the four current countries of the Union starting with Part 3 - England - An Exercise in Complexity.