Atlas of Places
Great Britain Collection
Great Britain, also known as Britain, is a large island in the north Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of 209,331 km² (80,823 sq mi), Great Britain is the largest European island and the ninth-largest in the world. In 2011 the island had a population of about 61 million people, making it the world’s third-most populous island after Java in Indonesia and Honshu in Japan. The island of Ireland is situated to the west of it, and together these islands, along with over 1,000 smaller surrounding islands, comprise the British Isles archipelago.
The island is dominated by a maritime climate with quite narrow temperature differences between seasons. Politically, the island is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and constitutes most of its territory. Most of England, Scotland, and Wales are on the island. The term “Great Britain” often extends to include surrounding islands that form part of England, Scotland, and Wales, and is also sometimes loosely applied to the UK as a whole.
A single Kingdom of Great Britain resulted from the union of the Kingdom of England (which had already comprised the present-day countries of England and Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland by the 1707 Acts of Union. More than a hundred years before, in 1603, King James VI, King of Scots, had inherited the throne of England, but it was not until 1707 that the two countries’ parliaments agreed to form a political union. In 1801, Great Britain united with the neighbouring Kingdom of Ireland, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which was renamed the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” after the Irish Free State seceded in 1922.