England, or to give its official title, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, lies to the northwest of the Contient of Europe. It consists of one large island, England, Scotland and Wales, part of the neighbouring island of Ireland and a large number of smaller islands. The total area of Great Britain is 94,278 square miles and the estimated population is over 51 million.
There is a general belief that British climate is cold, wet and foggy. A thick fog is often used as the setting for a mystery or detective film, but in fact the number of foggy days, even in the worst sports in Britain, is not high compared with most parts of the world. It is everywhere temperate. The climate is a generally healthy one and has given the women and children their lovely complexions. To it, the fruit owes its delicate texture and flavour, and the turf its springiness and colour.
Britain is a geologist’s paradise. All periods in history are to be found in its earth-from the recent chalk hills to the early rocks of mountain. These various kinds of earth show in the beech-woods and the smooth turf of the rolling Downs of southern England, in the rich soil of the river valleys that feeds the crops and orchards, or provides pastureland for the dairy industry. Farming on a big scale has carved up much of the land into fields divided by hedgerows or stone fences which give the British countryside its distinctive look. A great area of Britain was once clad in ancient “high forest” but the last 2000 years of occupation have stripped much of this away. The great industrial cities are found for the most part round the ore and coal regions in the Midlands and the North. The main ports and shipbuilding yards lie by the natural habours.
The British are a race of mixed peoples. There is, however, a strong unity, of common interests and a way life linked by one language. In England and Southern Scotland, the earliest people, known as the Ancient Britons (after the prehistoric period) were followed by the Danes from Scandinavia. These are, of course, other local mixture found today in the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh, together with those from Yorkshire or Lancashire, all proud of their beginnings but all uniting to form a solid group loyal to their country. Great Britain has produced such persons as the Duke of Wellington, the famous soldier who defeated Napoleon, and William Shakespeare, the top writer of plays. The British are known for their kindly feelings which shows itself in understanding, dislike of cruelty and oppression and a distrust of extremes. When the nation is threatened, the people are very strong in resistance. The average Briton does not believe in extremes. He is saved from them by a sound common sense that shows itself more particularly in a tolerance, in a willingness to meet objections, and if need be, in an agreement to disagree. The average Briton is calm and cool in time of trial. This showed itself on the last war under ceaseless bombings. The British temper has been well described in this term “phlegmatic as Anglo, or English phlegm”.
The British were never a stay-at-home race. Their record in exploration and colonization is a remarkable one. The spread of the English language and of British traditions of democracy over five continents is the proof of their venture and of the strength of British civilization. Britain is renowned for its great literary tradition. It is the birthright of over two hundred million people throughout the world whose mother tongue is English, the Canterbury Tales, Hamlet, Paradise Lost, the Ode to a Nightingale, to name only a few of its treasures, are theirs. Nor is that tradition dead today. There are few fields of study in which British names do not appear in the forefront. Thirty-seven scientists have received Nobel Prize awards – the highest world honour that can be accorded to any scientist. Gartwright’s power loom, driven by water, and Hargreaves’s spinning jenny opened the way for the modern mass production of textiles. Steel is produced by process named after Sir Henry Bessemer. The electrical developments of the press-button age owe much to the researches of Michael Faraday. Newton was among the leading mathematicians studying the nature of the universe. In the study of life and of man, Darwin’s name is outstanding, while in medicine and surgery many advances have been due to Briton such as William Harvery, discoverer of the circulation of the blood. Lord Lister, the founder of antiseptic surgery, and sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin. It is likely due to a sporting spirit, carried over into everyday life, that has made Britain a Power. Not a day passes but you will hear in ordinary use the term “a good sport”, “a sporting chance”, “fair play”.
Where home life is concerned, the Briton would much rather have a house than a flat. He likes to lead his own life in his own way and feels that a house in a permanent thing so he builds himself a flower garden and a lawn. The number of property owners who live in their own houses is growing. The majority of British people are Protestants, but there are also many Roman Catholics. There are opportunities for all in Britain. There has been a great leveling of the classes, especially upward, in Britain society and poverty has for the most part been done away with. Wealth and birth are no longer the only way by which one may reach the top in society. No society in the world is as well-organized as that of Britain. Today there is one big scheme of social services to which all contribute and by which all benefit. It is not charity but is a sound away of providing social security, health and freedom. National Insurance, family allowances, and national assistance cover the whole population for the basic necessities from birth to burial.
Britain is a country of industry and commerce. In the 19th century she was known as the “workshop of the world” Britain has today special links with many countries. Although she has developed interest in all parts of the world, Britain has always kept close ties with the free world. In peace and war alike, Britain has always taken the side of those who are interested solely in “progress and freedom for all” as Sir Winston Churchill put it in one of his speeches. With improved trade and with firm friends at her side, Britain faces the future with growing confidence.
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