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The British Isles are a group of islands northwest of Europe. However, not all of these islands are British!

The largest island in the group is Great Britain which consists of the nations of England, Scotland and Wales.

Ireland is the second largest island in the group (although this definition is not universally accepted) and is divided between the Republic of Ireland, which is not part of the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland which is.

The Isle of Man lies in the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland.

The Channel Islands are Crown Dependencies and are located off the northern coast of France. This link goes back to the time of the Norman conquest of England.

The term "British Isles" is used for convenience in grouping the following countries into one category: to understand this better see What Is Britain? a presentation by Audrey Collins, Records Specialist at The National Archives.
Wikipedia has more about this subject: Terminology of the British Isles

Disagreement over the term

  • There is disagreement over the term "the British Isles", particularly with relation to Ireland. The term is defined in dictionaries as referring to Great Britain, Ireland and adjacent islands. However, the modern association between the word "British" and the United Kingdom causes the term to be regarded as inappropriate by some and can be considered irritating or offensive by others.
  • Also, the name Britain comes from the Latin name for the island, Britannia, meaning "the land of the Britons", i.e. the Brythonic Celtic tribes who inhabited the island at that time. These tribes occupied only the main island of Britain and not the island of Ireland, known to the Romans as Hibernia, which was occupied by Goidelic Celts. This make the inclusion of Ireland as historically incorrect!
Wikipedia has more about this subject: British Isles naming dispute


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  • This page was last modified on 3 February 2016, at 06:29.
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