The British Isles and Nordic Nations

Great Britain is a large island that includes England, Scotland, and Wales. Together with Northern Ireland, they form the United Kingdom. Most people in the United Kingdom live in England. England’s Highlands are in the west. Land there is difficult to farm. The Mid- lands, once rich in coal, are the center of industry. The soil in the Lowlands is fertile, able to produce many crops. Lowland farms grow wheat and vegeta- bles and raise sheep and cattle. England’s most important city is Lon- don. It is located on the Thames River. London is inland, but ocean ships can sail up the river. The Industrial Revolution began in England. Factories first used water power to make cloth. Later they switched to coal as a source of power. England had major coal fields. It also had large amounts of iron ore, or rock containing a valuable mineral. The coal and iron were used to make steel. The Industrial Revolution made Britain rich. It also made factory towns noisy and dirty. Britain led the world in industry until the late 1800s. Then, the United States and Germany began producing as much steel as Britain. Much of Britain’s coal is now gone. Today the country uses oil and natural gas found under the North Sea. Service industries are more important than factories. Britain’s economy has been growing steadily.

1 - What part of England is a center of industry?
2 - Map Skills What places make up the United Kingdom?


Scotland was a separate country until it was united with England in 1707. It still keeps its own systems of law and educa- tion. Many Scots belong to the Presby- terian Church instead of the Church of England. The Highlands region of Scotland is a large, high plateau with many lakes. Much of the Highlands are also covered with moors, plains with no trees. The moors have many bogs, areas of wet, spongy ground. Fishing and sheepherd- ing are important industries in the Highlands. Most of Scotland’s people live in the Central Lowlands. In the 1800s, it was a center of industry. However, since the mid-1900s, many factories have closed and jobs were lost. The Southern Uplands is close to Scot- land’s border with England. It is a sheep- raising region with many woolen mills. Today, new industries are becoming important in Scotland. The discovery of oil in the North Sea brought new jobs. Computer and electronic businesses also have developed in some areas. Wales has been united with England since 1284. Most of the Welsh people speak English, but many also speak Welsh. Some of Great Britain’s biggest coal mines are in Wales. By the mid-1900s, many mines and factories had to close because they were not modern. In the 1990s, new high-tech industries and tourism helped rebuild the economy of Wales.

3 - Where do most people live in Scotland?
4 - Chart Skills: Which part of the United Kingdom has the second largest population?


Ireland is divided into Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, an independent country. Ireland’s people are also divided by religion and culture. The island’s moist, marine climate keeps vegetation green. About one sixth of the land is covered by peat, a spongy material containing mosses and plants. Peat is used for fuel. Invasions and war have shaped Ire- land’s history. Celtic tribes arrived first. They often defended themselves against Viking raids. After Normans from France conquered England in 1066, some took land in Ireland and forbade the use of Gaelic, the Celtic language. Eventually, English rulers began considering Ireland a possession of England. In the 1500s, groups in Europe began a movement known as the Reformation, which led to a split from the Roman Catholic Church. Most English people became Protestants, whereas the Irish remained mostly Catholics. Conflict between Irish Protestants and Catholics led to cultural divergence, or deliber- ate efforts to keep the cultures separate. In the 1840s, a plant disease known as a blight caused the Irish Potato Famine. The famine caused many deaths and result- ed in anti-British feelings and immigration to the United States. Many Irish wanted indepen- dence. After rebellions between 1916 and 1921, Ireland was divided into two parts. The six northeastern counties remained part of the United Kingdom. The rest eventually became independent as the Republic of Ireland in 1949. A slight majority in Northern Ireland are Protestant. Most Catholics want to reunite all of Ireland, while most Protes- tants do not. Both sides have used vio- lence. Steps toward peace began in 1994.

5 - What religions divide the people of Ireland?
6 - Time Line Skills: In what year did the Republic of Ireland become independent?


The Nordic nations are Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. All are located in the northern lati- tudes. The region has many peninsulas and islands. Land- forms vary greatly. Denmark is very flat, while Norway is very mountainous. The Scandinavian Peninsula includes most of Norway and Sweden. Its coasts have flooded valleys called fjords that were carved out by glaciers. Most fjords have steep walls. Some are so deep that ocean- going ships can sail into them. Volcanoes and glaciers exist side by side in Iceland. Icelanders use geothermal energy, created by the heat inside the earth, to produce heat and electricity.Location in the northern latitudes results in long winters and short sum- mers. In midwinter, the sun shines only two or three hours a day. In midsummer, the sun shines more than 20 hours a day. Much of the Nordic region has a sur- prisingly mild climate. Warm ocean cur- rents keep the coasts free of ice. Moun- tains in Norway block the warm air, how- ever, making areas east of the mountains cold and dry. The Nordic nations have similar histo- ries. Vikings sailed out of the region from 800 to 1050. The nations were often unit- ed. Except for Finnish, the languages of these countries have common roots. Most of the people belong to the Lutheran Church. The Nordic countries all have strong mixed economies. That means the government operates some businesses, and private companies operate others.


7 - What is a mixed economy?
8 - Map Skills Which three Nordic nations have land that lies north of the Arctic Circle?