For those not living in the United Kingdom it sometimes is a bit confusing what this strange little island next to Europe is all about. There is the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and there are England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There is Westmister, but also Holyrood and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assembly. A lot of confusing responsibilities for such a small island.
The following series of maps shows the United Kingdom and its different countries in a series of population cartograms and explains the different countries that it consists of. First of all, let’s have a look at the United Kingdom as a whole (similar to the map which is also featured in the World Population Atlas – there is another version of this cartogram on this website which also includes the topography of the island):
What this maps shows is a population cartogram of the United Kingdom, which itself is a sovereign state and has its national parliament in the Westmister borough of London. Additional role in the political system of the UK plays Queen Elisabeth II. She is the Monarch for the whole United Kingdom (and some other countries outside the UK, but let’s not make it too complicated for the moment).
However, not all people within the UK are overenthusiastic supporters of the monarchy, especially because the United Kingdom is a country of several countries. The full name of the UK is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which shows the first differentiation within the UK: Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Although UK citizen are usually referred to as being British, the term Great Britain itself only refers to the largest Island (and the countries there) and excludes Northern Ireland (as part of the island of Ireland). Simply said, Great Britain is this:
Many British people prefer to refer to themselves as what their more specific country of origin is, hence neither UKish nor British, but English, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish. Especially those countries outside the English borders seek for more independent political powers from the Westminster Parliament, a process which is known as devolution and which led to the establishment of national parliaments in these countries: The Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Irish Assembly. As a consequence, some political decisions made by the Westmister Parliament thus affect only England, but not the other countries (such as educational policies).
England is by far the largest of the countries within the United Kingdom, also in terms of people, which is why there have been some requests for additional country cartograms for the different countries of the UK on the World Population Atlas – England gets a lot of space in the UK cartogram while the people living in the other countries seem to feel displayed in an unjustly subordinate manner. So let’s divide the Kingdom (is it not a Queendom at the moment) into the several countries that it is made of and show the population cartogram for each of the UKs countries.
Here are the country cartograms in increasing order of their total population size (Northern Ireland 1.8 million, Wales 3 million, Scotland 5.2 million, England 51 million):
Enough confusion caused. These maps show the population distribution in the four countries of the United Kingdom and help to understand a little more the diversity within the UK and the political debates that go on inside there. But although they all have separate teams competing at international sports events and sometimes love to see the other teams losing, they are still one nation and eventually still all in this together.
An more detailed look into the complexity of the United Kingdom, Great Britain, the British Empire and everything that relates to it is given in C.G.P. Grey’s excellent short film “The United Kingdom explained” (which is also available as a full script in his blog):