The British Isles lie off the northern coast of Europe, separated by a narrow channel of water called the English Channel, as close as twenty miles from the European mainland.
The British Isles consists of hundreds of islands. The largest island contains the countries of England, Scotland, and Wales. Sixty miles to the west across the Irish Sea, is the next largest island, containing the countries of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Eire or Ireland. Surrounding these two countries are many islands, of which a few are: The Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Orkney and Shetland Islands, which lie off the coast of Scotland. The Isle of Man and Anglesey Island, which are in the Irish Sea off the coasts of England and Wales. Guernsey and Jersey Islands which are in the English Channel.
The earliest inhabitants of the British Isles are believed to have come from the Iberian Peninsula, which is part of Spain in approximately 2000 B.C. These people were short, with dark hair and brown eyes. About 400 B.C., Celtic tribes, from a region along the Danube River in Eastern Europe and from an area in Switzerland and France moved into the British Islands. One of the tribes, called Brythons (Britains) settled in what we now call England and Wales, the other called the Gaedelic (Gaelic) settled in Ireland and Scotland. They intermarried with the Iberians and the Iberian culture disappeared. The Celtic culture was of great importance and still exists. Probably the most famous Celts were the legendary King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
In 40 A.D., Romans invaded Britain and conquered the Brythons, but did not invade Ireland and Scotland. In 400 A.D., Rome collapsed and the Romans left. However, many had married into the Celtic tribes and left their influence. Many words in Welsh have Latin roots, and Roman intermarriage with Celts brought blue eyes.
Following the Romans, Vikings and Saxons invaded Britain. The Vikings came from Norway and Denmark and conquered Ireland and some coastal regions of England and Wales. From the Vikings, the Irish inherited red and blue eyes. The Saxons were a group of tribes from Eastern Europe (present day Germany). They conquered the area of Britain, which is now England. However, they were not successful in invading the western part of Britain, nor Scotland and Ireland. They called the inhabitants of the west Wahles, which means “outsiders.” The Wahles became the country of Wales.
In 1066, the Normans from northern France invaded and conquered everyone except Ireland. By this time, the four countries England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland were fully established and have pretty much kept the same borders until today. Northern Ireland and Eire are another story. Incidentally, the Normans were originally Vikings.
Languages: English is a Saxon language. The old Celtic languages survive as Welsh and Gaelic. Almost everyone in the British Isles can speak English. In Wales about 70% can also speak Welsh. In Ireland, many people can speak Gaelic. In Scotland a few people can speak Gaelic.
Unfortunately, British history is very warlike. The Celts fought amongst themselves, then against the Romans, the Vikings, the Saxons and then the Normans. The Saxons fought the Normans. The Normans changed their name to English and fought the Scottish, the Welsh and the Irish. The southern part of Ireland declared independence from England in 1918 and became the Republic of Ireland (Eire). Eire now fights with Northern Ireland to try to absorb it. English people in Northern Island fight Eire to retain connection with England. The Scottish achieved independence in 1998. The Welsh achieved a form of independence in 1999.
What is the future of Britain? Hopefully peace can be achieved in Ireland. England, Scotland and Wales are getting along OK and probably will never go to war again against each other.