British Islands

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The archipelago called the British Isles

British Isles is a common term for an in northwest Europe lying archipelago . The islands include Great Britain , Ireland , the Hebrides , Shetland , Orkney , the Isle of Man , Isles of Scilly , Anglesey, and the Isle of Wight .

For political, historical and cultural reasons, the term British Isles is not very clearly defined. On the one hand, it is politically controversial whether the island of Ireland should be added to the British Isles, although it is geographically part of the archipelago. On the other hand, the Channel Islands located in the English Channel , which are geographically included in mainland Europe, are counted among the British Isles for political reasons.

The history of the term British Isles seems to go back to an ancient name for the Pretan Islands , although the term was not particularly fluent. The reintroduction of the term was not least related to the territorial expansionism of the English and British crowns.

Including Ireland and excluding the Channel Islands, the archipelago comprises around 6000 islands with a total area of ​​315,134 km².


The British Isles are surrounded by the North Sea , the English Channel and the Atlantic . The Irish Sea , along with the St. George's Channel and the North Channel, lies between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain.

Political importance

Map by Didier Robert de Vaugondy with the island of Ireland as Britannia minor "Little
Britain " (1750)

The inclusion of the island of Ireland in the British Isles is controversial, as it calls into question the sovereignty of the Republic of Ireland in the view of many Irish and in part also the Irish government and is a misleading label with regard to Ireland's historical and cultural identity.

This is justified, among other things, with the similarity of the names British Isles and Great Britain (especially English British Isles and English Britain ). The similarity is not surprising, since the name of the archipelago is derived from the name of its largest island. In addition, the state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is often colloquially referred to as Great Britain , which at least not contradicts the British Isles to belong to the United Kingdom.

In Ireland, therefore, the term British Isles and Ireland or Great Britain and Ireland ( Britain and Ireland ) has become established.

The growing familiarity of the latter term raises the question of whether an archipelago name as such is useful at all. For example, in the case of Corsica and Sardinia, no archipelago name is used.

Dominions in the territory of the British Isles

See also

Web links

Commons : British Isles  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: British Isles  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ "British Isles", Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. An Irishman's Diary. Myers, Kevin; The Irish Times (subscription needed) 09/03/2000, accessed July 2006 “millions of people from these islands - oh how angry we get when people call them the British Isles”.
  3. The Times : “New atlas lets Ireland slip shackles of Britain”.
  4. Written Answers - Official Terms ( Memento of the original from October 6, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /

Coordinates: 54 ° 0 ′ 0 ″  N , 4 ° 0 ′ 0 ″  W.