High School > History > Great Britain Ireland History
Historically, Britain has been a very powerful and influential empire. Despite the small size of the British Isles, the kingdom has conquered many lands both west and east – from America all the way to India. It has even extended its influence into the lands down under – New Zealand and Australia. Truly, the British Empire has done a lot to influence a huge part of the world around it.
Before, however, Britain was not yet the United Kingdom. The “British” that we now know are mostly from England, and at that time were called the English. Yes, that’s also where this language came from.
The Great Britain we know today really is composed of three distinct countries: England, Scotland, and Wales. It was in 1707 when the Act of Union merged the three countries into one kingdom, which was then called the Kingdom of Great Britain. Then, in 1801, Ireland joined the party, and the country began to be known as the United Kingdom.
But now, only Northern Ireland is part of the UK. So what happened to the rest of Ireland? It’s a very long story, but here’s the gist. When Ireland was in the process of turning itself into an independent state, there was a long-standing conflict between two religious groups in Ireland, which were the Protestants and the Catholics. The Protestants from up north did not want an independent state, as they enjoyed a lot of benefits by being part of the UK. Later on, in 1922, the rest of Ireland became a free state, but the Protestants from the north resisted. The British government was then forced to partition the northern part of Ireland to be part of the UK, while the rest remained as an independent country.
To date, Ireland (at least a majority of it) is still a separate state with its own laws and government.