For all the fuss it has made in history, for all the language it has distributed about the world, England is a rather small place. The largest of the four constituent elements that make up the United Kingdom, it covers 50,331 sq miles (130,357 sq km), about the same size as New York State or one of New Zealand’s islands. But its population of over 50 million is over two and a half times New York State’s, and over 15 times both New Zealand’s islands. By far the greater portion of the population lives in the south, where highlight cities include Bath, Brighton, Canterbury, Cambridge and, of course, London . The large northern towns, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle upon Tyne, which grew vast on the Industrial Revolution, have struggled to catch up with the post-industrial age, while Birmingham, Britain’s second city, has benefited from its more central location. The country is divided into counties, the old English shires, where sheriffs transacted local business. They have provided titles for the nation’s nobility and though their names and boundaries have been tinkered with twice in post-war years, they are redolent of the country’s past and continue to inspire local pride. At the start of the third millennium, England, due to post-war migrations, is a less homogenised nation than ever before – all nations of the world can be found in London. Local accents and dialects that not long ago were thick on the ground, are now waning, but new cultures, traditions and accents have been added by incoming populations. England’s ever-changing landscape provides incomparable scenery, in the Peak District, in the Pennines, on the South Downs, among the Yorkshire and West Country moors and around the Lake District. The variety of architecture characterises every part of the country, from West Country thatch to Cotswold stone, weatherboarded Kent to half-timbered East Anglia, black-slated Cumbria, and the sandstones, red and yellow, of Cumbria and York. It doesn’t take much effort in England, and not many miles, to feel that you have travelled a long way.

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