Great Britain

People

Great Britain is the fourth most populous country in Europe. Those of English descent constitute about 77% of the nation's inhabitants. The Scottish make up 8%, and there are smaller groups of Welsh (about 4.5%) and Irish (2.7%) descent. Great Britain's population has shown increasing ethnic diversity since the 1970s, when people from the West Indies, India, Pakistan, Africa, and China began immigrating; in the early 21st cent. these groups accounted for more than 5% of the population. There is also a significant minority of Poles, who arrived after Poland joined the European Union. English is the universal language of Great Britain. In addition, about a quarter of the inhabitants of Wales speak Welsh and there are about 60,000 speakers of the Scottish form of Gaelic in Scotland.

The Church of England, also called the Anglican Church (see England, Church of), is the officially established church in England (it was disestablished in Wales in 1914); the monarch is its supreme governor. The Presbyterian Church of Scotland is legally established in Scotland. There is complete religious freedom throughout Great Britain. By far the greatest number of Britons (some 27 million) are Anglicans, followed by Roman Catholics and other Christians. There are smaller minorities of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, and Buddhists.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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