Introduction to England

The Regions of England

The Regions of England




England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotlandto the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.




The area now called England was first inhabited by modern humans during the Upper Palaeolithic period, but takes its name from the Angles, a Germanic tribe deriving its name from the Anglia peninsula, who settled during the 5th and 6th centuries. England became a unified state in the 10th century, and since the Age of Discovery, which began during the 15th century, has had a significant cultural and legal impact on the wider world. The English language, the Anglican Church, and English law – the basis for the common law legal systems of many other countries around the world – developed in England, and the country’s parliamentary system of government has been widely adopted by other nations. The Industrial Revolution began in 18th-century England, transforming its society into the world’s first industrialised nation.




England’s terrain is chiefly low hills and plains, especially in central and southern England. However, there is upland and mountainous terrain in the north (for example, the Lake District and Pennines) and in the west (for example, Dartmoorand the Shropshire Hills). The capital is London, which has the largest metropolitan area in both the United Kingdom and the European Union. England’s population of over 55 million comprises 84% of the population of the United Kingdom, largely concentrated around London, the South East, and conurbations in the Midlands, the North West, the North East, and Yorkshire, which each developed as major industrial regions during the 19th century.




The Kingdom of England – which after 1535 included Wales – ceased being a separate sovereign state on 1 May 1707, when the Acts of Union put into effect the terms agreed in the Treaty of Union the previous year, resulting in a political union with the Kingdom of Scotland to create the Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1801, Great Britain was united with the Kingdom of Ireland (through another Act of Union) to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922 the Irish Free State seceded from the United Kingdom, leading to the latter being renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.




Regions, counties, and districts

The subdivisions of England consist of up to four levels of subnational divisioncontrolled through a variety of types of administrative entities created for the purposes of local government. The highest tier of local government were the nine regions of England: North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands, East, South East, South West, and London. These were created in 1994 as Government Offices, used by the UK government to deliver a wide range of policies and programmes regionally, but there are no elected bodies at this level, except in London, and in 2011 the regional government offices were abolished. The same boundaries remain in use for electing Members of the European Parliament on a regional basis.




After devolution began to take place in other parts of the United Kingdom it was planned that referendums for the regions of England would take place for their own elected regional assemblies as a counterweight. London accepted in 1998: the London Assembly was created two years later. However, when the proposal was rejected by the northern England devolution referendums, 2004 in the North East, further referendums were cancelled. The regional assemblies outside London were abolished in 2010, and their functions transferred to respective Regional Development Agencies and a new system of Local authority leaders’ boards.




Below the regional level, all of England is divided into 48 ceremonial counties. These are used primarily as a geographical frame of reference and have developed gradually since the Middle Ages, with some established as recently as 1974. Each has a Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff; these posts are used to represent the British monarch locally. Outside Greater Londonand the Isles of Scilly, England is also divided into 83 metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties; these correspond to areas used for the purposes of local government and may consist of a single district or be divided into several.




There are six metropolitan counties based on the most heavily urbanised areas, which do not have county councils. In these areas the principal authorities are the councils of the subdivisions, the metropolitan boroughs. Elsewhere, 27 non-metropolitan “shire” counties have a county council and are divided into districts, each with a district council. They are typically, though not always, found in more rural areas. The remaining non-metropolitan counties are of a single district and usually correspond to large towns or sparsely populated counties; they are known as unitary authorities. Greater London has a different system for local government, with 32 London boroughs, plus the City of London covering a small area at the core governed by the City of London Corporation. At the most localised level, much of England is divided into civil parishes with councils; in Greater London only one, Queen’s Park, exists as of 2014 after they were abolished in 1965 until legislation allowed their recreation in 2007.