02-17-2011 12:34 PM
Great Britain (informally Britain) is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles. With a population of about 60.0 million people in mid-2009, it is the third most populated island on Earth. Great Britain is surrounded by over 1,000 smaller islands and islets. The island of Ireland lies to its west. Politically, Great Britain may also refer to the island itself together with a number of surrounding islands which comprise the territory of England, Scotland and Wales.
All of the island is territory of the sovereign state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and most of the United Kingdom's territory is in Great Britain. Most of England, Scotland, and Wales are on the island of Great Britain, as are their respective capital cities: London, Edinburgh, and Cardiff.
The Kingdom of Great Britain resulted from the political union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland with the Acts of Union 1707 on 1 May 1707 under Queen Anne. In 1801, under a new Act of Union, this kingdom merged with the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. After the Irish War of Independence most of Ireland seceded from the Union, which then became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The island has a relatively small variety of fauna and flora, due to its size and the fact that wildlife has had little time to develop since the last ice age. The high level of urbanisation on the island has contributed to a species extinction rate that is about 100 times greater than the background species extinction rate.
 Political definition
Great Britain is the largest island of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Politically, Great Britain refers to England, Scotland and Wales in combination, and therefore also includes a number of outlying islands such as the Isle of Wight, Anglesey, the Isles of Scilly, the Hebrides, and the island groups of Orkney and Shetland. It does not include the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands which are not part of the United Kingdom, instead being self-governing dependent territories of that state with their own legislative and taxation systems.
The union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland began with the 1603 Union of Crowns, a personal union under James VI of Scotland, I of England. The political union that joined the two countries happened in 1707, with the Acts of Union merging the parliaments of the two nations, and forming the Kingdom of Great Britain, which covered the entire island.