22 November 2019

The Great British Euler diagram

Because many people need a reminder now and then.  Additional notes from the source:
The republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom are the only two sovereign states in this image. They are shown in red. Ireland and Great Britain are both islands and are shown in green. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are constituent countries of the United Kingdom and are shown in orange. Here, the term "constituent country" is not used in the same way that "country" is usually used; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are political entities within the UK, and it is the UK which appears in international bodies such as the United Nations and NATO...

There are many other islands in the British Isles which are not shown here. Most of these are politically part of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or the republic of Ireland, with the exceptions of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, which are British crown dependencies and not part of the UK (or ROI) at all...

"Britain" is not a technically correct term for any political or geographical entity. Nevertheless, "Britain" is in frequent use, and taken to mean either "the UK" or "Great Britain". This usage is pretty unfair to Northern Ireland whichever way you look at it...

Ireland is popularly referred to as "the Republic of Ireland" in order to distinguish it from the island of Ireland, and the country is indeed a republic, but "the Republic of" is not part of the country's official name, and I suppose technically this means that the R need not be capitalised...
I am one of those guilty of using the term "Britain" (104 times so far in this blog).

Reposted from 2010 to add this newer and improved Euler diagram:


  1. It is deeply offensive to many (?most) Irish people to refer to Ireland as part of the "British Isles", regardless of the technical usage. The wikipedia articles relating to this topic are controversial to say the least.

  2. My English husband and his family deny being European. I think we need a blog post on that :)

  3. Don't forget Sealand : )

  4. I'm with Conor on this one. The term 'British Isles' is highly offensive and antiquated. It would be used erroneously by residents of the UK, but not by the Irish.

    This is why the rugby team is called the 'British and Irish Lions'.

    I also agree with Sarah. Many (most?) Irish and UK folks do not consider themselves European or their countries as part of Europe, despite being a member of the European Union.

  5. I'm just curious (not arguing): why don't you consider yourselves "European"?

  6. Minnesotastan: most people in the UK have no problem with being considered part of Europe, but those of a more nationalistic bent do.

    But it would be odd to be referred to as a 'European' generically, in as much as a Singaporean would be bemused to be addressed as "An Asian".

  7. Most Irish would refer to themselves as European. I don't know about the English. They do still use the Pound and have no serious plan to adopt the single currency (mainly because the pound is still strong in comparison). I have in my time, heard many English people refer to themselves as British though.

  8. It's always interesting seeing the usage of the terms 'Britain', 'Ireland', 'British', etc. between different groups. I immediately deny being European as almost a reflex, not really for reasons of geography (which would be patently absurd), but historically England and the United Kingdom has been culturally and politically quite separate from the core nations and states that have defined much of mainland European identity. I think most English (and to a lesser extent Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish) people still have this core belief of being 'other' than Europe. An equally revealing question might be that of another fringe nation - Russia. Russia spreads across Eurasia, but I'd be interested to know if Russians think of themselves as European, Asian, or something in between.

    As for 'British Isles' being offensive to the Irish... Really? I would like to think they're not to bothered nowadays, although a quick look at the "controversial" Wikipedia article reveals the Irish government get themselves quite worked up about it. It's more an historical accident than anything else, I don't think it represents the British people's continued desire to subsume Ireland into the Empire - that's just silly. And the comment about the rugby British and Irish lions is a bit of a non sequitur, as you would no more call a US sports team 'North America' - national sports teams are usually named after the nation not the geographical area. I could also point out that the British and Irish Lions is surely a reminder of Ireland being part of Great Britain & Ireland, otherwise why don't we have a British & Irish & French Lions that tour the southern hemisphere? (That might not be a bad idea.)

    I can't the honestly see 'Atlantic Archipelago' catching on either. It's so vague. Maybe the 'British & Irish Isles' would please everybody?

    P.S. I am the "English husband" of the poster above, by the way.

  9. Iain,

    I'm not sure an Englishman (or indeed anyone from a former empire) is best placed to be telling citizens of former colonies how to look upon their ancient oppressors.

    You may think it silly that the Government of Ireland "get themselves quite worked up about it" - all your comments do is remind me that for 800 years Britain made damn sure that we didn't even have our own government.

    As a sovereign nation, Irish people are more than happy to associate with the UK (e.g. with the Lions) but we're not too keen on being subsumed into the British Isles, whether by quirk of history or grand design of your monarchy.

    If you think we're being overly sensitive about it, have a chat with some Irish nonagenarians who grew up with men and women who had lived through the Great Famine (which some consider a form of genocide on the part of Britain) and who themselves lived through the 20th century horrors of the black and tans and the war in the North.

    All these things could be more easily laid to rest if you and other stopped denigrating, criticising and denying our opinions and our history.

    Slán leat.

  10. Dear Anonymous,

    I wasn't denigrating your opinions on history, I was pointing out that the name 'British Isles' is not used by the citizens of the UK as a way of keeping Ireland in the 'Empire'. That is a slightly ridiculous notion and in my opinion equally belittles the very real bigotry and negligence that resulted in events like the Great Famine. I do not have to ask nonagenarians about the Troubles, I can ask my own father who did several tours of Northern Ireland as a British soldier in the early 1970s. Because of his experiences, should I suspect every Irish Republican of having a molotov cocktail stashed away or a pack of C4 in his pocket? No. By the same token it would be nice if I wasn't accused of Imperialism for being born English long after the British Empire was dismantled.

    The terminology of 'British Isles' handily defines a geographical region, it is not meant to denote sovereign states, and does not represent the "grand design" of Elizabeth II. Why is the Irish Sea called thus? Maybe it should be the English or Welsh Sea (I've heard it called the Manx Sea)? The same question could easily be asked about the English Channel, which the French happily refer to as 'La Manche', I assume because they don't see it as belonging to the English at all - rightly so, but to most of the world 'the English Channel' is just fine.

    My incidental remark about the Lions rugby team is that it began in the late 1800s, presumably because at that point there was one nation called Great Britain and Ireland; hence, France is not involved. Why is that not an awful reminder of Albion's perfidy, the same as 'British Isles' is? Of course, rugby is a game with long histories in both Ireland and Britain, and possibly owes a lot to Gaelic football or caid in any case. It's also makes for fantastic sport, not least because of a recent crop of great Irish players.

    I did suggest that maybe these islands should be called the British & Irish Isles instead. The alternative used in academia, Atlantic Archipelago, sounds contrived and is unlikely to be remembered. What do you suggest?

    1. Fun to point out that in Dutch, it's just The Channel. We're staying out of who owns it, as long as we can sail through it to Rotterdam and back ;-)

      But then again, we kinda named the North Sea. And the (former) South Sea (now the IJssel Lake/IJsselmeer). And the East Sea (that you call the Baltic Sea). Those cardinal directions only make sense from the point of view from Friesland or Alkmaar.

  11. @Iain, I would call them the British and Irish Isles.

    No-one except you suggested the term British Isles is "used by the citizens of the UK as a way of keeping Ireland in the 'Empire'." Who are you even arguing against?

    Tellingly, you completely ignore my point that you make little of the Irish Govt.'s opposition to the name. Instead, you throw in a non sequitur about your father being a member of HRH's army in Ireland at a low point in British history when innocent nationalists and Catholics were denied their basic human rights: jobs, education, and worse.

    I wasn't saying Irish people are faultless - I'm sure your father met many a gurrier - rather I was noting that your govt. and your monarchy have spent much of the past millennium abusing my ancestors and making a sham of your country's name and image in a way that some believe was a sustained campaign of genocide. I'm not sure I subscribe to that view, but it's not beyond the realms of possibility.

    I spent a wonderful year living in London. I studied the geography of poverty at Birkbeck and our course was replete with examples of Britain's efforts to prove that the colonies, including Ireland, were populated with sub-human tribes who were incapable of self-governance. The consequences were a "God-given" British right to rule and ravage these colonies - including stripping Ireland of its huge oak forests, outlawing and almost destroying the Irish language and a significant part of our culture, and even exporting Irish cattle and grain during a famine which halfed the population through emigration and starvation.

    "Why is the Irish Sea called thus?" I have no idea. Since we have no history of colonising or abusing the islands therein, I imagine it is purely geographical. Regardless, we would be very unlikely to kick up a fuss if people wanted to rename the sea. It's a more complex issue because it is actually adjacent to a number of countries and islands - on the other hand Ireland is not a part of Britain and so the term British Isles is totally out of order. You are using a basic logical fallacy and distracting from the real discussion.

    No-one is asking you to take on the burden of your forefathers, but we would appreciate if instead of arguing in favour of a term which seems to mean little to you, you might accept that an entire nation finds it offensive. We don't dislike it because we think Britain still lays claim to our island, but rather because the term "British" - when associated with our republic - has a very negative connotation.

    We enjoyed no freedom under British rule but we now delight in the simple right to define the names and terminology used to describe our country.

  12. Graham Martin-RoyleJanuary 20, 2015 at 2:12 PM

    @Anonymous: I agree with Iain in that I consider the name, The British Isles, to be pure geographical and to have no bearing on the political situation. As for you, your parliament/government, etc wanting to call it by another name, i.e. The British & Irish Isles, I have no problem with that either, many countries have different names for the same things.

  13. The word "isles" is now deprecated in favor of the term "land masses of a diminutive nature".


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