Wales

JPEG Map of Wales(385KB)
JPEG Map of Wales (385KB)

General information factsheet
+ Geography and climate
+ Population
+ Government and sovereignty
+ Economy
+ Historical background


Geography and climate

Location: Western Europe, western part of the island of Great Britain, facing the east coast of Ireland.
Area: 20,779 sq km (nearly the size of Slovenia or New Jersey).
Coastline: 1,176 km.
Terrain: dominated by hills and low mountains, with exceptional elevations in the north and south east.
Forest: 289,000 ha. - (14%).
Highest elevation
: Snowdon (1,085 m) on north Wales.
Climate: temperate maritime, influenced by the North Atlantic current -the Gulf Stream; mild winters, cool summers and consistently humid.
Average temperature and rainfall index:

  Cardiff (South) Aberystwyth (West)
Temp. August 21 C / 12 C 18 C / 12 C
Temp. January 7 C / 2 C 7 C / 2 C
Rainfall 1048 mm 1051 mm


Population

St. Davids Head, West Wales
St. Davids Head, West Wales

Population: 3 million (2008).
Much of the Welsh population is concentrated in the south Wales cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport.
Main 3 cities: Cardiff, Swansea, Newport.
Welsh diaspora: largest Welsh emigrant communities are found in England, the USA and Argentina.
Population growth rate: +2.4% between 1991 - 2001.
Ethnic composition: Base of Celtic and Germanic (Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian). New population contributions mainly from England and other white European groups.
Religious affiliation: Christians 72%, No religion 18%, Others: 10% (2001).
Official languages: English and Welsh.
English is spoken and understood by 100% of the Welsh population.
Welsh is taught at schools. It is estimated that about 585,000 people in Wales can speak Welsh, mainly in the west and northwest areas of the country


Government

Sovereignty: Principality united with England since the Act of Union of 1536. In 1999 Wales became an autonomous territory of the United Kingdom with with limited autonomy on economy, environment, health, social services, education and culture.
Government type: Autonomous region of the United Kingdom.
Capital: Cardiff.
Administrative divisions: 11 county boroughs (Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Conwy, Gwynedd, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot, Newport, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Torfaen, Wrexham), 9 counties (Isle of Anglesey, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Monmouthshire, Pembrokeshire, Powys, The Vale of Glamorgan), 2 cities and counties (Cardiff, Swansea).
Constitution: Unwritten; partly statutes, partly common law and practice.
Legal system: English common law.
Executive branch: Welsh Assembly Government, composed by a President (First Minister) and a Cabinet (Assembly Ministers) appointed by the First Minister.
Legislative branch: The National Assembly for Wales (formed by 60 members elected by popular vote, serve four year term) can pass secondary legislation in Wales. The National Assembly for Wales has limited powers for passing its own primary legislation. Main legislative power remains in the United Kingdom's Houses of Parliament at Westminster, London, England.
strong>Judicial branch: Supreme Courts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and H.M. House of Lords.
Current Government: Centre-Left minority government, The Welsh Labour Party. First Minister: Carwyn Jones.
Political parties: Welsh Labour Party / Llafur Cymru; Welsh Conservative Party; Plaid Cymru / The Party of Wales; Welsh Liberal Democrats / Democratiad Rhyddfrydol Cymru.
National holiday: There is no official Welsh national holiday, although St. Davids, 1 March, is unofficially celebrated as Wales' national day.
Official flag: Y Ddraig Goch (The Red Dragon), a red dragon over a green and white field. It is believed that the dragon was adopted by the native Britons from the standards of the Roman army. The white and green field is a reminder of the colours of the Welsh Tudor royalty.


Economy

Overview:
- Wales has a small, industry-based economy which is currently undergoing a shift to a technology-based one.
- The Welsh counties around the Bristol channel have the greatest concentration of investment in Britain, predominantly in electronics.
- The industrial wealth of Wales is concentrated in south Wales, creating an economic and cultural divide between the industrial south and the rural north of the country.
- South Wales' industrial economy consists of large steelworks, foundries and oil refineries. Wales' industrial history initiated with the exploitation of the Welsh coal mine fields, now largely closed.
- About 80% of the land in Wales is used for agricultural purposes, especially in the sparcely populated north. Livestock (beef, dairy cattle and sheep), is more dominant than crop cultivation.
- Wales' tourism industry benefits from the proximity to the large English cities of London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, with many of their dwellers having a second home in Wales.
GDP Purchasing Power Parity: approx. € 58.1 billion (2006).
GDP real growth rate: info not available.
GDP per capita: purchasing power parity - approx. € 20,788 (2006).
Population below poverty line: info not available
Labour force: 1.3 million (2000).
Labour force - occupation by sectors: info not available.
Unemployment rate: 6% (2002).
Budget: € 19.5 billion (2007).
Currency: Pound Sterling (GBP).
Industries: Agriculture and forestry, manufacturing, tourism.
Main airports: Cardiff.
Main ports: Milford Haven, Swansea, Cardiff, Newport.


Historical background

 Celtic crosses, Pembrokeshire, West Wales
Celtic crosses, Pembrokeshire, West Wales

- Megalithic culture in Wales circa 4500-1500 BC. Stone constructions characteristic of the Welsh landscape and heritage.
- Bronze Age and trade in the European Atlantic, 1500-700 BC.
- Celtic culture flourishes in Britain circa 500 BC.
- Roman empire: Rome conquers Cambria (today's Wales) in 75 AD.
- Christianity spreads in Britannia ca. 400 AD, blending with native beliefs and greatly influencing Welsh society to this day.
- Fall of the Roman Empire ca. 410 AD.
- Germanic invasions: Angles, Saxons and Frisians invade Britannia from 500 AD. Thousands of Celtic refugees move within or outside Britannia escaping from the Anglo-Saxon invaders.
- Cambria remains unconquered by the Saxons until 1066 AD. The new inhabitants of Britannia, the Anglo-Saxons, gave Cambria the name of Wales.
- Viking Age: Scandinavians raid regularly the Welsh kingdoms between the 9th and 10th centuries. The Normans occupy much of Wales between the 11th-13th centuries.
- Welsh kingdoms: Wales is composed by small kingdoms that begin to enter under the influence of English kings as they accept overlord protection from the Vikings. Wars are fought intermitently from the 12th century between England and Welsh princes for the control of Wales. The last Welsh revolt was led by Owain Glyn Dwr in 1400 AD.
- English rule: Act of Union of England and Wales, 1536. Laws of England applied to Wales, English only official language. Anglican Church break away from Catholic Rome in 1534, Wales turns Anglican. Act of Uniformity of 1549, only English to be used in Church. Disparution of the Welsh nobility.
- Kingdom of Great Britain, 1707. Industrial Revolution in Britain, mining industry in Wales, 19th century.
- British Empire, 18-20th centuries, many Welsh travel and resettle to British colonial posessions.
- Welsh renaissance, 19th century: Welsh intellectuals advocate the right of the Welsh people to express their culture. Celtic idiosincracy is considered the cornerstone of Welsh identity. Cultural and political organisations are created.
- World Wars: 40,000 Welsh die in WW1, 1914-1918. 15,000 Welsh die in WW2, 1939-1945.
- Political activism: political parties, cultural organisations and other pressure groups reemerge from the 1960's demanding devolution of sovereignty on Welsh affairs to the Welsh people.
- European Union: as a part of the UK, Wales becomes a territory of the EEC - EU in 1973.
- Political devolution: in 1997 the Welsh people voted in a referendum for the creation of a Welsh government with autonomy over public spending and secondary legislative powers. The Welsh autonomous government, the National Assembly for Wales, was established in 1999.

Tagged under: Wales