Established as an independent monarchy many centuries ago, England in time achieved political control over the rest of the island, all the British Isles, and vast sections of the world, becoming the nucleus of one of the greatest empires in history. The capital, largest city, and chief port of England is London, with a population in 1996 of 7 million. It is also the capital of the United Kingdom and the site of the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Nations.
England is somewhat triangular in shape, with its apex at the mouth of the Tweed River. The eastern leg, bounded by the North Sea, extends generally southeast to the North Foreland, the northern extremity of the region called the Downs. The western leg of the triangle extends generally southwest from the mouth of the Tweed along the boundary with Scotland, the Irish Sea, St. George’s Channel, and the Atlantic Ocean to Land’s End, the westernmost extremity of England and of the island.
The northern frontier extends from Solway Firth on the west along the Cheviot Hills to the mouth of the Tweed on the east. The base of the triangle fronts the English Channel and the Strait of Dover. The total area of England is 130,410 sq km (50,350 sq mi), 57 percent of the area of the island. This total, approximately the size of the state of North Carolina, includes the region of the Isles of Scilly, southwest of Land’s End in the Atlantic Ocean; the Isle of Wight, located off the southern coast; and the Isle of Man, located in the Irish Sea.
II THE LAND
One of the principal physiographic features of England, as well as of the entire island of Great Britain, is the deeply indented coast. Most of the indentations are excellent natural harbors, easily accessible to deepwater shipping, a factor that has been decisive in the economic development and imperial expansion of England. By virtue of the high tides that prevail along the eastern coast, a number of rivers and their estuaries provide this region with safe anchorages.
The most important of these belong to such ports as Newcastle upon Tyne, on the Tyne River; Middlesbrough, on the Tees River; Hull, on the Humber River; Great Yarmouth, on the estuary of the Yare River; and London, on the Thames River. The most important harbors on the southern coast include those of Dover, Hastings, Eastbourne, Brighton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, and Plymouth.
The western coast, considerably more broken than either the eastern or southern coast, also has numerous anchorages. Of outstanding commercial importance are the harbor of Bristol, at the confluence of Bristol Channel and the Severn River; and Liverpool Harbor, at the mouth of the Mersey River.
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