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Principality, constituting an integral part of the United Kingdom. It occupies a peninsula on the western side of the island of Great Britain. Area: 8,015 sq mi (20,758 sq km). Population (2001): 2,903,085. Capital: Cardiff. The population is of Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and Anglo-Norman ancestry. Languages: English, Welsh. Religion: Methodism. Wales is almost entirely an upland area the core of which is the Cambrian Mountains. The highest peak in England and Wales, Mount Snowdon, is found in Snowdonia National Park. The Severn, Wye, and Dee are the longest rivers. Economic activities include mining coal (though coal mining suffered a sharp decline in the late 20th century), slate, and lead; importing and refining petroleum; and manufacturing consumer electronics. Tourism is an important industry. In prehistoric times, tribal divisions of the British Celtic speakers who dominated all of Britain south of the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde inhabited the region. The Romans ruled from the 1st century AD until the 4th–5th century. Welsh Celts fought off incursions from the Anglo-Saxons. A number of kingdoms arose there, but none was successful in uniting the area. The Norman conquerors of England brought all of southern Wales under their rule in 1093. English King Edward I conquered northern Wales and made it a principality in 1284. Since 1301 the heir to the English throne has carried the title Prince of Wales. Wales was incorporated with England in the reign of Henry VIII. It became a leading international coal-mining centre during the 19th century. The Plaid Cymru, or Welsh Nationalist Party, was founded in 1925, but its influence did not gather force until the 1960s, when Welsh nationalist aspirations rose. In 1997 a referendum approved the devolution of power to an elected assembly, which first convened in 1999.
Variants of WALES
Wales Welsh Cymru
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Wales, visit Britannica.com.