British Isles naming dispute

British Isles naming dispute

There is dispute and disagreement over the term British Isles, particularly in relation to Ireland. The term is defined in dictionaries as "Great Britain and Ireland and adjacent islands". [ [ Definitions from] ] However, the association of the term "British" with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, [cite book |last=Walter |first=Bronwen |year=2000 |title=Outsiders Inside: Whiteness, Place, and Irish Women |publisher=Routledge |location=New York |pages=p. 107 |quote =A refusal to sever ties incorporating the whole island of Ireland into the British state is unthinkingly demonstrated in naming and mapping behaviour. This is most obvious in continued reference to 'the British Isles'.] as well as its association with the island of Great Britain, causes the term to be regarded as objectionable or inappropriate to many Irish people [ An Irishman's Diary] Myers, Kevin; The Irish Times (subscription needed) 09/03/2000, Accessed July 2006 'millions of people from these islands - oh how angry we get when people call them the British Isles'] [ "Geographical terms also cause problems and we know that some will find certain of our terms offensive. Many Irish object to the term the 'British Isles';..." The Dynamics of Conflict in Northern Ireland: Power, Conflict and emancipation. Joseph Ruane and Jennifer Todd. Cambridge University Press. 1996
Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490-1700. (London: Penguin/Allen Lane, 2003): “the collection of islands which embraces England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales has commonly been known as the British Isles. This title no longer pleases all the inhabitants of the islands, and a more neutral description is ‘the Atlantic Isles’” (p. xxvi)

On 18 July 2004 [ "The Sunday Business Post"] questioned the use of "British Isles" as a purely geographic expression, noting:

[The] "Last Post has redoubled its efforts to re-educate those labouring under the misconception that Ireland is really just British. When British Retail Week magazine last week reported that a retailer was to make its British Isles debut in Dublin, we were puzzled. Is not Dublin the capital of the Republic of Ireland?. When Last Post suggested the magazine might see its way clear to correcting the error, an educative e-mail to the publication...:
Retrieved 17 July 2006
"...I have called the Atlantic archipelago – since the term ‘British Isles’ is one which Irishmen reject and Englishmen decline to take quite seriously." Pocock, J.G.A. [1974] (2005). "British History: A plea for a new subject". "The Discovery of Islands". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 29. OCLC|60611042.
"...what used to be called the "British Isles," although that is now a politically incorrect term." Finnegan, Richard B.; Edward T. McCarron (2000). Ireland: Historical Echoes, Contemporary Politics. Boulder: Westview Press, p. 358.

"In an attempt to coin a term that avoided the 'British Isles' - a term often offensive to Irish sensibilities - Pocock suggested a neutral geographical term for the collection of islands located off the northwest coast of continental Europe which included Britain and Ireland: the Atlantic archipelago..." Lambert, Peter; Phillipp Schofield (2004). Making History: An Introduction to the History and Practices of a Discipline. New York: Routledge, p. 217.

"..the term is increasingly unacceptable to Irish historians in particular, for whom the Irish sea is or ought to be a separating rather than a linking element. Sensitive to such susceptibilities, proponents of the idea of a genuine British history, a theme which has come to the fore during the last couple of decades, are plumping for a more neutral term to label the scattered islands peripheral to the two major ones of Great Britain and Ireland." Roots, Ivan (1997). "Union or Devolution in Cromwell's Britain". History Review.

The British Isles, A History of Four Nations, Second edition, Cambridge University Press, July 2006, Preface, Hugh Kearney. "The title of this book is ‘The British Isles’, not ‘Britain’, in order to emphasise the multi-ethnic character of our intertwined histories. Almost inevitably many within the Irish Republic find it objectionable, much as Basques or Catalans resent the use of the term ‘Spain’. As Seamus Heaney put it when he objected to being included in an anthology of British Poetry: 'Don’t be surprised If I demur, for, be advised My passport’s green. No glass of ours was ever raised To toast the Queen. (Open Letter, Field day Pamphlet no.2 1983)"
(Note: sections bolded for emphasis do not appear bold in original publications)
] . Alternative terms suggested include common terms like "Britain and Ireland", "these islands" or "these isles" and rarer terms like "Anglo-Celtic Isles", "Islands of the North Atlantic" (IONA), "Northwest European Archipelago" or "West European Isles".

The dispute is partly semantic: to some readers the term is a value-free geographic one, while to others the term can be a value-laden political one. That the British Isles were all, with the exception of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, included in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until 1922, when most of Ireland left, is also highly relevant to some. Although early variants of the term date back to Ancient Greek times, the term fell into disuse for over a millennium and was introduced into English in the late 16th or early 17th centuries by English and Welsh writers whose writings have been described as propaganda and politicized [Ken MacMillan, 2001, " [ Discourse on history, geography, and law: John Dee and the limits of the British empire,] " in the Canadian Journal of History, April 2001] [R.J. Mayhew, 2000, "Geography is Twinned with Divinity: The Laudian Geography of Peter Heylyn" in Geographical Review, Vol. 90, No. 1 (Jan., 2000), pp. 18-34"In the period between 1600 and 1800, politics meant what we might now term 'high politics', excluding the cultural and social elements that modern analyses of ideology seek to uncover. Politics referred to discussions of dynastic legitimacy, of representation, and of the Constitution. ...

"Geography books spanning the period from the Reformation to the Reform Act ... demonstrated their authors' specific political identities by the languages and arguments they deployed. This cannot be seen as any deviation from the classical geographical tradition, or as a tainting of geography by politics, because geography was not to be conceived separately from politics."] [Robert Mayhew, 2005, "PDFlink|1= [ Mapping science's imagined community: geography as a Republic of Letters,] " in the British Journal of the History of Science, 38(1): 73-92, March 2005] . The term was not in wide use in Britain before at least the second half of the 17th century. The term was widely accepted from the late 18th century to at least the early 20th and problems with the term date mostly to the period after Irish independence.

The island of Ireland is currently occupied by two states: Ireland occupies five sixths of the island and Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, occupies the remaining one sixth. The respective names of the two states: "Ireland" and the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" were themselves also the subject of a long dispute between the Irish and British governments. It should also be noted that the dispute does not generally extend to adjectives; there is no distinct adjectival form of "British Isles", or most of the alternatives, and it is generally agreed that "British" does not include "Irish".

No branch of the government of Ireland officially uses the term British Isles, [" [ Written Answers - Official Terms"] , Dáil Éireann - Volume 606 - 28 September, 2005. In his response, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs stated that "The British Isles is not an officially recognised term in any legal or inter-governmental sense. It is without any official status. The Government, including the Department of Foreign Affairs, does not use this term. Our officials in the Embassy of Ireland, London, continue to monitor the media in Britain for any abuse of the official terms as set out in the Constitution of Ireland and in legislation. These include the name of the State, the President, Taoiseach and others."] and although it is on occasion used in a geographical sense in Irish parliamentary debates, it is often used in a way that excludes Ireland. A spokesman for the Irish Embassy in London has said use of the term would be discouraged. [cite news |first=David |last=Sharrock |title=New atlas lets Ireland slip shackles of Britain |url=,,13509-2385403.html |work=The Times |publisher=News International |date=2006-10-03 |accessdate=2007-01-06 |quote=A spokesman for the Irish Embassy in London said: 'The British Isles has a dated ring to it, as if we are still part of the Empire. We are independent, we are not part of Britain, not even in geographical terms. We would discourage its useage (sic).' [spelling "useage" is from the original article] ]

Its use is also avoided in relations between the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom, who generally employ the term "these islands". [ [] Bertie Ahern's Address to The Joint Houses of Parliament, Westminster, 15th May, 2007] [ [] Tony Blair's Address to the Dáil and Seanad, November 1998 ]

The term "British Isles" is sometimes used in the same way as British Islands. [For example, see Google searches of [ the BBC website] although noting that most such uses appear to be quotations from others.] This definition, excluding the Republic of Ireland, does not typically cause offence in Ireland but can be confusing as dictionary definitions have not yet recognised this usage.

Perspectives in Britain

In general, the use of the term British Isles to refer to the archipelago is common and uncontroversial within Great Britain, [ For example, its use can be seen at [ A Reading University Meteorological Study] , and regularly in the The Guardian newspaper [,,1942946,00.html November 9 2006] , [,,1949793,00.html November] , [,,1954927,00.html November] ] at least sinceFact|date=March 2008 the concept of "Britishness" was gradually but widely accepted in Britain after the 1707 Act of Union. In Britain it is commonly understood as being a politically neutral geographical term, although the term is sometimes used to describe the UK or Great Britain alone. [" [] Website on Megalithic Monuments in the British Isles and Ireland. Ireland in this site includes Fermanagh, which is politically in Northern Ireland."] [" [] The website uses the term "British Isles" in various ways, including ways that use Ireland as all of Ireland, while simultaneously using the term "The British Isles and Ireland", e.g. 'Anyone using GENUKI should remember that its name is somewhat misleading -- the website actually covers the British Isles and Ireland, rather than just the United Kingdom, and therefore includes information about the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, as well as England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.'"] [" [] Guide to Narrow Gauge rail in the British Isles and Ireland which includes Belfast lines under the section on Ireland."] [ [ British Weather (Part One)] This BBC article referred to 'a small country such as the British Isles' between at least April 2004 and January 2007 (checked using the Wayback Machine at Last accessed and checked 01/01/07. It was changed in February 2007 and now reads 'a small area such as the British Isles'] [ For example, see Google searches of [ the BBC website] .]

Issues with the term "British Isles" in relation to Ireland have been recognized in the UK [In preparation for Ireland's Presidency of the EU in 2003, UK officials were briefed to avoid various behaviours when interacting with Irish Officials. "They are also advised not to use words such as Mainland, Southern Ireland, British Isles, Ulster (three counties are in the Republic) or Anglo-Irish". ] and there is evidence that its use has been increasingly avoided in recent years in some fields of use, such as by cartographers and in some academic work, such as Norman Davies' history of Britain and Ireland called "The Isles". As a pure geographical term in a technical context (such as geology and natural history), there is less evidence of alternative terms being chosen. Recent histories of Great Britain and Ireland, published by major British academic publishers like the Oxford and Cambridge University presses, have discussed the acceptability term "British Isles" in Ireland, although one has continued to use the term "for convenience". [Dawson, Jane E.A. (2002). The Politics of Religion in the Age of Mary, Queen of Scots: The Earl of Argyll and the Struggle for Britain and Ireland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2. " Whilst accurate, the term 'Atlantic archipelago' is rather cumbersome so, for convenience, I have used the following as virtual synonyms: the islands of Britain; these islands; the British Isles, and the adjective, British. Without intending to imply any hidden imperial or other agenda, they describe the kingdoms of Ireland, Scotland, and England and Wales as they existed in the sixteenth century, following the definition of the British Isles in the Oxford English Dictionary: 'a geographical term for the islands comprising Great Britain and Ireland with all their offshore islands including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands'."] Recognition of the issues with the term, as well as problems over definitions and terminology was also discussed by the columnist Marcel Berlins, writing in The Guardian in 2006. Starting by saying "At last, someone has had the sense to abolish the British Isles", he gives his opinion that "although purely a geographical definition, it is frequently mixed up with the political entities Great Britain, or the United Kingdom. Even when used geographically, its exact scope is widely misunderstood". He also acknowledges that some view the term as representing Britain's imperial past, when it ruled the whole of Ireland. [,,1887065,00.html] Is it really so morally objectionable for the father of a murder victim to accept £450,000 'blood money'? The Guardian, October 4 2006.] Another historian of British and Irish history has described the term as "politically loaded" [^ "When I refer to the composite Monarchy ruled over by James VI and I and by King Charles I, it is always described as Britain and Ireland, and I deliberately avoid the politically loaded phrase 'the British Isles' not least because this was not a normal usage in the political discourse of the time". Canny, Nicholas (2001). Making Ireland British:. New York: Oxford University Press, p. viii. ISBN-13:.] .

Perspectives in Ireland

Republic of Ireland

The perspective in Ireland is often quite different from the view in Britain. From the Irish perspective, the term "British" had never applied to Ireland until at least the late 16th century ["Geographers may have formed the habit of referring to the archipelago consisting of Britain and Ireland as the Britannic isles, but there never had been a historical myth linking the islands. Medieval historians, such as the twelfth-century Geoffrey of Monmouth, had developed the idea that Britain (i.e. England, Scotland, and Wales) had first been settled by Trojan refugees fleeing after the capture and destruction of their city by the Greeks. The founding monarch - Brutus - had then divided up the island between his three sons, the eldest (Albion) inheriting England and the younger sons Scotland and Wales. This permitted English antiquarians to claim a superiority for the English nation and the English Crown. In the fourteenth century the Scots developed their own counter-myth which acknowledged that Trojans had first occupied England and Wales, but asserted that Scotland had been occupied by colonists from Greece - the conquerors of Troy. Faced by such Scottish counter-myths and by the scepticism bred of humanist scholarship, few people took any of these historical claims seriously by 1600. English claims that kings of Scotland had regularly recognized the feudal suzerainty of the English Crown had to be abandoned in 1603 when the Scottish royal house inherited the English Crown. But the fact is that many of the inhabitants of Britain - especially intellectuals around the royal Courts - had for centuries conceptualized a relationship which bound them together into a common history. There was no historical myths binding Ireland into the story. The term 'Britain' was widely understood and it excluded Ireland; there was no geopolitical term binding together the archipelago."
John Morrill, 1996, The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor and Stuart Britain, Oxford University Press: Oxford
"When I refer to the composite monachy ruled over by James VI and I and by King Charles I, it is always described as Britain and Ireland, and I deliberately avoid the politically loaded phrase 'the British Isles' not least because this was not a normal usage in the political discourse of the time."
Canny, Nicholas (2001). Making Ireland British: 1580-1650. New York: Oxford University Press, p. viii.
] and onwards, a period that coincided with the Tudor conquest of Ireland, the subsequent Cromwellian activities in Ireland, then the Williamite accession in Britain and the Williamite War in Ireland, all of which resulted in severe impact on Irish people, landowners and native aristocracy, e.g. the Flight of the Earls and the Flight of the Wild Geese. From that perspective the term "British Isles" is not a neutral geographical description but is an unavoidably "political" term. Use of the name "British Isles" is often rejected in the Republic of Ireland and amongst Irish Nationalists in Northern Ireland because its use implies a primacy of British identity over all of the islands, which include the states of Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands as well as the United Kingdom, and many feel that the term does not apply to Ireland since secession from the United Kingdom. [The readers' editor of "The Guardian", Ian Mayes, noted indirect reports of concerns. [,,534975,00.html "Where are we?"] , "The Guardian", 11 August 2001.] [On 18 July 2004 [ "The Sunday Business Post"] questioned the use of "British Isles" as a purely geographic expression, noting:

[The] "Last Post has redoubled its efforts to re-educate those labouring under the misconception that Ireland is really just British. When British Retail Week magazine last week reported that a retailer was to make its British Isles debut in Dublin, we were puzzled. Is not Dublin the capital of the Republic of Ireland?...Archipelago of islands lying off the north-western coast of Europe?
Retrieved 17 July 2006] [Norman Davies, "op.cit" p.xxii.] ["Irish Genealogical Sources No. 25 - History of the Royal Hibernian Military School, Dublin" uses the term "then British Isles" to refer to Ireland's relationship association with it prior to 1922.]

Many bodies, including the Irish Government, avoid describing the Republic of Ireland as being part of the British Isles. The term "British Isles" is occasionally used at governmental level in Ireland, as when a cabinet minister, Síle de Valera, delivered a speech containing the term in 2002. [cite web |url= |title=Speech by Síle de Valera, T.D., Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands at the opening of the Clare Drama Festival in Scarriff Community College |accessdate=2006-08-25] "British Isles" has been used in a geographical sense in Irish parliamentary debates, including by government ministers, [ [ Response by the Minister for Health and Children to a question in Parliament] ] [Official Report of the Parliament of Ireland. [] , PDFlink| [] |346 KiB , PDFlink| [] |914 KiB , PDFlink| [] |883 KiB , PDFlink| [] |938 KiB , PDFlink| [] |798 KiB , PDFlink| [] |389 KiB ] although it is often used in a way that defines the British Isles as excluding the Republic of Ireland. [ [ Parliamentary Debates (Official Report - Unrevised) JOINT COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND SCIENCE Thursday, 17 November 2005 - Page 1 ] ] [] [] [] In October 2006, Irish educational publisher Folens announced that it was removing the term from its popular school atlas from January 2007. The decision was made after the issue was raised by a Geography teacher. Folens stated that no parent had complained directly to them over the use of "British Isles", and that they had a policy of acting first on the appearance of a "potential problem". [Áine Kerr, [ "Folens to wipe 'British Isles' off the map in new atlas"] , "Irish Times", 2 October 2006] [Details of current editions of Folens atlases: [ Primary] [ Post-primary] ] This attracted some press attention in the UK and Ireland, during which a spokesman for the Irish Embassy in London said, "The British Isles has a dated ring to it, as if we are still part of the Empire". [ " [,,13509-2385403.html New atlas lets Ireland slip shackles of Britain"] . A spokesman for the Irish Embassy in London said: “The British Isles has a dated ring to it, as if we are still part of the Empire. We are independent, we are not part of Britain, not even in geographical terms. We would discourage its usage ["sic"] .”]

Perspectives in Northern Ireland

Different views on terminology are probably most clearly seen in Northern Ireland, where the political situation is difficult and national identity is contested. A surveyFact|date=March 2008 in Northern Ireland found that unionists generally considered the British Isles to be a natural geographical entity, considering themselves primarily British with a supplementary Irish identity. Another survey highlighted the British and Irish identity of the Protestant community, showing that 51% of Protestants felt "Not at all Irish" and 41% only "weakly Irish" [ [ Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, 1999. Module:Community Relations. Variable:IRISH.] ] [ [ Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey. Module:Community Relations. Variable:BRITISH.] Summary: 78% of Protestants replied "Strongly British."] In contrast, nationalists considered their community to be that of the Irish nation, a distinct cultural and political community extending across the whole of Ireland. Identities were diverse and multi-layered, and Irishness was a highly contested identity, and nationalists expressed difficulty in understanding unionist descriptions of Britishness. [ [ CAIN: Democratic Dialogue: With all due respect - pluralism and parity of esteem (Report No. 7)] by Tom Hennessey and Robin Wilson, Democratic Dialogue (1997)]

The overall opinions of people in Northern Ireland about the term, like the opinions of those in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain, have never been formally gauged. Politicians from the Irish Unionist traditions do readily use the term "British Isles" [ [ Speech by Rt. Hon. David Trimble to the Northern Ireland Forum] Retrieved 16 July 2006.] [ [ Speech by Mr. David Trimble to the AGM of the Ulster Unionist Council, 20 March 1999] . Retrieved 16 July 2006.] The contrast between Unionist and Nationalist approaches to the term was shown in December 1999 at a meeting of the Irish cabinet and Northern Ireland executive in Armagh. The First Minister of Northern Ireland, David Trimble, told the meeting:

In contrast, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, did not use the term in his address to the meeting. [ ibid.]

At a gathering of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body in 1998, the sensitivity about the term became an issue. Referring to plans for the then-planned British-Irish Council, which was being supported by both Nationalists and Unionists, British MP for Falkirk West Dennis Canavan was paraphrased by official note takers as having said in a caveat:

In a series of documents issued by the United Kingdom and Ireland, from the Downing Street Declaration to the Good Friday Agreement (Belfast Agreement), relations in the British Isles were referred to as the "East-West" strand of the tripartite relationships defined. [Three sets of relationships were defined. (i) Within Northern Ireland. (ii) "North-South" for the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and (iii) "East-West" for relationships on the islands.]

Alternative terms

There are several terms that are used as alternatives for the term "British Isles".

These Isles

Sometimes an ambiguous phrase such as "these Isles" (or, much less often, "the Isles") is used, thus utilising the same logic used when referring to the Persian Gulf as "the Gulf". "These Islands" was used in Strand Three of the Good Friday Agreement to establish the British-Irish Council, and has been described as the favoured term of Irish politicians. [in Linnean, Hugh; 'The Islands in the Stream'; The Irish Times; July 15, 2006'] Clearly these terms are only useful inside "these islands".

(Great) Britain and Ireland

Probably the most common alternative term in modern usage is "Great Britain and Ireland", or more simply, "Britain and Ireland". This is very common and almost entirely uncontroversial, although it may be felt to neglect smaller islands in the archipelago and is ambiguous concerning the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.Fact|date=June 2008

Because of its similarity to the former name of the United Kingdom before the secession of what would become the Republic of Ireland, the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland", it has been suggested that this may be problematic,Fact|date=March 2008 although in common practice it is not.Fact|date=June 2008

British Isles and Ireland

Another term that is sometimes used is "British Isles and Ireland". Similar to "Great Britain and Ireland", this has been used in a variety of contexts - among others religion, [ [ Prayer Association of British Isles and Ireland.] ] nursing, [Macey & Morgan, "Learning on the road: nursing in the British Isles and Ireland" (Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, 1988)] zoological publications, [ Badham, M., and Richards, V. (1991). "Gibbon Regional Studbook: British Isles and Ireland", 13th Edition, Twycross Zoo, East Midland Zoological Society, Twycross.] academia, [ [ FOLK 547 640 Folklore of the British Isles and Ireland] . A course in the University of Pennsylvania; [ British archaeology] ] and other sources. This form of title is also used in some book titles [For example, P. North, "The Private International Law of Matrimonial Causes in the British Isles and the Republic of Ireland" (1977).] and legal publications. [See "Law Society Gazette", Law Society of Ireland, July 2001.] This usage, however, implies that Northern Ireland is not part of the British Isles, which causes problems in itself.

United Kingdom (or UK) and (Republic of) Ireland (or ROI)

Some live UK television shows such as the "X Factor" allow voting from the Republic of Ireland and hold auditions in Dublin, and use terminology such as "UK and Ireland" (or less commonly "UK and ROI," of which "ROI" is an abbreviation of "Republic of Ireland") on voting lines. This is also common for copyright notices on DVDs and CDs. The UK and Ireland are two countries that are located within the archipelago not the archipelago itself. However, the United Kingdom often interpreted, in some cases legally, as including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, in which case the term does in fact cover the entire geographic area of the archipelago. Often though, it is indeed the two countries that are being referred to specifically, sometimes with legal meaning, thus the term "British Isles" would be incorrect and vague in any case.

Islands of the North Atlantic (or IONA)

In the context of the Northern Ireland peace process the term "Islands of the North Atlantic", and its acronym. "IONA", was a term initially created by then Conservative Party MP Sir John Biggs-Davison, [ [ Open Republic] . Retrieved 5 July 2006.] has been used as a neutral term to describe "the British Isles", employing the history of the Scottish island of Iona to draw the ancient and mutually-honoured shared history between Britain and Ireland. In a wider context, the term might be misunderstood as including Iceland, Greenland, the Azores and other islands.

IONA has been used by, among others, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime minister), Bertie Ahern:

Others have interpreted the term more narrowly to mean the "Council of the Isles" or "British-Irish Council". Peter Luff MP told the British House of Commons in 1998 that

His interpretation, as Ahern's comment earlier shows, is not widely held, particularly in Ireland. In 1997 the leader of the Irish Green Party, Trevor Sargent, discussing the "Strand Three" (or "East-West") talks between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, commented in Dáil Éireann (the Irish House of Representatives):

His comments were echoed by Proinsias De Rossa, then leader of Democratic Left and later President of the Irish Labour Party, who told the Dáil, "The acronym IONA is a useful way of addressing the coming together of these two islands." [ [ Dáil Debates. Vol 484. Col.466. 9 December 1997.] ]

Anglo-Celtic Isles

Anglo-Celtic Isles has been used in academia for the isles [Dolley, Michael). R A Hall ed. "The Anglo-Danish and Anglo-Norse coinages of York". Viking Age York and the North; CBA Research Report No 27, pp. 26-31, Council for British Archaeology. Retrieved on.] [ The British-Irish Council is a...potential shift of the geopolitical centre of gravity of the Anglo-Celtic isles Harvey, David C.; Rhys Jones, Neil Mcinroy, Christine Milligan (2001). Celtic Geographies: Old Culture, New Times. New York: Routledge, p. 241. ] and romantically.Fact|date=March 2008 This reflects the supposed ethnic make up of the islands of Celtic peoples — the Irish, Manx, Scottish, Cornish and Welsh — and the Anglic people — the English.

In 2003 Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price suggested Liverpool to replace London as the capital of the United Kingdom, describing Liverpool as "an Anglo-Celtic city that's ethnically diverse and infectiously inclusive." [ [ Urging to make Liverpool capital of the UK in January 2003] ]

Northwest European Archipelago

Some academics in the 1990s and early 2000s also used the term "Northwest European archipelago". [David Armitage, "Greater Britain: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis?" in "American Historical Review", Vol. 104, No. 2 (Apr., 1999) p.427.] Usage however appears sporadic in historiography and rarely repeated outside it, to date.

West European Isles

The name "the West European Isles" is one translation of the islands' name in the Gaelic languages of Irish ["Oileáin Iarthair Eorpa" seems rather appropriate, in Patrick Dinneen. 1927. "Irish–English Dictionary". Dublin: Irish Texts Society] and Manx [ _gv. "Ellanyn Sheear ny hOarpey" in Douglas C. Fargher. 1979. "Fargher's English-Manx dictionary". Douglas: Shearwater Press.] , alongside equivalent terms to "British Isle" ["Na hOileáin Bhreatanacha", in T. J. Dunne, tr. Toirdhealbhach Ó Raithbheartaigh. 1937. "Tír-Eóluíocht na h-Éireann". Baile Átha Cliath: Oifig Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtais] and Manx. [ _gv. "Ny hEllanyn Goaldagh" s.v. British-Isles, in Douglas C. Fargher. 1979. "Fargher's English-Manx dictionary". Douglas: Shearwater Press.] In Irish, "Éire bain agus an Bhreatain Mhór", literally "Ireland and Great Britain", is the more common term. [ [] ]

A somewhat similar usage exists in Iceland. "Westman" is the Icelandic name for a person from Gaelic areas of Britain and Ireland (Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man), and the "Western Lands" is the translation of the name for the islands in Icelandic. ["Vest-madr", "Vestr-lond" R Cleasby & G. Vigfusson Icelandic - English Dictionary Oxford 1874]

Pretanic Isles

A return to the Greek term "Pretan(n)ic Isles" has been suggested and has seen some usage in academic contexts, particularly in reference to the islands in a pre-Roman context. [Google search for term [ "Pretanic Isles"] and [ "Pretannic Isles"] ]


Insular art and Insular script are uncontroversial terms in art history and paleography for the early medieval art and script of all the islands. Insular Celtic is a similar term in linguistics. However this adjective is used only in relation to contexts originating over a thousand years ago.


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