Demography of the United Kingdom

The world’s population is unevenly spread across the land surface. The explanation for the uneven distribution lies in a mixture of physical and human factors as well as the historical development of the area. Factors having a positive impact are likely to encourage a high population density whereas those having a negative impact are likely to deter population leading to sparsely populated areas. Within any one country there are also variations. The UK is one such country. The densely populated conurbations and south east of England contrast sharply with the sparsely populated uplands in the north and west of the UK.

Before the industrial revolution in the UK was quite even, although the more fertile agricultural areas such as East Anglia were able to support much higher densities of population than the cold, wet uplands which were sparsely populated. This pattern can still be seen today. The north of the UK is very sparsely populated with the west coast of Scotland having 0- 10 people/ per sq km and a thin line around the east coast having 11- 150 people/ sq km. This is mainly due to their unsuitability for agriculture and their remoteness.

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The land is too steep for farm machinery, the soils are often thin and rocky and there are few lines of communication. The economic potential is low, i. e. there are few opportunities for farming and industry. Occupations are most likely confined to extensive hill sheep farming, forestry, tourism, and quarrying and water companies. However there is an exception to this trend. The valley between the lowlands of Scotland and the beginning of the English mountains has a very high population density of over 500 people per/ sq km.

This is because the area has a positive relief of lowlands and gently undulating terrain with the soils being fertile and easily worked e. g. loams and alluvium. The vegetation is easy to clear and it has valuable grasslands. The valley has well drained soils with adequate water supply for domestic, industrial and agricultural uses. There is also the presence of coal in the area accessible to the outside world and for trade. This presence of coal led to mass rural to urban migration during the industrial revolution giving it a high population density.

The area also has good infrastructure with good export trade and wealthy markets due to the two ports on both the east and west coasts of the area. The east port makes trade to Europe easy and the west Ireland and beyond. The north part of England is fairly sparsely populated with a population density of 0-10 people/ per sq km in the upland areas of the region and 11-50 in the lower areas. This is again due to the unsuitability for agriculture and their remoteness. The land is too steep for farm machinery; the soils are too thin and rocky with a poor infrastructure.

However as with Scotland there is an exception on the east coast and on the west. These two areas are the old industrial core regions of England. The high population densities are a result of the coal and iron ore resource for base of heavy industry which developed during the industrial revolution. This was aided by port access. The focus on technology and enterprise led to continued prosperity. The north east is the most dynamic of the old northern cores, attracting foreign investment and service growth.

East Anglia and East Midlands, as part of lowland Britain, have comparatively fertile loam soils and moderate rainfall with sunny summers. These areas are favoured for agricultural prosperity and as market centres as a result they have a population density of 11-150 people/ sq km. East Anglia is the fastest growth area in the UK aided by the electrification of rail line for computer growth and science park developments. The East Midlands and West Midlands established engineering and automobile industrial areas are also being revived by high technology and service growth.

In south England the area around London has the highest population density with over 150 people/ sq km and Greater London having 6. 3 million people living in the area. The greatest initial resource was London’s location on the Thames estuary, facing the continent. The UK’s incorporation into the EU and the completion of the Channel Tunnel remain significant factors in its growth. London has exerted strong long term influence as the capital and centre for administration and finance.

The area is of national and international importance, setting of cumulative causation and multiplier effect. It is the hub of a national route network. Its expanding population provides prosperous market, helping towards making it the greatest entrepreneurial centre in the UK. It has benefited from a shift in economy from heavy industry to light, service industry, including banking and insurance, especially since the mid- 1930s. the focus is now high technology industry and further service growth. Prosperity has spread especially since the 1960s.

People’s desires and higher core costs led to decentralisation of population and economic activity into the more spacious rural areas, particularly along the M4 and M3 growth corridors into East Anglia. The south west has a sparse population density of 11- 150 people/ sq km. However this is set to change. The south west was part of the more remote upland fringe until recently. Now with lower cost, rural setting and developing motorway and commuter train links, it attracts both retirement and working households, service and high technology growth, as well as tourists.

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