Wales is one of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom. Wales is located in the south-west of Great Britain and is bordered by England to the east, the Bristol Channel (Môr Hafren) to the south and the Irish Sea (Môr Iwerddon) to the west and north, and also by the estuary of the River Dee (Afon Dyfrdwy) in the north-east. Wales is the largest principality in the world.
Welsh cultural identity is represented by elements such as the Welsh language, monastic asceticism, a highly evolved secular legal system (Cyfraith Hywel), and a distinctive literary tradition which emerged after the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century. Of the principal polities within Wales, only Gwynedd retained independence until the late 13th century, when it too was conquered by England. However, formal annexation and abolition of Welsh law did not take place until the 16th century. Wales (with all regions united under one government) has never been a sovereign state, although a number of rival principalities remained independent until the Anglo-Norman conquest.
From the 19th century on, parts of Wales became heavily industrialised, exporting vast quantities of coal and steel and establishing a large manufacturing base which has only recently been overtaken by the service sector.
Two thirds of the population of Wales live in the valleys and coastal plain of the south, with a further significant population concentration in the north east. The remaining areas in Mid Wales, the south west and west are predominantly rural and characterised by hilly and mountainous terrain.
From the 20th century a revival in Welsh national consciousness and sentiment has taken place. Wales's largest city, Cardiff (Caerdydd) was established as the capital of Wales in 1955. The National Assembly for Wales (Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru) was formed in 1999, with powers to amend primary legislation from the U.K. Parliament. These powers were widened by the Government of Wales Act 2006, and the Assembly can now propose and pass its own laws but only after the agreement of the UK Parliament.