United Kingdom - Dependencies

British overseas dependencies include the British Indian Ocean Territory and St. Helena (described in the Africa volume under UK African Dependencies); and Bermuda, the British Antarctic Territory, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, The Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat (described in the Americas volume under UK American Dependencies).


The colony of Gibraltar (5.83 sq km/2.25 sq mi in area), the smallest UK dependency, is a narrow peninsula connected to the southwest coast of Spain. From a low, sandy plain in the north, it rises sharply in the 430-m (1,400-ft) Rock of Gibraltar, a shrub-covered mass of limestone, with huge caves. Gibraltar has a pleasantly temperate climate, except for occasional hot summers. Average annual rainfall is 89 cm (35 in). There is a rainy season from December to May. The resident civilian population, almost entirely of European origin, was estimated at 27,714 in mid-2002. Gibraltar is an important port of call for cargo and passenger ships. There is a naval base at the northeast gate of the Strait of Gibraltar and a military airfield that is used by private companies. Telegraph, radio, and television are privately operated. The telephone system is government owned.

Known as Calpe in ancient times, Gibraltar was successively occupied by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, and Visigoths. Its strategic value was recognized early. In AD 711, it was captured by Moors under Tariq, and since then it has been known as Jabal Tariq or Gibraltar. It remained in Moor hands, except for short periods, until Spain took it in 1462. In 1704, a combined English-Dutch fleet captured Gibraltar, and it was officially transferred to Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Since 1964, Spain has tried to negotiate the return of Gibraltar to Spanish control. However, in a referendum held in 1967, Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly (12,138 to 44) to retain their link with Britain. Since then, Spain has continued to raise the issue at the UN and put direct pressure on the Gibraltarians by closing the land frontier between the peninsula and the Spanish mainland and suspending the ferry service between Gibraltar and Algeciras; the border was reopened to limited pedestrian traffic in December 1982 and fully reopened in February 1985.

Under the 1969 constitution, Gibraltar is governed by a House of Assembly with 18 members, 15 of whom are elected by popular vote. The governor (who is also commander of the fortress) retains direct responsibility for defense and external affairs and can intervene in domestic affairs.

Gibraltar was once largely dependent on British subsidies, but in the late 1990s had made the transition to private sector industry. Tourism (with about 6 million visitors annually), reexports (largely fuel for shipping), shipping services, and duties on consumer goods contribute to the economy. Local industries are tobacco and coffee processing. The Gibraltar pound is at par with the British pound. The financial sector accounts for about 15% of GDP. Exports in 1998 (mainly reexports of petroleum and petroleum products) totaled an estimated US $81.1 million, and imports US $492 million. There is an income tax and an estate duty.

Illiteracy is negligible. Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 15. There are 12 primary schools, two single-sex comprehensive secondary schools, and the College of Further Education. The armed forces have their own schools; attendance by civilian children is available. Language spoken at home include Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, but the language of business and schools is English. The colony has a serious housing shortage.

Pitcairn Island

Pitcairn is a mountainous island of volcanic origin about 4.5 sq km (1.75 sq mi) in area, in the South Pacific at 25°4′ S and 130°6′ W . Three smaller islands (Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno) associated with Pitcairn are uninhabited. Pitcairn Island was discovered in 1767 by the British and settled in 1790 by H.M.S. Bounty mutineers and the Polynesian women who accompanied them from Tahiti. The population, mainly descendants of the Bounty mutineers, after reaching a peak of 233 in 1937, decreased to 120 in 1962 and to about 52 in 1992 to 47 in 2002. Most of the younger members of the community have migrated to New Zealand. The climate is warm, with very little change throughout the year.

There is one village, Adamstown. Pitcairn is administered, together with the three other small islands, as a UK colony by the UK high commissioner in New Zealand. The local government consists of an island magistrate and a 10-member Island Council. Six of the Council's members are elected. New Zealand dollars ( NZ $) are used locally; NZ $1 = US $0.5132 (or US $1 = NZ $1.9486). There is no port or harbor; goods from ships are conveyed ashore in longboats. Cargo ships plying the route between Panama and New Zealand call periodically.

The main occupation is subsistence agriculture. A small surplus of fresh fruit and vegetables is sold to passing ships. Fish are abundant. Imports, mainly food, come from New Zealand. Fruit, woven baskets, carved curios, and stamps are sold to ships' passengers.

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