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The earliest evidence of human settlement is at Boxgrove, Sussex, and the island may have been continuously occupied for 500,000 years. The population is approximately 55 million: 46 million in England, 5 million in Scotland, 2.5 million in Wales, and 1.5 million in Northern Ireland.
Most British people have ancestries that are mixtures of the four nationalities of the British Isles.
A separatist movement led to the dissolution of the Union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1920; twenty-six of Ireland's thirty-two counties became the independent Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland), with six of the nine counties of Ulster remaining within the United Kingdom.
The present-day nation also includes the Channel Islands off the coast of France and the Isle of Man between Britain and Ireland, which are substantially self-governing.
Northern Ireland and Scotland have separate legal and educational systems and issue their own currency; Wales is fully incorporated within the English legal, educational, and banking systems.
Recent referendums in Scotland and Wales have resulted in the establishment of a Scottish Parliament which is still under the general jurisdiction of London but has limited local taxraising powers, and the Welsh Assembly, which does not have tax-raising powers.