Southern England, or the South of England, also known as the South, is an area of England consisting of its southernmost part, with cultural, economic and political differences from the Midlands and the North. Officially, the area includes Greater London, the South East, the West Country (or the South West), and the East (sometimes referred to as East Anglia).
South of England
Super-region of England
|10 largest Settlements in order of population|
|• Total||62,042 km2 (23,955 sq mi)|
|• Density||450/km2 (1,200/sq mi)|
|Time zone||GMT (UTC)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+1 (BST)|
The distinction between the south and rest of England and Great Britain is sometimes referred to as the north–south divide. With a population of nearly 28 million; and an area of 62,042 square kilometres (23,955 sq mi), the south accounts for roughly 40% of the population of the United Kingdom and approximately 25% of its area.
For official purposes, the UK government does not refer to the Southern England as a single entity, but the Office for National Statistics divides UK into twelve regions. In England, the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber make up the North ("centre-north"); the West Midlands and East Midlands (as well as Wales) make up the Midlands ("centre-south") and the rest of England make up the South.
Culturally speaking, the majority of people think that the South consists of the South East (92%), Greater London (88%), South West (87%), and to lesser extent the East of England (57%). However, 35% of people surveyed placed the East of England as part of the Midlands. Generally people in the North tend to put the East of England in the South more than people in the South or Midlands.
The South is generally more low-lying than the North. There are a number of notable hill ranges, such as the Cotswolds and the Chilterns. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset form a peninsula extending towards the Atlantic.
London is the largest city in the South of England and is the capital of the United Kingdom. The London Metropolitan Area has a population of 14.2 million (2019), making it the largest metropolitan area in Europe.
English is the native language of the English people and the main language spoken in the South.
The South of England has a dialect and accent distinct from that of other parts of the UK. Due to the prominence of the South in media and politics, Standard British English is largely based on the English spoken in the South. For example, the standard British accent, Received Pronunciation, is very similar to the educated speech of London, Oxford and Cambridge.
People often apply the terms "southern" and "south" loosely, without deeper consideration of the geographical identities of Southern England. This can cause confusion over the depth of affiliation between its areas. As in much of the rest of England, people tend to have a deeper affiliation to their county or city. Thus, residents of Essex are unlikely to feel much affinity with people in Oxfordshire. Similarly, there is a strong distinction between natives of the south-west and south-east. The broadcaster Stuart Maconie has noted that culturally "there's a bottom half of England [...] but there isn't a south in the same way that there's a north".
One major manifestation of the North–South divide is in health and life expectancy statistics. All three Northern England statistical regions have lower than average life expectancies and higher than average rates of cancer, circulatory disease and respiratory disease. The South of England has a higher life expectancy than the North, however, regional differences do seem to be slowly narrowing: between 1991–1993 and 2012–2014, life expectancy in the North East increased by 6.0 years and in the North West by 5.8 years, the fastest increase in any region outside London, and the gap between life expectancy in the North East and South East is now 2.5 years, down from 2.9 in 1993. Furthermore, all such figures represent an average – affluent northern towns such as Harrogate have higher life expectancies than less affluent areas of the South such as Southampton or Plymouth.
The South of England has a number of world-renowned universities, such as the ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and many Russell Group universities, such as Imperial College London, University of Exeter and the London School of Economics.
The sport of rugby experienced a schism in 1895 with many teams based in Yorkshire, Lancashire and surrounding areas breaking from the Rugby Football Union and forming their own League. The disagreement that led to the split was over the issue of professional payments, and "broken time" or injury payments. There is a perception that league is the code of rugby played in the north, whilst union is the code played in the south. One of the biggest derbies in Southern England is the West Country derby (Bath v Gloucester).
However, in Portsmouth's absence from top flight football, AFC Bournemouth and Brighton and Hove Albion – based about 30 miles (48 km) and 60 miles (97 km) from Southampton respectively – gained promotion to the Premier League, with some media outlets marketing fixtures against them as a South Coast derby;
In many definitions, Southern England includes many counties on/near the English Channel. Ceremonial counties are:
Those Counties that compose the West Country consider themselves to be of a distinctive area and history somewhat separate to "Southern Counties", and similarly, East Anglia has a distinctive history and regional identity.
The northern boundary is generally taken to correspond to an imaginary line from the Severn Estuary in the West to the Wash in the East (or expressed in terms of towns, from Gloucester to King's Lynn).
The historic counties ceased to be used for any administrative purpose in 1899 but remain important to some people, notably for county cricket.