Strictly speaking it’s a geographical term for the largest of what have been known since Roman times as the British Isles. It includes most of England Scotland and Wales not only excludes all of Ireland – Anglesey, Isle of Man, Hebrides, the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Wight are geographically separate from Great Britain.
Some people might argue that it’s our culture that makes us great, but I can find no evidence of that! We study “English Literature” at school but how many English children get to read Robert Burns or WB Yeats? We might read Jonathan Swift as a children’s story without knowing it was written as a political satire by an Irishman.
We can acknowledge that Shakespeare as the greatest playwright ever but those who’ve come after him have been mostly Irish – Sheridan, Wilde and Shaw to name but three. I’m only considering those who write in the English language and resident in these isles so I have to exclude Molière, a favourite poet of mine who wrote in French.
When it comes to prose I would have to exclude several writers I admire, who are write in the English language although they’re were once dismissed as “colonials”. Henry Lawson was the Australian master of the short story and Jack London, an American, was his strongest competitor
When we venture into the realm of Journalism we have to compare Winston Churchill and Rudyard Kipling with Andrew Barton Paterson – Australia’s greatest poet of Scottish ancestry. I believe they all met each other at different times.
It took me a long time to get into appreciating Dickens, mostly because I was obliged to read Great Expectations at school. My sister had Far From The Madding Crowd as her set book and I borrowed it and I enjoyed reading it although she hated it!
I later got into reading Jane Austen and Fielding but, to my regret, the only novel I’ve read of the Brontë Sisters is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
A pendant might argue that these were of greater literary merit than than Treasure Island and Kidnapped but I believe Robert Louis Stevenson deserves a place alongside Sir Walter Scott among Scottish authors writing for a British audience.
Across The Pond Mark Twain and Jack London were writing excellent prose in the English language.
The empire on which the sun never sets is now the US empire, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a sycophantic collaborator! I prefer the geographical definition:
Great Britain is the largest of a group of islands situated off the northwest coast of Europe