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Established under the Government of Wales Act 1998, the National Assembly for Wales holds responsibility for a range of devolved policy matters.

Two-thirds of the population live in South Wales, including Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and the nearby valleys.

Now that the country's traditional extractive and heavy industries have gone or are in decline, Wales' economy depends on the public sector, light and service industries and tourism.

Roman rule in Wales was a military occupation, save for the southern coastal region of south Wales, east of the Gower Peninsula, where there is a legacy of Romanisation. The Romans used their engineering technology to extract large amounts of gold, copper and lead, as well as modest amounts of some other metals such as zinc and silver.

This was largely a matter of circumstance, as Wales had none of the necessary materials in suitable combination, and the forested, mountainous countryside was not amenable to industrialisation.

Welsh liberalism, exemplified in the early 20th century by Lloyd George, was displaced by the growth of socialism and the Labour Party.

Welsh national feeling grew over the century; Plaid Cymru was formed in 1925 and the Welsh Language Society in 1962.

Although Wales closely shares its political and social history with the rest of Great Britain, and a majority of the population in most areas speaks English as a first language, the country has retained a distinct cultural identity and is officially bilingual.

Over 560,000 Welsh language speakers live in Wales, and the language is spoken by a majority of the population in parts of the north and west.

Wales was free of glaciers by about 10,250 BP, the warmer climate allowing the area to become heavily wooded.

The post-glacial rise in sea level separated Wales and Ireland, forming the Irish Sea.

Doggerland was submerged by the North Sea and, by 8,000 BP, the British Peninsula had become an island.

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