Gwynedd is an area in north-west Wales, named after the old Kingdom of Gwynedd. As a local government area it is the second biggest in terms of geographical area and also one of the most sparsely populated. Most of the population is Welsh-speaking. The name Gwynedd is also used for a preserved county, covering the two local government areas of Gwynedd and the Isle of Anglesey. Culturally and historically, the name can also be used for most of North Wales (for instance, the area covered by the Gwynedd Constabulary), corresponding to the approximate territory of the Kingdom of Gwynedd at its greatest extent. The current area is 2,548 square km (983.78 sq miles) (slightly smaller than Luxembourg).
Gwynedd was an independent kingdom from the end of the Roman period until the 13th Century when it was conquered and subjugated by England. The modern Gwynedd was one of eight Welsh counties originally created on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, based on the principal territory of the former realm. It covered the entirety of the old counties of Anglesey, and Caernarfonshire along with all of Merionethshire apart from Edeirnion Rural District (which went to Clwyd), and also a few parishes in Denbighshire: Llanrwst, Llansanffraid Glan Conwy, Eglwysbach, Llanddoged, Llanrwst and Tir Ifan.
The Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 abolished the 1974 county (and the five districts) on 1 April 1996, and its area was divided: the Isle of Anglesey became an independent unitary authority, and Aberconwy (which included the former Denbighshire parts) passed to the new Conwy County Borough. The remainder of the county was constituted a principal area with the name Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire, reflecting that it covered most of the areas of those two counties. As one of its first actions, the Council renamed itself Gwynedd on 2 April 1996. The present Gwynedd local government area is governed by Gwynedd Council. As a unitary authority the modern entity no longer has any districts, but Arfon, Dwyfor and Meirionnydd remain in use as area committees.
The pre-1996 boundaries were retained as a preserved county for a few purposes such as the Lieutenancy. In 2003 the boundary with Clwyd was adjusted to match the modern local government boundary, so that the preserved county now covers the two local government areas of Gwynedd and Anglesey, and the area of Conwy county borough is now entirely within Clwyd.
A Gwynedd Constabulary was formed in 1950 from the merger of the Anglesey, Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire forces. A further amalgamation took place in the 1960s when Gwynedd Constabulary was merged with the Flintshire and Denbighshire county forces, retaining the name Gwynedd. In one proposal for local government reform in Wales, Gwynedd had been proposed as a name for a local authority covering all of north Wales, but the scheme as enacted divided this area between Gwynedd and Clwyd. To prevent confusion, the Gwynedd Constabulary was therefore renamed the North Wales Police.
The Snowdonia National Park was formed in 1951. After the 1974 local authority reorganisation, the park fell entirely within the boundaries of Gwynedd, and was run as a department of Gwynedd County Council. After the 1996 local government reorganisation, part of the park fell under Conwy County Borough, and the park's administration separated from the Gwynedd council. Gwynedd Council does still appoint 9 of the 18 members of the Snowdonia National Park Authority; Conwy County Borough Council appoints 3; and the National Assembly for Wales appoints the remaining 6.