United Kingdom

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United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland1
Flag of the United Kingdom Coat of arms of the United Kingdom
Flag Coat of arms
"Dieu et mon droit" 2  (French)
"God and my right"
God Save the Queen 3
Location of the United Kingdom
Location of the  United Kingdom  (orange)

– on the European continent  (camel & white)
– in the European Union  (camel)                  [Legend]

Capital London
51°30′N, 0°7′W
Largest conurbation (population) Greater London
Urban Area
Official languages English4
Government Constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Elizabeth II
 -  Prime Minister Tony Blair
 -  Union of the Crowns 24 March 1603 
 -  Acts of Union 1 May 1707 
 -  Act of Union 1 January 1801 
 -  Anglo-Irish Treaty 12 April 1922 
Accession to EU 1 January 1973
 -  Total 244,820 km² (79th)
94,526 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.34
 -  2006 estimate 60,609,153 (22nd)
 -  2001 census 58,789,1945 
 -  Density 243 /km² (48th)
629 /sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2006 estimate
 -  Total $1.926 trillion (6th)
 -  Per capita $31,777 (18th)
GDP (nominal) 2006 estimate
 -  Total $2.341 trillion6 (5th)
 -  Per capita $38,624 (13th)
Gini? (2003) 35 (medium
HDI (2006) 0.940 (high) (18th)
Currency Pound sterling (£) (GBP)
Time zone GMT (UTC+0)
 -  Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)
Internet TLD .uk7
Calling code +44
1 In the UK, some other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous (regional) languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, the UK's official name is as follows:
Welsh: Teyrnas Unedig Prydain Fawr a Gogledd Iwerddon; Scottish Gaelic: An Rìoghachd Aonaichte na Breatainn Mhòr agus Eirinn a Tuath; Irish: Ríocht Aontaithe na Breataine Móire agus Thuaisceart Éireann; Scots: Unitit Kinrick o Graet Breetain an Northren Ireland; Cornish: An Rywvaneth Unys a Vreten Veur hag Iwerdhon Glédh.
2 This is the royal motto. In Scotland, the royal motto is the Latin phrase Nemo Me Impune Lacessit ("No-one provokes me with impunity"). There is also a variant form of the coat-of-arms for use in Scotland; see Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.
3 See #Symbols below. It also serves as the Royal anthem.
4 In addition to English (use established by precedent), Welsh is recognised in Wales as a "language of equal standing".[1][2] Since 2005, Scottish Gaelic has enjoyed the status of "an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect to the English language".[3] See also Languages in the United Kingdom.
5 From the 2001 Census
6 CIA Factbook. Official estimate provided by the UK Office for National Statistics.[4]
7 ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 is GB, but .gb is unused. The .eu domain is also shared with other European Union member states.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (usually shortened to the United Kingdom, the UK or Britain)[5] is a country[6] and sovereign state[7] that lies to the north-west of the continent of Europe with the Republic of Ireland to the west. It occupies all of the island of Great Britain and the north-east part of the island of Ireland, sharing a land border with the Republic of Ireland. It is a member of the European Union.

The United Kingdom is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, and its ancillary bodies of water, including the North Sea, the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, St George's Channel, and the Irish Sea. The United Kingdom is linked to France by the Channel Tunnel.

The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy composed of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who is also the Queen and Head of State of fifteen other Commonwealth Realms, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica. The Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, formally possessions of the Crown, form a federacy with the United Kingdom collectively known as the British Islands. The UK also has fourteen[8] overseas territories, all remnants of the British Empire which at its height encompassed a quarter of the world's surface and population.

Although Britain was the foremost great power during the 19th century, the economic cost of two world wars and the decline of its empire in the latter half of the 20th century diminished Britain's status in global affairs. However, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a nuclear power, a member of the G8 and the fifth largest economy, Britain remains an important political, economic and military world power.


[edit] History

The Battle of Waterloo marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the beginning of the Pax Britannica.
The Battle of Waterloo marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the beginning of the Pax Britannica.

The Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland had existed as separate sovereign and independent states with their own monarchs and political structures since the 9th century. The once independent Principality of Wales fell under the control of English monarchs from the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284. Under the Acts of Union 1707, England (including Wales) and Scotland, which had been in personal union since the Union of the Crowns in 1603, agreed to a political union in the form of a unified Kingdom of Great Britain.[9] The Act of Union 1800 united the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland, which had been gradually brought under English control between 1541 and 1691, to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801.[10] Independence for the Republic of Ireland in 1922 followed the partition of the island of Ireland two years previously, with six of the nine counties of the province of Ulster remaining within the UK, which then changed to the current name in 1927 of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.[11] (The terms Great Britain or Britain collectively refer to three of the four UK constituent countries, namely England, Scotland and Wales. The terms United Kingdom or UK however include Northern Ireland as the fourth).

Britain was an important part of the Age of Enlightenment with philosophical and scientific input and an influential literary and theatrical tradition. Over the next century the United Kingdom played a leading role in developing Western ideas of parliamentary democracy with significant contributions to literature, the arts and science.[12] The wealth of the early British Empire, like other Great Powers, was partly generated by colonial exploitation, including the industrialisation after 1750 of the slave trade, with Britain's 18th century shipping fleet, the largest in the world, taking African slaves to the Americas as part of the infamous triangular trade. At the beginning of the 19th however, Britain passed the Slave Trade Act and became the first nation to permanently prohibit trade in slaves.

After the Industrial Revolution and the defeat of Napoleon in the Napoleonic Wars, Britain became the principal power of the 19th century. At its peak, the British Empire, which is considered to be both the United Kingdom and areas that are legally separate entities from, but controlled by, the U.K., stretched to almost one-quarter of the earth and encompassed a third of its population, making it in terms of population and territory the largest in history.

Over the 19th century the country played an important role in the development of parliamentary democracy, partly via the emergence of a multi-party system and expansion of suffrage. Developments of science and the arts, building on an 18th century inheritance of figures such as Isaac Newton, and particularly its earlier tradition of literature, were influential.

The British Empire in 1897. The empire became the largest and most extensive empire in history.
The British Empire in 1897. The empire became the largest and most extensive empire in history.

At the end of the Victorian era, however, the United Kingdom lost its industrial leadership, particularly to the United States, which surpassed the UK in industrial production and trade in the 1890s, as well as to the German Empire. Britain remained the pre-eminent superpower, and its empire expanded to its maximum size by 1921, gaining the League of Nations mandate over former German and Ottoman colonies after World War I.

After emergence from the war, the world's first large-scale international broadcasting network, the BBC, was created. The country's Labour movement had been in expansion since the late 19th century, and in 1924 the first labour government came to power. Britain fought Nazi Germany in World War II, with its Commonwealth allies including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India, later to be joined by further allies. Wartime leader Winston Churchill and his successor Clement Atlee helped plan the post-war world as part of the "Big Three". World War II, however, left the United Kingdom financially and physically damaged. Economically costly wartime loans, loans taken in 1945 from the United States and from Canada, combined with post-war Marshall Plan aid from the United States started the United Kingdom on the road to recovery.

The famous Spitfire of the RAF. The RAF won the Battle of Britain and ended Germany's advance in western Europe during World War II.
The famous Spitfire of the RAF. The RAF won the Battle of Britain and ended Germany's advance in western Europe during World War II.

1945 saw the emergence of the British Welfare State and one of the world's first and most comprehensive Health Services, while the demands of a recovering economy brought people from all over the Commonwealth to create a multiethnic Britain. Although the new postwar limits of Britain's political role were confirmed by the Suez Crisis of 1956, the international currency of the language meant the continuing impact of its literature and culture, while at the same time from the 1960s its popular culture found an influence abroad. Following a period of economic stagnation and industrial strife in the 1970s after a global economic downturn, the 1980s saw the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, under whom a marked break with the post-war political and economic consensus saw, for her supporters, economic recovery, and, for her critics, greater social division. From the mid-1990s onward these trends have largely continued under the leadership of Tony Blair.

The United Kingdom has been a member of the European Union since 1973. The attitude of the present Labour government towards further integration with this organisation is mixed,[13] with the Conservative Party favouring a return of some powers and competencies to the state,[14] and the Liberal Democrats supportive of current engagement.

[edit] Government and politics

The United Kingdom is a Constitutional Monarchy, with executive power exercised on behalf of the monarch by the Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers. Following the Act of Settlement 1701 only the descendants of Sophia of Hanover who were Anglican or Protestant, and had not married a Roman Catholic could succeed the throne. The monarch technically holds all executive power and must nominate a head of government (Prime Minister) that the Parliament agrees upon. The Prime Minister is nowadays always a member of the House of Commons; the last Lord to be Prime Minister was Lord Home(as Sir Alec Douglas-Home) in 1963-64.

The cabinet, including the Prime Minister, and other senior ministers collectively make up Her Majesty's Government. These ministers are drawn from, and are responsible to, Parliament. The British system of government has been emulated around the world – a legacy of the British Empire's colonial past, most notably in the other Commonwealth Realms – however the United Kingdom is one of the three countries in the world today that does not have a codified constitution (the other two being New Zealand and Israel), relying instead on traditional customs and separate pieces of constitutional law.[15]

The Prime Minister appoints ministers to government posts, usually from senior members of their own party. Most ministers are members of, and answerable to, the House of Commons (particularly at their Department's "Question Time"). The remaining ministers are usually from the House of Lords, Ministers do not legally have to come from Parliament, but that is the modern day custom, and a Prime Minister who wants to bring someone into the government from outside Parliament will usually first create them a Life Peer, i.e. give them a non-hereditary seat in the House of Lords. The chief advantage put forward for the Parliamentary system of Government is this direct accountability of cabinet members to Parliament. The counter-argument is that the majority of legislators (elected to hold government to account) are (because they are in the PM's party) actually looking to the Prime Minister for personal advancement — and that most politicians (at least in the early stages of their career) appear to view the being an MP not as an honourable and status-awarding end in itself but as the route to office.

The Mall looking onto Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the British Monarch.
The Mall looking onto Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the British Monarch.

In the United Kingdom, the monarch has extensive theoretical powers, but his/her role is mainly, though not exclusively, ceremonial.[16] The monarch is an integral part of Parliament (as the "Crown-in-Parliament"), and theoretically gives Parliament the power to meet and create legislation. An Act of Parliament does not become law until it has been signed by the monarch (known as Royal Assent), although not one has refused assent to a bill that has been approved by Parliament since Queen Anne in 1708.[17] Although the abolition of the monarchy has been suggested, the popularity of the monarchy remains strong in the United Kingdom. Support for a British republic usually fluctuates between 15% and 25% of the population, with roughly 10% undecided or indifferent.[18] The present monarch is HM Queen Elizabeth II who acceded to the throne in 1952 and was crowned in 1953.

The current Prime Minister is Tony Blair of the Labour Party, who has been in office since 1997. At the 2005 general election, the Labour Party had a majority of 66 seats. However, it is now a 64 seat majority due to a by-election loss to the Liberal Democrats in Scotland.

Parliament is the national legislature of the United Kingdom. It is the ultimate legislative authority in the United Kingdom, according to the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty (however, questions over sovereignty have been brought forward because of the UK's entry in to the European Union[19]). It is bicameral, composed of the elected House of Commons and the unelected House of Lords, whose members are mostly appointed. The House of Commons is the more powerful of the two houses. The House of Commons houses 646 members who are directly elected from single-member constituencies based on population. The House of Lords has around 700 members (though the number is not fixed), constituted of life peers, hereditary peers, and bishops of the Church of England. (Note: The House of Lords Act 1999 removed the automatic inheritance of seats in the Lords and permitted 92 hereditary peers to remain. The Church of England is the established church of the state in England.[20]

[edit] Law

Parliament House, Edinburgh is the seat of the supreme courts of Scotland.
Parliament House, Edinburgh is the seat of the supreme courts of Scotland.

The United Kingdom has three distinct systems of law. English law, which applies in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland law, which applies in Northern Ireland, are based on common-law principles. Scots law, which applies in Scotland, is a hybrid system based on both common-law and civil-law principles. The Act of Union 1707 guarantees the continued existence of a separate law system for Scotland.

The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (usually just referred to, as "The House of Lords") is the highest court in the land for all criminal and civil cases in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and for all civil cases in Scots law. Recent constitutional changes will see the powers of the House of Lords transfer to a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.[21]

In England and Wales, the court system is headed by the Supreme Court of Judicature of England and Wales, consisting of the Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice (for civil cases) and the Crown Court (for criminal cases). In Scotland the chief courts are the Court of Session, for civil cases, and the High Court of Justiciary, for criminal cases, while the sheriff court is the Scottish equivalent of the county court.

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is the highest court of appeal for several independent Commonwealth countries, the UK overseas territories, and the British crown dependencies.

[edit] Geography

[edit] Topography

Map of the United Kingdom
Map of the United Kingdom

Most of England consists of rolling lowland terrain, divided from more mountainous terrain in the north-west (Cumbrian Mountains of the Lake District), north (the upland moors of the Pennines and limestone hills of the Peak District) and south-west (Exmoor and Dartmoor) by the Tees-Exe line. Lower ranges include the limestone hills of the Isle of Purbeck, Cotswolds and Lincolnshire Wolds, and the chalk downs of the Southern England Chalk Formation. The main rivers and estuaries are the Thames, Severn and the Humber Estuary. The largest urban area is Greater London. England's highest mountain is Scafell Pike, which is in the Lake District 978m (3,208 ft). Scotland's geography is varied, with lowlands in the south and east and highlands in the north and west, including Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles at 1,344m (4,406 ft). There are many long and deep-sea arms, firths, and lochs. There are nearly eight hundred islands in Scotland, mainly west and north of the mainland, notably the Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands. In total, it is estimated that the UK includes around one thousand islands.[22]

The panorama across Eskdale from Ill Crag, in the Lake District
The panorama across Eskdale from Ill Crag, in the Lake District

Wales is mostly mountainous, the highest peak being Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) at 1,085m or 3,560 ft above sea level. North of the mainland is the island of Anglesey (Ynys Môn). Northern Ireland, making up the north-eastern part of Ireland, is mostly hilly. The province is home to one of the UK's World Heritage Sites, the Giant's Causeway, which consists of more than 40,000 six-sided basalt columns up to 12m (40 feet) high. Lough Neagh, the largest body of water in the British Isles, by surface area (388 km² / 150 mi²), can be found in Northern Ireland.[23] The highest peak is Slieve Donard at 849 metres (2,786 ft) in the province's Mourne Mountains.

The greatest distance between two points on the UK mainland of Great Britain is 1,350 km (839 miles) between Land's End in Cornwall (near Penzance) and John O'Groats in Caithness (near Thurso), a two day journey by car. When measured directly north-south it is a little over 1,100 km in length and is a fraction under 500 km at its widest.

[edit] Climate

England has a temperate climate, with plentiful rainfall all year round, though the seasons are quite variable in temperature. However, temperatures rarely fall below −4 °C and will only rise above 32 °C in the height of the summer. The prevailing wind is from the southwest, bringing mild and wet weather to England regularly, from the Atlantic Ocean. It is driest in the east, warmest in the southwest in winter (closest to Atlantic currents), and warmest in the southeast in summer (closest to the European mainland). Snowfall can occur in winter and early spring, though it is not that common away from high ground.

The highest temperature recorded in England is 38.5 °C on 10 August 2003 at Brogdale, near Faversham, Kent. The lowest temperature ever recorded in England is −26.1 °C on 10 January 1982 at Edgmond, near Newport, Shropshire.

Wales' climate is alike in most regards to that of England, with the highest maximum temperature recorded at 35.2 °C in Hawarden Bridge, Flintshire on 2 August 1990 and the lowest minimum temperature at -23.3 °C in Rhayader, Radnorshire on 21 January 1940.

The climate of Scotland is temperate and oceanic, and tends to be very changeable. It is warmed by the Gulf Stream from the Atlantic, and as such is much warmer than areas on similar latitudes, for example Oslo, Norway. However, temperatures are generally lower than in the rest of the UK, with the coldest ever UK temperature of -27.2 °C recorded at Braemar in the Grampian Mountains, on 11 February 1895 and 10 January 1982 and also at Altnaharra, Highland, on 30 December 1995. Winter maximums average 6 °C in the lowlands, with summer maximums averaging 18 °C. The highest temperature recorded was 32.9 °C at Greycrook, Scottish Borders on 9 August 2003.

Generally, western Scotland is warmer than the east because of the influence of the Atlantic Ocean currents (the Gulf Stream) and the colder surface temperatures of the North Sea. Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides, is the sunniest place in Scotland: it had three hundred days with sunshine in 1975. Rainfall varies widely across Scotland. The western highlands of Scotland are the wettest place, with annual rainfall exceeding 3,000 mm (120 inches). In comparison, much of lowland Scotland receives less than 800 mm (31 inches) annually. Heavy snowfall is not common in the lowlands, but becomes more common with altitude. Braemar experiences an average of fifty-nine snow days per year, while coastal areas have an average of less than ten days.

The whole of Northern Ireland has a temperate maritime climate, rather wetter in the west than the east, although cloud cover is persistent across the region. The weather is comparatively unpredictable at all times of the year, and although the seasons are distinct, they are considerably less pronounced than in interior Europe or the eastern seaboard of North America. Average daytime maximums in Belfast are 6.5 °C in January and 17.5 °C in July. The damp climate and extensive deforestation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries resulted in much of the region being covered in rich green grassland. The highest maximum temperature was set at 30.8 °C at Knockarevan, near Belleek, County Fermanagh on 30 June 1976 and at Belfast on 12 July 1983, whilst the lowest minimum temperature recorded at -17.5 °C at Magherally, near Banbridge, County Down on 1 January 1979.

The United Kingdom can sometimes be affected by blocking highs during summer, and along with the rest of Europe, has been hit by severe heat waves in recent years.

[edit] Cities and urban areas

The four capitals of the United Kingdom's constituent parts are London (United Kingdom) & (England), Edinburgh (Scotland), Cardiff (Wales) and Belfast (Northern Ireland).

[edit] Largest Cities

Other major cities with populations in excess of 300,000 inhabitants are Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol, Cardiff and Coventry. The greater urban areas of Leicester, Nottingham, Bradford and Belfast also exceed 300,000 inhabitants.

[edit] Urban Areas

There is considerable dispute over which is the second city. During the last 100 years that title has been applied to either Glasgow or Birmingham, the second largest.[24]

[edit] Demographics

Trafalgar Square in London is one of the most famous public places in the United Kingdom.
Trafalgar Square in London is one of the most famous public places in the United Kingdom.

[edit] Population

At the April 2001 UK Census, the United Kingdom's population was 58,789,194, the third largest in the European Union (behind Germany and France) and the twenty-first largest in the world. This had been estimated up to 59,834,300[25] by the Office for National Statistics in 2004. Two years later it had increased to 60.2 million, largely from net immigration, but also because of a rising birth rate and increasing life expectancy.[26]

The UK's overall population density is one of the highest in the world. About a quarter of the population lives in England's prosperous southeast[27] and is predominantly urban and suburban, with an estimated 7,517,700 in the capital of London.[28] The United Kingdom's high literacy rate (99%)[29] is attributable to universal public education introduced for the primary level in 1870 and secondary level in 1900 (except in Scotland where it was introduced in 1696, see Education in Scotland). Education is mandatory from ages five to sixteen (15 if born in late July or August).

[edit] Migration and ethnicity

Located as they are on a group of islands close to Continental Europe, the lands now constituting the United Kingdom have historically been subject to many invasions and migrations, especially from Scandinavia and the continent - including Roman occupation for several centuries. Present day Britons are descended mainly from the varied ethnic stocks that settled there before the eleventh century. The pre-Celtic, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse influences were blended on Great Britain under the Normans, Scandinavian Vikings who had lived in northern France (Normandy).

Ethnic group Population % of total*
White British &&&&&&&&50366497.050,366,497 85.67%
White (other) &&&&&&&&&3096169.03,096,169 5.27%
Indian &&&&&&&&&1053411.01,053,411 1.8%
Pakistani &&&&&&&&&&747285.0747,285 1.3%
White Irish &&&&&&&&&&691232.0691,232 1.2%
Mixed race &&&&&&&&&&677117.0677,117 1.2%
Black Caribbean &&&&&&&&&&565876.0565,876 1.0%
Black African &&&&&&&&&&485277.0485,277 0.8%
Bangladeshi &&&&&&&&&&283063.0283,063 0.5%
Asian (non-Chinese) &&&&&&&&&&247644.0247,644 0.4%
Chinese (Oriental) &&&&&&&&&&247403.0247,403 0.4%
Other &&&&&&&&&&230615.0230,615 0.4%
Black (others) &&&&&&&&&&&97585.097,585 0.2%
* Percentage of total UK population

More recent immigration has come through interaction with continental Europe and international ties forged by the British Empire. Since World War Two the UK has absorbed substantial immigration, with Europe, Africa and South Asia being the biggest areas from where people currently emigrate. As of 2001, 13.1% of the UK's population identified themselves as an ethnic minority (including non-British white groups).[30] 7.9 per cent were from a non-white ethnic group.[31]

Along with Italy and Spain, the United Kingdom has one of the highest immigration rates in Europe.[32] In some UK cities the percentage of 'minority groups' is large but is still less than half; for example, London (40.1%),[33] Birmingham (34.4%),[34] and Leicester (39.5%).[35] The latest official figures (2005) show net immigration to the UK of 185,000 (down from a record high of 223,000 in 2004).[36][37] A study by a city forecaster, however, contends that these figures are unreliable and that net immigration for 2005 was circa 400,000.[38] Nonetheless, the proportion of foreign-born people in the UK population remains below that of some other European countries.[39]

The most recent pattern of immigration to the UK began in May 2004 when the European Union was expanded. Figures published in February 2007 indicate that 579,000 people from the eight central and eastern European states that joined the EU in 2004 applied to work in the UK between 1 May 2004 and 31 December 2006, of whom 555,000 were accepted.[40] This figure is for arrivals only and does not take account of people leaving, hence net migration is likely to be lower.[41] In 2005 net migration from the new EU states stood at 64,000.[36]

The UK also has a high rate of emigration with at least 5.5 million British-born people living abroad.[42] Another half a million now live or work abroad for part of the year, with Australia and Spain as the main locations.[43][44]

[edit] Language

Countries where English has official or de facto official language status.
Countries where English has official or de facto official language status.

Whilst the UK does not have a de jure official language, the predominant spoken language is English. This is a West Germanic language, descended from Old English, featuring a large number of borrowings from Old Norse and Norman. The other indigenous languages are Scots (which is closely related to English) and the Insular Celtic languages (which are not). The latter fall into two groups: the P-Celtic languages (Welsh and the Cornish language); and the Q-Celtic languages (Irish and Scottish Gaelic). Celtic dialectal influences from Cumbric persisted in Northern England for many centuries, most famously in a unique set of numbers used for counting sheep.

The English language has spread to all corners of the world (essentially due to the British Empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth century) and has thus become the business language of the world. Worldwide, it is taught as a second language more than any other.[45] The United Kingdom's Celtic languages are also spoken by small groups around the globe, mainly Gaelic in Nova Scotia, Canada, and Welsh in Patagonia, Argentina.

Recent immigrants, especially from the Commonwealth, speak many other languages. The United Kingdom has the largest number of Gujarati, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, and Punjabi speakers outside of Asia.[citation needed]

[edit] Religion

Canterbury Cathedral is the mother church of the Church of England, which itself is the mother church of the Anglican Communion.
Canterbury Cathedral is the mother church of the Church of England, which itself is the mother church of the Anglican Communion.

Christianity was first introduced to Britain by the Romans.[citation needed] The UK still is a predominantly Christian country.[citation needed] This is reflected throughout British public life – for instance there is an established church in England and a national church in Scotland. The Head of State is a Christian monarch crowned by an Archbishop in Westminster Abbey. British society could be said to belong to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and the majority of people in the UK, 72%, identify themselves as Christian,[46][47]

Each of the four nations of the United Kingdom has distinctive church traditions.

Augustine of Canterbury was sent to England by Pope Gregory I in 597; northern parts of Great Britain were evangelised by Celtic missionaries from Ireland, such as Columba and Aidan. The English Church split from Rome in 1534, during the reign of Henry VIII of England. Today, the Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England, and acts as the 'mother' and senior branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The British monarch is required to be a member of the Church of England under the Act of Settlement 1701 and is the Supreme Governor. The senior bishop of Church of England is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Westminster Abbey is used for the coronation of all British Monarchs, who are also made the head of the Church of England.
Westminster Abbey is used for the coronation of all British Monarchs, who are also made the head of the Church of England.

The Church of Scotland (known informally as "The Kirk"), also has its roots in the Protestant Reformation, breaking with the Roman Catholic Church in 1560 (see Scottish Reformation). Today it is a Presbyterian (Calvinist) church and, although recognised as the national church in Scotland, is not subject to state control in spiritual matters. The British monarch is an ordinary member, and is required to swear an oath to "defend the security" of the Church at the coronation. The Scottish Episcopal Church, which is part of the Anglican communion, dates from the final establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland in 1690. Although it is in full communion with the Church of England, it is not a 'daughter church' of the Church of England, as it is proud of its own distinct origins and history. Further splits in the Church of Scotland, especially in the nineteenth century, led to the creation of various other Presbyterian churches in Scotland, including the Free Church of Scotland.

In the 1920s, the Church in Wales was separated from the Church of England and became disestablished, i.e. lost its "official" status as the state religion. However the Church in Wales remains in the Anglican Communion. Methodism and other independent churches are traditionally strong in Wales.

The Anglican Church of Ireland was disestablished in the nineteenth century. It covers the entire island of Ireland, both the Province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland the Catholic Church in Ireland is the largest single denomination, although Protestants are in the majority overall. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is the largest Protestant denomination and is in terms of theology and history closely linked to the Church of Scotland

The Roman Catholic Church is the second largest denomination of Christianity in the UK. After the Protestant Reformation, strict laws were passed against Catholics; these were removed by the Catholic Emancipation laws in the 1850s. There are separate Catholic hierarchies for England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Other large Christian groups include the Methodists (founded by John Wesley in London) and the Baptists. There are also growing Evangelical or Pentecostal churches, many of which have flourished with immigration from around the Commonwealth of Nations and beyond.

Modern day Britain has always had a minority of other religions such as Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Judaism. 14.6% of the population identify themselves as having no religious beliefs.

Muslims are believed to number over 1.8 million.[48] Mosques are a quite common sight in a few parts of modern day Britain. The biggest groups are of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian origin. More recently, refugees from Somalia, Turkey, Balkan and the Arab countries have slightly increased Britain's Muslim population. The 2006 controversy over the burqa, brought up in comments by Jack Straw, reflects a split between some Britons questioning the extent to which traditionalist forms of Islam are compatible with British society, and others who are content with Muslim integration in Britain.[49]

The other religions of Indian origin, such as Hinduism and Sikhism, also enjoy an increased following in Britain. As of the 2001 census, there are about 560,000 Hindus and 340,000 Sikhs.[50] It is likely that these figures have increased since 2001. One non-governmental organisation estimates the Hindu population is about 800,000.[51] Leicester houses the world's only Jain temple outside India.

[edit] Economy

The City of London is a major business and commercial centre, overtaking New York City as the leading centre of global finance.
The City of London is a major business and commercial centre, overtaking New York City as the leading centre of global finance.[52]

For over twenty-five years, the British economy has corresponded with what became known in the 1980s as the Anglo-Saxon model, focusing on the principles of liberalisation, the free market, and low taxation and regulation. Based on market exchange rates, the United Kingdom is the fifth largest economy in the world,[53] and the second largest in Europe after Germany.

The British were the first in the world to enter the Industrial Revolution, and, like most industrialising countries at the time, initially concentrated on heavy industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining, steel production, and textiles. The empire created an overseas market for British products, allowing the United Kingdom to dominate international trade in the 19th century. However, as other nations industrialised and surplus labour from agriculture began to dry up, the United Kingdom began to lose its economic advantage. As a result, heavy industry declined, by degrees, throughout the 20th century. The British service sector, however, has grown substantially, and now makes up about 73% of GDP.[54]

The Bank of England; the central bank of the United Kingdom.
The Bank of England; the central bank of the United Kingdom.

The service sector of the United Kingdom is dominated by financial services, especially in banking and insurance. London is one of the world's largest financial centres with the London Stock Exchange, the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange, and the Lloyd's of London insurance market all based in The City. It also has the largest concentration of foreign bank branches in the world. In the past decade, a rival financial centre in London has grown in the Docklands area, with HSBC and Barclays Bank relocating their head offices there. Many multinational companies that are not primarily UK-based have chosen to site their European or rest-of-world headquarters in London: an example is the US financial services firm Citigroup. The Scottish capital, Edinburgh, also has one of the large financial centres of Europe.[55]

Tourism is very important to the British economy. With over 27 million tourists a year, the United Kingdom is ranked as the sixth major tourist destination in the world.[56]

The British manufacturing sector, however, has greatly diminished, relative to the economy as a whole, since World War II. It is still a significant part of the economy, but only accounted for one-sixth of national output in 2003.[57] The British motor industry is a significant part of this sector, although it has diminished with the collapse of MG Rover and most of the industry is foreign owned. Civil and defence aircraft production is led by the United Kingdom's largest aerospace firm, BAE Systems, and the continental European firm EADS, the owners of Airbus. Rolls-Royce holds a major share of the global aerospace engines market. The chemical and pharmaceutical industry is also strong in the UK, with the world's second and sixth largest pharmaceutical firms (GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, respectively)[58] being based in the UK.

The Creative Industries accounted for 7.3% GVA in 2004 and grew at an average of 5% per annum between 1997 and 2004.[59]

The United Kingdom's agriculture sector accounts for only 0.9% of the country's GDP.[60]

The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves, although the natural gas and oil reserves are diminishing. Primary energy production accounts for about 10% of Gross domestic product (GDP),[citation needed] one of the highest shares of any industrial state.

Bank of England £20 note.
Bank of England £20 note.

The currency of the UK is the pound sterling, represented by the symbol £. The Bank of England is the central bank, responsible for issuing currency. Banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland retain the right to issue their own notes, subject to retaining enough Bank of England notes in reserve to cover the issue. The UK chose not to join the Euro at the currency's launch, although the government has pledged to hold a public referendum for deciding membership if "five economic tests" are met.[61] UK Public opinion is against the notion.[62]

Government involvement throughout the economy is exercised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (currently Gordon Brown) who heads HM Treasury, but the Prime Minister (currently Tony Blair), is First Lord of the Treasury; the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the Second Lord of the Treasury. However since 1997, the Bank of England, headed by the Governor of the Bank of England, has control of interest rates and other monetary policy. The UK government has greatly increased public sector spending (i.e. government spending of taxes) since 1995, and annual spending on investment in infrastructure has grown from £5.6 thousand million in 1997 to £29 thousand million in 2006.

[edit] Transport

The government's Department for Transport oversees the well-developed transport system in the United Kingdom. A radial road network of 29,145 miles (46,632 km) of main roads is centred on London, Edinburgh and Belfast, whilst, in Great Britain, a motorway network of 2,173 miles (3,477 km) is centred on Birmingham and London. There are a further 213,750 miles (342,000 km) of paved roads.

The National Rail network of 10,072 route miles (16,116 route km) in Great Britain and 189 route miles (303 route km) in Northern Ireland carries over 18,000 passenger and 1,000 freight trains daily. Urban rail networks are also well developed in London and several other cities.

Heathrow Airport is the world's busiest international airport, and the UK has a considerable network of ports, which received over 558 million tonnes of goods in 2003-04.

Nevertheless, compared with similar-sized economies such as France, Germany and Japan, the transport network is perceived by the vast majority of UK citizens as shambolic.

[edit] Administrative subdivisions

The United Kingdom is divided into four home nations or constituent countries. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland each have a parliament or assembly and a devolved executive, although the arrangements in Northern Ireland are currently suspended. England has no national parliament or government; it is ruled directly by the UK government.

Each nation is further subdivided for the purposes of local government. The Queen appoints a Lord-Lieutenant as her personal representative in lieutenancy areas across the UK; this is little more than a ceremonial role. The following table highlights the arrangements for local government, lieutenancy areas and cities across the home nations of the UK:

Manchester Town Hall. Many towns and cities in the UK have impressive town or city hall buildings as administrative headquarters for local government
Manchester Town Hall. Many towns and cities in the UK have impressive town or city hall buildings as administrative headquarters for local government
Flag Country Status Population Subdivisions Cities
Flag of England England Kingdom 50,431,700

Metropolitan and
non-metropolitan counties

Lieutenancy areas

English cities
Flag of Scotland Scotland Kingdom 5,094,800

Council areas
Lieutenancy areas

Scottish cities
Flag of Wales Wales Principality 2,958,600

Unitary authorities
Lieutenancy areas

Welsh cities
Flag of Northern Ireland Northern Ireland Province 1,724,400

Traditional counties

Northern Irish cities

Historically, the four nations were divided into counties as areas for local government administration. Although these are still used to some extent for this purpose and as geographical areas, they are no longer the sole basis for local government administration.

In recent years, England has, for some purposes, been divided into nine intermediate-level Government Office Regions. Each region is made up of counties and unitary authorities, apart from London, which consists of London boroughs. Although at one point it was intended that each or some of these regions would be given its own elected regional assembly, the plan's future is uncertain following a rejection, by referendum, of a proposed assembly in the North East region.

City status is governed by Royal Charter. There are sixty-six British cities: fifty in England; six in Scotland; five in Wales; and five in Northern Ireland.

The Crown has sovereignty over the Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey. Collectively, these three territories are known as the Crown dependencies, lands owned by the British monarch but not part of the United Kingdom. They are also not part of the European Union. However, the Parliament of the United Kingdom has the authority to legislate for the dependencies, and the British government manages their foreign affairs and defence.

The UK also has fourteen overseas territories around the world, the last remaining territories of the British Empire. The overseas territories are also not considered part of the UK, but in most cases the local populations have British citizenship and the right to abode in the UK. This has been the case since 2002.

[edit] Military

Main article: British Armed Forces
The Royal Navy's CVF Aircraft Carriers with F-35 fighter jets, replacements for the UK's Invincible class aircraft carriers and AV-8 Harrier II aircraft. When built, they will be the largest aircraft carriers outside the US Navy.
The Royal Navy's CVF Aircraft Carriers with F-35 fighter jets, replacements for the UK's Invincible class aircraft carriers and AV-8 Harrier II aircraft. When built, they will be the largest aircraft carriers outside the US Navy.

The Army, Navy and Air force are collectively known as the British Armed Forces or Her Majesty's Armed Forces and officially the Armed Forces of the Crown. The Commander-in-Chief is the monarch, Queen Elizabeth II and they are managed by the Ministry of Defence. The armed forces are controlled by the Defence Council currently headed by Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup.

The United Kingdom fields one of the most powerful, efficient and comprehensive armed forces in the world. Its global power projection capabilities are deemed second only to the United States military, and its navy is the world's second strongest.[63] Amongst the NATO allies, the Royal Navy's total naval tonnage is second only to the United States military and has the third largest share of tactical combat aircraft to the US and France.[64] According to the British Ministry of Defence, the UK has the second highest military expenditure in the world.[65]

The British Armed Forces maintains an arsenal of advanced weapons systems including the Challenger 2 tank and the BAE Harrier II jet fighter.

The United Kingdom possesses a comprehensive nuclear arsenal (one of the small number of countries to do so), utilising the submarine-based Trident II ballistic missile system with nuclear warheads. These Vanguard class submarines were designed and built by VSEL (now BAE Systems Submarines) at Barrow-in-Furness.

The British Armed Forces are charged with protecting the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, promoting the United Kingdom's wider security interests, and supporting international peacekeeping efforts. They are active and regular participants in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and other coalition operations.

A missile being lauched from a submerged submarine, as a test launch. The Royal Navy operates four nuclear Vanguard class submarines armed with Trident II nuclear missiles.
A missile being lauched from a submerged submarine, as a test launch. The Royal Navy operates four nuclear Vanguard class submarines armed with Trident II nuclear missiles.

The British Army had a reported strength of 102,440 in 2005[66] and the Royal Air Force a strength of 49,210. The 36,320-member Royal Navy operates the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent, which consists of four Trident missile-armed submarines, while the Royal Marines are the Royal Navy's Light Infantry units for amphibious operations and for specialist reinforcement forces in and beyond the NATO area. This puts total active duty military personnel in the range of 190,000 deployed in over eighty countries.

There are also reserve forces supporting the regular military. These include an army reserve, the Territorial Army (TA), the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR), Royal Marines Reserve (RMR) and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF). About 9% of the regular armed forces is made up of women, a figure that is higher for the reserve forces.

The United Kingdom Special Forces, principally the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS), provide troops trained for quick, mobile, military responses in counter-terrorism, land, maritime and amphibious operations, often where secrecy or covert operations are required.

Despite the United Kingdom's wide-ranging capabilities, recent pragmatic defence policy has a stated assumption that "the most demanding operations" would be undertaken as part of a coalition.[67] Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan (Operations VERITAS, FINGAL and HERRICK), Iraq (Ops GRANBY, DESERT FOX, TELIC and the no-fly zones) may all be taken as precedent; the last war in which the British military fought alone (although supported by U.S. in a non-militaristic way) was the Falklands War of 1982, with full-scale combat operations lasting almost three months.

[edit] Culture

[edit] Education

Further information: Education in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom contains some of the world's leading seats of higher education, such as the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, along with Imperial College, the London School of Economics and University College of the University of London.[68]

Parts of the United Kingdom use a segragation system in their schooling, at the age of 11 students take a test and are sent to either Grammar Schools or Comprehensive Schools.

[edit] Science

The United Kingdom has played a significant role in the development of science. Ideas on the scientific method were discussed by Francis Bacon in the early seventeenth century. In the late seventeenth century, Sir Isaac Newton was a major contributor to classical physics, notably illuminating gravity. Other later notable physicists from the UK include James Clerk Maxwell who unified electromagnetism, Lord Kelvin of the Kelvin scale, Michael Faraday another investigator of electromagnetism, and Joseph Thomson who showed that the electron was a subatomic particle. In chemistry, Henry Cavendish discovered hydrogen. In biology, Charles Darwin and Wallace proposed evolution by natural selection providing an overarching theory of biology. Later Francis Crick was involved in understanding the structure of DNA. Major scientific journals are produced in the UK including Nature, the British Medical Journal and The Lancet. In 2006, it was reported that the UK was the most productive source of research after the United States; producing 9% of the world's scientific research papers with a 12% share of citations.[69] It has produced innumerable scholars, scientists and engineers including Sir Isaac Newton, Bertrand Russell, Adam Smith, James Clerk Maxwell, C.S Lewis, Lord Kelvin, Sir Humphry Davy, Joseph John Thomson, Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, Alexander Fleming, Francis Crick and Isambard Kingdom Brunel; the nation is credited with numerous scientific discoveries including hydrogen, gravity, the electron, structure of DNA, and inventions including the chronometer, television, the modern bicycle, the electronic computer, along with the later development of the World Wide Web. Major scientific journals include Nature, the British Medical Journal and The Lancet.

[edit] Literature

Main article: British literature
The Chandos portrait, believed to depict the famed playwright William Shakespeare.
The Chandos portrait, believed to depict the famed playwright William Shakespeare.

The countries that make up the United Kingdom have provided some of the world's most notable and popular authors, poets and literary figures. The English playwright and poet William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language.[70]

In the history of the novel England is particularly well represented. Early English writers included Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Malory and Geoffrey of Monmouth. In later centuries Jane Austen (often credited with inventing the modern novel) was followed by Thackeray, the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle and Anthony Trollope. In the twentieth century, H. G. Wells, D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, George Orwell and Graham Greene were prominent. More recently, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and Zadie Smith were among those gaining recognition, while children's author J. K. Rowling has seen immense popularity, recalling that of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Wales and Scotland have also contributed many notable writers to the UK’s literary tradition, particularly in poetry. In the early medieval period, Welsh writers composed the Mabinogion. In modern times, the poets R.S. Thomas and Dylan Thomas have brought Welsh culture to an international audience. In Romantic literature, Scotland saw Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson's epic adventures and the leading poet of his day, Robert Burns. Modern Scottish writers like Hugh MacDiarmid and Neil M. Gunn helped develop a distinct modernist and nationalist Scottish voice, sometimes termed the Scottish Renaissance. A more grim outlook is found in Ian Rankin's stories and the psychological horror-comedy of Iain Banks.

Many authors from other nationalities, particularly the Irish, and from Commonwealth countries, have also lived and worked in the UK. Significant examples through the centuries include Jonathon Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw and Joseph Conrad, and more recently British authors of overseas origin such as Kazuo Ishiguro and Salman Rushdie.

Significant British poets include Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John Keats, Lord Tennyson, T. S. Eliot, Wilfred Owen, John Betjeman, Philip Larkin, W. H. Auden and Ted Hughes.

The history of the theatre in the United Kingdom is particularly vivid. Shakespeare's contemporaries Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson add depth to the early theatre. More recently Alan Ayckbourn, Harold Pinter, Michael Frayn, Tom Stoppard and David Edgar have combined elements of surrealism, realism and radicalism; with successful recent playwrights also including John Osborne, Arnold Wesker, Alan Bennett and David Hare.

Further information: English literature, Scottish literature and Welsh literature

[edit] Philosophy

David Hume (1711-1776).
David Hume (1711-1776).

The United Kingdom has produced many of the world's most eminent philosophers. Among them are such figures as John Locke, David Hume and Bertrand Russell. The United Kingdom has, moreover, been home to many influential and leading philosophers of other nationalities, such as Isiah Berlin and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

[edit] Engineering and innovation

See also: Category:British inventors and Category:British inventions

As birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the UK was home to many significant inventors during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Famous British engineers include Isambard Kingdom Brunel, best known for the creation of the Great Western Railway, a series of famous steamships, and numerous important bridges.

Recent British inventors include James Dyson, inventor of the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner.

As above, notable engineering firsts include the steam locomotive and the modern railway, television, electric lighting, the electric motor, the screw propeller, the internal combustion engine, the jet engine. Two notable innovations are vaccination and antibiotics.

[edit] Cinema

The United Kingdom has been influential in the development of cinema, with the Ealing Studios claiming to be the oldest studios in the world. Despite a history of important and successful productions, the industry is characterised by an ongoing debate about its identity, and the influences of American and European cinema. Famous films include the Harry Potter, Star Wars and James Bond series which, although made by American studios, used British source materials, locations, actors and filming crew.

[edit] Design and architecture

Canary Wharf is home to the three tallest buildings in the United Kingdom.
Canary Wharf is home to the three tallest buildings in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom has produced a number of important architects, including Sir Christopher Wren, and Sir Norman Foster along with designers Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Jonathan Ive.

[edit] Music

Main article: British Music

Notable composers from the United Kingdom have included Henry Purcell, Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Arthur Sullivan (most famous for working with librettist Sir W. S. Gilbert), Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Lord Benjamin Britten, pioneer of modern British opera. London remains one of the major classical music capitals of the world.

The UK was, with the US, one of the two main contributors to the development of rock music, and the UK has provided some of the world's most famous rock bands including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Who.

The UK has also been at the forefront of a succession of developments of rock, such as punk rock (produced by bands such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash), Goth, Techno and house music, folk rock, heavy metal, and progressive rock. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the rise of Post-Punk and New Wave. The so-called 'Second British Invasion' into the US popular music scene took place from 1982 to 1984 when UK bands flooded the US Billboard charts. In the mid- to late 1990s, the Britpop phenomenon saw bands such as Radiohead, Oasis and Blur attain considerable national and international success. The 1990s also saw the rise of successful Welsh bands such as The Stereophonics and Manic Street Preachers.

The UK has also played a large part in promoting electronica in popular music, with British artists such as Underworld, The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers helping this mainly underground genre to cross over into the mainstream, having first reached a wider audience in the early 1990s with bands such as Orbital and The KLF.

During the 1990s and 2000s artists in urban music in Britain spawned first drum and bass, trip-hop and towards the end of the first decade uk garage, through acts such as the Artful Dodger. The popularity of "stadium rock" bands such as Coldplay and Keane increased, whilst indie music has grown in profile, with bands including The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys enjoying chart success. UK urban music has grown more popular with acts such as Jamelia.

[edit] Visual art

The Royal Academy is located in London. This commercial venture is one of Britain's foremost visual arts organisations.

Flint Castle, by J. M. W. Turner (c.1775-1851).

[edit] Media

The UK has a virtually unrivalled number of media outlets, and the prominence of the English language gives it a widespread international dimension.

[edit] Broadcasting

The BBC is the UK's publicly funded radio and television broadcasting corporation, and is the oldest broadcaster in the world. Funded by the television licence, a legal requirement for any British household with a television set - even if they do not watch BBC channels, the BBC operates several television channels and radio stations both in the UK and abroad. The BBC's international television news service, BBC World, is broadcast throughout the world and the BBC World Service radio network is broadcast in thirty-three languages globally. In the UK , the TV licence is free for people over 75 and listening to radio does not need a licence.

The major television channels in the UK are BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Five - all currently transmitted by analogue terrestrial, free-to-air signals with the latter 3 channels funded by commercial advertising.

The UK now also has an increasing number of digital terrestrial channels (Freeview) including a further 6 from the BBC, 5 from ITV and 2 from Channel 4 among a variety of others.

The vast majority of digital cable services are provided by Virgin Media with satellite being provided by BSkyB and free-to-air digital terrestrial television by Freeview. The entire country will switch to digital by 2012.

Radio in the UK is dominated by BBC Radio, which operates ten national networks and over forty local radio stations. The most popular radio station, by number of listeners, is BBC Radio 2, closely followed by BBC Radio 1. There are also hundreds of mainly local commercial radio stations.

[edit] Print

Traditionally, British newspapers could be split into "quality", serious-minded newspaper (usually referred to as "broadsheets" due to their large size) and the more populist, tabloid varieties. For convenience of reading, many traditional broadsheets have switched to a more compact-sized format, traditionally used by tabloids. The Sun has the highest circulation of any daily newspaper in the UK, with approximately a quarter of the market; its sister paper, The News of The World similarly leads the Sunday newspaper market,[71] and traditionally focuses on celebrity-led stories. The Daily Telegraph, a right-of-centre paper, has overtaken The Times as the highest-selling of the "quality" newspapers (former broadsheets).[72] The Guardian is a more liberal (centre to left-wing) "quality". The Financial Times is the main business paper, printed on distinctive salmon-pink broadsheet paper. Scotland has a distinct tradition of newspaper readership (see List of newspapers in Scotland). The Belfast Telegraph is the oldest known English-speaking newspaper still in print today and also holds the prestigious title as the best regional newspaper in the United Kingdom.

[edit] Sport

The Wimbledon Championships, a Grand Slam tournament, is held in Wimbledon, London every July.
The Wimbledon Championships, a Grand Slam tournament, is held in Wimbledon, London every July.

A number of major sports originated in the United Kingdom, including football, rugby, cricket and Golf.

The most popular sport in the UK is Football. The UK does not compete as a nation in any major football tournament. Instead, the home nations compete individually as England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is because of this four-team arrangement that the UK does not compete in football events at the Olympic Games. However, there are proposals for a united team taking part in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, which are to be held in London. The English and Northern Irish football associations have confirmed participation in this team while the Scottish FA and the Welsh FA have declined to participate, fearing that it would undermine their independent status.

The UK is home to many world-renowned football clubs, such as Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United in England, and Celtic and Rangers in Scotland. Clubs compete in national leagues and competitions and some go on to compete in European competitions. British teams are generally successful in European Competitions and several have become European Cup/UEFA Champions League winners: Liverpool (five times), Manchester United (twice), Nottingham Forest (twice), Aston Villa, and Celtic. The English Premier League is also the most-watched football league in the world[73] and is particularly popular in Asia: in the People's Republic of China, matches attract television audiences between 100 million and 360 million, more than any other foreign sport.[74]

The new Wembley Stadium is the most expensive stadium ever built costing £793 million ($1.6 billion).
The new Wembley Stadium is the most expensive stadium ever built costing £793 million ($1.6 billion).

Wembley Stadium is the main sporting stadium of the UK. Between the demolition of the old stadium and construction of the new one (completed in 2007), Cardiff's Millennium Stadium served in this role.

The early reference to the separate national identities in the UK is perhaps best illustrated by the game of cricket. Cricket was invented in England. There are league championships but the English national team dominates the game in Britain. There is no UK team. Although some Welsh and Scottish players have played for England, it is in England where cricket retains its major fan base in the UK.

The UK has proved successful in the international sporting arena in rowing. It is widely considered that the sport's most successful rower is Steven Redgrave who won five gold medals and one bronze medal at five consecutive Olympic Games as well as numerous wins at the World Rowing Championships and Henley Royal Regatta.

Both forms of rugby are national sports. Rugby league originates from and is generally played in the North of England, whilst Rugby Union is played predominantly in Wales, Ireland and Southern England. Having supposedly originated from the actions of William Webb Ellis at the town of Rugby, it is considered the national sport of Wales. In rugby league the UK plays as one nation – Great Britain – though in union it is represented by four nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (which consists of players from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland). England is the holder of the Rugby World Cup. Every four years the British and Irish Lions tour either Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. Here, rugby football differs internationally to association football, as the England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland (including Northern Ireland) teams do come together to form the British and Irish Lions, although they compete separately in all other international competitions.

The Wimbledon Championships are international tennis events held in Wimbledon in south London every summer and are regarded as the most prestigious of the tennis calendar.

Thoroughbred racing is also very popular in England. It originated under Charles II of England as the "Sport of Kings" and is a royal pastime to this day. World-famous horse races include the Grand National, the Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, generally regarded as the world's "Home of Golf".
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, generally regarded as the world's "Home of Golf".

Golf is one of the most popular participation sports played in the UK, with St Andrews in Scotland being the sport's home course. Cricket is also popular, although the popularity of the game is dramatically greater in England than in other parts of the UK, all four constituent nations as of 2006 compete at the One-Day International level – Scotland independently, Wales as part of the English team, and Northern Ireland as part of All-Ireland.

Shinty (or camanachd) (a sport derived from the same root as the Irish hurling and similar to bandy) is popular in the Scottish Highlands, sometimes attracting crowds numbering thousands in the most sparsely populated region of the UK.

The country is closely associated with motorsport. Many teams and drivers in Formula One (F1) are based in the UK and drivers from Britain have won more world titles than any other country. The country also hosts legs of the F1 and World Rally Championship and has its own Touring Car Racing championship, the BTCC. The British Grand Prix takes place at Silverstone each July.

[edit] Symbols

The Statue of Britannia in Plymouth.
The Statue of Britannia in Plymouth.
Flag Country Patron saint Flower
Flag of England England St. George Red rose
Flag of Scotland Scotland St. Andrew Cotton thistle
Flag of Wales Wales St. David Leek/Daffodil
Flag of Northern Ireland Northern Ireland St. Patrick Shamrock/Flax
  • The national anthem of the United Kingdom is God Save the King, with "King" replaced with "Queen" whenever the Monarch is female. The anthem's name, however, remains God Save the King.[75]
Britannia, featured on Royal Mint gold bullion coin
Britannia, featured on Royal Mint gold bullion coin
  • Britannia is a personification of the UK, originating from the Roman occupation of southern and central Great Britain.[76] Britannia is symbolised as a young woman with brown or golden hair, wearing a Corinthian helmet and white robes. She holds Poseidon's three-pronged trident and a shield, bearing the Union Flag. Sometimes she is depicted as riding the back of a lion. At and since the height of the British Empire, Britannia has often associated with maritime dominance, as in the patriotic song Rule Britannia.
  • Britain (especially England) is also personified as the character John Bull.
  • The ancient British landscape, and especially some of its distinctive fauna such as the oak tree and the rose, have long been a widely used proxy for the visual representation of British identity. The red rose is the emblem of the England national rugby union team and the RFU.

[edit] See also

[edit] Miscellaneous data

  • Cellular frequency: GSM 900, GSM 1800, UMTS 2100
  • Cellular technology: GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA
  • Date format: DD/MM/YY (example: 22/12/05) or 22 December 2005 (22nd December 2005 widely used also if date is written in words)
  • Time format: Generally 12-hour format when spoken or in writing (example: 5:15 pm), 24-hour format is used in some official documentation and in timetables (example: 17:15 or 1715). A full stop may also be used instead of the colon when writing the time; for instance, 5.15 pm.
  • Decimal separator is a full stop: 123.45
  • Thousands are separated (formal) by a comma: 10,000. (To avoid confusion with continental countries which use the comma as the decimal separator, a space may be used, e.g. 10 000.)
  • Voltage: 230V (+10% / -6%), 50 Hz; British 3-pin power plugs and sockets
  • Postal code: UK postcodes
  • Driving is on the left.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Official website, Welsh Assembly Government. "Welsh Language". Retrieved on March 9, 2007.
  2. ^ Official website, Office of Public Sector Information. "Welsh Language Act 1993". Retrieved on March 9, 2007.
  3. ^ Official website, Office of Public Sector Information. " Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 ". Retrieved on March 9, 2007.
  4. ^ Official website, Office for National Statistics. Population Estimates. Retrieved on March 9, 2007.
  5. ^ See British Isles (terminology) for further explanation of the usage of the term "Britain" in geographical and political contexts.
  6. ^ Countries within a country, Number 10. Accessed May 29, 2006; Member States: United Kingdom, UK Presidency of the EU 2005. Accessed May 29, 2006; "United Kingdom", Encyclopædia Britannica Accessed May 29, 2006
  7. ^ UK or GB?, Directgov (UK government website); accessed May 29, 2006
  8. ^ http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1013618138295
  9. ^ The Treaty (or Act) of Union, 1707. Retrieved 15 May 2006.
  10. ^ The Act of Union, Act of Union Virtual Library. Retrieved 15 May 2006.
  11. ^ The Anglo-Irish Treaty, 6 December 1921, CAIN. Retrieved 15 May 2006.
  12. ^ Ferguson, Niall (2003). Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-02328-2. 
  13. ^ Modest progress but always on back foot, Times Online, 21 December 2005. Retrieved 16 May 2006.
  14. ^ European Constitution: bad for Britain, bad for Europe, Conservative Party. Retrieved 23 May 2006.
  15. ^ A Guide To the UK Legal System by Sarah Carter (University of Kent at Canterbury), retrieved May 16 2006.
  16. ^ Extract (Hansard, 23 July 1999, Col.1545) ("As the Queen's consent has not been obtained, this cannot be dealt with.") also see Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill Retrieved 17 May 2006.
  17. ^ Royal Assent. Retrieved on May 17, 2006.
  18. ^ Polls Apart? The Public and the Monarchy, Market & Opinion Research International, 16 June 2000; retrieved 14 May 2006.
  19. ^ Europe Wins The Power To Jail British Citizens The Times, September 14, 2005
  20. ^ The History of the Church of England. The Archbishops' Council of the Church of England. Retrieved on May 24, 2006.
  21. ^ Constitutional reform: A Supreme Court for the United KingdomPDF (252 KiB), Department for Constitutional Affairs; accessed 2006-05-22.
  22. ^ Dialysis Scotland; accessed 22 May 2006.
  23. ^ Geography of Northern Ireland University of Ulster; accessed May 22, 2006.
  24. ^ BBC News - Manchester tops second city poll, 10 February 2007.
  25. ^ UK population approaches 60 million, Office for National Statistics, 25 August 2005; retrieved 14 May 2006.
  26. ^ Rising birth rate, longevity and migrants push population to more than 60 million. The Guardian. Retrieved on August 25, 2006.
  27. ^ Census 2001: South East, Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 14 May 2006.
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Coordinates: 52° N 1° W