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| Official languages
| 243,610 km2|
| (63,181,775) British 76%, German 8%, French 5%, Nordic 2%, Muslim 6%, Black 3%|
Anglican and other protestant (75%), Others 3%, None 22%
| Time zone
| GMT (UTC+0)|
The United Kingdom (UK) is a country in north-western Europe. The UK is one of the most famous and important countries in the world. Some people call the country England. This is incorrect, for England is only a part of the United Kingdom. Other people call the country Great Britain. That is also false, because Great Britain is one of the islands of the UK. A nickname for the UK is Britain.
The capital of the country is London in England. English is the official language of the United Kingdom and is common to the whole of the British Isles. It comprises the islands of Great Britain and of Northern Ireland and many smaller surrounding islands. Officially, the UK is a political union between four countries. These countries are not independent states, but can make their own policies on certain levels. Some areas, like Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, are also a part of the United Kingdom.
From 1973 to 2020, the United Kingdom was a member state of the European Union. The 2016 referendum opened the door to a Brexit, the leaving of the EU by the UK. On 31 January 2020, the country left the Union. The United Kingdom also helped form NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). The national anthem is God Save the Queen and the national flag is the Union Jack. The Pound sterling is the currency.
- 1 History
- 2 Administrative division
- 3 Geography
- 4 Culture
- 5 Politics
- 6 States and dependencies of Europe
History[edit | edit source]
As the name sais, the United Kingdom is a collection of former countries. Al these countries have their own history. The British history is mostly focused on England and Great Britain.
Prehistory[edit | edit source]
A long time ago the UK hasn't an island. It was a part of the main land of Europe. Then, there wasn't a North Sea. During thousands of years, the land crumbled until the United Kingdom parted from the main land in 6000 B.C. The UK was finally an island, but that didn't meant people from the main land could reach the island. The North sea was dry in some ice ages. Therefore, one culture settled it from England to the Baltic States.
Farmers from Bretagne and the Southwest of France came to England. The farmers spread themselves over all the islands. They built monuments and grave circles from 2500 B.C. The world famous Stonehenge was built during this period. The various tribes built houses and forts to protect themselves too. The Celtics expelled the original British inhabitants 2000 years later.
The Romans and kingdoms[edit | edit source]
The Roman leader Julius Caesar wanted to conquer England, but didn't succeed. Approximately one hundred years later, Roman emperor Claudius I did succeed. The Romans built some cities and brought prosperity. Later on, they introduced Christianity to England. The Romans didn't conquered Scotland, Ireland and Cornwall. Although the Roman set to the north and conquered some areas, they had to give it back very soon. To keep the northern tribes at distance, the Romans built the Hadrian's Wall (named after emperor Hadrian). Hadrian's Wall is seen as one of the first hard borders. During the fifth century A.D. the Migration Period found place. Various tribes left for England, while the Roman left England for Rome.
The Celtics were abandoned by the Romans and some new tribes, the Anglo-Saxons, came to live in England. These tribes expelled the Celtics to some small areas in the west. The Anglo-Saxons consisted of various folks, like the Jutes in the southeast and the Angles in the center and north. Many (small) kingdoms did arise. Wessex, Sussex, Essex, Kent, East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria were the most important and are called the Heptarchy. Between the kingdoms was a during conflict, which resulted in Wessex becoming the most powerful. Wessex united all the kingdoms into the Kingdom of England.
During this time most people were converted to Christianity. Also, the Vikings attacked England a few times. King Edgar reduced these attacks. At the end of the 10th century the Danes took over England. The King of Denmark governed England for 26 years, but eventually the former royal house (Wessex) was restored.
William the Conqueror and Tudor[edit | edit source]
After king Edward the Confessor passed away in 1066, it was unclear who became the new king. Edward had three sons, who all wanted to be king. The Witan decided Harold Godwinson would be the new king, but he was soon killed in an attacked. He was followed by William the Conqueror, the king of Normandy. A personal union between Normandy and England was started. England was getting involved by the conflicts on the main land. King Henry II wanted to expand his powers by conquering Ireland, Scotland and Wales. At the same time he lost Normandy to the French. For the first there was a British parliament. Between France and England the Hundred Years' War took place. The parliament could expand its powers. The economy was in good state, but then the plague did occur in 1348. The war with France caused eventually the Peasants' Revolt.
At the end the House of Tudor came to power. This resulted in some changes. England became a Protestant country and the farmers got it better. Queen Elizabeth I is the most famous and last ruler of the House of Tudor. She established the Angelic Church. During Elizabeth's reign England was a prosperous and blooming country.
The Civil War and after that[edit | edit source]
Queen Elizabeth I died without having any children. The House of Stuart, which reigned over Scotland, came to power. Only the Stuarts were Catholic, while the rest of the country was Protestant. Also, there were issues about money and politics. Eventually, the English Civil War started between the cavaliers (in favour of the king) and the roundheads (against the king). The roundheads wanted to establish a republic, where the parliament was in full charge. Roundheads won, beheaded the king, abolished the monarchy and created the Commonwealth of England. After 11 years, king Charles II returned to England and England was a monarchy (again).
After the Civil War, the Dutch and the English fought at the North Sea. Dutch Stadtholder William III (in England William II) was the nephew of English king James II. James II supported the Catholics in his country, but his daughter Mary wanted to save Protestant Church and the freedom of England. She married Stadtholder William III and reigned together over England. They reduced the power of the king and increased the power of the parliament. Scotland and England became one state, with the name the Kingdom of Great Britain. In this period England started to colonise overseas areas.
House of Hannover and the 19th century[edit | edit source]
The House of Hannover came to power in 1714. In 1760, the Great Britain conquered large parts of Canada and India. Although the American colonies (nowadays United States) declared themselves independent after a war for independence, the power of England in the world started to grow. The English fought against Napoleon and conquered Sri Lanka and South Africa. The 19th century was also the time when the Industrial Revolution started. Many products were now made by machines, more and more people started to work in fabrics and the cities were growing. Great Britain became one of the most important countries on the planet. After Ireland became a part of Great Britain the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was established.
During the 19th century slavery was abolished in 1833 and every men got the right to vote in 1884. Women got the right to vote in 1918. The prosperity and wealth of the higher classes resulted in poverty for the lower classes, where people worked in factories. Special political parties for the workers were established. They wanted better and safer living and working conditions as well as better wages for the workers. The Industrial Revolution brought notable inventions like the steam engine, the gas bulb, electricity and the sewage system. Queen Victoria was the queen of the UK from 1837 to 1901. Although she had no political powers, she became the symbol of the nation and her reign is known as the Victorian era. The Victorian era brought a cultural wave and was a period of prosperity. After she died, the Edwardian era started, which was a more loose area.
At the beginning of the 20th century the UK owned a quarter of the entire world. The British Empire included areas in Asia, Africa, Oceania and North America. The House of Hannover was followed by the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1901.
The World Wars[edit | edit source]
The United Kingdom got involved with the First World War in 1915 and fought alongside France, Russia and the United States against Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. The name of the House of Saxe-Goburg and Gotha was renamed to the House of Windsor. Also other German titles were changed to English sounding names. The king wanted to show the English people he was against the Germans. In 1922, Ireland became independent after the Irish Civil War. Northern Ireland stood in the United Kingdom and it changed its official name to the current one. In the 30s the country was involved in the global economic crisis. The politics as well as the monarchy was instable. After the death of the king, Edward VIII became king, but was followed by George VI. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain wanted to prevent a second world war by making a deal with Adolf Hitler. Although he thought he had prevented a new war, the deal was in fact worthless.
In the Second World War the UK fought alongside France, the States and the Soviet Union against Germany, Japan and Italy. The Nazis sent a lot of bombs to the capital of London, which was in ruins at the time. Children had to leave the cities for the countryside, cause it was too dangerous. The British king refused to leave the capital, even after the whole front of his palace was gone. Prime Minister Winston Churchill fought against the Nazis and became the important figure next to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Josef Stalin.
Modern era[edit | edit source]
The British Empire was falling to pieces. After Australia, Canada and South Africa, India and many African colonies became independent. In 1952, king George was followed by Queen Elizabeth II. The UK became a welfare state in which nobody had to live in poverty. The UK joined the European Union in 1973.
In the 80s, Margaret Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The had the nickname Iron Lady, because of her strong opinion. Thatcher fought in the Falkland War against Argentina, survived a bomb attack and her policy caused many strikes. In Northern Ireland was a conflict between the Protestants (who wanted to remain in the UK) and the Catholics (who wanted to join Ireland). The Irish Republic Army (IRA) was very violent. In the 90s, there was an agreement between the IRA, Ireland and the UK. The British monarchy had other problems, for example the divorce between Charles and Diana Spencer. Diana Spencer would die in a car accident a brief time later. In 2005, terroristic attacks took place in London. The UK joined the War against Terror.
In 2014, a referendum for an independent Scotland was held, but Scotland choose to stay in the UK. After the 2016 referendum, it became clear the UK was the first country to leave the European Union. On 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom leaves the Union.
Administrative division[edit | edit source]
The administrative division of the United Kingdom is quite complex and diverse per region. If you look at the UK as a whole, you see there are three main categories:
- The Constitutional countries
- The Crown dependencies
- The British Overseas Areas
Constitutional countries[edit | edit source]
There are four constitutional countries, which are divided over the main area of the United Kingdom. These countries are:
- England, with its capital at London.
- Scotland, with its capital at Edinburgh.
- Wales, with its capital at Cardiff.
- Northern Ireland, with its capital at Belfast.
England, Scotland and Wales are located at the island of Great Britain. Only Northern Ireland is located at the island of Ireland. The UK has over 60 million inhabitants and 80% of those inhabitants live in England. The countries all have a unique division; England is divided into regions, Wales into principal areas and Northern Ireland into counties. Scotland is divided in various ways.
Crown dependencies[edit | edit source]
At one time, the United Kingdom got a number of islands. These islands are included by the United Kingdom, in contrast to the overseas areas. The dependencies all have their own government and the British government doesn't meddle into their businesses. The three crown dependencies are:
- Guernsey, with its capital at Saint Peter Port.
- Jersey, with its capital at Saint Helier.
- Isle of Man, with its capital at Douglas.
British Overseas Areas[edit | edit source]
Some areas belong to the United Kingdom, but aren't a part of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has 14 overseas areas all over the world. Their the last remains of the British Empire. Those areas are:
- Akrotiri and Dhekelia, on the island of Cyprus.
- Anguilla, in the Caribbean Sea.
- Bermuda, in the Atlantic Ocean.
- British Antarctic Territory, on Antarctica.
- British Indian Ocean Territory, in the Indian Ocean.
- British Virgin Islands, in the Caribbean Sea.
- Cayman Islands, in the Caribbean Sea.
- Falkland Islands, at the coast of Argentina.
- Gibraltar, in the south of Spain.
- Montserrat, in the Caribbean Sea.
- Pitcairn Islands, in the Pacific Ocean.
- Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, in the Atlantic Ocean.
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean.
- Turks and Caicos Islands, in the Caribbean Sea.
Except the Arctic Territory, all areas are inhabited. 260.000 people live in the areas and the areas cover 1.727.570 km². All areas have voted to stay in the United Kingdom.
Geography[edit | edit source]
Location[edit | edit source]
The United Kingdom is located in the western part of Europe. The country is divided over two big islands and several small ones. The biggest part of the UK is located on the island of Great Britain, the other part on the island of Ireland. Because the Republic of Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom the islands are known as the British Isles. The United Kingdom borders only to the Republic of Ireland by land. Though the borders on the seas the United Kingdom borders also to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and also Ireland. The Channel Tunnel connects the UK with the main land of France.
The prime meridian also passes the United Kingdom. This is an imaginary line from the North Pole to the South Pole and is important for the creation of maps. The prime meridian passes through the village of Greenwich, causing the meridian to be called the Greenwich Meridian.
Water[edit | edit source]
The United Kingdom is surrounded by water. In the south it borders to the English Channel and in the east to the North Sea. Both seas are connected with each other by the Strait of Dover. In the north, it border to the Atlantic Ocean, in the west to the Irish Sea and in the southwest to the Celtic Sea. The St George's Channel connects the Celtic with the Irish sea and the North Channel the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The Bristol Channel is located between England and Wales.
The most famous river of the United Kingdom is the Thames, which crosses the British capital of London. The Severn is nonetheless the longest river of the United Kingdom. The Trent, the Humber, the Aire, the Great Ouse and the Wye are also long rivers. The most famous lake of the United Kingdom is Loch Ness. According to the legend, the Loch Ness Monster lives in this lake. The biggest lake is located in Northern Ireland and is called Lough Neagh.
Islands[edit | edit source]
There are a number of islands around the UK. A few examples are the Isle of Wight, Arran, Jura, Islay, Skye and Anglesey. The most notable archipelagos are the Shetland Islands, the Orkney Islands, the Scilly Islands and the Hebrides. If you only look at the Scottish coast, there are a lot of islands. Over 800 islands are located before the Scottish coast, due to its many coves. On the contrary, the east coast just has a few islands.
Hills and mountains[edit | edit source]
The British landscape is quite diverse and hills are an important factor. Through England there's a line called the Tees-Exes Line. This line is located from the northeast to southwest. Everything south of the line is very flat with just a few hills, everything north of the line is very hilly and rough. The north and west of Scotland mountainous, while the rest of country is more flat. The north of Wales is quite mountainous too. Most people in Wales live therefore in the south. The largest part of Northern Ireland does have also a lot of hills.
10 largest cities[edit | edit source]
The ten largest cities are:
Climate[edit | edit source]
The sea has a lot of influence on the British climate, because the country is surrounded by water. The United Kingdom has a moderate maritime climate, which means the soft winters and cold summers. The British climate is known as wet and rainy. This isn't strange, because of the wind from sea towards the land. The moderate maritime climate isn't common in all of Britain, the mountains have a Alpine climate, with lots of snow and cold temperatures.
The spring is in the UK a cold, quiet and dry season. The sea has lost its heath during the autumn and winter. At the end of the season the wetter becomes more restless. Because the seawater is still cold and the weather still warm, thunder and rainstorms arise. The summer is the sunniest and warmest season, but heavy rain still occur. Despite the rain, the temperature could reach 35 °C. The north is always a bit colder than the south. In the autumn, the wetter is cold, but the sea is still warm. The result is heavy rain again. In the winter the temperature can cold down to -10 °C. Although, the beginning of the season is very windy, during the season the wind lays down. In the mountains, skiing is possible and blizzards can occur.
Culture[edit | edit source]
There isn't a real common British culture, for the United Kingdom exists of four constitutional countries. However, some things are the cultures have in common, which we call the British culture. The British culture is nearly the same as the English culture. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have a culture, which is a bit different. The British culture was a big influence on the former colonies, which are now independent. Examples of these countries are the United States, Ireland, Canada, India, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa
Languages[edit | edit source]
The UK has just one official languages, namely English. English is a West Germanic language and is close family of the Dutch and German language. The language originated in England and spread to rest of the UK and its colonies. In the former colonies, English is still spoken. English is seen as the most important language since the 20th century. Before that, there wasn't a real worldwide language, although French was spoken by some people. The status of English in the world is due to the influence of the UK and the USA. At the moment, a third of the worldwide population speaks English as native or second language.
Due to the spread of the English language, there are many dialects. The type of English, which is spoken in the UK, is called British English. This is a bit different from American English, which is mostly spoken by non-native speakers. British English uses other words than American English, for example gas is called petrol in the UK. Also, some words are spelled in a different way. Most foreigners in the UK speak there native language at home. From all the EU members states, the British speak the least foreign languages. There are some variants in pronunciation between the regions of the UK. For instance, someone in Scotland speaks with a Scottish dialect.
There are still some Celtic languages spoken in the United Kingdom. Scottish Gaelic is spoken in the north of Scotland, Welsh in Wales and Irish in Northern Ireland. On the Isle of Man, Manx Gaelic is spoken and Cornish is spoken in Cornwall. The last two languages died a couple of decades ago, but are reintroduced. Celtic languages aren't used very often, for most speakers also speak English. Although most Celtic languages are threatened with extinction, more and more people want to learn the languages. Also, some other languages are common. On the Channel Islands, French is often used and Pitcairn is spoken on the Pitcairn Islands.
Music[edit | edit source]
The UK has a big music industry, probably due to the English language which a lot of people can understand. During the 60s The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were successful bands, but later on the British bands were overshadowed by the American ones. In the 70s, the band Queen was quite popular. Their Bohemian Rhapsody, is one of the worlds most well-known singles. Also, peace activist John Lennon was quite famous. The British music was over its height in the 80s, but later on revived. In the 90s, the Spice Girls became a big player. Today, the British music industry is still very famous. Artists like Adele, Ed Sheeran, Amy Whinehouse and the former band One Direction are a few examples of the biggest stars of the last few years.
Despite of its big music industry, the United Kingdom has seen worst results in the Eurovision Song Contest. The country is one of the biggest payers and doesn't have to participate in semi-finals. The UK has won the ESC five times; Sandie Shaw in 1967, Lulu in 1969 (one of the four winners), Brotherhood of Man in 1976, Bucks Fizz in 1981 and Katrina and the Waves in 1997. During the first few years, the UK has hosted the festival multiple times for it had the most advanced studios. The English language was seen as a profit, because all countries had to sing in a native language. In modern days, every country choose whatever language it wants. Although the UK ends almost every year in the last place (in most recent years), the ESC remains popular in the UK.
Literature[edit | edit source]
Also, the British literature is quite well-known and popular around the globe. The British literature influenced the English literature. One of the most well-known writers (or playwrights), William Shakespeare, was an Englishman. He wrote many plays like Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. His sentence To be or not to be. That's the question. remains one of the most famous sentences around the globe. During the nineteenth century, Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice), Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre), Emily Brontë (Wuthering Heights), George Elliot (Middlemarch) and Mary Shelley (Frankenstein) lived. The most famous writer of this time is probably Charles Dickens, who wrote Great Expectations and Oliver Twist. Later on, the more modern writers like Virginia Woolf (To the Lighthouse), E.M. Forster (A Room with a View) and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) lived. After the war, George Orwell wrote political manifests like 1984 and Animal Farm. The well-known British detective novels urned its reputation. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote novels about worlds well-known detective Sherlock Holmes. Agatha Christie, worlds best selling author, wrote about Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. In more recent years, the books of J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien came a cult icon, also due to their movies.
The British literature has also made much children's books, like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll, The Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. Author Roald Dahl wrote many children's books, for example Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mathilda and The BFG.
Cuisine[edit | edit source]
The British cuisine is often underestimated, but the UK has got a very diverse cuisine. Typical British cuisines are fish and chips and lamb with mint. The spices used in Britain came from the colonies. Cuisines from the colonies were mixed with British cuisines, for example chicken tikki masala. Also, a lot of Celtic dishes are still present today, like Welsh stew. These Celtic dishes have often got simple sauces. With the Sunday Roast, the British show the pride of their meat. Typical British, is the British breakfast with omelets, bacon, white beans in tomato sauce, blood sausages and toast. Piccalilly is a typical British sauce, made from unions and pickles.
The United Kingdom is famous, because of the tea. Although tea isn't produced in the UK, it is often drunken there with sugar and milk. The British even have a "tea time" dedicated to their tea, the afternoon tea. According to the story, duchess Anne of Bedford once was hungry at 4 p.m. It was too early to have diner and too late to have lunch, so her staff prepared her a light meal with tea. The afternoon tea mostly consist of sandwiches, scones and Victoria sponge cakes.
Politics[edit | edit source]
The parliament[edit | edit source]
- The House of Commons, which consists of 650 members. They're chosen for a period of four years. Unlike most countries, the ministers and prime minister are also part of the parliament. The opposition often forms a shadow cabinet. The normal and the shadow cabinet are seated in the front, while the other members are seated in the back.
- The House of Lords, which consists of 756 members. They aren't chosen in elections. Originally, the seats where for the church and the nobility, but nowadays people in high functions in the British society have a place in the house. In the past, the seats could be inherited, but now this is only the case with a few seats. The House of Lords has far less power than the House of Commons and only can delay laws.
The British Parliament is also the parliament of England. Scotland has its own parliament (Scottish Parliament), as well as Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Assembly) and Wales (National Assembly of Wales). The British overseas areas and crown dependencies have their own parliament too.
Government[edit | edit source]
The prime minister and his/her ministers are called Her Majesty's Government. All prime minister have been males, except two (Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May). The current government is formed by the Conservative Party, with Boris Johnson as its prime minister. In the past, governments were led by the Conservative or the Labour Party. They mostly have a majority in parliament, but in some cases they didn't. Then they had confidence and support from other parties, like Liberal Democrats, the Democratic Unionist Party of the Ulster Unionist Party.
Besides normal ministers (for foreign affaires, health, etc.), the UK also has special ministers for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. With the Brexit, there is also a special Brexit minister.
The European Union[edit | edit source]
The UK was between 1973 and 2020 part of the European Union. It joined the EU in 1973, at the same time as Ireland and Denmark as the first enlargement of the union. In 1975, there was a referendum about whether Britain should be a part of the UK or not. Then, the people voted to stay within the union. In 2016, there was a new referendum after the Conservative Party of David Cameron won the elections. A slight majority wanted Britain to leave the EU. Originally, Britain should have left EU at the beginning of 2019, but due to political fights this was delayed until 2020.
It is unsure which consequences the Brexit has for Britain and the European Union. The UK was after Germany the biggest economy within the European Union and 50% of the trade in Britain was with EU member state. People in favour of the Brexit, brexiteers (like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson), say that Britain will have more control over the country, will have the opportunity for new trade agreements and will have less immigrants after Brexit. Pro-Europeanists, say that Brexit will have disastrous consequences for the British economy and will led to unemployment and even an economic crisis.
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