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United Kingdom

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland comprises " title="Great Britain">Great Britain (" title="England">England, " title="Scotland">Scotland and " title="Wales">Wales) and " title="Northern Ireland">Northern Ireland. Also known as simply the United Kingdom (UK), it is situated just off the north-western coast of mainland " title="Europe">Europe, surrounded by the " title="North Sea">North Sea, the " title="English Channel">English Channel and the " title="Atlantic Ocean">Atlantic Ocean. Also under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, though not part of the United Kingdom itself, are the " title="Crown dependency">Crown Dependencies of the " title="Channel Islands">Channel Islands and the " title="Isle of Man">Isle of Man and a number of " title="Crown colony">Overseas Territories.

United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland
(" title="English language">English)

Teyrnas Unedig Prydain Fawr
a Gogledd Iwerddon
(" title="Welsh language">Welsh)
An Rìoghachd Aonaichte na Breatainn Mhòr
agus Eirinn mu Thuath
(" title="Scottish Gaelic language">Scots Gaelic)
Ríocht Aontaithe na Breataine Móire
agus Thuaisceart Éireann
(" title="Irish language">Irish)
Unitit Kinrick o Great Breetain
an Northren Ireland
(" title="Scots language">Scots)
(" title="Union Jack">In Detail) " title="Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom">(Full size)
Royal " title="Motto">motto: " title="Dieu et mon droit">Dieu et mon droit
(" title="French language">French: God and my right)
Official " title="Language">language " title="Languages in the United Kingdom">None. " title="English language">English is de facto1
" title="Capital">Capital" title="London">London
Largest City" title="London">London
" title="List of British monarchs">Queen" title="Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom">Elizabeth II
" title="Prime Minister of the United Kingdom">Prime Minister" title="Tony Blair">Tony Blair
" title="Area">Area
 - Total
 - % water
" title="List of countries by area">Ranked 76th
" title="1 E11 m²"> 244,101 km²
" title="Population">Population
 - Total (" title="2003">2003)
 - " title="Population density">Density
" title="List of countries by population">Ranked 21st
Establishment2" title="1801 Act of Union">1801 Act of Union
" title="Currency">Currency " title="Pound Sterling">Pound Sterling
" title="Time zone">Time zone " title="Coordinated Universal Time">UTC, Summer: +1 UTC
" title="List of national anthems">National anthem" title="God Save the Queen">God Save the Queen (unofficial)
" title="Top-level domain">Internet TLD.UK (but " title="ISO 3166-1">ISO 3166-1 is GB)
" title="List of country calling codes">Calling Code44
" title="List of international call prefixes">International call prefix00
(1) Equal with " title="Scottish Gaelic language">Scottish Gaelic and " title="Welsh language">Welsh in Scotland and Wales respectively.
(2) Formed as United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Name changed to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in " title="1927">1927.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Countries, Regions, Counties, Areas and Districts
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Miscellaneous topics
9 External links


Main article: " title="History of the United Kingdom">History of the United Kingdom

England has existed as a unified entity since the " title="10th century">10th century. Wales, under English control since the " title="Statute of Rhuddlan">Statute of Rhuddlan in " title="1284">1284, became part of the Kingdom of England by the " title="1536 Act of Union">1536 Act of Union. In the " title="1707 Act of Union">1707 Act of Union, the separate kingdoms of England and Scotland, having shared the same monarch since " title="1603">1603, agreed to permanent union as the " title="Kingdom of Great Britain">Kingdom of Great Britain. The " title="1801 Act of Union">1801 Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain merged with the " title="Kingdom of Ireland">Kingdom of Ireland, which had been gradually brought under English control between " title="1169">1169 and " title="1603">1603, to form the " title="United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland">United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. With the formation of 26 Irish counties into the " title="Irish Free State">Irish Free State in " title="1922">1922, the six remaining Ulster counties remaining part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland, the country was renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in " title="1927">1927. The nation had two periods of " title="Commonwealth of England">republican rule in the 17th century before reverting to a monarchy in " title="1660">1660.

The United Kingdom, the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century, played a leading role in developing parliamentary " title="Democracy">democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its zenith, the " title="British Empire">British Empire stretched over one quarter of the earth's surface. The first half of the 20th century saw the UK's strength seriously depleted in two World Wars. The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation. The UK is currently weighing the degree of its integration with continental " title="Europe">Europe. A member of the " title="European Union">EU, it has chosen to defer its participation in Euro Zone owing to internal political considerations. Constitutional reform is also a current issue in the UK. The House of Lords has been subjected to ongoing reforms and National assemblies with varying degrees of power were created in " title="Scotland">Scotland, " title="Wales">Wales, and " title="Northern Ireland">Northern Ireland in " title="1999">1999. Further assemblies for the English regions are also under consideration. According to opinion polls, the monarchy remains generally popular in spite of recent controversies. Support for a " title="British republican movement">British Republic usually fluctuates between 15% and 25% of the population.

The United Kingdom is a member of the " title="Commonwealth of Nations">Commonwealth of Nations (successor organisation to the former Empire), the " title="European Union">European Union and " title="NATO">NATO. It is also a permanent member of the " title="UN Security Council">UN Security Council and holds a veto power.

See also: " title="List of British monarchs">Monarchs; " title="History of Britain">History of Britain; " title="History of England">History of England; " title="History of Ireland">History of Ireland; " title="History of Scotland">History of Scotland; " title="History of Wales">History of Wales, " title="UK local history terms">UK local history terms


Main article: " title="Politics of the United Kingdom">Politics of the United Kingdom

In form, the United Kingdom is a " title="Constitutional monarchy">constitutional monarchy with government, though carried out in the monarch's name, answerable to parliament and through it the electorate. It is governed from its " title="Capital">capital, " title="London">London (although see below). The UK's current monarch and head of state is " title="Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom">Queen Elizabeth II who acceded to the throne in " title="1952">1952 and was crowned in " title="1953">1953. Today, her role is mainly ceremonial, with the country's real political power being delegated to the " title="Prime Minister of the United Kingdom">Prime Minister.

The United Kingdom is a very centralised state, with London's " title="Parliament of the United Kingdom">Westminster Parliament holding responsibility for most of the political affairs of the Kingdom. In recent years however, each of the countries apart from " title="England">England has been granted its own governmental body responsible in varying degree for some internal matters.

See also:

Countries, Regions, Counties, Areas and Districts

Main article:
" title="Subdivisions of the United Kingdom">Subdivisions of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is " title="Subnational entity">made up of the four countries " title="England">England, " title="Scotland">Scotland, " title="Wales">Wales and " title="Northern Ireland">Northern Ireland, which are in turn made up of the following subdivisions:

Wales and England are grouped into " title="England and Wales">England and Wales for legal purposes.

" title="England">England is divided into nine " title="Regions of England">Government Office Regions - " title="North East England">North East, " title="North West England">North West, " title="Yorkshire and the Humber">Yorkshire and the Humber, " title="East Midlands">East Midlands, " title="West Midlands (region)">West Midlands, " title="East of England">Eastern, " title="Greater London">Greater London, " title="South East England">South East, " title="South West England">South West. Each region is made up of " title="Counties of England">Counties and/or " title="Metropolitan Counties of England">Metropolitan Counties and/or " title="Unitary authority">unitary authorities, apart from " title="London">London which consists of " title="London borough">London boroughs. There is growing support for the regions to be empowered via democratically elected assemblies - particularly in the northern regions and the West Midlands.

Scotland consists of 32 Council Areas. Wales consists of 22 Unitary Authorities, styled as 10 County Boroughs, 9 Counties, and 3 Cities. Northern Ireland is divided into 24 Districts, 2 Cities, and 6 Counties.

There are also a number of different dependencies belonging to the United Kingdom, see " title="Crown colony">Crown colony.

The " title="Isle of Man">Isle of Man and " title="Channel Islands">Channel Islands are not legally part of the United Kingdom; they are British crown dependencies, though the United Kingdom is responsible for their external affairs.

The monarchy of the United Kingdom is symbolically shared with 16 other sovereign countries that are known as " title="Commonwealth Realm">Commonwealth Realms, although Britain has very little political influence over these independent nations.

Other articles: " title="List of cities in the United Kingdom">Cities of the United Kingdom, " title="Towns of the United Kingdom">Towns of the United Kingdom, " title="Local government">Local government in England


Main article: " title="Geography of the United Kingdom">Geography of the United Kingdom

Most of England consists of rolling terrain, but the country is more mountainous in the north; the dividing line between terrain types is usually identified as the " title="Tees-Exe line">Tees-Exe line. The main rivers are the " title="River Thames">Thames and the " title="River Severn">Severn; major cities include " title="London">London, " title="Birmingham">Birmingham, " title="Manchester">Manchester, " title="Sheffield">Sheffield, " title="Liverpool">Liverpool, " title="Leeds">Leeds, " title="Bristol">Bristol and " title="Newcastle upon Tyne">Newcastle upon Tyne. Near " title="Dover, England">Dover, the " title="Channel Tunnel">Channel Tunnel links the United Kingdom with France.

Wales is mostly mountainous, the highest peak being " title="Snowdon">Snowdon, at 1,085 m above sea level. North of the mainland is the island of " title="Anglesey">Anglesey. Main and capital city is " title="Cardiff">Cardiff, located in the south of Wales.

Scotland's geography is varied, with lowlands in the south and east and highlands in the north and west, including " title="Ben Nevis">Ben Nevis, the UK's highest mountain (1343 m). There are many long and deep sea arms, firths, and lochs. A multitude of islands west and north of Scotland are also included, notably the " title="Hebrides">Hebrides, " title="Orkney Islands">Orkney Islands and " title="Shetland Islands">Shetland Islands. Main cities are " title="Edinburgh">Edinburgh, " title="Glasgow">Glasgow and " title="Aberdeen">Aberdeen.

Northern Ireland, making up the northeastern part of Ireland, is mostly hilly. Main cities are " title="Belfast">Belfast and " title="Derry">Derry.


Main article: " title="Economy of the United Kingdom">Economy of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom, a leading trading power and financial centre, has an essentially capitalist economy, one of the largest of " title="Western Europe">Western Europe. Over the past two decades the government has greatly reduced public ownership by means of " title="Privatization">privatization programmes, and has contained the growth of the " title="Welfare State">Welfare State. " title="Agriculture">Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanised, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with only 1% of the labour force. The UK has large " title="Coal">coal, " title="Natural gas">natural gas, and " title="Oil">oil reserves; primary energy production accounts for 10% of " title="GDP">GDP, one of the highest shares of any industrial nation. Services, particularly " title="Bank">banking, " title="Insurance">insurance, and business services, account for by far the largest proportion of GDP while industry continues to decline in importance.

The " title="Tony Blair">Blair government has put off the question of participation in the " title="Euro">Euro system, citing five economic tests that would need to be met before a " title="Referendum">referendum can take place.

  1. Are business cycles and economic structures compatible with European interest rates on a permanent basis?
  2. If problems emerge, is there sufficient flexibility to deal with them?
  3. What impact would entry into the euro have on the UK's financial services industry?
  4. Would joining the euro create better conditions for firms making long-term decisions to invest in Britain?
  5. Would joining the euro promote higher growth, stability and a lasting increase in jobs?


Main article:
" title="Demographics of the United Kingdom">Demographics of the United Kingdom

The primary language spoken is " title="English language">English. Other languages include " title="Welsh language">Welsh, " title="Scottish Gaelic language">Gaelic, " title="Irish language">Irish and various dialects of " title="Scots language">Scots. Recent immigrants from elsewhere in " title="Commonwealth of Nations">the Commonwealth speak other languages, including " title="Urdu language">Urdu.


Main article: " title="Culture of the United Kingdom">Culture of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has two of the world's most famous universities in its borders, the " title="University of Cambridge">University of Cambridge and the " title="University of Oxford">University of Oxford, and has brought forth great scientists and engineers such as " title="Isaac Newton">Isaac Newton, " title="James Watt">James Watt, " title="Charles Darwin">Charles Darwin, and " title="Alexander Fleming">Alexander Fleming.

Playwright " title="William Shakespeare">William Shakespeare is arguably the most famous writer in the world; other well-known writers include the " title="Brontes">Bronte sisters, " title="Agatha Christie">Agatha Christie, " title="Charles Dickens">Charles Dickens, " title="Arthur Conan Doyle">Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, " title="Geoffrey Chaucer">Chaucer and " title="J. R. R. Tolkien">J. R. R. Tolkien. Important poets include " title="Robert Burns">Robert Burns, " title="Thomas Hardy">Thomas Hardy, " title="John Milton">John Milton, " title="Alfred Tennyson">Alfred Tennyson, " title="Dylan Thomas">Dylan Thomas and " title="William Wordsworth">William Wordsworth.

Composers " title="William Byrd">William Byrd, " title="Thomas Tallis">Thomas Tallis, " title="John Taverner">John Taverner, " title="John Blow">John Blow, " title="Henry Purcell">Henry Purcell, " title="Edward Elgar">Edward Elgar, " title="Arthur Sullivan">Arthur Sullivan, " title="William Walton">William Walton, " title="Ralph Vaughan Williams">Ralph Vaughan Williams, " title="Benjamin Britten">Benjamin Britten and " title="Michael Tippett">Michael Tippett have made major contributions to British music, and are known internationally. Living composers include " title="John Tavener">John Tavener, " title="Harrison Birtwistle">Harrison Birtwistle and " title="Oliver Knussen">Oliver Knussen.

Britain has been described as a land without music, but it supports a number of major orchestras including the " title="BBC Symphony Orchestra">BBC Symphony Orchestra, the " title="Royal Philharmonic Orchestra">Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the " title="Philharmonia">Philharmonia, the " title="London Symphony Orchestra">London Symphony Orchestra and the " title="London Philharmonic Orchestra">London Philharmonic Orchestra, and its several music colleges have helped to teach many well known musicians. Because of its location and other economic factors " title="London">London is one of the most important cities for music in the world, and has several important concert halls and is also home to the " title="Royal Opera House">Royal Opera House, one of the world's leading " title="Opera">opera houses. British traditional music has also been very influential abroad.

The UK has also produced the famous " title="Rock and roll">Rock and roll bands " title="The Beatles">The Beatles, the " title="The Rolling Stones">Rolling Stones, " title="Led Zeppelin">Led Zeppelin, " title="The Who">The Who, " title="Pink Floyd">Pink Floyd, " title="Status quo">Status Quo, " title="Sex Pistols">Sex Pistols, " title="Oasis (band)">Oasis, and " title="Radiohead">Radiohead. It has also pioneered in various forms of " title="Electronic music">electronic dance music such as " title="Acid house">acid house, " title="Drum and bass">drum and bass and " title="Trip hop">trip hop, which were in whole or part developed in the United Kingdom and have spawned various internationally known acts such as " title="Underworld (band)">Underworld, " title="Massive Attack">Massive Attack, " title="The Chemical Brothers">The Chemical Brothers and " title="Portishead">Portishead. The United Kingdom is one of three countries which have a profitable recorded music industry, based mostly on popular music, the others being the " title="United States">United States and " title="Sweden">Sweden. (see main article: " title="Music of the United Kingdom">Music of the United Kingdom).

Visual artists from the United Kingdom include such luminaries as " title="John Constable">John Constable, " title="Joshua Reynolds">Joshua Reynolds, " title="Thomas Gainsborough">Thomas Gainsborough, " title="William Blake">William Blake and " title="J. M. W. Turner">J.M.W. Turner. In the 20th century, " title="Francis Bacon (painter)">Francis Bacon, " title="David Hockney">David Hockney, " title="Bridget Riley">Bridget Riley, and the pop artists " title="Richard Hamilton">Richard Hamilton and " title="Peter Blake (artist)">Peter Blake are of note. More recently still, the so-called " title="Young British Artists">Young British Artists have gained some notoriety, particularly " title="Damien Hirst">Damien Hirst and " title="Tracey Emin">Tracey Emin.

The United Kingdom also has a vibrant tradition of theatre, and " title="London">London has many theatres which put on plays and musicals, including the " title="Royal National Theatre">National Theatre.

Public Holidays (known as Bank Holidays)
" title="January 1">1 January" title="New Year's Day">New Year's Day
" title="January 2">2 January(" title="Scotland">Scotland only)
" title="March 17">17 March" title="St. Patrick's Day">St Patrick's Day (" title="Northern Ireland">Northern Ireland only)
The Friday before " title="Easter">Easter Sunday" title="Good Friday">Good Friday
The day after " title="Easter">Easter Sunday" title="Easter Monday">Easter Monday (not " title="Scotland">Scotland)
First Monday in May" title="May Day">May Day
Last Monday in MaySpring Bank Holiday
" title="July 12">12 July" title="Battle of the Boyne">Battle of the Boyne - " title="Orange Order">Orangemen's Day (" title="Northern Ireland">Northern Ireland only)
First Monday in AugustSummer Bank Holiday (" title="Scotland">Scotland only)
Last Monday in AugustSummer Bank Holiday (not " title="Scotland">Scotland)
" title="December 25">25 December" title="Christmas">Christmas Day
" title="December 26">26 December or " title="December 27">27 December(1)" title="Boxing Day">Boxing Day

  1. Strictly, Boxing Day is the first weekday after Christmas, so it cannot fall on a Sunday. If Christmas Day is a Saturday, then Boxing Day is the following Monday, although in practice, this nicety is often ignored.

Miscellaneous topics

Main article:
" title="List of United Kingdom-related topics">list of United Kingdom-related topics

External links

" title="European Union">European Union:
" title="Austria">Austria  |  " title="Belgium">Belgium  |  " title="Denmark">Denmark  |  " title="Finland">Finland  |  " title="France">France  |  " title="Germany">Germany  |  " title="Greece">Greece  |  " title="Republic of Ireland">Ireland
" title="Italy">Italy  |  " title="Luxembourg">Luxembourg  |  " title="Netherlands">Netherlands  |  " title="Portugal">Portugal  |  " title="Spain">Spain  |  " title="Sweden">Sweden  |  United Kingdom

Countries acceding to membership on " title="May 1">May 1, " title="2004">2004:
" title="Cyprus">Cyprus  |  " title="Czech Republic">Czech Republic  |  " title="Estonia">Estonia  |  " title="Hungary">Hungary  |  " title="Latvia">Latvia  |  " title="Lithuania">Lithuania  |  " title="Malta">Malta  |  " title="Poland">Poland  |  " title="Slovakia">Slovakia  |  " title="Slovenia">Slovenia

" title="List of countries">Countries of the world  |  " title="Europe">Europe  |  " title="Council of Europe">Council of Europe

simple:United Kingdom