|Conventional Long Name:||United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland|
|Common Name:||the United Kingdom|
|National Motto:||French: ''"[[Dieu et mon droit]]"'' (French) |
"God and my right"
|National Anthem:||"God Save the Queen"|
|Official Languages:||English (de facto)|
|Regional Languages:||Irish, Ulster Scots, Scottish Gaelic , Scots, Welsh, Cornish|
|Ethnic Groups:||85.7% White British, 1.2% Irish, 5.3% White Other, 1.8% Indian, 1.3% Pakistaini, 0.5% Bangladeshi, 2.0% Black, 1.2% Mixed Race, 0.4% East Asian, 0.4% other|
|Ethnic Groups Year:||2001|
See:UK Ethnic groups list
|Government Type:||Parliamentary constitutional monarchy|
|Leader Name1:||HM The Queen Elizabeth II|
|Leader Title2:||Prime Minister|
|Leader Name2:||Gordon Brown MP|
|Upper House:||House of Lords|
|Lower House:||House of Commons|
|Established Event1:||Acts of Union 1707|
|Established Date1:||1 May 1707|
|Established Event2:||Act of Union 1800|
|Established Date2:||1 January 1801|
|Established Event3:||Anglo-Irish Treaty|
|Established Date3:||12 April 1922|
|Accessioneudate:||1 January 1973|
|Area Magnitude:||1 E11|
|Area Sq Mi:||94526|
|Population Estimate Year:||2007|
|Population Estimate Rank:||22nd|
|Population Census Year:||2001|
|Population Density Km2:||246|
|Population Density Sq Mi:||637|
|Population Density Rank:||48th|
|Gdp Ppp Year:||2007|
|Gdp Ppp:||$2.23 trillion|
|Gdp Ppp Rank:||6th|
|Gdp Ppp Per Capita:||$36,570|
|Gdp Ppp Per Capita Rank:||14th|
|Gdp Nominal:||$2.78 trillion|
|Gdp Nominal Rank:||5th|
|Gdp Nominal Year:||2007|
|Gdp Nominal Per Capita:||$45,681|
|Gdp Nominal Per Capita Rank:||9th|
|Time Zone Dst:||BST|
|Utc Offset Dst:||+1|
is a sovereign state located off the northwestern coast of continental Europe.It is an island country, spanning Great Britain, the northeast part of Ireland, and many small islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a land border, sharing it with the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea. The largest island, Great Britain, is linked to France by the Channel Tunnel.
The United Kingdom is a unitary state consisting of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It is governed by a parliamentary system with its seat of government in London, the capital, but with three devolved national administrations in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh, the capitals of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland respectively. The UK is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are Crown Dependencies and not part of the UK, but form a federacy with it.
The UK has fourteen overseas territories, all remnants of the British Empire, which at its height in 1922 encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land surface, the largest empire in history. British influence can continue to be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former colonies. Queen Elizabeth II remains the head of the Commonwealth of Nations and head of state of each of the Commonwealth realms.
The UK is a developed country, with the fifth (nominal GDP) or sixth (PPP) largest economy in the world. It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries, but the economic cost of two world wars and the decline of its empire in the latter half of the 20th century diminished its leading role in global affairs. The UK nevertheless remains a major power with strong economic, cultural, military and political influence worldwide. It is a nuclear power and has the second or third highest defence spending in the world. It is a Member State of the European Union, holds a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, and is a member of the G8, NATO, OECD, World Trade Organization and the Commonwealth of Nations.
See main article: History of the United Kingdom.
On 1 May 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain was created by the political union of the Kingdom of England (which included Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland. This event was the result of the Treaty of Union that was agreed on 22 July 1706, and then ratified by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland each passing an Act of Union in 1707. Almost a century later, the Kingdom of Ireland, already under English control by 1691, merged with the Kingdom of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom with the passing of the Act of Union 1800. Although England and Scotland had been separate states prior to 1707, they had been in personal union since the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when James VI King of Scots had inherited the throne of the Kingdoms of England and Ireland and moved his court from Edinburgh to London.
In its first century, the United Kingdom played an important role in developing Western ideas of the parliamentary system as well as making significant contributions to literature, the arts, and science. The UK-led Industrial Revolution transformed the country and fuelled the growing British Empire. During this time, like other great powers, the UK was involved in colonial exploitation, including the Atlantic slave trade, although the passing of the Slave Trade Act in 1807 made it the first country to prohibit trade in slaves.
After the defeat of Napoleon in the Napoleonic Wars, the UK emerged as the principal naval power of the 19th century and remained an eminent power into the mid-20th century. The British Empire expanded to its maximum size by 1921, gaining the League of Nations mandate over former German and Ottoman colonies after World War I. One year later, the BBC, the world's first large-scale international broadcasting network, was created.
Long simmering tensions in Ireland led to the partition of the island in 1920, followed by independence for the Irish Free State in 1922 with Northern Ireland remaining within the UK. As a result, in 1927, the formal name of the UK was changed to its current name, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The UK fought Nazi Germany as one of the major Allied powers of World War II. At one stage in 1940, amid the Battle of Britain, it stood alone against the Axis. After the victory, the UK was among the powers to help plan the postwar world. World War II left the United Kingdom financially damaged. However, Marshall Aid and costly loans taken from both the United States and Canada helped the UK on the road to recovery.
The immediate post-war years saw the establishment of the Welfare State, including among the world's first and most comprehensive public 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 spread of the English language meant the continuing influence of its literature and culture, while from the 1960s its popular culture also found influence abroad.
Following a period of global economic slowdown and industrial strife in the 1970s, the 1980s saw the inflow of substantial North Sea oil revenues and economic growth. The premiership of Margaret Thatcher marked a significant change of direction from the post-war political and economic consensus; a path that has continued under the New Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown since 1997.
The United Kingdom was one of the 12 founding members of the European Union at its launch in 1992 with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty. Prior to that, it had been a member of the EU's forerunner, the European Economic Community (EEC), from 1973. The attitude of the present Labour government towards further integration with this organisation is mixed, with the Official Opposition, the Conservative Party, favouring less powers and competencies being transferred to the EU.
The end of the 20th century saw major changes to the governance of the UK with the establishment of devolved national administrations for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales following pre-legislative referenda.
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy: Queen Elizabeth II is head of state of the UK as well as of fifteen other Commonwealth countries, putting the UK in a personal union with those other states. The Crown has sovereignty over the Crown Dependencies of the Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, which are not part of the United Kingdom though the UK government manages their foreign affairs and defence and the UK Parliament has the authority to legislate on their behalf.
Since the United Kingdom is one of the three countries in the world today that does not have a codified constitution, the Constitution of the United Kingdom consists mostly of written sources, including statutes, judge made case law, and international treaties. As there is no technical difference between ordinary statutes and "constitutional law," the UK Parliament can perform "constitutional reform" simply by passing Acts of Parliament and thus has the power to change or abolish almost any written or unwritten element of the constitution. However, no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change.
The UK has a parliamentary government based on the Westminster system that has been emulated around the world — a legacy of the British Empire. The Parliament of the United Kingdom that meets in the Palace of Westminster has two houses: an elected House of Commons and an appointed House of Lords, and any Bill passed requires Royal Assent to become law. It is the ultimate legislative authority in the United Kingdom since the devolved parliament in Scotland and devolved assemblies in Northern Ireland, and Wales are not sovereign bodies and could be abolished by the UK parliament despite being established following public approval as expressed in referenda.
The position of Prime Minister, the UK's head of government, belongs to the Member of Parliament who can obtain the confidence of a majority in the House of Commons, usually the current leader of the largest political party in that chamber. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are formally appointed by the Monarch to form Her Majesty's Government. Though the Prime Minister chooses the Cabinet, and by convention HM The Queen respects the Prime Minister's choices. The Cabinet is traditionally drawn from members of the Prime Minister's party in both legislative houses, and mostly from the House of Commons, to which they are responsible. Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet, all of whom are sworn into Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, and become Ministers of the Crown. The Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, leader of the Labour Party, has been Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service since 27 June 2007.
For elections to the House of Commons, the UK is currently divided into 646 constituencies, with 529 in England, 18 in Northern Ireland, 59 in Scotland and 40 in Wales, though this number will rise to 650 at the next General Election. Each constituency elects one Member of Parliament by simple plurality. General Elections are called by the Monarch when the Prime Minister so advises. Though there is no minimum term for a Parliament, the Parliament Act (1911) requires that a new election must be called within five years of the previous general election.
The UK's three major political parties are the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, and the Liberal Democrats, who won between them 616 out of the 646 seats available in the House of Commons at the 2005 general election. Most of the remaining seats were won by parties that only contest elections in one part of the UK such as the Scottish National Party (Scotland only), Plaid Cymru (Wales only), and the Democratic Unionist Party, Social Democratic and Labour Party, Ulster Unionist Party, and Sinn Féin (Northern Ireland only, though Sinn Féin also contests elections in Ireland). In accordance with party policy, no elected Sinn Féin Member of Parliament has ever attended the House of Commons to speak in the House on behalf of their constituents as Members of Parliament are required to take an oath of allegiance to the Monarch.
For elections to the European Parliament, the UK currently has 78 MEPs, elected in 12 multi-member constituencies, though this total will drop to 72 at the 2009 elections. Questions over sovereignty have been brought forward due to the UK's membership of the European Union.
Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each has its own government or Executive, led by a First Minister, and a devolved, unicameral legislature. England, the largest country of the United Kingdom, has no devolved executive or legislature and is administered and legislated for directly by the UK government and parliament on all issues. This situation has given rise to the so-called West Lothian question which concerns the fact that MPs from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can vote, sometimes decisively, on matters affecting England that are handled by devolved legislatures for their own constituencies.
The Scottish Government and Parliament have wide ranging powers over any matter that has not been specifically 'reserved' to the UK parliament, including education, healthcare, Scots law and local government. Following their victory at the 2007 elections, the pro-independence SNP formed a minority government with its leader, Alex Salmond, becoming First Minister of Scotland. The pro-union parties responded to the electoral success of the SNP by creating a Commission to examine the case for devolving additional powers while excluding Scottish independence as an option, though the then leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Wendy Alexander, indicated that Labour would support calls for independence to be placed before the people in a referendum in the hope that a vote to reject independence would settle the constitutional debate for a generation.
The Welsh Assembly Government and the National Assembly for Wales have more limited powers than those devolved to Scotland, although following the passing of the Government of Wales Act 2006, the Assembly can now legislate in some areas through Legislative Competency Orders which can be granted on a case by case basis. The current Welsh Assembly Government was formed several weeks after the 2007 elections, following a brief period of minority administration, when Plaid Cymru joined Labour in a coalition government under the continuing leadership of First Minister Rhodri Morgan.
The Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly have powers closer to those already devolved to Scotland. The Northern Ireland Executive is currently led by First Minister Peter Robinson (Democratic Unionist Party) and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin).
The history of local government in the United Kingdom is marked by little change in the arrangements that preceded the Union until the 19th century, after which there has been a constant evolution of role and function. Change did not occur in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in a uniform manner and the devolution of power over local government to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland means that future changes are unlikely to be uniform either.
The organisation of local government in England is complex, with the distribution of functions varying according to the local arrangements. Legislation concerning local government in England is decided by the UK parliament and the government of the United Kingdom, because England does not have a devolved parliament. The upper-tier subdivisions of England are the nine Government office regions or European Union government office regions. One region, Greater London, has had a directly elected assembly and mayor since 2000 following popular support for the proposal in a referendum. It was intended that other regions would also be given their own elected regional assemblies but a rejection by a referendum in 2004 of a proposed assembly in the North East region stopped this idea in its tracks. Below the region level, London consists of 32 London boroughs and the rest of England has either county councils and district councils or unitary authorities. Councillors are elected by First Past The Post in single member wards or by the multi-member plurality system in multi-member wards.
Local government in Northern Ireland has, since 1973, been organised into 26 district councils, each elected by single transferable vote with powers limited to services like collecting waste, controlling dogs, and maintaining parks and cemeteries. However, on 13 March 2008, the Executive agreed on proposals to create 11 new councils to replace the present system and the next local elections will be postponed until 2011 to facilitate this.
Local government in Scotland is divided on a basis of 32 council areas with wide variation in both size and population. The cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee are separate council areas as also is Highland Council which includes a third of Scotland's area but just over 200,000 people. The power invested in local authorities is administered by elected councillors, of which there are currently 1,222 who are each paid a part-time salary. Elections are conducted by single transferable vote in multi-member wards that elect either three or four councillors. Each council elects a Provost or Convenor to chair meetings of the council and to act as a figurehead for the area. Councillors are subject to a code of conduct enforced by the Standards Commission for Scotland. The representative association of Scotland's local authorities is the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).
Local government in Wales consists of 22 unitary authorities, including the cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, which are separate unitary authorities in their own right. Elections are held every four years by First Past The Post with the most recent elections being in May, 2008. The Welsh Local Government Association represents the interests of local authorities in Wales.
The United Kingdom is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of the G8 and NATO, and a member state of the European Union. The UK has a "Special Relationship" with the United States. Apart from the US and Europe, Britain's close allies include Commonwealth nations and other English speaking countries. Britain's global presence and influence is further amplified through its trading relations and its armed forces, which maintain approximately eighty military installations and other deployments around the globe.
The Army, Navy and Air Force are collectively known as the British Armed Forces. The commander-in-chief is the monarch and they are managed by the Ministry of Defence. The armed forces are controlled by the Defence Council, chaired by the Chief of the Defence Staff.
The United Kingdom fields one of the most technologically advanced and best trained armed forces in the world. According to various sources, including the Ministry of Defence, the UK has the third highest military expenditure in the world, despite only having the 27th largest military in terms of manpower. Total defence spending currently accounts for 2.5% of total national GDP. The Royal Navy is a blue-water navy, currently one of the few, along with the French Navy and the United States Navy. The Ministry of Defence signed contracts worth £3.2bn to build two new supercarrier sized aircraft carriers on 3 July 2008.
The British Armed Forces are charged with protecting the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, promoting the United Kingdom's global security interests, and supporting international peacekeeping efforts. They are active and regular participants in NATO, including the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, as well as the Five Power Defence Arrangements and other worldwide coalition operations. Overseas garrisons and facilities are maintained at Ascension Island, Belize, Brunei, Canada, Diego Garcia, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Gibraltar, Kenya, and Cyprus.
In 2005 the British Army had a reported strength of 102,440 , the Air Force 49,210 and the Navy 36,320.
The United Kingdom Special Forces, provide troops trained for quick, mobile, military responses in counter-terrorism, land, maritime and amphibious operations, often where secrecy or covert tactics are required.
There are reserve forces supporting the regular military. These include the Territorial Army, the Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Marines Reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. This puts total active and reserve duty military personnel at approximately 429,500, deployed in over eighty countries.
Despite the United Kingdom's military capabilities, recent pragmatic defence policy has a stated assumption that "the most demanding operations" would be undertaken as part of a coalition. Setting aside the intervention in Sierra Leone, operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq may all be taken as precedent. Indeed the last war in which the British military fought alone was the Falklands War of 1982, in which they were victorious.
See main article: Law of the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom does not have a single legal system due to it being created by the political union of previously independent countries with Article 19 of the Treaty of Union guaranteeing the continued existence of Scotland's separate legal system. Today the UK has three distinct systems of law: English law, Northern Ireland law and Scots law. Recent constitutional changes will see a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom come into being in October 2009 that will take on the appeal functions of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, comprising the same members as the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, is the highest court of appeal for several independent Commonwealth countries, the UK overseas territories, and the British crown dependencies.
Both English law, which applies in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland law are based on common-law principles. The essence of common-law is that law is made by judges sitting in courts, applying their common sense and knowledge of precedent (stare decisis) to the facts before them. The Courts of England and Wales are 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). The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (usually just referred to, as "The House of Lords") is presently the highest court in the land for both criminal and civil cases in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and any decision it makes is binding on every other court in the hierarchy.
Crime in England and Wales increased in the period between 1981 and 1995 though, since that peak, there has been an overall fall of 48% in crime from 1995 to 2007/8. Despite the fall in crime rates, the prison population of England and Wales has almost doubled over the same period, to over 80,000, giving England and Wales the highest rate of incarceration in Western Europe at 147 per 100,000. Her Majesty's Prison Service, which reports to the Ministry of Justice, manages most of the prisons within England and Wales.
See main article: Scots law.
Scots law, a hybrid system based on both common-law and civil-law principles, applies in Scotland. The chief courts are the Court of Session, for civil cases, and the High Court of Justiciary, for criminal cases. The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (usually just referred to as "The House of Lords") presently serves as the highest court of appeal for civil cases under Scots law but only if the Court of Session grants leave to appeal or the initial judgement was by a majority decision. Sheriff Courts deal with most civil and criminal cases including conducting criminal trials with a jury, known as Sheriff solemn Court, or with a Sheriff and no jury, known as (Sheriff summary Court). The Sheriff Courts provide a local court service with 49 Sheriff courts organised across six Sheriffdoms. The Scots legal system is unique in having three possible verdicts for a criminal trial: "guilty", "not guilty" and "not proven". Both "not guilty" and "not proven" result in an acquittal with no possibility of retrial.
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice is the member of the Scottish Government responsible for the police, the courts and criminal justice, and the Scottish Prison Service, which manages the prisons in Scotland. Though the level of recorded crime in 2007/8 has fallen to the lowest for 25 years, the prison population, at over 8,000, is hitting record levels and is well above design capacity.
The total area of the United Kingdom is approximately 245000km2 comprising of the island of Great Britain, the northeastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland (Northern Ireland) and smaller islands. It lies between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, coming within 35km of the northwest coast of France, from which it is separated by the English Channel. Great Britain lies between latitudes 49° and 59° N (the Shetland Islands reach to nearly 61° N), and longitudes 8° W to 2° E. The Royal Greenwich Observatory, near London, is the defining point of the Prime Meridian. When measured directly north-south, Great Britain is a little over 1100km in length and is a fraction under 500km at its widest, but the greatest distance between two points is 1350km between Land's End in Cornwall (near Penzance) and John o' Groats in Caithness (near Thurso). Northern Ireland shares a 3600NaN0 land boundary with the Republic of Ireland.
The United Kingdom has a temperate climate, with plentiful rainfall all year round. The temperature varies with the seasons but seldom drops below -10C or rises above . The prevailing wind is from the southwest, bearing frequent spells of mild and wet weather from the Atlantic Ocean. Eastern parts are most sheltered from this wind and are therefore the driest. Atlantic currents, warmed by the Gulf Stream, bring mild winters, especially in the west, where winters are wet, especially over high ground. Summers are warmest in the south east of England, being closest to the European mainland, and coolest in the north. Snowfall can occur in winter and early spring, though it rarely settles to great depth away from high ground.
England accounts for just over half of the total area of the UK, covering 130410km2. Most of the country consists of lowland terrain, with mountainous terrain north-west of the Tees-Exe line including the Cumbrian Mountains of the Lake District, the Pennines and limestone hills of the Peak District, Exmoor and Dartmoor. The main rivers and estuaries are the Thames, Severn and the Humber. England's highest mountain is Scafell Pike, which is in the Lake District 978m (3,209feet). England has a number of large towns and cities, including six of the top 50 Larger Urban Zones in the European Union.
Scotland accounts for about a third of the total area of the UK, covering 78772km2, including nearly eight hundred islands, mainly west and north of the mainland, notably the Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands. The topography of Scotland is distinguished by the Highland Boundary Fault a geological rock fracture which traverses the Scottish mainland from Helensburgh to Stonehaven. The faultline separates two distinctively different regions; namely the Highlands to the north and west and the lowlands to the south and east. The more rugged Highland region contains the majority of Scotland's mountainous terrain, including Ben Nevis, which at 1343m (4,406feet) is the highest point in the British Isles. Lowland areas, especially the narrow waist of land between the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth known as the Central Belt, are flatter and home to most of the population including Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, and Edinburgh, the capital and political centre of the country.
Wales accounts for less than a tenth of the total area of the UK, covering 20758km2. Wales is mostly mountainous, though south Wales is less mountainous than north and mid Wales. The main population and industrial areas are in south Wales, consisting of the coastal cities of Cardiff (the capital, political and economic centre), Swansea and Newport and the South Wales Valleys to their north. The highest mountains in Wales are in Snowdonia, and include Snowdon (Welsh: Yr Wyddfa), which, at 1,085 m (3,560 ft) is the highest peak in Wales. The 14 (or possibly 15) Welsh mountains over 3,000 feet (914 m) high are known collectively as the Welsh 3000s. Wales has over 1,200 km (750 miles) of coastline. There are several islands off the Welsh mainland, the largest of which is Anglesey (Ynys Môn) in the northwest.
Northern Ireland accounts for just 14160km2 and is mostly hilly. It includes Lough Neagh, at 388km2, the largest body of water in the UK and Ireland. The highest peak in Northern Ireland is Slieve Donard at 849m (2,785feet) in the Mourne Mountains.
See main article: List of largest United Kingdom settlements by population and List of conurbations in the United Kingdom. The capitals of the individual countries of the UK are: Belfast (Northern Ireland), Cardiff (Wales), Edinburgh (Scotland) and London (England); the latter is also the capital of the UK as a whole.
The largest conurbations are:
See main article: Demography of the United Kingdom.
A Census occurs simultaneously in all parts of the UK every ten years. The Office for National Statistics is responsible for collecting data for England and Wales with the General Register Office for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency each being responsible for censuses in their respective countries.
At the most recent census in 2001, the total population of the United Kingdom was 58,789,194, the third largest in the European Union, the fifth largest in the Commonwealth and the twenty-first largest in the world. By mid-2007, this was estimated to have grown to 60,975,000. Current population growth is mainly due to net immigration but a rising birth rate and increasing life expectancy have also contributed. The mid-2007 population estimates also revealed that, for the first time, the UK is now home to more people of pensionable age than children under the age of 16.
England's population by mid-2007 was estimated to be 51.1 million. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with 383 people resident per square kilometre in mid-2003, with a particular concentration in London and the South East. The mid-2007 estimates put Scotland's population at 5.1 milion, Wales at 3 million and Northern Ireland at 1.8 million with much lower population densities than England. Compared to England's 383PD/km2, the corresponding figures were 142PD/km2 for Wales, 125PD/km2 for Northern Ireland and just 65PD/km2 for Scotland in mid-2003.
In 2007, the average total fertility rate (TFR) across the UK was 1.90 children per woman. It is estimated that in 2008, the fertility of the United Kingdom climbed to 1.91 children per woman. While a rising birth rate is contributing to current population growth, it remains considerably below the 'baby boom' peak of 2.95 children per woman in 1964, below the replacement rate of 2.1, but higher than the 2001 record low of 1.63. England and Wales have birth rates of 1.92 and 1.90 respectively. Scotland had the lowest fertility at only 1.73 children per woman, while Northern Ireland had the highest at 2.02 children. The birth rate is higher amongst foreign-born women than UK-born women, although it is only the latter which is rising.
See main article: Immigration to the United Kingdom since 1922.
In contrast with some other European countries, immigration is contributing to a rising population, accounting for about half of the population increase between 1991 and 2001. Citizens of the European Union have the right to live and work in the United Kingdom and one in six immigrants were from Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004, with larger numbers coming from New Commonwealth countries. Transitional arrangements apply to Romanians and Bulgarians whose countries joined the EU in January 2007. Official figures showed that 2.3 million net migrants have moved to Britain since 1997, 84% of them from outside Europe, and a further 7 million are expected by 2031, though these figures are disputed. The latest official figures show that net immigration to the UK in 2007 was 237,000, up from the 191,000 the previous year. Though the proportion of foreign-born people in the UK remains slightly below that of some other European countries, the actual number may almost double to 9.1 million over the next two decades. At the same time, due to emigration, at least 5.5 million British-born people are living abroad, with Australia, Spain, and France being the top three destinations.
In 2006, there were 149,035 applications for British citizenship, 32% fewer than in 2005. The number of people granted citizenship during 2006 was 154,095, 5% fewer than in 2005. The largest groups of people granted British citizenship were from India, Pakistan, Somalia and the Philippines. 21.9% of babies born in England and Wales in 2006 were born to mothers who were born outside the UK, (146,956 out of 669,601), according to official statistics released in 2007.
Figures published in August 2007 indicated that 682,940 people applied to the Worker Registration Scheme (for nationals of the central and eastern European states that joined the EU in May 2004) between 1 May 2004 and 30 June 2007, of whom 656,395 were accepted. Self-employed workers and people who are not working (including students) are not required to register under the scheme so this figure represents a lower limit on immigration inflow. These figures do not indicate the number of immigrants who have since returned home, but 56% of applicants in the 12 months ending 30 June 2007 reported planning to stay for a maximum of three months, with net migration in 2005 from the new EU states standing at 64,000. Research suggests that a total of around 1 million people had moved from the new EU member states to the UK by April 2008, but that half this number have since returned home or moved on to a third country. One in every four Poles in the UK planned to remain for life, a survey has revealed. The 2008 economic crisis in the UK and the growing economy in Poland reduced the economic incentive for Poles to migrate to the UK.
The UK government is currently introducing a points-based immigration system for immigration from outside of the European Economic Area that will replace existing schemes, including the Scottish Government's Fresh Talent Initiative.
See main article: Ethnic groups in the United Kingdom.
The present day population of the UK is descended from varied ethnic stocks, mainly pre-Celtic, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman. Since 1945, substantial immigration from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia has been a legacy of ties forged by the British Empire. Migration from new EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe since 2004 has resulted in growth in these population groups, but, as of 2008, the trend is reversing and many of these migrants are returning home, leaving the size of these groups unknown. As of 2001, 92.1% of the population identified themselves as White, leaving 7.9% of the UK population identifying themselves as mixed race or ethnic minority.
Ethnic diversity varies significantly across the UK. 30.4% of London's population and 37.4% of Leicester's was estimated to be non-white as of June 2005, whereas less than 5% of the populations of North East England, Wales and the South West were from ethnic minorities according to the 2001 census. As of 2007, 22% of primary and 17.7% of secondary pupils at maintained schools in England were from ethnic minority families.
See main article: Languages of the United Kingdom.
The UK does not de jure have an official language but the predominant spoken language is English, a West Germanic language descended from Old English which features a large number of borrowings from Old Norse, Norman French and Latin. Largely due to the British Empire, the English language has spread across the world, and become the international language of business as well as the most widely taught second language. Scots, a language descended from early northern Middle English, is recognised at European level and is not just a dialect of English. There are also four Celtic languages in use in the UK: Welsh, Irish Gaelic (generally just referred to as Irish), Scottish Gaelic and Cornish. In the 2001 Census over a fifth (21%) of the population of Wales said they could speak Welsh, an increase from the 1991 Census (18%). In addition, it is estimated that about 200,000 Welsh speakers live in England. The 2001 census in Northern Ireland showed that 167,487 (10.4%) people "had some knowledge of Irish" (see Irish language in Northern Ireland), almost exclusively in the Catholic/nationalist population. Over 92,000 people in Scotland (just under 2% of the population) had some Gaelic language ability, including 72% of those living in Eilean Siar. Welsh and Scottish Gaelic are also spoken by small groups around the globe with some Gaelic still spoken in Nova Scotia, Canada, and Welsh in Patagonia, Argentina.
Across the United Kingdom, it is generally compulsory for pupils to study a second language to some extent: up to the age of 14 in England, and up to age 16 in Scotland. French and German are the two most commonly taught second languages in England and Scotland. In Wales, all pupils up to age 16 are either taught in Welsh or taught Welsh as a second language.
See main article: Religion in the United Kingdom.
The Treaty of Union that led to the formation of the United Kingdom ensured that there would be a protestant succession as well as a link between church and state that still remains. Christianity is the major religion, followed by Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and then Judaism in terms of number of adherents. The 2007 Tearfund Survey revealed 53% identified themselves as Christian which was similar to the 2004 British Social Attitudes Survey, and to the 2001 Census in which 71.6% said that Christianity was their religion, (though the latter used "a softer question".) However, the Tearfund survey showed only one in ten Britons actually attend church weekly. There is also a large and growing atheist and agnostic population . In the 2001 census, 9.1 million (15% of the UK population) claimed no religion, with a further 4.3 million (7% of the UK population) not stated. There is a disparity between the figures for those identifying themselves with a particular religion and for those proclaiming a belief in a God: research suggests that 38% of the population have a belief in a God with a further 40% believing in a 'spirit or life force'.
Christianity is the main religion in England with the Church of England (Anglican) the Established Church: the church retains a representation in the UK Parliament and the British monarch is a member of the church (required under Article 2 of the Treaty of Union) as well as its Supreme Governor. The Church of England also retains the right to draft legislative measures (related to religious administration) through the General Synod that can then be passed into law by Parliament. The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is the second largest Christian church with around five million members, mainly in England. There are also growing Orthodox, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, with Pentecostal churches in England now third after the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in terms of church attendance. Other large Christian groups include Methodists and Baptists.
The presbyterian Church of Scotland (known informally as The Kirk), is recognised as the national church of Scotland and not subject to state control. 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 Roman Catholic Church in Scotland is Scotland's second largest Christian church, representing a sixth of the population. The Scottish Episcopal Church, which is part of the Anglican Communion, dates from the final establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland in 1690, when it split from the Church of Scotland and is not a 'daughter church' of the Church of England. 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 became independent from the Church of England and became 'disestablished' but remains in the Anglican Communion. Methodism and other more independent churches are traditionally strong in Wales.
The main religious groups in Northern Ireland are organised on an all-Ireland basis. Though Protestants and Anglicans are in the overall majority, the Roman Catholic Church of Ireland is the largest single church. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, closely linked to the Church of Scotland in terms of theology and history, is the second largest church followed by the Church of Ireland (Anglican) which was disestablished in the nineteenth century.
At the 2001 census, there were 1,536,015 Muslims in England and Wales, forming 3% of the population. Muslims in Scotland numbered 42,557 representing 0.84% of the population. There were a further 1,943 Muslims in Northern Ireland. The biggest groups of Muslims are of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian origin. The 2006 controversy over the burqa, brought up in comments by politician Jack Straw, reflects a split between some Britons questioning Muslim integration with British society, and others who believe that wearing the veil is compatible with it, in Britain. According to the Office for National Statistics, the total number of Muslims in the UK in 2008 was 2,422,000.
Over 1 million people follow religions of Indian origin: 560,000 Hindus, 340,000 Sikhs with about 150,000 practising Buddhism. One non-governmental organisation estimates that there are 800,000 Hindus in the UK. Leicester houses one of the world's few Jain temples that are outside of India.
See main article: Economy of the United Kingdom.
The UK economy is made up (in descending order of size) of the economies of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Based on market exchange rates, the United Kingdom is today the fifth largest economy in the world and the second largest in Europe after Germany.
The Industrial Revolution started in the United Kingdom with an initial concentration on heavy industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining, steel production, and textiles. The empire created an overseas market for British products, allowing the UK to dominate international trade in the 19th century. However, as other nations industrialised, coupled with economic decline after two world wars, the United Kingdom began to lose its competitive advantage and heavy industry declined, by degrees, throughout the 20th century. Manufacturing remains a significant part of the economy, but accounted for only one-sixth of national output in 2003. The British motor industry is a significant part of this sector, although it has diminished with the collapse of the MG Rover Group 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 owner of Airbus. Rolls-Royce holds a major share of the global aerospace engines market. The chemical and pharmaceutical industry is strong in the UK, with the world's second and sixth largest pharmaceutical firms (GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, respectively) being based in the UK.
The UK service sector, however, has grown substantially, and now makes up about 73% of GDP. The service sector is dominated by financial services, especially in banking and insurance. London is the world's largest financial centre 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 of London. London is a major centre for international business and commerce and is the leader of the three "command centres" for the global economy (along with New York City and Tokyo). It 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, has one of the large financial centres of Europe and is the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, one of the world's largest banks.
Tourism is very important to the British economy. With over 27 million tourists arriving in 2004, the United Kingdom is ranked as the sixth major tourist destination in the world. London, by a considerable margin, is the most visited city in the world with 15.6 million visitors in 2006, ahead of 2nd placed Bangkok (10.4 million visitors) and 3rd placed Paris (9.7 million).
The United Kingdom's agriculture sector accounts for only 0.9% of the country's GDP.
The UK has a small coal reserve along with significant, yet continuously declining natural gas and oil reserves. Over 400 million tonnes of proven coal reserves have been identified in the UK. In 2004, total UK coal consumption (including imports) was 61 million tonnes, allowing the UK to be self sufficient in coal for just over 6.5 years, although at present extraction rates it would take 20 years to mine. An alternative to coal-fired electricity generation is underground coal gasification (UCG). UGC involves injecting steam and oxygen down a borehole, which extracts gas from the coal and draws the mixture to the surface - a potentially very low carbon method of exploiting coal. Identified onshore areas that have the potential for UGC amount to between 7 billion tonnes and 16 billion tonnes. Based on current UK coal consumption, these volumes represent reserves that could last the UK between 200 and 400 years.
Government involvement throughout the economy is exercised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (currently Alistair Darling) who heads HM Treasury, but the Prime Minister (currently The Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP), is First Lord of the Treasury; the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the Second Lord of the Treasury. In recent years, the UK economy has been managed in accordance with principles of market liberalisation and low taxation and regulation. Since 1997, the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, headed by the Governor of the Bank of England, has been responsible for setting interest rates at the level necessary to achieve the overall inflation target for the economy that is set by the Chancellor each year. The Scottish Government, subject to the approval of the Scottish Parliament, has the power to vary the basic rate of income tax payable in Scotland by plus or minus 3 pence in the pound, though this power has not yet been exercised.
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, and the British Prime Minister, The Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, has ruled out membership for the foreseeable future, saying that the decision not to join had been right for Britain and for Europe. The government of former Prime Minister Tony Blair had pledged to hold a public referendum for deciding membership should "five economic tests" be met. In 2005, more than half (55%) of the UK were against adopting the currency, while 30% were in favour.
See main article: Education in the United Kingdom.
Education in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales having separate systems.
Education in England is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, though the day to day administration and funding of state schools is the responsibility of Local Authorities (previously named Local Education Authorities). Universal state education in England and Wales was introduced for primary level in 1870 and secondary level in 1900. Education is mandatory from ages five to sixteen (15 if born in late July or August). The majority of children are educated in state-sector schools, only a small proportion of which select on the grounds of academic ability. Despite a fall in actual numbers, the proportion of children in England attending private schools has risen to over 7%. Just over half of students at the leading universities of Cambridge and Oxford had attended state schools. State schools which are allowed to select pupils according to intelligence and academic ability can achieve comparable results to the most selective private schools: out of the top ten performing schools in terms of GCSE results in 2006 two were state-run grammar schools. England has some of the top universities in the world; University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, and University of London are ranked among the top 20 in the 2007 THES - QS World University Rankings. There are fears, however, that a decline in the number of English students studying a foreign language will have a negative effect on business, which has led to calls for languages to be given greater priority. However, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss) rated pupils in England 7th in the world for Maths, and 6th for Science. The results put England's pupils ahead of other European countries, including Germany and Scandinavian countries.
Education in Scotland is the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, with day to day administration and funding of state schools the responsibility of Local Authorities. Two non-departmental public bodies have key roles in Scottish education: the Scottish Qualifications Authority is responsible for the development, accreditation, assessment and certification of qualifications other than degrees which are delivered at secondary schools, post-secondary colleges of further education and other centres; and Learning and Teaching Scotland provides advice, resources and staff development to the education community to promote curriculum development and create a culture of innovation, ambition and excellence. Scotland first legislated for compulsory education in 1496. The proportion of children in Scotland attending private schools is just over 4%, although it has been rising slowly in recent years. Scottish students who attend Scottish universities pay neither tuition fees nor graduate endowment charges as the fees were abolished in 2001 and the graduate endowment scheme was abolished in 2008.
Education in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Minister for Education, currently Caitríona Ruane (Sinn Féin), although responsibility at a local level is administered by five Education and Library Boards, covering different geographical areas. The 'Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) is the body responsible for advising the government on what should be taught in Northern Ireland's schools, monitoring standards and awarding qualifications.
The National Assembly for Wales has responsibility for education in Wales. A significant number of Welsh students are taught either wholly or largely in the Welsh language; lessons in Welsh are compulsory for all until the age of 16. There are plans to increase the provision of Welsh Medium schools as part of the policy of having a fully bi-lingual Wales.
See main article: Healthcare in the United Kingdom.
Healthcare in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter and England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have separate systems with different policies and priorities though the degree of co-operation usually conceals the difference from cross-border users of the services. The four systems provide public healthcare to all UK permanent residents that is free at the point of need and paid for from general taxation. A much smaller private medical system also exists. Various regulatory bodies are organised on a UK-wide basis such as the General Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and non-governmental-based (e.g. Royal Colleges). Across the UK, there is a large number of medical schools and dental schools, and a considerable establishment for training nurses and professions allied to medicine.
Healthcare in England is mainly provided by the National Health Service which today covers just England though originally it covered England and Wales. It was set up by the National Health Service Act 1946 that came into effect on 5 July 1948. The Department of Health exists to improve the health and wellbeing of people in England, and the Secretary of State for Health is answerable to the UK Parliament for the its work and for the work of the NHS. England's NHS is one of the largest cohesive organisations of any type in the world employing over 1.3 million people. Public sector healthcare delivery consists of primary (general practice), secondary (district general hospital) and tertiary (teaching hospital) levels of service. There is considerable interaction and cross-flow between the various levels. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, or NICE, advises on whether drugs or treatments should be provided by the NHS in England and Wales.
Healthcare in Scotland is mainly provided by NHS Scotland, Scotland's public healthcare system. The service was founded by the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1947 (later repealed by the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978) that took effect on 5 July 1948 to coincide with the launch of the NHS in England and Wales. However, even prior to 1948, half of Scotland's landmass was already covered by state funded healthcare, provided by the Highlands and Islands Medical Service. In 2006, NHS Scotland employed around 158,000 staff including more than 47,500 nurses, midwives and health visitors and over 3,800 consultants. In addition, there were also more than 12,000 doctors, family practitioners and allied health professionals, including dentists, opticians and community pharmacists, who operate as independent contractors providing a range of services within the NHS in return for fees and allowances. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing is responsible to the Scottish Parliament for the work of NHS Scotland.
Healthcare in Wales is mainly provided by NHS Wales. Originally formed as part of the same NHS structure created by the National Health Service Act 1946, power over the NHS in Wales was transferred to the Secretary of State for Wales in 1969. In turn, responsibility for NHS Wales was passed to the Welsh Assembly and Executive under devolution in 1999. NHS Wales provides public healthcare in Wales and employs some 90,000 staff, making it Wales’ biggest employer. The Minister for Health and Social Services is the person within the Welsh Assembly Government who holds cabinet responsibilities for both health and social care in Wales.
Healthcare in Northern Ireland is mainly provided by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
See main article: Transport in the United Kingdom.
The Highways Agency is the executive agency responsible for trunk roads and motorways in England apart from the privately owned and operated M6 Toll. The Department for Transport states that traffic congestion is one of the most serious transport problems and that it could cost England an extra £22 billion in wasted time by 2025 if left unchecked. According to the government-sponsored Eddington report of 2006, congestion is in danger of harming the economy, unless tackled by road pricing and expansion of the transport network.
The Scottish transport network is the responsibility of the Scottish Government's Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Department with Transport Scotland being the Executive Agency that is accountable to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth for Scotland's trunk roads and rail networks. Scotland's rail network has around 340 railway stations and 3,000 kilometres of track with over 62 million passenger journeys made each year. In 2008, The Scottish Government set out investment plans for the next 20 years, with priorities to include a new Forth Road Bridge and electrification of the rail network.
Across the UK, there is a radial road network of 46904km of main roads with a motorway network of 3497km. There are a further 213750km of paved roads. The rail network of 16,116 km (10,072 miles) in Great Britain and 303 route km (189 route mi) in Northern Ireland carries over 18,000 passenger trains and 1,000 freight trains daily. Urban rail networks are well developed in London and other cities. There was once over 48,000 route km (30,000 route mi) of rail network in the UK, however most of this was reduced over a time period from 1955 to 1975, much of it after a report by a government advisor Richard Beeching in the mid 1960s (known as the Beeching Axe). Plans are now being considered to build new high speed lines by 2025.
See main article: Sport in the United Kingdom.
Major sports including association football, rugby football, cricket, tennis and golf originated, or were substantially developed, in the United Kingdom. A 2006 poll found that football is the most popular sport in the United Kingdom.
In international competitions, separate teams represent England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in most team sports, as well as at the Commonwealth Games. (In sporting contexts, these teams can be referred to collectively as the Home Nations.) However, there are occasions where a single sports team represents the United Kingdom, including at the Olympics where the UK is represented by the Great Britain team.
See main article: Football in the United Kingdom.
Each of the home nations has its own football association, national team and league system, though a few clubs play outside their country's respective systems for a variety of historical and logistical reasons.
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete as separate countries in international competition and, as a consequence, the UK does not compete as a single team in football events at the Olympic Games. There are proposals to have a UK team take part in the 2012 Summer Olympics but the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations have declined to participate, fearing that it would undermine their independent status - a fear confirmed by FIFA president Sepp Blatter. England has been the most successful of the home nations, winning the World Cup on home soil in 1966, although there has historically been a close-fought rivalry between England and Scotland.
The English football league system includes hundreds of inter-linked leagues, consisting of thousands of divisions. The Premiership at the top, is the most-watched football league in the world and is particularly popular in Asia. Below this, The Football League has three divisions and then the Football Conference has a national division and two feeder regional leagues. Thereafter the structure becomes increasing regional. England is home to world-renowned football clubs such as Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea. English teams have been successful in European Competitions including some who have become European Cup/UEFA Champions League winners: Liverpool (five times), Manchester United (three times), Nottingham Forest (twice) and Aston Villa. More clubs from England have won the European Cup than any other country (four compared to three from Italy, Germany and the Netherlands). Moreover, England ranks second in the all time list of European club trophies won with 35, one behind Italy's 36. The European Cup competition itself came about as the result of the success of another English club, Wolverhampton Wanderers, against top European sides in the 1950s. The 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium is England's principal sporting stadium.
The Scottish football league system has two national leagues: the Scottish Premier League, the top division, and the Scottish Football League, which has three divisions. Below this, but not connected to the national leagues, are three regional leagues; the Highland Football League, the East of Scotland Football League and the South of Scotland Football League. One English club, Berwick Rangers, plays in the Scottish system. Scotland is home to two world-renowned football clubs in the Old Firm of Celtic and Rangers. Scottish teams that have been successful in European Competitions include Celtic (European Cup in 1967), Rangers (European Cup Winners' Cup in 1972) and Aberdeen (European Cup Winners' Cup and European Super Cup in 1983). Celtic were the first British club to win the European Cup.
The Welsh football league system includes the Welsh Premier League and regional leagues. Welsh Premiership club The New Saints play their home matches on the English side of the border in Oswestry. The Welsh clubs of Cardiff City F.C., Colwyn Bay F.C., Merthyr Tydfil F.C., Newport County A.F.C., Swansea City A.F.C. and Wrexham F.C. play in the English system. Cardiff's 76,250 seater Millennium Stadium is the principal sporting stadium of Wales.
Rugby union is organised on a separate basis for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland with each having a league system and an international team, though every four years a British and Irish Lions team tours Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, composed of players selected from all the Home nations. While England has won the Rugby Union World Cup, in 2003, Wales has achieved a best of third place and Scotland a best of fourth place. Ireland has not progressed beyond the quarter finals. Rugby league originates from and is generally played in Northern England and a single 'Great Britain' team had competed in the Rugby League World Cup but this will change in 2008 when England, Scotland and Ireland will compete as separate nations.
Cricket is claimed to have been invented in England (though recent research suggests it was actually invented in Belgium) and the England cricket team, controlled by the England and Wales Cricket Board, is the only national team in the UK with Test status. Team members are drawn from the main county sides, and include both English and Welsh players. Cricket is distinct from Football and Rugby where Wales and England field separate national teams. Irish and Scottish players have played for England because neither Scotland nor Ireland have Test status and have only recently started to play in One Day Internationals. Scotland, England (and Wales), and Ireland (including Northern Ireland) have competed at the Cricket World Cup, with England reaching the Final three times. There is a professional league championship in which clubs representing 17 English counties and 1 Welsh county compete.
The game of tennis first originated from the city of Birmingham between 1859 and 1865. The Championships, Wimbledon are international tennis events held in Wimbledon in south London every summer and are regarded as the most prestigious event of the global tennis calendar.
Thoroughbred racing, which originated under Charles II of England as the "sport of kings", is popular throughout the UK with world-famous races including the Grand National, the Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot. The town of Newmarket is considered the centre of English racing, largely due to the famous Newmarket Racecourse.
The UK has proved successful in the international sporting arena in rowing. It is widely considered that the sport's most successful rower is Steve 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.
Shinty (or camanachd) is popular in the Scottish Highlands, sometimes attracting crowds numbering thousands in the most sparsely populated region of the UK, especially to watch the final of its premier tournament, the Camanachd Cup.
The UK 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 hosts legs of the F1 and World Rally Championship and has its own touring car racing championship, the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC). The British Grand Prix takes place at Silverstone each July.
Dancesport or competitive Ballroom dancing has its origins in the UK when popular dancing at the time was codified by British dance schools from the 1920s onwards. The UK remains a major centre for the sport and Ballroom dancing in general with the Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool being a popular venue for major competitions.
See main article: Culture of the United Kingdom. The culture of the United Kingdom - British culture - is informed by the UK's history as a developed island country, monarchy, imperial power and, particularly, as a political union of four countries, which each have their own preserved and distinctive heritage, customs and symbolism. As a result of the British Empire, British influence can be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former colonies such as Canada, Australia, India, and the United States.
See main article: Cinema of the United Kingdom. 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. Particularly between British and American film, many films are often co-produced or share actors with many British actors now featuring regularly in Hollywood films. The BFI Top 100 British films is a poll conducted by the British Film Institute which ranks what they consider to be the 100 greatest British films of all time.
See main article: British literature.
'British literature' refers to literature associated with the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands as well as to literature from England, Wales and Scotland prior to the formation of the United Kingdom. Most British literature is in the English language.
The English playwright and poet William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest dramatist of all time. Among the earliest English writers are Geoffrey of Monmouth (12th century), Geoffrey Chaucer (14th century), and Thomas Malory (15th century). In the 18th century, Samuel Richardson is often credited with inventing the modern novel. In the 19th century, there followed further innovation by Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, the social campaigner Charles Dickens, the naturalist Thomas Hardy, the visionary poet William Blake and romantic poet William Wordsworth. Twentieth century writers include the science fiction novelist H. G. Wells, the controversial D. H. Lawrence, the modernist Virginia Woolf, the satirist, Evelyn Waugh, the prophetic novelist George Orwell, the popular novelist, Graham Greene, and the poets John Betjeman and Philip Larkin. Most recently, the children's fantasy Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling has recalled the popularity of J. R. R. Tolkien.
Scotland's contribution includes the detective writer Arthur Conan Doyle, romantic literature by Sir Walter Scott and the epic adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson. It has also produced the celebrated poet Robert Burns, as well as William McGonagall, regarded by many as one of the world's worst. More recently, the modernist and nationalist Hugh MacDiarmid and Neil M. Gunn contributed to the Scottish Renaissance. A more grim outlook is found in Ian Rankin's stories and the psychological horror-comedy of Iain Banks. Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, is UNESCO's first worldwide city of literature.
Authors from other nationalities, particularly from Ireland, or from Commonwealth countries, have lived and worked in the UK. Significant examples through the centuries include Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Joseph Conrad, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, and more recently British authors born abroad such as Kazuo Ishiguro and Sir Salman Rushdie.
In theatre, Shakespeare's contemporaries Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson added depth. More recently Alan Ayckbourn, Harold Pinter, Michael Frayn, Tom Stoppard and David Edgar have combined elements of surrealism, realism and radicalism.
See main article: Media in the United Kingdom.
The prominence of the English language gives the UK media a widespread international dimension.
See main article: Television in the United Kingdom.
There are five major nationwide television channels in the UK: BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Five - currently transmitted by analogue terrestrial, free-to-air signals with the latter three channels funded by commercial advertising. In Wales, S4C the Welsh Fourth Channel replaces Channel 4, carrying Welsh language programmes at peak times. It also transmits Channel 4 programmes at other times.
The BBC is the UK's publicly funded radio, television and internet broadcasting corporation, and is the oldest and largest broadcaster in the world. It operates several television channels and radio stations in both the UK and abroad. The BBC's international television news service, BBC World News, is broadcast throughout the world and the BBC World Service radio network is broadcast in thirty-three languages globally, as well as services in Welsh on BBC Radio Cymru and programmes in Gaelic on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal in Scotland and Irish in Northern Ireland.
The domestic services of the BBC are funded by the television licence. The BBC World Service Radio is funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the television stations are operated by BBC Worldwide on a commercial subscription basis over cable and satellite services. It is this commercial arm of the BBC that forms half of UKTV along with Virgin Media.
The UK now has a large number of digital terrestrial channels including a further six from the BBC, five from ITV and three from Channel 4, and one from S4C which is solely in Welsh, among a variety of others.
The vast majority of digital cable television services are provided by Virgin Media with satellite television available from Freesat or British Sky Broadcasting and free-to-air digital terrestrial television by Freeview. The entire UK 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 hundreds of mainly local commercial radio stations across the country offering a variety of music or talk formats.
See main article: Internet in the United Kingdom. The Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for the United Kingdom is .uk. However, a Scottish Government working group is making preparations to bid to create a Scottish web domain - ".sco" or ".scot" - in 2009.
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: 3.1 million, approximately a quarter of the market. Its sister paper, the News of the World has the highest circulation in the Sunday newspaper market, and traditionally focuses on celebrity-led stories. The Daily Telegraph, a right wing broadsheet paper, is the highest-selling of the "quality" newspapers. The Guardian is a more liberal "quality" broadsheet and the Financial Times is the main business newspaper, printed on distinctive salmon-pink broadsheet paper.
First printed in 1737, The News Letter from Belfast, is the oldest known English-language daily newspaper still in publication today. One of its fellow Northern Irish competitors, The Irish News, has been twice ranked as the best regional newspaper in the United Kingdom, in 2006 and 2007.
Scotland has a distinct tradition of newspaper readership (see list of newspapers in Scotland). The tabloid Daily Record has the highest circulation of any daily newspaper outselling the Scottish Sun by four to one while its sister paper, the Sunday Mail similarly leads the Sunday newspaper market. The leading "quality" daily newspaper in Scotland is The Herald, though it is the sister paper of The Scotsman, the Scotland on Sunday, that leads in the Sunday newspaper market.
See main article: Music of the United Kingdom.
Various styles of music are popular, from the indigenous folk music of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, to Heavy metal. Glasgow's contribution to the music scene was recognised in 2008 when it was named a United Nations City of Music, one of only three cities in the world to have this honour.
Prominent among the UK contributors to the development of rock music in the 1960s and 1970s were The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Status Quo, Slade, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Queen, and Black Sabbath. UK artists have made significant contributions to other worldwide genres such as heavy metal, hard rock, punk rock, New Wave, New Romantic, indie rock, techno, and electronica. Notable artists have been the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Smiths, Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, Massive Attack and The Prodigy. There are also a number of popular music genres which have emerged from the UK and have been exported to the rest of the world. Examples of these are 2-Tone, trip hop, indie pop, Britpop, shoegaze, hard house and dubstep. Most recently, internationally popular music artists have included Radiohead, the Spice Girls, Coldplay, Amy Winehouse and Leona Lewis.
Notable composers of classical music from the United Kingdom and the countries that preceded it include William Byrd, Henry Purcell, Sir Edward Elgar, Gustav Holst, Sir Arthur Sullivan (most famous for working with librettist Sir W. S. Gilbert), Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Benjamin Britten, pioneer of modern British opera. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is one of the foremost living composers and current Master of the Queen's Music. The UK is also home to world-renowned symphonic orchestras and choruses such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Chorus. Notable conductors include Sir Simon Rattle, John Barbirolli and Sir Malcolm Sargent.
The United Kingdom is famous for the tradition of "British Empiricism", a branch of the philosophy of knowledge that states that only knowledge verified by experience is valid. The most famous philosophers of this tradition are John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume. Britain is notable for a theory of moral philosophy, Utilitarianism, first used by Jeremy Bentham and later by John Stuart Mill, in his short work Utilitarianism. Other eminent philosophers from the UK and the states that preceded it include Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Thomas Hobbes, Bertrand Russell, Adam Smith and Alfred Ayer. Foreign-born philosophers who settled in the UK include Isaiah Berlin, Karl Marx, Karl Popper, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
The United Kingdom and the countries that preceded it have produced scientists and engineers credited with important advances, including;
Notable civil engineering projects, whose pioneers included Isambard Kingdom Brunel, contributed to the world's first national railway transport system. Other advances pioneered in the UK include the marine chronometer, the jet engine, the modern bicycle, electric lighting, the electric motor, the screw propeller, the internal combustion engine, military radar, the electronic computer, vaccination and antibiotics.
Scientific journals produced in the UK include Nature, the British Medical Journal and The Lancet. In 2006, it was reported that the UK provided 9% of the world's scientific research papers and a 12% share of citations, the second highest in the world after the US.
See main article: Art of the United Kingdom.
The Royal Academy is located in London. Other major schools of art include the Slade School of Fine Art; the six-school University of the Arts London, which includes the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and Chelsea College of Art and Design; the Glasgow School of Art, and Goldsmiths, University of London. This commercial venture is one of Britain's foremost visual arts organisations. Major British artists include Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable, William Blake, J. M. W. Turner, William Morris, L. S. Lowry, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Gilbert and George, Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake, Howard Hodgkin, Antony Gormley, and Anish Kapoor. During the late 1980s and 1990s, the Saatchi Gallery in London brought to public attention a group of multigenre artists who would become known as the Young British Artists. Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili, Rachel Whiteread, Tracey Emin, Mark Wallinger, Steve McQueen, Sam Taylor-Wood, and the Chapman Brothers are among the better known members of this loosely affiliated movement.
See main article: Symbols of the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
The flag of the United Kingdom is the Union Flag. It was created by the superimposition of the Flag of England, the Flag of Scotland and Saint Patrick's Flag in 1801. Wales is not represented in the Union Flag as Wales had been conquered and annexed to England prior to the formation of the United Kingdom. However, the possibility of redesigning the Union Flag to include representation of Wales has not been completely ruled out. The national anthem of the United Kingdom is "God Save the King", with "King" replaced with "Queen" in the lyrics whenever the monarch is a woman. The anthem's name remains "God Save the King".
Britannia is a national personification of the United Kingdom, originating from Roman Britain. 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!. The lion symbol is depicted behind Britannia on the British fifty pence coin and one is shown crowned on the back of the British ten pence coin. It is also used as a symbol on the non-ceremonial flag of the British Army. The bulldog is sometimes used as a symbol of the United Kingdom and has been associated with Winston Churchill's defiance of Nazi Germany.
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. Niall Ferguson. 2003. Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order. Basic Books. 0465023282.