United Kingdom

From Free net encyclopedia

For other meanings of the terms "United Kingdom" and "UK”, see United Kingdom (disambiguation) and UK (disambiguation). For an explanation of these and terms such as Great Britain, British, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, see British Isles (terminology).

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1{{#if:{{{conventional_long_name|}}}|
Image:Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Image:UK Royal Coat of Arms.png
Flag [[{{{symbol_type_article|{{{symbol_type|Coat of arms}}}}}} of the United Kingdom|{{{symbol_type|Coat of arms}}}]]
Motto: Dieu et mon droit
(Royal motto; French for "God and my right") 3
Anthem: God Save the Queen4
Capital London
Template:Coor dm
{{{largest_settlement_type|Largest city}}} London}}}
Official language(s) English de facto 5
Government Constitutional monarchy
HM Queen Elizabeth II
The Rt Hon Tony Blair MP
 - Total
 - Water (%)
244,820 km² (80th)
94,526 sq mi 
 - 2004 est.{{#if:{{{population_census|}}}|
 - 2001 census}}
 - Density
243/km² (33rd)
629/sq mi 
 - Total
 - Per capita
2005 estimate
$1.867 trillion (6th)
$30,900 (14th)
HDI (2003) 0.939 (15th) – high
Currency Pound sterling (£) (GBP)
Time zone
 - Summer (DST)
BST (UTC+1)}}}
Internet TLD .uk8
Calling code +44 {{#if:{{{footnotes|}}}|<tr><td colspan="2">{{{footnotes|}}}

Coordinates: Template:Coor dm The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (usually shortened to the United Kingdom, or the UK) occupies part of the British Isles in northwestern Europe, with most of its territory and population on the island of Great Britain. It shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland on the island of Ireland and is otherwise surrounded by the North Sea, the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.

The United Kingdom, often referred to as "Britain", is a constitutional monarchy and unitary state composed through a political union of four constituent entities: the three constituent countries of England, Scotland and Wales (known as the Home Nations) on Great Britain, and the province of Northern Ireland on the island of Ireland. The UK is often incorrectly referred to by those unfamiliar with it as 'England'. England in fact is just one of the four home nations. The UK has several overseas territories, including Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, and through the Crown has a constitutional relationship with the Crown dependencies of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The UK has close relationships with the fifteen other Commonwealth Realms, which share the same monarch as head of state. The UK has a highly developed economy and the fifth-largest Gross domestic product in the world. It is one of the most populous states of the European Union and is a founding partner of the UN (holding a permanent seat on the Security Council) and NATO. The UK is also one of the world's major nuclear powers.




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The present United Kingdom is the latest of several unions formed over the last 840 years. Scotland and England have existed as separate political entities since the 9th century. Wales, under the control of English monarchs from the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284, became part of the Kingdom of England by the Laws in Wales Act 1535. With the Act of Union 1707, the independent states of England and Scotland, having been in personal union since 1603, agreed to a political union as the Kingdom of Great Britain.

The Act of Union 1800 united the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland, which had been gradually brought under English control between 1169 and 1691, to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Independence for the now Republic of Ireland in 1922 brought the partition of the island of Ireland, with six of the nine counties of the province of Ulster remaining within the UK, which changed to the current name in 1929 in recognition.

The United Kingdom, the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century, is often credited with being the nation that "created the modern world", by playing a leading role in developing Western ideas of property, capitalism and parliamentary democracy—to say nothing of its part in advancing world literature, science and technology. At its zenith, the British Empire stretched over one quarter of the Earth's surface and encompassed a third of its population - making it the largest empire in history. The first half of the 20th century saw the UK's strength seriously depleted from the effects of World War I and World War II. The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous nation.

The UK has been a member of the European Union since 1973. The attitude of the present government towards further integration is conservative, with the official opposition favouring a return of some powers and competencies to the UK. It has not chosen to adopt the Euro as domestic political opinion runs strongly against such a move, whilst the government itself has not seen fit to advance membership based on a judgement of the economic costs and benefits in doing so.


Government and politics



The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, with executive power exercised on behalf of the Queen by the Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers who head departments. The cabinet, including the Prime Minister, and other ministers collectively make up Her Majesty's Government. These ministers are drawn from and are responsible to Parliament, the legislative body, which is traditionally considered to be "supreme" (that is, able to legislate on any matter and not bound by decisions of its predecessors). The UK is one of the few countries in the world today that does not have a codified constitution, relying instead on customs and separate pieces of constitutional law.

While the monarch is Head of State and theoretically holds all executive power, it is the Prime Minister who is the head of government. The government is answerable chiefly to the House of Commons and the Prime Minister is drawn from this chamber of Parliament by constitutional convention. The majority of cabinet members will be from the House of Commons, the rest from the House of Lords. Ministers do not, however, legally have to come from Parliament, though that is the modern day custom. The British system of government has been emulated around the world - a legacy of the United Kingdom's colonial past - most notably in the other Commonwealth Realms. The Prime Minister is chosen as the MP who can command a majority in the House of Commons - usually the leader of the largest party or, if there is no majority party, the largest coalition. The current Prime Minister is Tony Blair of the Labour Party, who has been in office since 1997.

In the United Kingdom the monarch has extensive theoretical powers, but his or her role is mainly, though not exclusively, ceremonial. The monarch is an integral part of Parliament (as the "Crown-in-Parliament") and theoretically gives Parliament the power to meet and create legislation. An Act of Parliament does not become law until it has been signed by the Queen (known as Royal Assent), although no monarch has refused assent to a bill that has been approved by Parliament since Queen Anne in 1708). Although the abolition of the monarchy has been suggested several times, the popularity of the monarchy remains strong in spite of recent controversies. Support for a British republic usually fluctuates between 15% and 25% of the population, with roughly 10% undecided or indifferent [1]. The current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II who acceded to the throne in 1952 and was crowned in 1953.

Parliament is the national legislature of the United Kingdom. It is the ultimate legislative authority in the United Kingdom, according to the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty (however, questions over sovereignty have been brought forward due to the U.K's entry in to the European Union). It is bicameral, composed of the elected House of Commons and the unelected House of Lords, whose members are mostly appointed. The House of Commons is the more powerful of the two houses. The House of Commons houses 646 members who are directly elected from single-member constituencies based on population. The House of Lords has 724 members (though this number is not fixed), constituted of hereditary peers, life peers, and bishops of the Church of England. The Church of England is the established church of the state in England.


Since the 1920s, the two largest political parties in British politics have been the Labour Party and Conservative Party. Though coalition and minority governments have been an occasional feature of Parliamentary politics, the first-past-the-post electoral system used for general elections tends to maintain the dominance of these two parties, though each has in the past century relied upon a third party to deliver a working majority in Parliament. The Liberal Democrats are the third major party in the UK parliament and actively seek a reform of the electoral system to address the dominance of the two-party system.

Though many in the United Kingdom consider themselves 'British' as well as 'Welsh', 'English', 'Scottish' or 'Irish' (and increasingly also 'Afro-Caribbean', 'Indian' or 'Pakistani'), there has long been a widespread sense of separate national identities in the nations of Wales and Scotland and amongst the Catholic community in Northern Ireland. Independence for the Republic of Ireland in 1922 provided only a partial solution to what had been termed in the 19th Century the 'Irish Question', and competing demands for a united Ireland or continued union with Great Britain have brought civil strife and political instability up to the present day.

Though 'nationalist' (as opposed to 'unionist') tendencies have shifted over time in Scotland and Wales, with the Scottish National Party founded in 1934 and Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales) in 1925, a serious political crisis threatening the integrity of the United Kingdom as a state has not occurred since the 1970s. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each possess a legislature and government alongside that for the United Kingdom. However, this increased autonomy and devolution of executive and legislative powers has not contributed to a reduction in support for independence from the UK, with the rise of new pro-independence parties: for example the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party.

The contradictions the West Lothian Question places upon the state may yet prove to be considerable. There is currently little appetite, outside of smaller parties such as the English Democrats, for a devolved English parliament, although senior Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have voiced supportTemplate:Citation needed. Proposals for English regional government have stalled, following a disastrous referendum on devolved government for the North-East of England, which was hitherto considered the region most in favour of the idea. England is therefore governed according to the balance of parties across the whole of the United Kingdom.

The well-received resurgence in Celtic (Welsh, Scottish, Irish and Cornish) cultures and languages, as well as 'regional' politics and development, have contributed to the forces pulling against the unity of the state. However, there is at present little sign of any imminent 'crisis' (at the last General Election, both the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru saw their percentage of the overall vote drop, though the SNP did gain two more seats). In Northern Ireland there has been a large drop in violence over the last twenty years, though the situation remains tense, with the more hardline parties, such as Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists, now holding the most parliamentary seats.


Template:Main Image:Parliament House, Edinburgh.JPG The UK has three distinct systems of law. English law which applies in England and Wales; and Northern Ireland law which applies in Northern Ireland, are based on common law principles. Scots law which applies in Scotland is a hybrid system based on both common law and civil law principles. The separate systems of law date from the Act of Union 1707 which guaranteed the continued existence of a separate law system in Scotland.

The House of Lords is the highest court in the land for all criminal and civil cases in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland; and for all civil cases in Scots law. Recent constitutional changes will see the powers of the House of Lords transfer to a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

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

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


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Most of England consists of rolling lowland terrain, divided east from west by more mountainous terrain in the Northwest (Cumbrian Mountains of the Lake District) and north (the upland moors of the Pennines) and limestone hills of the Peak District by the Tees-Exe line. The lower limestone hills of the Isle of Purbeck, Cotswolds, Lincolnshire and chalk downs of the Southern England Chalk Formation. The main rivers and estuaries are the Thames, Severn and the Humber Estuary. The largest urban area is Greater London. Near Dover, the Channel Tunnel links the United Kingdom with France. There is no peak in England that is 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) or greater.

Scotland's geography is varied, with lowlands in the south and east and highlands in the north and west, including Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles at 1,344 metres (4,408 ft). There are many long and deep-sea arms, firths, and lochs. Scotland has nearly 800 islands, mainly west and north of the mainland, notably the Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands. The capital city is Edinburgh, the centre of which is a World Heritage Site. The largest city is Glasgow.

Wales is mostly mountainous, the highest peak being Snowdon at 1,085 metres (3,560 ft) above sea level. North of the mainland is the island of Anglesey. The largest and capital city is Cardiff, located in South Wales.

Northern Ireland, making up the north-eastern part of Ireland, is mostly hilly. The main cities are Belfast ('Béal Feirste' in Irish) and Londonderry / Derry ('Doire' in Irish). The province is home to one of the UK’s World Heritage Sites, the Giant's Causeway, which consists of more than 40,000 six-sided basalt columns up to 40 feet (12 m) high. Lough Neagh, the largest body of water in the British Isles, by surface area (388 km² / 150 mi²), can be found in Northern Ireland.

In total it is estimated that the UK includes around 1,098 small islands, some being natural and some being crannogs, a type of artificial island which was built in past times using stone and wood, gradually enlarged by natural waste building up over time.


There are many different statistics and debates on what are the UK's largest cities as each city is left to decide its own metropolitan area population but the cities listed below are generally considered to have a metropolitan area population over one million people:



At the April 2001 UK Census, the United Kingdom's population was 58,789,194, the third-largest in the European Union (behind Germany and France) and the twenty-first largest in the world. This had been estimated up to 59,834,300 by the Office of National Statistics in 2004. Its overall population density is one of the highest in the world. Almost one-third of the population lives in England's prosperous south-east and is predominantly urban and suburban--with about 7.2 million in the capital of London. The United Kingdom's high literacy rate (99%) is attributable to universal public education introduced for the primary level in 1870 and secondary level in 1900 (except in Scotland where it was introduced in 1696, see Education in Scotland). Education is mandatory from ages five to sixteen.

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As a group of islands close to continental Europe, the British Isles have been subject to many invasions and migrations, especially from Scandinavia and the continent, including Roman occupation for several centuries. Contemporary Britons are descended mainly from the varied ethnic stocks that settled there before the eleventh century. The pre-Celtic, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse influences were blended on Great Britain under the Normans, Scandinavian Vikings who had lived in Northern France.



The predominant language of the United Kingdom is English, which is a West Germanic language descended from Old English, featuring a large amount of borrowings from Norman French. Other indigenous languages include the Celtic languages which are in two groups: the P-Celtic languages (Welsh and the Cornish language); and the Q-Celtic languages (Irish and Scots Gaelic).

The English language has spread to all corners of the world (primarily because of the British Empire) and is referred to as a "global language". Worldwide, it is taught as a second language more than any other. The United Kingdom's Celtic languages are also spoken by small groups around the globe, including Gaelic in Canada and Welsh in Argentina.

Additional indigenous languages are Scots, which is closely related to English; Romany; and British Sign Language (Northern Ireland Sign Language is also used in Northern Ireland). Celtic dialectal influences from Cumbric persisted in Northern England for many centuries, most famously in a unique set of numbers used for counting sheep.

Recent immigrants, especially from the Commonwealth, speak many other languages, including Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, and Cantonese. The United Kingdom has the largest number of Hindi-speaking peoples outside the Indian subcontinent.


Template:Main Image:Canterbury Cathedral - Portal Nave Cross-spire.jpeg The main religion in the UK is Christianity, first introduced by the Romans. Each home nation has their own church hierarchies.

The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England, and acts as the 'mother' and senior branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Established in 597 by Augustine of Canterbury on behalf of Pope Gregory I, the Church split from Rome in 1534 during the reign of Henry VIII of England. The Church of England is a state church, and its bishops sit in the House of Lords. The British monarch is required to be a member of the Church of England under the Act of Settlement 1701 and is the Supreme Governor. The Church of England is based at Canterbury Cathedral and the Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior clergyman.

The Church of Scotland (known informally as The Kirk) is the national church of Scotland. It is a Presbyterian church and is not subject to state control. The British monarch is an ordinary member, although the monarch is required to swear an oath to "defend the security" of the Church at their coronation. Splits in the Church since the reformation have led to the creation of various other Presbyterian churches in Scotland including the Free Church of Scotland and the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

In Wales, the Church in Wales was disestablished in the 1920s, although remains in the Anglican community. The Church of Ireland was disestablished in the 19th century.

The Catholic Church in Great Britain is the second largest denomination of Christianity in the UK. Although after the reformation, strict laws were passed against Catholics; these were removed by the Catholic Emancipation laws in the 1850s. The Catholic hierarchy is separate in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

In the latter half of the 20th century, large scale immigration from the Commonwealth countries has led to the introduction of other religions that are popular amongst ethnic minorities. This has included religions such as Islam (see Islam in the United Kingdom), Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism.

Religions claiming pre-Christian British origins, such as Wicca and Neo-druidism, retain some followers, although actual numbers are not known.

Just over three quarters of the population reported having a religion in the 2001 census[2]. There is evidence that atheism and agnosticism have grown in the United Kingdom over the last 40 years; according to a recent poll 35% of all residents now consider themselves to be either atheist or agnostic. [3].


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The British economy is based on the Anglo-Saxon model, focusing on the principles of liberalisation, the free market, and low taxation and regulation. Based on market exchange rates, the United Kingdom is the fourth largest economy in the world; and the sixth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates.

The UK economy was the first in the world to enter the Industrial Revolution, and initially concentrated on heavy industry such as shipbuilding, coal mining, steel production and textiles. The British Empire created an overseas market for British produce, allowing the UK to dominate international trade in the 19th century. However, as other nations began to industrialise, the UK began to lose its economic advantage, and heavy industry declined throughout the 20th century. The service sector however has grown substantially, and now makes up 72% of GDP.

The service sector is dominated by financial services, including banking and insurance. The City of London is one of the largest financial centres in the world, with the London Stock Exchange, the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange, and the Lloyd's of London insurance market all based here. The City also has the largest concentration of foreign bank branches in the world. In the past decade, a rival financial centre in London has grown in the Docklands area, with HSBC, Citigroup and Barclays Bank all relocating their head offices here. The Scottish capital, Edinburgh also has a large financial sector, the sixth largest in Europe.

Tourism is also important: with over 24 million tourists a year, the United Kingdom is ranked as the sixth major tourist destination in the world, between China (33) and Austria (19.1).

The manufacturing sector, although greatly diminished after World War II, is still significant to the UK economy. However, although the sector accounted for only 16% of national output in 2003, it is still significant to international trade, accounting for 83% of all exports. The British motor industry is a significant part of the manufacturing sector, although all volume producers are now foreign owned. Civil and defence aircraft production is led by the UK's largest aerospace firm, BAE Systems, and the pan European consortium, Airbus. The British manufacturer, Rolls Royce dominates the global aerospace engines market. The chemical and pharmaceutical industry is also strong in the UK, with the world's second and third largest pharmaceutical firms (GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca respectively) being based in the UK. Image:Bank Of England20.gif The UK's Agriculture sector is small by European standards, accounting for only 0.9% of GDP. The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves; primary energy production accounts for 10% of GDP, one of the highest shares of any industrial state.

The currency of the UK is Pound Sterling, represented by the symbol (£). The Bank of England is the central bank and is responsible for issuing currency, although 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 on that currency's launch, although the government has pledged to hold a public referendum for deciding membership if "five economic tests" are met. Currently UK public opinion is against the notion.

Administrative subdivisions

Template:Main Image:ManchesterTownHall OwlofDoom.jpg The United Kingdom is divided into four constituent parts, commonly referred to as the home nations. Each nation is further subdivided for the purposes of local government. The Queen appoints a Lord-Lieutenant as her personal representative in lieutenancy areas across the UK. The following table highlights the arrangements for local government, lieutenancy areas and cities across the home nations of the UK:

Image:Flag of England.svg England 49,138,000 Regions
Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties
Lieutenancy areas
English Cities
Image:Flag of Scotland.svg Scotland 5,062,000 Council areas
Lieutenancy areas
Scottish Cities
Image:Flag of Wales.svg Wales 2,903,000 Unitary authorities
Lieutenancy areas
Welsh Cities
Image:Flag of Northern Ireland.svg Northern Ireland 1,685,000 Districts Irish Cities

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

As England's population is an order of magnitude larger than the others so in recent years it has for some purposes been divided into nine intermediate-level Government Office Regions. Each region is made up of counties and unitary authorities, apart from London, which consists of London boroughs. Although at one point it was intended that each or some of these regions would be given its own regional assembly, the plan's future is uncertain, as of 2004, after the North East region rejected its proposed assembly in a referendum.

City status is governed by Royal Charter. There are currently 66 British cities (50 in england; 6 in Scotland; 5 in Wales; and 5 in Northern Ireland).

The Crown has sovereignty over the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, and the Isle of Man, known collectively as the crown dependencies. These are lands historically owned by the British monarch, but not considered part of the United Kingdom itself. However, the Parliament of the United Kingdom has the authority to pass legislate for the dependencies, and the British government manages their foreign affairs and defence.

The UK also has 16 overseas territories around the world, the last remaining parts of the British Empire. The overseas territories are also not considered part of the UK, but the local populations have British citizenship and the right to abode in the UK.


Template:Main Image:HMS Illustrious 1.jpg The armed forces of the United Kingdom are known as the British Armed Forces or Her Majesty's Armed Forces, but officially Armed Forces of the Crown. Their Commander-in-Chief is Queen Elizabeth II and they are managed by the Ministry of Defence.

The British Armed Forces are charged with protecting the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, promoting the United Kingdom's wider security interests, and supporting international peacekeeping efforts. They are active and regular participants in NATO and other coalition operations. The United Kingdom fields one of the most powerful and comprehensive military forces in the World. Its global power projection capabilities are second only to those of the United States Armed Forces.

The British Army had a reported strength of 102,440 in 2005 and the Royal Air Force a strength of 49,210. The 36,320-member Royal Navy is in charge of the United Kingdom's independent strategic nuclear arm, which consists of four Trident Ballistic Missile Submarines, while the Royal Marines provide infantry units for amphibious assault and for specialist reinforcement forces in and beyond the NATO area. This puts total active duty military troops in the 190,000 range, currently deployed in over 80 countries. 9% of the regular Armed Forces are women, a figure that is higher still for the reserve forces.

The UK's Special Forces, principally the SAS, provide elite commandos trained for quick, mobile, military responses; often where secrecy or covert operations are required. They are, proverbially, the finest in the world, and indeed, the first such unit to be formed. The Royal Navy is the second largest navy in the World in terms of gross tonnage. Despite the United Kingdom's wide ranging capabilities, recent pragmatic defence policy has a stated assumption that any large operation would be undertaken as part of a coalition. Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq (Granby, No-Fly-Zones, Desert Fox and Telic) may all be taken as precedent - indeed the last war in which the British military fought alone was the Falklands War of 1982.



Education and science

The United Kingdom contains some of the world's leading universities, including the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the University of London (which incorporates, amongst others, King's College London, Imperial College London, The London School of Economics and University College London). It has produced many great scholars, scientists and engineers including Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, James Clark Maxwell, Lord Kelvin, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel; the nation is credited with many inventions including the locomotive, vaccination, television, the railway, and both the internal combustion and the jet engine.

In 2006, it was reported that the UK was the most productive source of research after the United States; with the UK producing, for instance, 9% of the world's scientific research papers with a 12% share of citations [4].


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Playwright William Shakespeare is arguably the most famous writer in the history of the English language; other well-known writers from the United Kingdom include the Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne), Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, John Milton, Oscar Wilde, H. G. Wells, Charles Dickens, J.M.Barrie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Orwell. Important poets include: Geoffrey Chaucer, William Blake, Lord Byron, Robert Burns and Lord Tennyson.



Notable composers from the United Kingdom have included William Byrd, John Taverner, William Lawes, John Dowland, Thomas Tallis, and Henry Purcell from the 16th and 17th centuries, and, more recently, Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Arthur Sullivan (most famous for working with librettist Sir W. S. Gilbert), Henri Eccles, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten in the 19th and 20th. George Frideric Handel spent most of his composing life in England.

The UK was, with the US, one of the two main contributors in the development of rock and roll, and the UK has provided some of the most famous rock stars, including The Beatles, Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and many others. The UK was at the forefront of punk rock music in the 1970s with bands such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash, and the subsequent rebirth of heavy metal with bands such as Motörhead and Iron Maiden. In the mid to late 1990s, the Britpop phenomenon saw bands such as Oasis, Blur, Supergrass, Radiohead and Coldplay gain international fame. The UK is also at the forefront of electronica, with British artists such as The Prodigy, Faithless, Aphex Twin, Nitin Sawhney and Lamb at the cutting edge. The United Kingdom is also associated with music from the Caribbean, with a large number of Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals being present in the UK. Recent rock bands to emerge include Coldplay, the Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys.



The BBC is the oldest and perhaps the most respected broadcasting network in the world, with the BBC World Service radio channel and its news output held in particularly high regard. The other main television networks are ITV, Channel 4 and Five. The main satellite broadcaster is British Sky Broadcasting, the vast majority of digital cable services are provided by NTL:Telewest (created by the merger of NTL and Telewest in March 2006), and free-to-air digital terrestrial television by Freeview. Popular programmes in the UK include the three major soaps - EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale. The most popular sitcom is Only Fools and Horses as voted by the British public for a BBC poll, although the show has actually finished its run and will not be returning for another series. Various British TV formats have been exported to other nations, such as Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, The Weakest Link and The Office. Doctor Who is the leading British science-fiction series.


Template:Main Image:Wimbledon Grojean 2004 RJL.JPG A great number of major sports originated in the United Kingdom, including association football (soccer), rugby football (rugby), golf, cricket, tennis and boxing.

The national sport of the UK is association football, but the UK does not compete as a nation in any major football tournament. Instead, the home nations compete individually as England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is because of this unique four-team arrangement that the UK currently does not compete in football events at the Olympic Games. However, a united team will probably take part in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, as these will be hosted in London. The English and Northern Irish football associations have confirmed participation in this team while the Scottish FA and the Welsh FA have declined to participate.

The UK also hosts many world-renowned football clubs, such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal in England and Rangers and Celtic in Scotland. Clubs compete in national leagues and competitions and some go on to compete in European competitions.

British teams are generally successful in European Competitions, including the following European Cup/UEFA Champions League winners: Liverpool (five times), Manchester United (twice), Nottingham Forest (twice), Aston Villa and Celtic.

Both forms of rugby are national sports. Rugby League originates from and is generally played in the North of England, whilst Rugby Union is played predominantly in Wales, Northern Ireland and Southern England; it is considered the national sport of Wales. In Rugby League the UK plays as one nation - Great Britain - whilst in union it is represented by the four nations. England is the current holder of the Rugby Union World Cup. Every four years the British Lions (comprising the best players from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) tour other countries.

The Wimbledon Championships are international tennis events held in Wimbledon in south London every summer and are seen as the most prestigious of the tennis calendar. Image:Royal & Ancient Clubhouse.jpg Thoroughbred racing is also very popular in England. It originated under Charles II of England as the "Sport of Kings" - and is a royal pastime to this day. World-famous horse races include the Grand National and the Epsom Derby

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

Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Northern Ireland with the counties of Tyrone and Armagh forming part of the 'Big Three' (along with Kerry).

The country is closely associated with motorsport. Many teams and drivers in Formula One and Rallying are based in the UK. The country also hosts legs of F1 and World Rallying Championship calendars and has its own Touring Car Racing championship, the BTCC.

British winners of the Formula One World Championship include Mike Hawthorn, Graham Hill (twice), Jim Clark (twice), John Surtees (who was also successful on motorcycles), Jackie Stewart (three times), James Hunt, Nigel Mansell, and Graham Hill's son, Damon Hill. British drivers have not been as successful in the World Rally Championship, with only Colin McRae and the late Richard Burns winning the title.

National symbols


  • The Flag of the United Kingdom is the Union Flag (commonly known as the "Union Jack"), and is one of the most recognisable and well known national flags in the world. Created from the superimposition of the flags of England and Scotland in 1606; the Flag of St. Patrick, representing Ireland, was added to this in 1801. The Union Flag is rarely flown in the UK itself, and is officially flown from public buildings only on specified flag days.
  • Britannia is the national personification of the UK, originating from the Roman occupation of 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 Greek hoplon shield, bearing the Union Flag.
  • The bulldog is sometimes used as a symbol of the UK
  • God Save the Queen is used as the UK's national anthem and is sung at most official events, and for international competitions involving UK wide teams; however, it has never been officially adopted.

Miscellaneous data

  • Cellular frequency: GSM 900, GSM 1800, UMTS 2100
  • Cellular technology: GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS
  • Date format: DD/MM/YYYY (ex. 29/2/2004 or 29/02/2004) or DD/MM/YY (ex. 29/2/04 or 29/02/04), other styles are DD.MM.YY or DD-MM-YY
  • Decimal separator is a full stop: 123.45
  • Thousands are separated (formal) by a comma: 10,000, but younger people sometimes use: 10 000.
  • Voltage: 230V (except in Northern Ireland 220V) , 50 Hz; Power connector: 3 rectangle pins
  • Postal code: LN NLL, LLN NLL, LNN NLL, LLNN NLL, LNL NLL or LLNL NLL. See British postal codes

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See also



External links

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Overseas territories: Akrotiri and Dhekelia | Anguilla | Bermuda | British Antarctic Territory | British Indian Ocean Territory | British Virgin Islands | Cayman Islands | Falkland Islands | Gibraltar | Montserrat | Pitcairn Islands | Saint Helena (Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha) | South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands | Turks and Caicos Islands
Crown dependencies: Guernsey | Isle of Man | Jersey

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