England/United Kingdom facts and history in brief
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Map of England
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Northern Ireland comprises Great Britain
(England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern
Ireland, along with a number of overseas
territories. Also known as simply the
United Kingdom (UK), most of its territory
is situated just off the north-western
coast of mainland Europe, surrounded by
the North Sea, the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean.
Royal motto: Dieu et mon droit (Latin: God and my right).
Official languages; English is the main
language and official de facto.
Welsh (in Wales), Scottish Gaelic
(in Scotland), Irish (in Northern Ireland),
Scots (in Scotland), Ulster Scots
(in Northern Ireland), British Sign Language.
Queen Elizabeth II
Prime Minister; Tony Blair
Area; 244,101 kmē
Establishment; Formed in 1801 as United Kingdom
of Great Britain and Ireland.
(The Irish Free State left the
United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Ireland in December 1922.
The name of the United Kingdom was
not changed to reflect this fact until
1927 when the current name, the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Northern Ireland was formally introduced.)
Currency; Pound Sterling
Time zone; UTC, Summer: +1 UTC
National anthem; God Save the Queen
Internet TLD; .UK (but ISO 3166-1 is GB)
Phone Calling Code; 44
International call prefix; 00
England has existed as a unified entity
since the 10th century.
The union between England and Wales was
enacted under the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284.
In the 1707 Act of Union, the separate
kingdoms of England and Scotland (though having
shared the same monarch since 1603) agreed
to permanent union as the Kingdom of
Through the 1801 Act of Union, the Kingdom
of Great Britain merged with the Kingdom of
Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Ireland.
With the formation of 32 Irish counties into
the Irish Free State, with six northern Irish
counties remaining part of the United Kingdom
as Northern Ireland, in 1922, the country
was renamed the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland in 1927.
The United Kingdom, the dominant industrial
and maritime power of the 19th century, played
a leading role in developing parliamentary
democracy and in advancing literature and science.
At its zenith, the British Empire stretched
over one quarter of the earth's surface.
The first half of the 20th century saw the
UK's strength seriously depleted in two World Wars.
The second half witnessed the dismantling of
the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself
into a modern and prosperous European nation.
The UK is currently weighing the degree of
its integration with continental Europe.
A member of the EU, it has chosen to defer
its participation in Euro Zone owing to
internal political considerations.
Constitutional reform is also a
current issue in the UK.
The House of Lords has been subjected
to ongoing reforms and National
assemblies with varying degrees of
power were created in Scotland, Wales,
and Northern Ireland in 1999.
Further assemblies for the English
regions are also under consideration.
The British republican movement is also
gaining a higher degree of media
attention, although general support
for monarchy remains high.
The United Kingdom is a member of
the Commonwealth of Nations (successor
organization to the former Empire),
the European Union and NATO.
It is also a permanent member of the
UN Security Council and holds a veto power.
In form the United Kingdom is a
constitutional monarchy with government,
though carried out in the monarch's name,
answerable to parliament and through it
It is governed from its capital, London.
The UK's current monarch and head of
state is Queen Elizabeth II who acceded
to the throne in 1952 and was crowned in
1953. Today, her role is mainly ceremonial,
with the country's real political power
being delegated to the Prime Minister.
The United Kingdom is a very centralized
state, with London's Westminster Parliament
holding responsibility for most of the
political affairs of the Kingdom.
In recent years however, each of the
countries apart from England has been
granted its own governmental body
responsible in varying degree for
some internal matters.
The United Kingdom is made up of
the four countries England, Scotland,
Wales and Northern Ireland, which
are in turn made up of the
Council Areas of Scotland
Unitary Authorities of Wales
Subdivisions of Northern Ireland.
England is divided into nine
Government Office Regions -
North East, North West, Yorkshire and
the Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands,
Eastern, Greater London, South East, South West.
Each region is made up of Counties
and/or Metropolitan Counties and/or
unitary authorities, apart from London
which consists of London boroughs.
There is growing support for the regions
to be empowered via democratically
elected assemblies - particularly in
the northern regions and the West Midlands.
Scotland consists of 32 Council Areas.
Wales consists of 22 Unitary Authorities,
styles as 11 County Boroughs, 9 Counties,
and 2 Cities and Counties.
Northern Ireland is divided into
24 Districts, 2 Cities, and 6 Counties.
There are also a number of different
dependencies belonging to the United Kingdom.
The Isle of Man and Channel Islands are
not legally part of the United Kingdom;
they are British crown dependencies,
though the United Kingdom is responsible
for their external affairs.
The monarchy of the United Kingdom
is symbolically shared with 16 other
sovereign countries that are known
as Commonwealth Realms, although
Britain has very little political
influence over these independent nations.
Most of England consists of rolling
terrain, but the country is more
mountainous in the north; the dividing
line between terrain types is usually
identified as the Tees-Exe line.
The main rivers are the Thames and
the Severn; major cities include London,
Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield,
Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol and Newcastle
upon Tyne. Near Dover, the Channel Tunnel
links the United Kingdom with France.
Wales is mostly mountainous, the
highest peak being Snowdon, at
1,085 m above sea level.
North of the mainland is the island
Main and capital city is Cardiff,
located in the south of Wales.
Scotland's geography is varied,
with lowlands in the south and east
and highlands in the north and west,
including Ben Nevis, the UK's
highest mountain (1343 m).
There are many long and deep sea arms,
firths, and lochs.
A multitude of islands west and north of
Scotland are also included, notably the
Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands.
Main cities are Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
Northern Ireland, making up the
northeastern part of Ireland, is
Main cities are Belfast and Londonderry.
The United Kingdom, a leading trading
power and financial centre, has an
essentially capitalist economy, one
of the largest of Western Europe.
Over the past two decades the government
has greatly reduced public ownership by
means of privatization programmes, and
has contained the growth of the
Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanised,
and efficient by European standards,
producing about 60% of food needs with
only 1% of the labour force.
The UK has large coal, natural gas, and
oil reserves; primary energy production
accounts for 10% of GDP, one of the highest
shares of any industrial nation.
Services, particularly banking, insurance,
and business services, account for by far
the largest proportion of GDP while industry
continues to decline in importance.
The Blair government has put off the
question of participation in the Euro
system, citing five economic tests that
would need to be met before a referendum
can take place.
Are business cycles and economic
structures compatible with European
interest rates on a permanent basis?
If problems emerge, is there sufficient
flexibility to deal with them?
What impact would entry into the euro
have on the UK's financial services industry?
Would joining the euro create better
conditions for firms making long-term
decisions to invest in Britain?
Would joining the euro promote higher
growth, stability and a lasting
increase in jobs?
The primary language spoken is English.
Other languages include Welsh, Gaelic
and various Scottish dialects of English.
Recent immigrants from elsewhere in the
Commonwealth speak other languages, including Urdu.
The United Kingdom has two of the world's
most famous universities in its borders,
the University of Cambridge and the
University of Oxford, and has brought
forth great scientists and engineers
such as Isaac Newton, James Watt,
Charles Darwin, and Alexander Fleming.
Playwright William Shakespeare is arguably
the most famous writer in the world;
other well-known writers include the
Bronte sisters, Agatha Christie,
Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
and J. R. R. Tolkien.
Composers William Byrd, Thomas Tallis,
John Taverner, John Blow, Henry Purcell,
Edward Elgar, Arthur Sullivan, William Walton,
Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten
and Michael Tippett have made major
contributions to British music, and
are known internationally. Living composers
include John Tavener, Harrison Birtwistle
and Oliver Knussen.
Britain (England) has been described as
a land without music, but it supports a
number of major orchestras including the
BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal
Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia,
the London Symphony Orchestra and the
London Philharmonic Orchestra, and its
several music colleges have helped to
teach many well known musicians.
Because of its location and other economic
factors London is one of the most
important cities for music in the world,
and has several important concert halls
and is also home to the Royal Opera House,
one of the world's leading opera houses.
British traditional music has also
been very influential abroad.
The UK has also produced the famous
Rock and roll bands The Beatles,
the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin,
The Who, Pink Floyd, Sex Pistols,
Oasis, and Radiohead.
It has also pioneered in various
forms of electronic dance music
such as acid house, drum and bass
and trip hop, which were in whole
or part developed in the United Kingdom
and have spawned various internationally
known acts such as Underworld,
Massive Attack, The Chemical Brothers
The United Kingdom is one of three
countries which have a profitable
recorded music industry, based mostly
on popular music, the others being the
United States and Sweden.
Visual artists from the United Kingdom
include such luminaries as John Constable,
Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough,
William Blake and J.M.W. Turner.
In the 20th century, Francis Bacon,
David Hockney, Bridget Riley, and the
pop artists Richard Hamilton and
Peter Blake are of note.
More recently still, the so-called
Young British Artists have gained some
notoriety, particularly Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.
The United Kingdom also has a vibrant
tradition of theatre, and London has
many theatres which put on plays and
musicals, including the National Theatre.
Public & Bank Holidays
1 January; New Year's Day
2 January; (Scotland only)
Good Friday; (The Friday before Easter Sunday)
Easter Sunday; (First Sunday after the first full moon since the vernal equinox)
Easter Monday; (The day after Easter Sunday)
First Monday in May; May Day Bank Holiday
Last Monday in May; Spring Bank Holiday
Last Monday in August; Summer Bank Holiday
25 December; Christmas Day
26 December; Boxing Day (not Scotland)
17 March; St Patrick's Day (Northern Ireland only)
12 July; Battle of the Boyne -
Orangemen's Day (Northern Ireland only)
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