Portal:United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom Portal

Flag of the United Kingdom
Coat of Arms for the United Kingdom
Map of the United Kingdom in the British Isles.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with a sovereign state‍—‌the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to its east, the English Channel to its south and the Celtic Sea to its south-south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

The UK is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. The monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the longest-serving current head of state. The United Kingdom's capital and largest city is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. Other major urban areas in the UK include the conurbations centred on Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow and Liverpool.

The United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Their capitals are London, Belfast, Edinburgh, and Cardiff respectively. Apart from England, the countries have devolved administrations, each with varying powers. The nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey are not part of the UK, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defence and international representation. The medieval conquest and subsequent annexation of Wales by the Kingdom of England, followed by the union between England and Scotland in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the union in 1801 of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the UK in 1922, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There are fourteen British Overseas Territories, the remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land mass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former colonies.

The United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It has a high-income economy and has a very high Human Development Index, ranking 14th in the world. It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power, with considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence internationally. It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and is sixth in military expenditure in the world. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946. It has been a leading member state of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), since 1973; however, a referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9% of UK voters favouring leaving the European Union, and the country's exit is being negotiated. The United Kingdom is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Interpol and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Featured article

"The Premature Burial" by Antoine Wiertz

The Manchester Mummy, Hannah Beswick (1688–1758), was a wealthy woman with a pathological fear of premature burial whose body was embalmed and kept above ground for over 100 years after her death. The "cold dark shadow of her mummy hung over Manchester in the middle of the eighteenth century", according to writer Edith Sitwell. The mid-18th century saw an upsurge in the public's fear of being mistakenly buried alive, and Beswick had seen one of her brothers show signs of life just as his coffin lid was about to be closed. Writing in 1895, the physician J. C. Ouseley claimed that as many as 2,700 people were buried prematurely each year in England and Wales. For more than 50 years Beswick's mummified body was kept in an old clock case in the home of her family physician, Dr Charles White, and periodically checked for signs of life. Eventually it was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Natural History Society, where it was put on display in the entrance hall. Beswick's home was converted into workers' tenements following her death; several of those living there claimed to have seen an apparition dressed in a black silk gown and a white cap, and described it as Hannah Beswick. (more...)

Featured biography

Mezzotint of Sir William Garrow, published on March 24, 1810

William Garrow (1760–1840) was a British barrister, politician and judge known for his indirect reform of the advocacy system, which helped usher in the adversarial court system used in most common law nations today. He introduced the phrase "innocent until proven guilty", insisting that defendants' accusers and their evidence be thoroughly tested in court. Garrow is best known for his criminal defence work and the example he set with his aggressive defence of clients. Garrow joined Lincoln's Inn in November 1778, and was called to the Bar on 27 November 1783. He quickly established a reputation as a criminal law barrister, particularly for the defendants, and in February 1793 was made a King's Counsel by HM Government to prosecute cases involving treason and felonies. Garrow is also known for his impact on the rules of evidence, coining the best evidence rule. His work was cited as recently as 1982 in the Supreme Court of Canada and 2006 in the Irish Court of Criminal Appeal. In 2009, BBC One broadcast Garrow's Law, a four-part fictionalised drama of Garrow's beginnings at the Old Bailey; a second series aired in late 2010. (more...)

Did you know...

Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982


Related portals

Featured picture

The Felbrigge Psalter
Artist: Unknown

The Felbrigge Psalter is the oldest book from England to have an embroidered bookbinding. The needlework on this mid-thirteenth century manuscript probably dates from the early fourteenth century, which puts it more than a century earlier than the next oldest embroidered binding to have survived. Both the design and execution depicting the annunciation are of exceptionally high quality.

In the news

16 November 2018 –
Johnston Press, which owns i, The Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post and other UK newspapers, enters administration after failing to secure a buyer. It is set to be de-listed on the London Stock Exchange on 19 November 2018. (The Guardian)
16 November 2018 – Politics of the United Kingdom
British Prime Minister Theresa May appoints Stephen Barclay as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and Amber Rudd as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions following yesterday's resignations of Dominic Raab and Esther McVey. (Evening Standard)
15 November 2018 – Cabinet of the United Kingdom, Brexit negotiations
Minister of State for Northern Ireland Shailesh Vara, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dominic Raab, and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther McVey resign in protest of Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan. (BBC) (Bloomberg) (The Telegraph)
A total of eight British government officials quit in one day, in response to the proposed Brexit deal. (Evening Standard)
Conservative Party backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg, with the backing of at least a dozen Tory MPs, says he will submit a letter to the chair of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, to trigger a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Theresa May. (The Guardian)
14 November 2018 – Brexit negotiations
British Prime Minister Theresa May wins approval of her Brexit plan from her cabinet, although many Conservative and opposition MPs voice strong disapproval. (The Guardian) (Politics Home)
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