Portal:United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom Portal

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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 U.K.) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north­western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north­eastern 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 another 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 the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

The United Kingdom is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the world's 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 cities include Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and Liverpool.

The United Kingdom consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast, respectively. Apart from England, the countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers, but such power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution. 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 political systems of many of its former colonies.

The United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's sixth-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 rating, 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. A referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9% of the turnout being in favour of leaving the EU, which is currently scheduled to take place on or before 31 January 2020. 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).

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Featured article

Bloc Party performing at Warfield in San Francisco, US, in September 2005

Silent Alarm is the debut studio album by British indie rock band Bloc Party (pictured). Recorded in Copenhagen and London in mid-2004 with producer Paul Epworth, it was first released on 2 February 2005 in Japan, with Wichita Recordings as the primary label. The record peaked at number three on the United Kingdom Albums Chart. In the United States, it entered the Billboard 200 at number 114 and the Billboard Top Independent Albums at number seven. The double A-side "So Here We Are/Positive Tension", "Banquet", and "Pioneers" were released as singles. Silent Alarm went on to achieve worldwide sales of over one million copies. Bloc Party aimed to create an album that appealed to followers of different musical genres. Building on the arrangements in their demo songs recorded in 2004, the band members moulded tracks largely through live takes during the Silent Alarm studio sessions. The compositional focus was on rhythm and the drum and bass parts, while lyricist Kele Okereke's writing examined the feelings and hopes of young adults, including views on global politics. Following the album's completion, Bloc Party embarked on promotional tours before its release. Silent Alarm garnered widespread critical acclaim and has received accolades throughout the music industry since its release. (more...)

Featured biography

Hannah de Rothschild

Hannah Primrose, Countess of Rosebery was the daughter of Baron Mayer de Rothschild and his wife Juliana, née Cohen. On the death of her father in 1874 she became the richest woman in Britain. Her husband, the 5th Earl of Rosebery, was, during the final quarter of the nineteenth century, one of the most celebrated figures in Britain, an influential millionaire and politician, whose charm, wit, charisma and public popularity gave him such standing that he "almost eclipsed royalty". Her marriage into the aristocracy, while controversial at the time, gave her the social cachet in an anti-Semitic society that her vast fortune could not. She subsequently became a political hostess and philanthropist. Her charitable work was principally in the sphere of public health and causes associated with the welfare of working class Jewish women living in the poorer districts of London. Having firmly assisted and supported her husband on his path to political greatness, she suddenly died in 1890, aged 39, leaving him to achieve, bewildered and without her support, the political destiny which she had plotted alone. His premiership of the United Kingdom was shambolic, and lasted barely a year. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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Summer Solstice Sunrise over Stonehenge 2005
Photo credit: Andrew Dunn

Stonehenge is a Neolithic and Bronze Age monument located near Amesbury in the English county of Wiltshire. Constructed between 2500 BC and 2000 BC, it is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones, known as megaliths. Archaeoastronomers claim that Stonehenge represents an "ancient observatory," with significant alignments for the sunrise on the solstice and equinox days.

In the news

3 December 2019 –
Pakistani business tycoon Malik Riaz agrees to surrender £190 million in cash and assets to the United Kingdom's National Crime Agency, including his Grade II listed-London home in One Hyde Park. The NCA accuse the tycoon of acquiring his wealth and property through crime. (Sky News)
2 December 2019 –
A 12-year-old boy is killed and five other people are injured in a deliberate hit-and-run crash near a school in Loughton, Essex, United Kingdom. (BBC)
29 November 2019 – 2019 London Bridge stabbing
A terrorist mass stabbing at London Bridge kills two civilians and injures three others. The attacker, Usman Khan, wearing a fake explosive belt, is shot dead by police on the bridge. Khan was a former prisoner convicted of terrorism offences, and had links to Islamist terrorist groups. (BBC)
28 November 2019 – 2019 Hong Kong protests, Hong Kong–United Kingdom relations
Following the U.S. legislation regarding Hong Kong, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong urges Western nations, especially the United Kingdom, to "stand with Hong Kong" and calls for the penalization of leader Carrie Lam. (Federal News Network)
22 November 2019 – Chagos Archipelago sovereignty dispute
The United Kingdom misses a United Nations deadline to return control of the disputed Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius, prompting the government of Mauritius to call the UK an "illegal colonial occupier". (BBC)
21 November 2019 – 2019 Hong Kong protests
The Hong Kong High Court denies the lift of a travel ban imposed on pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, who was scheduled to travel to the United Kingdom to receive a human rights award from the two houses of the British Parliament. The judge cites the risk of absconding and says he can remain in the city to help restore peace. (The Independent)
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