Portal:United Kingdom

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Map of the United Kingdom in the British Isles.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly known as the United Kingdom, the UK or Britain) is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. 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 UK that shares a land border with another sovereign state—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 United Kingdom is a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system, with its seat of government in the capital city of London. The United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There are three devolved national administrations, each with varying powers, based in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh, the capitals of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland respectively. Associated with the UK, but not constitutionally part of it, are three Crown Dependencies. The United Kingdom has fourteen overseas territories. These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in 1922, encompassed almost a third of the world's land surface and was the largest empire in history. British influence can still be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former territories.

The UK is an EMDC and has the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and seventh-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It was the world's first industrialised state and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power with leading economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence. It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and its military expenditure ranks third or fourth in the world. The UK has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946; it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, the OECD and the World Trade Organization.

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The Mary Rose in Portsmouth Dry Dock

The Mary Rose was a warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII in the first half of the 16th century. During four decades of service in wars against France, Scotland and Brittany, she was one of the largest ships in the English navy and one of the earliest ships specially built for warfare. The Mary Rose is well-known today due to the fact that she sank intact on 19 July 1545 in the battle of the Solent north of the Isle of Wight, while leading an attack on French galleys. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in October 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology. Though much of the ship has deteriorated, the surviving section of the hull, with thousands of artefacts, is of immeasurable value as a time capsule of the Tudor period. The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose has since become a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology, comparable only to the raising of the Swedish 17th-century warship Vasa in 1961. The finds include weapons, sailing equipment, naval supplies and a wide array of objects used by the crew, providing detailed knowledge of the era in which the ship was built, in peacetime as in war. Many of the artefacts are unique to the Mary Rose and have provided insights into topics ranging from naval warfare to the history of musical instruments. While undergoing conservation, the remains of the hull and many of its related artefacts have been on display since the mid-1980s in the Mary Rose Museum in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. (more...)

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William Longchamp (died 1197) was a medieval Lord Chancellor, Chief Justiciar, and Bishop of Ely in England. He first served an illegitimate son of Henry II of England, but quickly transferred to the service of Richard I, King Henry's eldest surviving son. When Richard became King of England in 1189, Longchamp paid £3,000 for the office of Chancellor, and was soon named to the bishopric of Ely and appointed legate by the pope. Longchamp governed England while Richard was on the Third Crusade, but his authority was challenged by Richard's brother, John, who eventually succeeded in driving Longchamp from power and from England. Longchamp's relations with the other leading English nobles were also strained, which contributed to the demands for his exile. When Richard was captured on his journey back to England from the crusade and held for ransom by the Holy Roman Emperor, Longchamp travelled to Germany to help negotiate Richard's release. Although Longchamp regained the office of Chancellor after Richard's return to England, he lost much of his former power. He did, however, retain Richard's trust, and was employed by the king until the bishop's death in 1197. Longchamp wrote a treatise on the law, which remained well known throughout the later Middle Ages, but he aroused much hostility among his contemporaries. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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A panorama showing an almost 180-degree view of the interior of the Reading Room
Photo credit: Diliff

The British Museum Reading Room, situated in the centre of the Great Court of the British Museum, used to be the main reading room of the British Library. In 1997 this function moved to the new British Library building at St Pancras, London, but the Reading Room remains in its original form. Designed by Sydney Smirke on a suggestion by the Library's Chief Librarian Anthony Panizzi, following an earlier competition idea by William Hosking, the Reading Room was in continual use from 1857 until its temporary closure in 1997.

In the newsedit

  • August 18: New South Wales police extradict 'self-healer' Hongchi Xiao from London over death of six-year-old boy at conference
  • August 4: Prince Philip of UK makes last solo public engagement after 65 years
  • July 29: British dancer and talent show winner Robert Anker dies in car accident aged 27
  • June 30: Thousands gather in Jantar Mantar and other cities to protest against mob violence
  • June 9: Theresa May's Conservative Party wins UK election but loses majority, leaving Brexit plan in question
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