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 located 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 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 lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The UK's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

The UK 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 urban areas in the UK include Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire conurbations, Greater Glasgow and the Liverpool Built-up Area.

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 (England does not have any devolved power). 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 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 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; however, a referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9 per cent 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

Proserpine, extract from Dante Gabriel Rossetti's painting

Proserpine is a verse drama written for children by the Romantic writers Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary wrote the blank verse drama and Percy contributed two lyric poems. Composed in 1820 while the Shelleys were living in Italy, it is often considered a partner to the Shelleys' play Midas. Proserpine was first published in the London periodical The Winter's Wreath in 1832. The drama is based on Ovid's tale of the abduction of Proserpine by Pluto, which itself was based on the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. Mary Shelley's version focuses on the female characters. In a largely feminist retelling from Ceres's point of view, Shelley emphasises the separation of mother and daughter and the strength offered by a community of women. Ceres represents life and love, and Pluto represents death and violence. The genres of the text also reflect gender debates of the time. Proserpine is part of a female literary tradition which, as feminist literary critic Susan Gubar describes it, has used the story of Ceres and Proserpine to "re-define, to re-affirm and to celebrate female consciousness itself". However, the play has been both neglected and marginalised by critics. (more...)

Featured biography

Bruno Maddox is a British literary novelist and journalist who is best known for his critically acclaimed novel My Little Blue Dress (2001) and for his satirical magazine essays. After graduating from Harvard University in 1992, Maddox began his career reviewing books for The New York Times Book Review and The Washington Post Book World. In early 1996, he was appointed to an editorship at SPY magazine and within a few months he was promoted to editor-in-chief, a position he held until the magazine shut down in 1998. Maddox wrote My Little Blue Dress between 1999 and 2001. Since its publication, he has focused on writing satirical essays for magazines such as GEAR and Travel + Leisure; he also contributes a monthly humor column to Discover magazine called "Blinded by Science", drawing on his early exposure to science and technology. Maddox is likewise a contributing editor to the American edition of The Week magazine. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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UK Roundabout 8 Cars.gif
Image credit: Mintguy & Fredrik

A diagram of movement within a roundabout in a country where traffic drives on the left. A roundabout is a type of road junction, or traffic calming device, at which traffic streams circularly around a central island after first yielding to the circulating traffic. Unlike with traffic circles, vehicles on a roundabout have priority over the entering vehicle, parking is not allowed and pedestrians are usually prohibited from the central island.

In the news

16 June 2019 – 2019 Conservative Party (UK) leadership election
The first televised debate between Conservative Party candidates for Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom takes place in London. Frontrunnner Boris Johnson refuses to attend. (BBC)
7 June 2019 –
In the United Kingdom, three hospital patients die from listeria linked to prepacked sandwiches from North Country Cooked Meats distributed via The Good Food Chain, which supplies 43 National Health Service trusts across the country. Three other patients are seriously ill. North Country Cooked Meats, and its distributor, North Country Quality Foods, voluntarily cease production while the investigation is ongoing. (BBC) (CNN)
7 June 2019 – 2019 Conservative Party (UK) leadership election
UK Prime Minister Theresa May resigns as Leader of the Conservative Party, paving the way for a new Prime Minister to be elected. (BBC)
6 June 2019 –
President of France Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau and President of the United States Donald Trump mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, paying tribute to Allied World War II veterans. (CBS News) (Reuters) (BBC) (CBC)
4 June 2019 –
British-American cruise operator Carnival Corporation & PLC is fined $20 million for environmental violations. (NPR)
Six Change UK MPs quit the party, with several said to be defecting to the Liberal Democrats, including its interim leader Heidi Allen and spokesperson Chuka Umunna after the party failed to win a single seat in the 2019 European Parliament election. Anna Soubry, one of its remaining four MPs, becomes the party's new leader. (The Guardian)
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