United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Approximately 61 million.
The United Kingdom is located on the extreme Western edge of Europe. The mainland of Great Britain includes England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland occupies the North Eastern corner of the island of Ireland. The UK's nearest neighbors are France which lies approximately 20 miles to the west - across the English Channel - and the Republic of Ireland with which it shares a border.
Western Europe was the end point for waves of migration across Europe in the Iron Age. In the 6th Century,the Angles and the Saxons migrated from Northern Europe and displaced the ancient Britons from lowland Britain.
In 1066 the Normans- originally a Viking people who had settled in Northern France and absorbed French customs- conquered Anglo-Saxon England. The merger of Norman and Anglo-Saxon culture eventually created a politically separate England with the English Language and English Common Law.
After centuries of warfare England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland were unified by a series of Acts of Union and other legisaltion. In the early twentieth century, a struggle for independence saw most of Ireland break away from the UK to leave the country with its present borders.
From the 16th to the twentieth centuries the UK was a colonial power with possessions across the globe. Following the Industrial Revolution (which began in the 1750's in Northern England), Britain became the richest country in the world. Its technology allowed it to become the world's most dominant maritime power for nearly two centuries.
At its height, the British Empire covered approximately a quarter of the globe and included at one time India, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaya, South Africa and Hong Kong as well as the 13 states of America that rebelled in 1788.
Rivalry with Germany in the twentieth century resulted in 2 World Wars and weakened the country to the point that it was nearly bankrupt. Lacking both the political desire and financial capacity to maintain its empire, the UK gradually withdrew from its former colonies. Hong Kong, its last major possession, was returned to China in 1984.
It is now a prosperous, highly influential medium sized nation.
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy. The pre-eminent legislative assemblies are the House of Commons and the Houses of Lords, both located in London. Members of the House of Commons are elected. Members of the House of Lords are largely appointed by the Government on the basis of public service.
There is no written constitution; political conduct is governed by tradition, precedent and commonly agreed practice. The Queen is the head of state with the power to form governments- though only under the advice of the elected party with the largest number of representatives.
There two main political parties are the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. The Liberal Party is a significant minor party.
Separate elected assemblies for Scotland and Wales also exist. They have fewer powers than the London assemblies.The Northern Ireland Asembley is presently suspended.
English common law.
Temperate. The summers are cool, wet and brief. The country is warmed by the Gulf Stream and, in most areas, winter temperatures rarely fall far below zero.
England is mainly hilly lowland with no genuine mountains. Scotland is mountainous with a central lowland area. Wales is mountainous with lowland coastal areas. Northern Ireland is mainly lowland.
London is the capital city of the UK with a population of approximately 8 million. Important secondary cities are Birmingham and Manchester.
The capital of Scotland is Edingurgh. The capital of Wales is Cardiff.
White 91.2% (English 83.6%, Scottish 8.6%, Welsh 4.9%, Northern Irish 2.9%)
The Established Church is Anglican with many minority Christian faiths. Other important faiths are Islam and Hinduism.
Britain is a largely secular country with two thirds of Britains having no connection to any church according to recent surveys.
Following the English Reformation, the UK became almost completely protestant. It abandoned large scale religious music and painting and made few contributions to the world of music or visual arts until the 20th Century. The country has excelled in science, engineering and economics, however.
Many advances made in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the UK laid the groundwork for the modern world. These included the invention of the steam engine, the first extensive rail and metalled road systems, large scale civil engineering projects such as suspension bridges, a national postal service and the development of a police force. In the twentieth century, the UK was the first country to introduce extensive radio and TV services.
The UK is also noted for its literature with figures such as William Shakespeare, the Bronte sisters and D.H. Lawrence.
In the second half of the 20th century the country produced some of the most influential popular music of the period. Noted performers included the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Sting and The Sex Pistols.
Many popular sports have their origins in the UK including Association Football, Rugby Football, Cricket, Golf, Tennis, Badminton, Queensberry Rules Boxing and Hockey.
English food has been viewed as some of the least appealing in the world. Migrants from the
Indian sub continent have made curries the most popular dish in the UK in the present day.