United Kingdom

United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland1
Flag of the United Kingdom Coat of arms of the United Kingdom
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Dieu et mon droit  (the Royal motto3)
(French for "God and my right")
Anthem: "God Save the Queen" 4
Location of the United Kingdom
Capital London
Most populous conurbation Greater London Urban Area
Official language English (de facto)
Government Constitutional monarchy
 - Monarch Queen Elizabeth II
 - Prime Minister Tony Blair
 - Union of the Crowns 24 March 1603 
 - Acts of Union 1 May 1707 
 - Act of Union 1 January 1801 
 - Anglo-Irish Treaty 12 April 1922 
Accession to EU 1 January 1973
 - Total 244,820 km² (79th)
94,526 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 1.34
 - 2005 estimate 60,209,5006 (21st)
 - 2001 census 58,789,194
 - Density 243/km² (48th)
629/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $1.833 trillion (6th)
 - Per capita $30,436 (18th)
GDP (nominal) 2005 estimate
 - Total $2.201 trillion (5th)
 - Per capita $37,023 (13th)
HDI  (2004) 0.940 (high) (18th)
Currency Pound sterling (£) (GBP)
Time zone GMT (UTC+0)
 - Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)
Internet TLD .uk7
Calling code +44
1 In the UK, some other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous (regional) languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, the UK's official name is as follows:
Welsh: Teyrnas Unedig Prydain Fawr a Gogledd Iwerddon
Scottish Gaelic: An Rìoghachd Aonaichte na Breatainn Mhòr agus Eirinn a Tuath
Irish: Ríocht Aontaithe na Breataine Móire agus Thuaisceart Éireann
Scots: Unitit Kinrick o Great Breetain an Northren Ireland
Cornish: An Rywvaneth Unys a Vreten Veur hag Iwerdhon Glédh
2 There is also a variant for use in Scotland; see Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.
3 The Royal motto used in Scotland is Nemo Me Impune Lacessit (Latin: "No-one provokes me with impunity").
4 See #Symbols below. It also serves as the Royal anthem.
5 In addition to English (use established by precedent), Welsh is recognised in Wales as a "language of equal standing"[citation needed]. Since 2005, Scottish Gaelic in Scotland has the status of "an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect to the English language" [3]. See also Languages in the United Kingdom.
6 Official estimate provided by the UK Office for National Statistics [4].
7 ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 is GB, but .gb is unused. The .eu domain is also shared with other European Union member states.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (usually shortened to the United Kingdom, the UK, or Britain[1]) is a country[2] and sovereign state that lies to the northwest of Continental Europe with the Republic of Ireland to the west. It occupies the majority of the British Isles and its territory and population are primarily situated on the island of Great Britain and in Northern Ireland, which shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland on the island of Ireland. The United Kingdom is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, and its ancillary bodies of water, including the North Sea, the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, and the Irish Sea. The mainland is linked to France by the Channel Tunnel.

The United Kingdom is a political union made up of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The United Kingdom also has fourteen overseas territories, including Bermuda, Gibraltar, the Pitcairn Island group, British Indian Ocean Territory, the Falkland Islands, and British Antarctic Territory among others. The dependencies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, formally possessions of the Crown, form a federacy with the United Kingdom collectively known as the British Islands. The constitutional monarch, Queen Elizabeth II is also the Queen and Head of State of 15 other Commonwealth Realms such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica.

Despite the disolution of the British Empire and the decline of the UK's influence throughout the world, it remains a Great power. A member of the G8, the United Kingdom is a highly developed country with the fifth largest economy in the world and second largest in Europe, estimated at US$2.2 trillion. It is the third most populous state in the European Union with a population of 60.2 million[3] and is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the United Nations (UN), where it holds permanent membership on the Security Council. The UK is a major military power and is an acknowledged nuclear power.




The Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the latest of several unions formed over the last 300 years. The Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England had existed as separate states with their own monarchs and political structures since the 9th century. The once independent Principality of Wales fell under the control of English monarchs from the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284, becoming itself part of the Kingdom of England by the Laws in Wales Act 1535.[4] With the Act of Union 1707, the independent states of England (including Wales) and Scotland, having been in personal union since 1603, agreed to a political union as the Kingdom of Great Britain.[5]

Parliamentary Union of England and Scotland 1707, painting by Walter Thomas Monnington.
Parliamentary Union of England and Scotland 1707, painting by Walter Thomas Monnington.

The Act of Union 1800 united the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland, which had been gradually brought under English control between 1541 and 1691, to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.[6] Independence for the Republic of Ireland in 1922 followed the partition of the island of Ireland two years previously, with six of the nine counties of the province of Ulster remaining within the UK, which then changed to the current name in 1927.[7]

18th century Britain was an important part of the Age of Enlightenment with both philosophical and scientific input and an influential literary and theatrical tradition. The United Kingdom played a leading role in developing Western ideas of parliamentary democracy and capitalism with significant contributions to literature, the arts, and science and technology.[8] The wealth of the early British Empire was also partly generated by colonial exploitaion, as well as by the industrialisation after 1750 of the slave trade, with Britain's 18th century shipping fleet, the largest in the world, taking slaves to the Americas as part of the infamous Triangular Trade.[9] At the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, after campaigns by abolitionist politicians including William Wilberforce, Britain was also the first nation to permanently prohibit trade in slaves.

After both the Industrial Revolution and campaigns abroad, particularly the defeat of France in the Napoleonic Wars, Britain became the principal world power at the beginning of the 19th century. At its zenith, the British Empire stretched to almost one-quarter of the Earth's surface and encompassed a third of its population, making it the largest empire (in terms of both population and territory) in world history.

Over the course of the nineteenth century, Britain played a leading role in the development of parliamentary democracy, partly via a growing extension of suffrage through a series of significant electoral reforms, and towards the end of the century was the first nation to develop a public health infrastructure. The country's developments of science and the arts, building on an 18th century inheritance of figures such as Isaac Newton, and particularly its earlier tradition of literature, were widely influential.

At the end of the 19th century, however, the United Kingdom lost its industrial leadership, particularly to the United States, which surpassed the UK in industrial production and trade in the 1890s, and to a lesser extent to the German Empire. However, as a result of gains of the late 1800s Britain had remained the pre-eminent superpower, and its empire expanded to its maximum size by 1921, gaining the League of Nations mandate over certain former German colonies after the First World War.

After World War I, the United Kingdom's dominant role in international relations began to decline. After the creation of the world's first large-scale and international network of broadcasting , the BBC, its first experience of government by the growing Labour movement in expansion since the late 19th century, and recovery from the Great Depression in the late 1930s, Britain fought Nazi Germany in the Second World War, with its Commonwealth allies including Canada, Australia, New Zealand,South Africa and India, later to be joined by further allies. Wartime leader Winston Churchill and his successor Clement Atlee helped plan the postwar world as part of the Big Three. World War II, however, left the United Kingdom financially and physically damaged. Economically costly wartime loans, loans taken in 1945 from the United States and from Canada, combined with postwar Marshall Plan aid from the United States started the United Kingdom on the road to recovery.

1945 saw the emergence of the British Welfare State and one of the world's first and most comprehensive Health Services, while the demands of a recovering economy brought people from all over the Commonwealth to create a multiethnic Britain. Although the new postwar limits of Britain's political role were confirmed by the Suez Crisis of 1956, the international currency of its language meant the continuing impact of its culture, literature and theatre, and at the same time during the 1960s its popular culture found a new global influence . The 1970s saw a period of economic stagnation following global economic downturn. The rule of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s saw the power of unions rolled back and this, together with a substantial inflow of North Sea oil royalties, added to economic recovery which was however accompanied by growing economic inequality.

The British Empire in 1897.
The British Empire in 1897.

The United Kingdom has been a member of the European Union since 1973. The attitude of the present Labour government towards further integration with this organisation is mixed[10], with the Conservative Party favouring a return of some powers and competencies to the state[11], and the Liberal Democrat party more receptive toward the EU . A referendum on the issue is planned if and when five economic tests indicate that entry into the Eurozone would be beneficial. [12]


Government and politics

The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, with executive power exercised on behalf of the monarch by the prime minister and other cabinet ministers who head departments.

The cabinet, including the prime minister, and other senior ministers collectively make up Her Majesty's Government. These ministers are drawn from, and are responsible to, Parliament - the legislative body which is traditionally considered to be "supreme" (that is, able to legislate on any matter and not bound by decisions of its predecessors). The British system of government has been emulated around the world — a legacy of the British Empire's colonial past, most notably in the other Commonwealth Realms ­— however, the United Kingdom, along with New Zealand and Israel, form one of the three countries in the world today that does not have a codified constitution, relying instead on traditional customs and separate pieces of constitutional law[13].

While the monarch is head of state and technically holds all executive power, they must appoint a head of government (Prime Minister) from Parliament. The Prime Minister is nowadays always a member of the House of Commons, the last Lord to be Prime Minister was Lord Home in the 1960s. The Prime Minister must be someone who the Monarch believes will be able to form a government with the "confidence" of a majority of members of the Commons. This usually means the leader of the party with the largest number of Commons seats, because the "first past the post" electoral system for the Commons usually gives the largest party an absolute majority. If there were no party with an absolute majority, then the Prime Minister would be whoever could form a coalition with the support of a Commons majority. This would almost certainly be the leader of the largest party in the coalition, but (conceivably) not necessarily the leader of the largest party in the Commons.

Location of the British Overseas Territories (British Antarctic Territory and Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus not shown)
Location of the British Overseas Territories
(British Antarctic Territory and Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus not shown)

The Prime Minister appoints ministers to government posts, usually from senior members of their own party. Most ministers are members of, and answerable to, the House of Commons (particularly at their Department's "Question Time"). The remaining ministers are usually from the House of Lords, Ministers do not legally have to come from Parliament, but that is the modern day custom, and a Prime Minister who wants to bring someone into the government from outside Parliament will usually first create them a Life Peer, i.e. give them a non-hereditary seat in the House of Lords. The chief advantage put forward for the Parliamentary system of Government is this direct accountability of cabinet members to Parliament. The counter-argument is that the majority of legislators (elected to hold government to account) are (because they are in the PM's party) actually looking to the Prime Minister for personal advancement — and that most politicians (at least in the early stages of their career) appear to view the being an MP not as an honourable and status-awarding end in itself but as the route to office.

The current prime minister is Tony Blair of the Labour Party, who has been in office since 1997. At the 2005 general election, the Labour Party had a majority of 66 seats. However, it is now a 64 seat majority due to a by-election loss to the Liberal Democrats in Scotland.

The Mall looking onto Buckingham Palace, The official residence of the British Monarch.
The Mall looking onto Buckingham Palace, The official residence of the British Monarch.

In the United Kingdom, the monarch has extensive theoretical powers, but his/her role is mainly, though not exclusively, ceremonial[14]. The monarch is an integral part of Parliament (as the "Crown-in-Parliament"), and theoretically gives Parliament the power to meet and create legislation. An Act of Parliament does not become law until it has been signed by the monarch (known as Royal Assent), although not one has refused assent to a bill that has been approved by Parliament since Queen Anne in 1708[15]. Although the abolition of the monarchy has been suggested, the popularity of the monarchy remains strong in the United Kingdom. Support for a British republic usually fluctuates between 15% and 25% of the population, with roughly 10% undecided or indifferent.[16] The monarch is HM Queen Elizabeth II who acceded to the throne in 1952 and was crowned in 1953.

Parliament is the national legislature of the United Kingdom. It is the ultimate legislative authority in the United Kingdom, according to the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty (however, questions over sovereignty have been brought forward because of the UK's entry in to the European Union[17]). It is bicameral, composed of the elected House of Commons and the unelected House of Lords, whose members are mostly appointed. The House of Commons is the most powerful of the two houses. The House of Commons houses 646 members who are directly elected from single-member constituencies based on population. The House of Lords has around 700 members (though the number is not fixed), constituted of life peers, hereditary peers, and bishops of the Church of England. (Note: The House of Lords Act 1999 removed the automatic inheritance of seats in the Lords and permitted just 92 hereditary peers to remain. The Church of England is the established church of the state in England [18].)

The Palace of Westminster, on the banks of the River Thames, London, houses the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Since the 1920s, the two largest political parties in British politics have been the Labour Party and Conservative Party. Though coalition and minority governments have been an occasional feature of Parliamentary politics, the first-past-the-post electoral system used for general elections tends to maintain the dominance of these two parties, though each has in the past century relied upon a third party to deliver a working majority in Parliament[19]. The Liberal Democrats are the third largest party in the British parliament and actively seek a reform of the electoral system to address the dominance of the two-party system[20].

Though many in the United Kingdom consider themselves 'British' as well as 'English', 'Scottish', 'Welsh', or 'Irish' (and increasingly also 'Afro-Caribbean', 'Indian', or 'Pakistani'), there has long been a widespread sense of separate national identities in the nations of Scotland and Wales and amongst the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland[21][22][23]. Independence for the Republic of Ireland in 1922 provided only a partial solution to what had been termed in the 19th century the 'Irish Question', and competing demands for a united Ireland or continued union with Great Britain have brought civil strife and political instability up to the present day.

Though 'nationalist' (as opposed to 'unionist') tendencies have shifted over time in Scotland and Wales, with the Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales) in 1925 and Scottish National Party founded in 1934, a serious political crisis threatening the integrity of the United Kingdom as a state has not occurred since the 1970s. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland each possess a legislature and government alongside that of the United Kingdom. However, this increased autonomy and devolution of executive and legislative powers has not contributed to a reduction in support for independence from the United Kingdom, with the rise of new pro-independence parties. For example, the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party have gained popularity in recent years but have not significantly dented the parliamentary dominance on the three main parties.

Parliament Buildings in Holyrood, Edinburgh, seat of the Scottish Assembly
Parliament Buildings in Holyrood, Edinburgh, seat of the Scottish Assembly
Parliament Buildings in Stormont, Belfast, seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly
Parliament Buildings in Stormont, Belfast, seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly

Tendencies to devolution with the wider United Kingdom have had only little resonance in England. There is little appetite for a devolved English parliament, although senior Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have voiced concerns in regard to the West Lothian Question[24][25], which is raised where certain policies for England are set by MPs from all four constituent nations whereas similar policies for Scotland or Wales might be decided in the devolved assemblies by legislators from those countries alone. Alternative proposals for English regional government have stalled, following a poorly received referendum on devolved government for the North East of England, which had hitherto been considered the region most in favour of the idea. England is therefore governed according to the balance of parties across the whole of the United Kingdom.

The resurgence in Celtic language and identity, as well as 'regional' politics and development, has contributed to forces pulling against the unity of the state [26]. However, there is at present little sign of any imminent 'crisis' (at the last General Election, both the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru saw their percentage of the overall vote drop, though the SNP did gain two more seats and are the second largest party in the Scottish Parliament as well as official opposition). Nevertheless, recent opinion polls have suggested that nationalism (i.e. a desire to break up the UK) is rising within Scotland and England. However, the polls have been known to be inaccurate in the past (for example, in the run up to the 1992 General Election). Moreover, polls carried out in the 1970s and the 1990s showed similar results, only to be debunked at elections. In early 2007 in line with reporting on English and Scottish attitudes towards the Act of Union, two polls, one for the Sunday Times of the 14th of January 2007 and another poll, shown on BBC News at Ten on the fifteenth of January both showed a vast majority in both countries favouring the retention of the union. Indeed, while support for breaking up the UK was strongest in Scotland, there was still a clear lead for unionism over nationalism. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/6263807.stm. In Northern Ireland, there has been a significant decrease in violence over the last twenty years, though the situation remains tense, with the more hard-line parties such as Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists now holding the most parliamentary seats (see Demographics and politics of Northern Ireland).



Parliament House, Edinburgh is the seat of the supreme courts of Scotland.
Parliament House, Edinburgh is the seat of the supreme courts of Scotland.

The United Kingdom has three distinct systems of law. English law, which applies in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland law, which applies in Northern Ireland, are based on common-law principles. Scots law, which applies in Scotland, is a hybrid system based on both common-law and civil-law principles. The Act of Union 1707 guarantees the continued existence of a separate law system for Scotland.

The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (usually just referred to, as "The House of Lords") is the highest court in the land for all criminal and civil cases in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and for all civil cases in Scots law. Recent constitutional changes will see the powers of the House of Lords transfer to a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. [27]

In England and Wales the court system is headed by the Supreme Court of Judicature of England and Wales, consisting of the Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice (for civil cases) and the Crown Court (for criminal cases). In Scotland the chief courts are the Court of Session, for civil cases, and the High Court of Justiciary, for criminal cases, while the sheriff court is the Scottish equivalent of the county court.

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is the highest court of appeal for several independent Commonwealth countries, the UK overseas territories, and the British crown dependencies.



Map of the United Kingdom
Map of the United Kingdom


Most of England consists of rolling lowland terrain, divided east from west by more mountainous terrain in the Northwest (Cumbrian Mountains of the Lake District) and north (the upland moors of the Pennines) and limestone hills of the Peak District by the Tees-Exe line. The lower limestone hills of the Isle of Purbeck, Cotswolds, Lincolnshire Wolds and chalk downs of the Southern England Chalk Formation. The main rivers and estuaries are the Thames, Severn and the Humber Estuary. The largest urban area is Greater London. Near Dover, the Channel Tunnel links the United Kingdom with France. [28] There is no peak in England that is 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) or greater, the highest mountain being Scafell Pike in England's Lake District, at some 978 metres (3,208 ft).

Scotland's geography is varied, with lowlands in the south and east and highlands in the north and west, including Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles at 1,343 metres (4,406 ft). There are many long and deep-sea arms, firths, and lochs. Scotland has nearly 800 islands, mainly west and north of the mainland, notably the Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands. The capital city is Edinburgh, the centre of which is a World Heritage Site. The largest city is Glasgow [29]. In total it is estimated that the UK includes around 1,000 islands, with 700 in Scotland alone [30].

Wales is mostly mountainous, the highest peak being Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) at 1,085 metres (3,560 ft) above sea level. North of the mainland is the island of Anglesey (Ynys Môn). The largest and capital city is Cardiff (Caerdydd); it has been the Welsh Capital city since 1955, located in South Wales. [31] The greatest concentration of people live in the south, in the cities of Swansea (Abertawe) and Newport (Casnewydd), as well as Cardiff, and the South Wales Valleys. The largest town in North Wales is Wrexham (Wrecsam).

Northern Ireland, making up the north-eastern part of Ireland, is mostly hilly. The capital is Belfast ('Béal Feirste' in Irish), with other major cities being Derry ('Doire' in Irish) and Newry ('Iúr Cinn Trá' in Irish). The province is home to one of the UK’s World Heritage Sites, the Giant's Causeway, which consists of more than 40,000 six-sided basalt columns up to 40 feet (12 m) high. Lough Neagh, the largest body of water in the British Isles, by surface area (388 km² / 150 mi²), can be found in Northern Ireland. [32]. The highest peak is Slieve Donard at 849 metres (2,786 ft) in the province's Mourne Mountains.



England has a temperate climate, with plentiful rainfall all year round, though the seasons are quite variable in temperature. However, temperatures extremely rarely fall below −15 °C (5 °F) and will only rise above 34 °C (93.2 °F) in the height of the summer. The prevailing wind is from the south west, bringing mild and wet weather to England regularly, from the Atlantic Ocean. It is driest in the east and warmest in the south east, which is closest to the European mainland. Snowfall can occur in Winter and early Spring, though it is not that common away from high ground.

The highest temperature recorded in England is 38.5 °C (101.3 °F) on 10 August 2003 at Brogdale, near Faversham, Kent. [1]. The lowest temperature ever recorded in England is −26.1 °C (−15.0 °F) on 10 January 1982 at Edgmond, near Newport, Shropshire. [2]

Wales' climate is alike in most regards to that of England, with the highest maximum temperature recorded at 35.2 °C (95.4 °F) in Hawarden Bridge, Flintshire on 2 August 1990 and the lowest minimum temperature at -23.3 °C (-10 °F) in Rhayader, Radnorshire on 21 January 1940. [1]

The climate of Scotland is temperate and oceanic, and tends to be very changeable. It is warmed by the Gulf Stream from the Atlantic, and as such is much warmer than areas on similar latitudes, for example Oslo, Norway. However, temperatures are generally lower than in the rest of the UK, with the coldest ever UK temperature of -27.2 °C (-17.0 °F) recorded at Braemar in the Grampian Mountains, on 11 February 1895 and 10 January 1982 and also at Altnaharra, Highland, on 30 December 1995. Winter maximums average 6 °C (42.8 °F) in the lowlands, with summer maximums averaging 18 °C (64.4 °F). The highest temperature recorded was 32.9 °C (91.2 °F) at Greycrook, Scottish Borders on 9 August 2003.

Generally, western Scotland is warmer than the east because of the influence of the Atlantic ocean currents and the colder surface temperatures of the North Sea. Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides, is the sunniest place in Scotland: it had 300 days with sunshine in 1975. Rainfall varies widely across Scotland. The western highlands of Scotland are the wettest place, with annual rainfall exceeding 120 inches (3,000 mm). In comparison, much of lowland Scotland receives less than 31 inches (800 mm) annually. Heavy snowfall is not common in the lowlands, but becomes more common with altitude. Braemar experiences an average of 59 snow days per year, while coastal areas have an average of less than 10 days.

The whole of Northern Ireland has a temperate maritime climate, rather wetter in the west than the east, although cloud cover is persistent across the region. The weather is comparatively unpredictable at all times of the year, and although the seasons are distinct, they are considerably less pronounced than in interior Europe or the eastern seaboard of North America. Average daytime maximums in Belfast are 6.5 °C (43.7 °F) in January and 17.5 °C (63.5 °F) in July. The damp climate and extensive deforestation in the 16th and 17th centuries resulted in much of the region being covered in rich green grassland. The highest maximum temperature was set at 30.8 °C (87.4 °F) at Knockarevan, near Belleek, County Fermanagh on 30 June 1976 and at Belfast on 12 July 1983, whilst the lowest minimum temperature recorded at -17.5 °C (0.5 °F) at Magherally, near Banbridge, County Down on 1 January 1979. [16]

The United Kingdom, along with the rest of Europe, has been hit by a heat wave during the summer months in recent years. The heat waves have been the cause of many deaths due to the temperatures nearing the 40 °C (104 °F) mark.



There are many different statistics and debates on which cities are the UK's largest, due to differences between the administrative boundaries and metropolitan areas of cities, and because of merging of settlements into conurbations. The four capitals of the United Kingdom's constituent countries are London (England), Edinburgh (Scotland), Cardiff (Wales) and Belfast (Northern Ireland). London is by far the UK's largest city. After that, the definition of largest is dependent upon the criteria used, but no one city stands out as larger than the others.



Trafalgar Square in London is one of the most famous public places in the United Kingdom.
Trafalgar Square in London is one of the most famous public places in the United Kingdom.


At the April 2001 UK Census, the United Kingdom's population was 58,789,194, the third-largest in the European Union (behind Germany and France) and the twenty-first largest in the world. This had been estimated up to 59,834,300 [33] by the Office for National Statistics in 2004. Two years later it had increased to 60.2 million, largely from net immigration, but also because of a rising birth rate and increasing life expectancy. [34]

Its overall population density is one of the highest in the world. About a quarter of the population lives in England's prosperous south-east [35] and is predominantly urban and suburban, with an estimated 7,517,700 in the capital of London. [36] The United Kingdom's high literacy rate (99%) [37] is attributable to universal public education introduced for the primary level in 1870 and secondary level in 1900 (except in Scotland where it was introduced in 1696, see Education in Scotland). Education is mandatory from ages five to sixteen (15 if born in late July or August).



Located as they are on a group of islands close to Continental Europe, the lands now constituting the United Kingdom have historically been subject to many invasions and migrations, especially from Scandinavia and the continent - including Roman occupation for several centuries. Present day Britons are descended mainly from the varied ethnic stocks that settled there before the eleventh century. The pre-Celtic, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse influences were blended on Great Britain under the Normans, Scandinavian Vikings who had lived in Northern France.

More recent immigration has come through interaction with continental Europe and international ties forged by the British Empire. Since World War Two the UK has absorbed substantial immigration, with Europe, Africa and South Asia being the biggest areas from where people currently emigrate. As of 2001, 13.1% of the UK's population identified themselves as an ethnic minority.[38] The United Kingdom has amongst the highest immigration rates in Europe, along with Italy and Spain [39]. In some UK cities the percentage of 'minority groups' is large but is still less than half, for example; London 40.1%,[40] Birmingham (UK's 2nd largest city) 34.4%[41] and Leicester 39.5%[42]. The latest official figures (for 2005) show net immigration to the UK of 185,000 (down from a record high of 223,000 in 2004).[43][44] A report by a city forecaster, however, contends that these figures are unreliable and that net immigration for 2005 was circa 400,000.[45]

The most recent pattern of immigration to the UK began in May 2004 when the European Union was expanded. From May 2004 to September 2006, around 500,000 people from Central and Eastern Europe immigrated to the UK to work.[46] This figure is for arrivals only and does not take account of people leaving, hence net migration is likely to be lower.[47] In 2005 net migration from the new EU states stood at 64,000.[43]

The UK also has a high rate of emigration. A study[48] in 2006 found that at least 5.5 million British-born people live abroad. Another half a million now live or work abroad for part of the year.



Countries where English has official or de facto official language status.
Countries where English has official or de facto official language status.

Whilst the UK does not have an official language, the predominant spoken language is English. This is a West Germanic language, descended from Old English, featuring a large number of borrowings from Old Norse and Norman. The other indigenous languages are Scots (which is closely related to English) and the Insular Celtic languages (which are not). The latter fall into two groups: the P-Celtic languages (Welsh and the Cornish language); and the Q-Celtic languages (Irish and Scottish Gaelic). Celtic dialectal influences from Cumbric persisted in Northern England for many centuries, most famously in a unique set of numbers used for counting sheep.

The English language has spread to all corners of the world (essentially due to the British Empire in the 19th and early 20th century, and now, due to the United States of America's cultural and economic influence) and has thus become the business language of the world. Worldwide, it is taught as a second language more than any other. [49] The United Kingdom's Celtic languages are also spoken by small groups around the globe, mainly Gaelic in Nova Scotia, Canada, and Welsh in Patagonia, Argentina.

Recent immigrants, especially from the Commonwealth, speak many other languages, including Urdu, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Turkish, Arabic, Cantonese, Lithuanian and Polish. The United Kingdom has the largest number of Urdu, Hindi , Bengali, and Punjabi speakers outside of Asia.



Canterbury Cathedral, one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in the UK.
Canterbury Cathedral, one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in the UK.

Christianity was first introduced to Britain by the Romans, and the UK remains an officially Christian country. This is reflected throughout British public life - for instance there is an established church in England and a national church in Scotland. The Head of State is a Christian monarch crowned by an Archbishop in Westminster Abbey. British society could be said to belong to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and the majority of people in the UK, 72%, identify themselves as Christian. [50][51],

Each of the four nations of the United Kingdom have distinctive church traditions.

Augustine of Canterbury was sent to England by Pope Gregory I in in 597AD; northern parts of Great Britain were evangelised by Celtic missionaries from Ireland, such as Columba and Aidan. The English Church split from Rome in 1534 during the reign of Henry VIII of England. Today the Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England, and acts as the 'mother' and senior branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and some of her bishops sit in the House of Lords. The British monarch is required to be a member of the Church of England under the Act of Settlement 1701 and is the Supreme Governor. Roman Catholics are expressly forbidden from becoming monarch, stemming from conflict over the crown and whether Britain was in the past, Catholic or Protestant. The senior bishop of Church of England is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Westminster Abbey is used for the Coronation of all British Monarchs, who are also made the head of the Church of England.
Westminster Abbey is used for the Coronation of all British Monarchs, who are also made the head of the Church of England.

The Church of Scotland (known informally as The Kirk), also has its roots in the Reformation, breaking with the Roman Catholic Church in 1560 (see Scottish Reformation). Today it is a Presbyterian church and, although recognised as the national church in Scotland, is not subject to state control in spiritual matters. The British monarch is an ordinary member, and is required to swear an oath to "defend the security" of the Church at the coronation. The Scottish Episcopal Church, which is part of the Anglican communion, dates from the final establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland in 1690. Although it is in full communion with the Church of England, it is not a 'daughter church' of the Church of England, as it is proud of its own distinct origins and history . Unlike the Church of England, the bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church are nowadays elected by church members. Further splits in the Church of Scotland, especially in the 19th century, led to the creation of various other Presbyterian churches in Scotland including the Free Church of Scotland.

In the 1920s, the Church in Wales was separated from the Church of England and became disestablished, i.e. lost its "official" status as the state religion. However the Church in Wales remains in the Anglican Communion. Methodism and other independent churches are traditionally strong in Wales.

The Anglican Church of Ireland was disestablished in the 19th century. It covers all of the island of Ireland, both the Province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland the Catholic Church in Ireland is the largest single denomination, although Protestants are in the majority overall. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is the largest Protestant denomination and is in terms of theology and history closely linked to the Church of Scotland

The Roman Catholic Church is the second largest denomination of Christianity in the UK. After the Reformation, strict laws were passed against Catholics; these were removed by the Catholic Emancipation laws in the 1850s. There are separate Catholic hierarchies for England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Other large Christian groups include the Methodists (founded by John Wesley in London) and the Baptists. There are also growing Evangelical or Pentecostal churches, many of which have flourished with immigration from around the Commonwealth of Nations and beyond.

Hindu temple at Neasden is the largest temple of Hinduism in Europe.
Hindu temple at Neasden is the largest temple of Hinduism in Europe.

Modern day Britain is very diverse in terms of religion. Christianity and Islam have many followers in the UK; Sikhism, Hinduism, Judaism and other religions have smaller numbers. 14.6% of the population identify themselves as having no religious beliefs.

Muslims are believed to number over 1.8 million, with many of them living in towns and cities including London, Birmingham, Bradford and Oldham.[52] Mosques are a common sight in some parts of modern day Britain. The biggest groups of British Muslims are of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian origin. More recently, smaller numbers of refugees from Somalia, Turkey, Balkan and the Arab countries have lightly increased Britain's Muslim population. The 2006 controversy over the burqa, brought up in comments by Jack Straw, reflects a split between some Britons questioning the extent to which traditionalist forms of Islam are compatible with British society, and others happier with the form of Islam in Britain.[53]

The other religions of Indian origin, like Hinduism and Sikhism also enjoy an increased following in Britain , with over 500,000 Hindus and 320,000 Sikhs. [54] However, these figures are likely to have increased, as they are based on the 2001 census. The city of Leicester houses the world's only Jain temple outside India.



The City of London, the largest financial centre in Europe
The City of London, the largest financial centre in Europe

For over 25 years the British economy has been home to what became known in the 1980s as the Anglo-Saxon model, focusing on the principles of liberalisation, the free market, 'common law' relating to property, and low taxation and regulation. Based on market exchange rates, the United Kingdom is the fifth largest economy in the world; [55], the second largest in Europe after Germany, and the fifth-largest overall by GDP (nominal).

The British were the first in the world to enter the Industrial Revolution, and, like most industrialising countries at the time, initially concentrated on heavy industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining, steel production, and textiles. The empire created an overseas market for British products, allowing the United Kingdom to dominate international trade in the 19th century. However, as other nations industrialised and surplus labour from agriculture began to dry up, the United Kingdom began to lose its economic advantage. As a result, heavy industry declined, by degrees, throughout the 20th century. The British service sector, however, has grown substantially, and now makes up about 73% of GDP. [56]

The service sector of the United Kingdom is dominated by financial services, especially in banking and insurance. London is one of the world's largest financial centres with the London Stock Exchange, the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange, and the Lloyd's of London insurance market all based in the city. It also has the largest concentration of foreign bank branches in the world. In the past decade, a rival financial centre in London has grown in the Docklands area, with HSBC, Citigroup, and Barclays Bank all relocating their head offices there. The Scottish capital, Edinburgh also has one of the large financial centres of Europe [57].

Tourism is very important to the British economy. With over 27 million tourists a year, the United Kingdom is ranked as the sixth major tourist destination in the world. [58]

The British manufacturing sector, however, has greatly diminished since World War II. It is still a significant part of the economy, but only accounted for one-sixth of national output in 2003.[59]. The British motor industry is a significant part of this sector, although all large-volume producers are now foreign-owned. Civil and defence aircraft production is led by the United Kingdom's largest aerospace firm, BAE Systems, and the pan-European consortium known as Airbus. Rolls-Royce holds a major share of the global aerospace engines market. The chemical and pharmaceutical industry is also strong in the UK, with the world's second and third largest pharmaceutical firms (GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, respectively) being based in the UK. [citation needed] The United Kingdom's agriculture sector accounts for only 0.9% of GDP.[60]

The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves, although the natural gas and oil reserves are diminishing. Primary energy production accounts for about 10% of Gross domestic product (GDP), [citation needed] one of the highest shares of any industrial state.

The currency of the UK is the pound sterling, represented by the symbol £. The Bank of England is the central bank, responsible for issuing currency. Banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland retain the right to issue their own notes, subject to retaining enough Bank of England notes in reserve to cover the issue. The UK chose not to join the Euro at the currency's launch, although the government has pledged to hold a public referendum for deciding membership if "five economic tests" are met. [12] UK Public opinion is against the notion. [61]

Government involvement throughout the economy is exercised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Gordon Brown) who heads HM Treasury, but the Prime Minister (Tony Blair), is First Lord of the Treasury (the Chancellor of the Exchequer being the Second Lord of the Treasury). However since 1997, the Bank of England, headed by the Governor of the Bank of England, has control of interest rates and other monetary policy. The UK government has greatly increased public sector spending (i.e.: government spending of taxes) since 1995, and annual spending on investment in infrastructure has grown from £5.6bn in 1997 to £29bn in 2006.



The transport system in the United Kingdom is well developed. A radial road network of 29,145 miles (46,632 km) of main roads is centred on London, Edinburgh and Belfast, whilst, in Great Britain, a motorway network of 2,173 miles (3,477 km) is centred on both Birmingham and London. There are a further 213,750 miles (342,000 km) of paved roads. The National Rail network of 10,072 route miles (16,116 route km) in Great Britain and 189 route miles (303 route km) in Northern Ireland carries over 18,000 passenger and 1,000 freight trains daily. Urban rail networks are also well developed in London and several other cities. Heathrow Airport is the world's busiest international airport, and the UK has a considerable network of ports which received over 558 million tonnes of goods in 2003-04.

The government department overseeing transport is the Department for Transport.

The West Coast Main Line railway, alongside the M1 motorway
The West Coast Main Line railway, alongside the M1 motorway

Transport trends

Since 1952 (the earliest date for which comparable figures are available), the UK has seen a dramatic shift away from the use of public transport and towards the use of private transport, for both passengers and freight.

In 1952 just 27% of distance travelled was by car or taxi; with 42% being by bus or coach and 18% by rail. A further 11% was by bicycle and 3% by motorcycle. The distance travelled by air was negligible.

By 2003 85% of distance travelled was by car or taxi; with just 6% being by bus and 6% by rail. Air, pedal cycle and motorcycle accounted for roughly 1% each. In terms of journeys, slightly over 1,000,000,000 are made per annum by main line rail, 1,100,000,000 by London Underground and other metro systems, 4,500,000,000 by bus, and 21,000,000 on domestic air flights.

Passenger transport has grown significantly in recent years. Figures from the DTI [62] show that total passenger travel inside the UK has risen from 403 billion passenger kilometres in 1970 to 797 billion in 2004.

Freight transport has undergone similar changes, greatly increasing in volume and shifting from railways onto the road. In 1953 89,000,000,000 tonne kilometres of goods were moved, with rail accounting for 42%, road 36% and water 22%. By 2002 the volume of freight moved had almost trebled to 254,000,000,000 tonne kilometres, of which 7.5% was moved by rail, 26% by water, 4% by pipeline and 62% by road.

This shift from rail to road is both caused by, and a cause of, changes in the relative sizes of their networks; wheareas the rail network has halved from 31,336 km in 1950 to 16,116 km today, the motorway network, which today is 3476 km long, did not exist in 1950. It has also been caused by rising economic affluence, the move of the population away from city centres, and changes in industry.



Main articles: Rail transport in Great Britain, Rail transport in Ireland

The rail network in the United Kingdom consists of two independent parts, that of Northern Ireland and that of Great Britain. Since 1994, the latter has been connected to mainland Europe via the Channel Tunnel. The network of Northern Ireland is connected to that of the Republic of Ireland.


Great Britain

Virgin's Pendolino train
Virgin's Pendolino train

The rail network in Great Britain is the oldest such network in the world. The world's first intercity railway was the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, designed by George Stephenson and opened by the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington on 15 September 1830.

Until 1996 the rail network in Britain, and the passenger and freight services on it, were owned, operated and maintained by British Rail, a government-owned monopoly. In 1994 and 1995 British Rail was split into infrastructure, maintenance, rolling stock, passenger and freight companies, which were privatised from 1996 to 1997. Privatisation has proved controversial and the rail network has not yet experienced the full improvements that had been hoped.

In Britain, the infrastructure (track, stations, depots and signalling chiefly) is owned and maintained by Network Rail, a not for profit company. Network Rail replaced Railtrack, which became bankrupt in 2002 following the Hatfield Accident in 2000. Passenger services are operated by train operating companies(TOCs), most of which are franchises awarded by the UK Government. Examples include First Group, GNER and Virgin Trains. Freight trains are operated by Freight Operating Companies, such as EWS, which are commercial operations unsupported by government. Most Train Operating Companies do not own the locomotives and coaches which they use to operate passenger services. Instead, they are required to lease these from the three ROSCOs, Rolling Stock Operating Companies, with train maintenance carried out by companies such as Bombardier.

In Great Britain there is 16,536 km of 1435 mm gauge track. 4,928 km of track is electrified and 12,591 km is double or multiple tracks. The maximum scheduled speed on the regular network has historically been around 125 miles per hour (200 km/h), on the Inter-City lines. On the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, linking London with the Channel Tunnel, trains are now able to go at the speeds of French TGVs.


Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) both owns the infrastructure and operates passenger rail services. The Northern Ireland rail network is one of the few networks in Europe that carry no freight. It is publicly owned. NIR was united in 1996 with Northern Ireland's two publicly owned bus operators — Ulsterbus and Metro (formally Citybus) — under the brand Translink.

In Northern Ireland there is 342 km of track at 1600 mm gauge. 190 km of it is multiple track.


Rapid transit

Four cities in the UK have rapid transit systems. Most well known is the London Underground (known as the Tube), the oldest and longest rapid transit system in the world. Also in London are the separate Docklands Light Railway (though this is integrated with the Underground in many ways), and the North London Line, operated by Silverlink (formerly by British Rail). Outside of London there is the Glasgow Subway, Tyne and Wear Metro and Merseyrail in Liverpool.


Trams and Light Rail

A vintage British tram, preserved at the National Tramway Museum
A vintage British tram, preserved at the National Tramway Museum

Tram systems were popular in the UK in the late 19th and early 20th century. However with the rise of the car they began to be widely dismantled in the 1950s. By 1962 only Blackpool tramway remained. However in recent years trams have seen a revival in the UK, as in other countries. Examples of this second generation of tram systems include:

Edinburgh and Glasgow are soon to get light rail train services in their cities.

See also: Category:Tram transport in the United Kingdom, Trams in London, and Trams_in_Europe


The road network in the United Kingdom is extensive, with around 370,000 km of road, and is one of, if not the most, popular method of transportation. A high-speed motorway system, with a total length of 3300 km, was constructed from the 1950s onwards, and links all major cities (though part of the A74 linking England and Scotland has not yet been upgraded). The maximum speed limit is 70 miles per hour (113 km/h). Alongside the motorway system are trunk roads, many of which are dual carriageway, various A and B roads, and many unclassified roads.

The Highways Agency (a division of the Department of Transport) is responsible for maintaining motorways and trunk roads in England. Other English roads are maintained by local authorities. In Scotland and Wales roads are the responsibility of the Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly respectively. Northern Ireland's roads are overseen by the Roads Service, a section of the Department for Regional Development.

Toll roads are rare in the United Kingdom, though there are many toll bridges such as the Severn crossing. In 2003 the UK's first toll motorway, the M6 Toll road, opened in the Birmingham area to relieve the congested M6 motorway. Congestion charging systems also operate in a few cities such as central London and Durham. The government is considering introducing further road pricing schemes.

Driving is on the left.

See also: Great Britain road numbering scheme, List of motorways in the United Kingdom


Coaches provide long-distance links throughout the UK: in England & Wales the majority of coach services are provided by National Express. Megabus run no-frills coach services in competition with National Express and services in Scotland in co-operation with Scottish Citylink. Within regional areas, there is are various local bus systems which in Great Britain were usually originally owned by local councils, but have been deregulated and privatised under the Transport Act 1980. Since deregulation the majority of these local bus companies have been takenover by one of the "Big Four" private transport companies: Arriva, FirstGroup plc, National Express Group (owners of National Express) and Stagecoach Group. In Northern Ireland coach, bus (and rail) services remain regulated and are provided by Translink.



Due to the United Kingdom's island nature, before the Channel Tunnel and the advent of air travel the only way to enter or leave the country was on water, except at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.


Ports and harbours

Approximately 95% of freight enters the UK by sea (75% by value). Three major ports handle most freight traffic:

There are many other ports and harbours around the UK, including the following towns, cities and rivers:

Aberdeen, Avonmouth, Barrow-in-Furness, Barry, Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Dover, Falmouth, Glasgow, Gloucester, Grangemouth, Harwich, Hull, Inverness, Leith, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newport, Peterhead, Plymouth, Poole, Port Talbot, Portsmouth, Scapa Flow, Sullom Voe, Swansea, Tees, Tyne.


Merchant marine

For long periods of the last millennium Britain had the largest merchant fleet in the world, but it has slipped down the rankings. There are 429 ships of 1,000 GRT or over, making a total of 9,181,284 GRT (9,566,275 DWT). These are split into the following types: bulk carrier 18, cargo 55, chemical tanker 48, container 134, liquefied gas 11, passenger 12, passenger/cargo 64, petroleum tanker 40, refrigerated cargo 19, roll on/roll off 25, vehicle carrier 3. There are also 446 ships registered in other countries, and 202 foreign-owned ships registered in the UK. (2005 CIA estimate)

Mersey ferry
Mersey ferry

Other shipping

Passenger ferries operate internationally to nearby countries such as France, the Republic of Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands. Ferries also operate within the UK, connecting Scotland with Northern Ireland, Southampton with Isle of Wight and many smaller routes.

Cruise ships depart from the UK for destinations worldwide, many heading for ports around the Mediterranean and Caribbean.

The Solent is a world centre for yachting and home to largest number of private yachts in the world.


Inland waterways

Major canal building began in the UK after the onset of the Industrial revolution in the 18th century. A large canal network was built and it became the primary method of transporting goods throughout the country. However, by the 1830s with the development of the railways the canal network began to go into decline.

There are currently 1,988 miles (3200 km) of waterways in the United Kingdom, and the primary use is recreational. 385 miles (620 km) is used for commerce. (2004 CIA estimate)


Air transport

Main article: List of airports in the United Kingdom

Heathrow Airport is the world's busiest airport in terms of numbers of international passengers.
Heathrow Airport is the world's busiest airport in terms of numbers of international passengers.

There are 471 airports in the UK, of which 334 are paved. There are also 11 heliports. (2004 CIA estimates)

The British Airports Authority runs many of the UK's airports, its flagship being London Heathrow Airport, the busiest airport in the world in terms of number of international passengers, and London Gatwick Airport, the second largest. The third largest is Manchester Airport, in Manchester, which is run by Manchester Airport Group, which also owns various other airports.

Other major airports include London Stansted Airport in Essex, about thirty miles (50 km) north of London and Birmingham International Airport, in Birmingham.

Outside of England, Cardiff International Airport, Glasgow International Airport and Belfast International Airport, are the busiest airports serving Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.

The largest airline in the UK is British Airways, who operate long-distance flights from the UK to all over the globe. Others include bmi, Easyjet, and Virgin Atlantic.


Administrative subdivisions

The United Kingdom is divided into four parts, commonly referred to as the home nations or constituent countries. Each nation is further subdivided for the purposes of local government. The Queen appoints a Lord-Lieutenant as her personal representative in lieutenancy areas across the UK; this is little more than a ceremonial role. The following table highlights the arrangements for local government, lieutenancy areas and cities across the home nations of the UK:

Manchester Town Hall. Many towns and cities in the UK have impressive town or city hall buildings as administrative headquarters for local government
Manchester Town Hall. Many towns and cities in the UK have impressive town or city hall buildings as administrative headquarters for local government
Flag Country Status Population Subdivisions Cities
England England Kingdom 50,431,700 Regions
Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties
Lieutenancy areas
English Cities
Scotland Scotland Kingdom 5,094,800 Council areas
Lieutenancy areas
Scottish Cities
Wales Wales Principality 2,958,600 Unitary authorities
Lieutenancy areas
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland Province 1,724,400 Districts
Traditional counties
Northern Irish Cities

Historically, the four nations were divided into counties as areas for local government administration. Although these are still used to some extent for this purpose and as geographical areas, they are no longer the sole basis for local government administration.

In recent years, England has, for some purposes, been divided into nine intermediate-level Government Office Regions. Each region is made up of counties and unitary authorities, apart from London, which consists of London boroughs. Although at one point it was intended that each or some of these regions would be given its own elected regional assembly, the plan's future is uncertain following a rejection, by referendum, of a proposed assembly in the North East region.

City status is governed by Royal Charter. There are 66 British cities (50 in England; 6 in Scotland; 5 in Wales; and 5 in Northern Ireland).

The Crown has sovereignty over the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, and the Isle of Man - known collectively as the crown dependencies. These are lands historically owned by the British monarch but are not part of the United Kingdom itself. They are also not in the European Union. However, the Parliament of the United Kingdom has the authority to legislate for the dependencies, and the British government manages their foreign affairs and defence.

The UK also has fourteen overseas territories around the world, the last remaining territories of the British Empire. The overseas territories are also not considered part of the UK, but in most cases the local populations have British citizenship and the right to abode in the UK. This has been the case since 2002.



The Army, Navy and Air force are collectively known as the armed forces and are also known as the British Armed Forces or Her Majesty's Armed Forces, but officially Armed Forces of the Crown. Their Commander-in-Chief is the monarch, Elizabeth II and they are managed by the Ministry of Defence. The armed forces are controlled by the Defence Council currently headed by Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup.

The United Kingdom fields one of the most powerful and comprehensive armed forces in the world. Its global power projection capabilities are deemed second only to the United States military, and its navy is the world's second strongest. [63] Furthermore, amongst the NATO allies the Royal Navy's total naval tonnage is second only to the United States military and has the third largest share of tactical combat aircraft to the US and France.[64] According to the British Ministry of Defence, the UK has the second highest military expenditure in the world.[65]

The United Kingdom possesses a comprehensive nuclear arsenal (one of the small number of countries to do so), utilising the submarine-based Trident II ballistic missile system with nuclear warheads. These Vanguard class submarines were designed and built by VSEL (now BAE Systems Submarines) at Barrow-in-Furness.

The British Armed Forces are charged with protecting the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, promoting the United Kingdom's wider security interests, and supporting international peacekeeping efforts. They are active and regular participants in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and other coalition operations.

The Royal Navy operates four nuclear Vanguard class submarines armed with the Trident II nuclear missiles.
The Royal Navy operates four nuclear Vanguard class submarines armed with the Trident II nuclear missiles.

The British Army had a reported strength of 102,440 in 2005 [66] and the Royal Air Force a strength of 49,210. The 36,320-member Royal Navy operates the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent, which consists of four Trident missile-armed submarines, while the Royal Marines are the Royal Navy's Light Infantry units for amphibious operations and for specialist reinforcement forces in and beyond the NATO area. This puts total active duty military personnel in the range of 190,000 deployed in over 80 countries.

There are also reserve forces supporting the regular military. These include an army reserve, the Territorial Army (TA), the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR), Royal Marines Reserve (RMR) and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF). About 9% of the regular armed forces is made up of women, a figure that is higher for the reserve forces.

The United Kingdom Special Forces, principally the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS), but including others, provide troops trained for quick, mobile, military responses in counter-terrorism, land, maritime and amphibious operations, often where secrecy or covert operations are required.

Despite the United Kingdom's wide-ranging capabilities, recent pragmatic defence policy has a stated assumption that "the most demanding operations" would be undertaken as part of a coalition. [67] Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan (Operations VERITAS, FINGAL and HERRICK), Iraq (Ops GRANBY, DESERT FOX, TELIC and the no-fly zones) may all be taken as precedent; the last war in which the British military fought alone was the Falklands War of 1982, with full-scale combat operations lasting almost three months.




Education and science

Further information: Education in the United Kingdom, Education in England, Education in Scotland, Education in Wales and Education in Northern Ireland
The Radcliffe Camera of Oxford University in Oxfordshire, England.
The Radcliffe Camera of Oxford University in Oxfordshire, England.

The United Kingdom contains some of the world's leading, and oldest, seats of higher education [68], such as the ancient multi-faculty universities at Oxford and Cambridge. It has produced innumerable scholars, scientists and engineers including Sir Isaac Newton, Bertrand Russell, Adam Smith, James Clerk Maxwell, Lord Kelvin, Sir Humphry Davy, Joseph John Thomson, Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, Alexander Fleming, Francis Crick, Sir Joseph William Bazalgette and Isambard Kingdom Brunel; the nation is credited with numerous scientific discoveries including hydrogen, gravity, the electron, structure of DNA, and inventions including the chronometer, television, the modern bicycle, the electronic computer, along with the later development of the World Wide Web.

In 2006, it was reported that the UK was the most productive source of research after the United States; with the UK producing 9% of the world's scientific research papers with a 12% share of citations.[69]



The Chandos portrait, believed to depict William Shakespeare, famed playwright
The Chandos portrait, believed to depict William Shakespeare, famed playwright

The countries that make up the United Kingdom have provided some of the world's most notable and popular authors, poets and literary figures. The English playwright and poet William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language.[70]

Many world-famous writers and poets lived and wrote in the United Kingdom. England is particularly well represented in the history of the novel. Early English writers who could be described as novelists include Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Malory and Geoffrey of Monmouth. These romantic writers were followed by a wave of more realistic writers in later centuries, including Jane Austen (often credited with inventing the modern novel), Thackeray, Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Anthony Trollope. In the 20th century, H. G. Wells, D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, EM Forster, George Orwell and Graham Greene made contributions. More recently Ian McEwan , Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis and Zadie Smith were amongst those gaining recognition, while childrens' author J. K. Rowling has had immense recent popularity.

Wales and Scotland have also contributed many notable writers to the UK's stock of great literature, particularly in poetry. In the early medieval period, Welsh writers composed the famous Mabinogion. In modern times, the poets R.S. Thomas and Dylan Thomas have brought Welsh culture and ideas to a world audience. In Romantic literature, Scotland offers Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson's epic adventures and the leading poet of his day, Robert Burns. Modern Scottish writers like Hugh MacDiarmid and Neil M. Gunn helped develop a distinct modernist and nationalist Scottish voice, sometimes termed the Scottish Renaissance. A more grim outlook is found in Ian Rankin's stories and the psychological horror-comedy of Iain Banks.

Many authors from other nationalities, particularly the Irish, and from Commonwealth countries, have also lived and worked in the UK. Significant examples through the centuries include Jonathon Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw and Joseph Conrad, and more recently British authors of overseas origin such as Kazuo Ishiguro.

Important poets include Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton, William Blake, Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John Keats, Lord Tennyson, T. S. Eliot, R. S. Thomas, Wilfred Owen, John Betjeman, Philip Larkin, W. H. Auden and Ted Hughes.

The history of the theatre in the United Kingdom is particularly vivid. Shakespeare's contemporaries Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson add depth to the early theatre. More recently Alan Ayckbourn, Harold Pinter, Michael Frayn, Tom Stoppard and David Edgar have combined elements of surrealism, realism and radicalism ; with successful recent playwrights also including John Osborne, Arnold Wesker, Alan Bennett and David Hare.

Further information: English literature, Scottish literature and Welsh literature

Engineering and innovation

As birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the UK was home to many significant inventors during the late 18th and early 19th century. Famous British engineers include Isambard Kingdom Brunel, best known for the creation of the Great Western Railway, a series of famous steamships, and numerous important bridges.

Recent British inventors include James Dyson, inventor of the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner.

As above, notable engineering firsts include the steam locomotive and the modern railway, television, electric lighting, the electric motor, the screw propeller, the internal combustion engine, the jet engine. Two notable innovations are vaccination and anibiotics.



The United Kingdom has been influential in the development of cinema, with the Ealing Studios claiming to be the oldest studios in the world. Despite a history of important and successful productions, the industry is characterised by an ongoing debate about its identity, and the influences of American and European cinema. Famous films include the Harry Potter, Star Wars and James Bond series which, although made by American studios, used British source materials, locations, actors and filming crew.


Design and architecture

The British Airways London Eye.
The British Airways London Eye.

The United Kingdom has produced a number of important architects, including Sir Christopher Wren, and Sir Norman Foster along with designers Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Jonathan Ive.



Notable composers from the United Kingdom have included Henry Purcell, Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Arthur Sullivan (most famous for working with librettist Sir W. S. Gilbert), Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Lord Benjamin Britten who pioneered British opera.

The UK was, with the US, one of the two main contributors in the development of rock and roll, and the UK has provided some of the world's most famous rock bands including The Kinks, The Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, The Who, Black Sabbath, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and The Rolling Stones. The UK was at the forefront of both progressive rock and punk rock with bands like Yes, King Crimson, The Sex Pistols and The Clash, as well as in the creation of heavy metal and Goth and Rave youth culture. The late-1970s and 1980s saw the rise of Post-Punk and New Wave. The so-called 'Second British Invasion' into the US popular music scene took place from 1982 to 1984 when UK bands flooded the US Billboard charts. In the mid to late-1990s, the Britpop phenomenon saw bands such as Radiohead, Oasis and Blur attain considerable national and international success. The 1990s also saw the rise of major Welsh bands such as The Stereophonics and Manic Street Preachers. The UK is also at the forefront of electronica, with British artists such as The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers helping this mainly underground genre to cross over into the mainstream (having originated in the early-90's with techno bands such as Orbital). British pop producers Stock Aitken Waterman dominated the charts in the late-80's and early-90's with their instantly recognisable brand of pop. The 1990s charts were also dominated by the boy band phenomenon, with groups such as Take That thriving amongst countless others. Girl groups like the Spice Girls and Sugababes also found considerable success. Pop back again with new singers getting many success as Sophie Ellis Bextor or Lily Allen in 2000's. UK Garage developed out of the urban music scene towards the end of the decade, through popular acts such as the Artful Dodger. The popularity of 'soft rock' bands such as Coldplay has increased, whilst indie music has grown in profile, with Arctic Monkeys enjoying chart success and Pete Doherty gaining newspaper headlines. 'Reality-TV' has also produced a new generation of 'popstars', some of whom such as Will Young and the girlband, Girls Aloud, have gone on to successful careers.


Visual art

William Turner's "Flint Castle".
William Turner's "Flint Castle".


The UK has a virtually unrivaled number of media outlets, and the prominence of the English language gives it a widespread international dimension.

The BBC is the UK's publicly-funded radio and television broadcasting corporation, and is the oldest broadcaster in the world. Funded by the compulsory television licence, the BBC operates several television networks and radio stations both in the UK and abroad. The BBC's international television news service, BBC World, is broadcast throughout the world and the BBC World Service radio network is broadcast in 33 languages globally. The major television networks in the UK are BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4, Five and BSkyB. The vast majority of digital cable services are provided by NTL:Telewest (created by the merger of NTL and Telewest in March 2006), and free-to-air digital terrestrial television by Freeview.

Radio in the UK is dominated by BBC Radio, which operates 10 national networks and over 40 local radio stations. The most popular radio station, by number of listeners, is BBC Radio 2, closely followed by BBC Radio 1. There are also hundreds of commercial radio stations which are largely local-based offering up a variety of music or talk formats.

Traditionally, British newspapers could be split into "quality", serious-minded newspaper (usually referred to as broadsheets because of their large size) and the more populist, tabloid varieties. For convenience of reading, many traditional broadsheets have switched to a 'compact-sized' format, traditionally used by tabloids. The Sun has the highest circulation of any daily newspaper in the UK, with approximately a quarter of the market; its sister paper, The News of The World similarly leads the Sunday newspaper market [71], and traditionally focuses on celebrity-led stories. The Daily Telegraph, a right-of-centre paper, is the highest selling of the 'qualities' (former broadsheets), having overtaken The Times in circulation figures. [72] The Guardian is a more liberal or left-wing former broadsheet. The Financial Times is the main business paper, printed on distinctive salmon-pink broadsheet paper. Scotland has a distinct tradition of newspaper readership.

Further information: List of newspapers in Scotland


The Wimbledon Championships Grand Slam tournament is held in London every July.
The Wimbledon Championships Grand Slam tournament is held in London every July.

A number of major sports originated in the United Kingdom, including association football (football, or soccer), rugby football (rugby), golf, cricket and boxing.

The most popular sport in the UK is association football (known as soccer in any country with its own native football game), commonly referred to as just "football". The UK does not compete as a nation in any major football tournament. Instead, the home nations compete individually as England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is because of this four-team arrangement that the UK does not compete in football events at the Olympic Games. However, there is talk of a united team taking part in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, which are to be held in London. The English and Northern Irish football associations have confirmed participation in this team while the Scottish FA and the Welsh FA have declined to participate, fearing that it would undermine their independent status.

The UK is home to many world-renowned football clubs, such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal in England, and Celtic and Rangers in Scotland. Clubs compete in national leagues and competitions and some go on to compete in European competitions. British teams are generally successful in European Competitions and several have become European Cup/UEFA Champions League winners: Liverpool (five times), Manchester United (twice), Nottingham Forest (twice), Aston Villa and Celtic. The English Premier League is also the most-watched football league in the world[73] and is particularly popular in Asia: in the People's Republic of China, matches attract television audiences between 100 million and 360 million, more than any other foreign sport.[74]

Wembley Stadium when completed will be the largest football stadium in the World.
Wembley Stadium when completed will be the largest football stadium in the World.

The early reference to the separate national identities in the UK is perhaps best illustrated by the game of cricket. Cricket was invented in England. There are league championships but the English national team dominates the game in Britain. There is no UK team. Although some Welsh and Scottish players have played for England, it is in England where cricket retains its major fan base in the UK. English cricket grounds include Lords, The Brit Oval, Headingly, Old Trafford, Edgbaston and Trent Bridge. However Cardiff's Sophia Gardens ground has become increasingly popular in recent years.

The UK has proved successful in the international sporting arena in rowing. It is widely considered that the sport's most successful rower is Steven Redgrave who won five gold medals and one bronze medal at five consecutive Olympic Games as well as numerous wins at the World Rowing Championships and Henley Royal Regatta.

Both forms of rugby are national sports. Rugby league originates from and is generally played in the North of England, whilst Rugby Union is played predominantly in Wales, Ireland and Southern England. Having supposedly originated from the actions of William Webb Ellis at the town of Rugby, it is considered the national sport of Wales. In rugby league the UK plays as one nation – Great Britain – though in union it is represented by four nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (which consists of players from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland). England is the holder of the Rugby World Cup. Every four years the British and Irish Lions tour either Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. Here, rugby football differs internationally to association football, as the England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland (including Northern Ireland) teams do come together to form the British and Irish Lions, though they do all compete separately internationally for the most part.

The Wimbledon Championships are international tennis events held in Wimbledon in south London every summer and are seen as the most prestigious of the tennis calendar.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews regarded as the worldwide "Home of Golf".
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews regarded as the worldwide "Home of Golf".

Thoroughbred racing is also very popular in England. It originated under Charles II of England as the "Sport of Kings" and is a royal pastime to this day. World-famous horse races include the Grand National, the Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot.

Golf is one of the most popular participation sports played in the UK, with St Andrews in Scotland being the sport's home course. Cricket is also popular, although the popularity of the game is dramatically greater in England than in other parts of the UK, all four constituent nations as of 2006 compete at the One-Day International level – Scotland independently, Wales as part of the English team, and Northern Ireland as part of All-Ireland.

Shinty or camanachd (a sport derived from the same root as the Irish hurling and similar to bandy) is popular in the Scottish Highlands, sometimes attracting crowds numbering thousands in the most sparsely populated region of the UK.

The country is closely associated with motorsport. Many teams and drivers in Formula One and the World Rally Championship are based in the UK. The country also hosts legs of the F1 and World Rallying Championship calendars and has its own Touring Car Racing championship, the BTCC.

British Formula One World Champions include Mike Hawthorn, Graham Hill (twice), Jim Clark (twice), John Surtees (who was also successful on motorcycles), Jackie Stewart (three times), James Hunt, Nigel Mansell, and Graham Hill's son, Damon Hill. British drivers have not been as successful in the World Rally Championship, with only Colin McRae and the late Richard Burns winning the title.



The Statue of Britannia in Plymouth.
The Statue of Britannia in Plymouth.
Flag Country Patron Saint Flower
England England St George red rose
Scotland Scotland St Andrew cotton thistle
Wales Wales St David leek/daffodil
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland St Patrick shamrock/flax

See also


Miscellaneous data



  1. See British Isles (terminology) for further explanation of the usage of the term "Britain" in geographical and political contexts.
  2. Countries within a country, Number 10. Accessed May 29 2006
  3. European Union population figures, Eurostat/US Bureau of the Census. Retrieved 15 May 2006.
  4. "The Act of Union with Wales", Schools’ History, 7 November 2004. Retrieved 15 May 2006.
  5. "The Treaty (or Act) of Union, 1707". Retrieved 15 May 2006.
  6. "The Act of Union", Act of Union Virtual Library. Retrieved 15 May 2006.
  7. "The Anglo-Irish Treaty, 6 December 1921", CAIN. Retrieved 15 May 2006.
  8. Ferguson, Niall (2003). Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-02328-2.
  9. National Maritime Museum - the transatlantic slave trade provided the venture capital for the industrial revolution
  10. "Modest progress but always on back foot", Times Online, 21 December 2005. Retrieved 16 May 2006.
  11. "European Constitution: bad for Britain, bad for Europe", Conservative Party. Retrieved 23 May 2006.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "The UK's five tests", BBC News, 21 November 2002. Retrieved 16 May 2006.
  13. "A Guide To the UK Legal System" Carter, Sarah (University of Kent at Canterbury), retrieved May 16 2006
  14. Extract (Hansard, 23 July 1999, Col.1545) ("As the Queen's consent has not been obtained, this cannot be dealt with.") also see Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill Retrieved 17 May 2006
  15. Royal Assent. Retrieved on 2006-05-17.
  16. "Polls Apart? The Public and the Monarchy", Market & Opinion Research International, 16 June 2000, Retrieved 14 May 2006.
  17. Europe Wins The Power To Jail British Citizens The Times, September 14, 2005
  18. The History of the Church of England. The Archbishops' Council of the Church of England. Retrieved on 2006-05-24.
  19. General Election results through time, 1945–2001 BBC News, Accessed May 19, 2006
  20. Constitutional Reform Liberal Democrats election change proposals, Accessed May 19, 2006
  21. National Identity in Wales. Office for National Statistics (2004-01-08). Retrieved on 2006-05-16.
  22. Scottish Independence Party website Retrieved on 16-05-2006
  23. Dimensions of social identity in Northern Ireland. Queen's University of Belfast (1999-06-28). Retrieved on 2006-05-16.
  24. Jones, George (2006-01-17). Baker seeks end to West Lothian question. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved on 2006-05-16.
  25. No English parliament — Falconer. BBC (2006-03-10). Retrieved on 2006-05-16.
  26. The Celtic League, accessed May 20 2006
  27. "Constitutional reform: A Supreme Court for the United Kingdom", Department for Constitutional Affairs, Accessed 2006-05-22. PDF
  28. Geography of the United Kingdom CIA, Accessed 22 May 2006
  29. Geography of Scotland Heritage of Scotland, Accessed 22 May 2006
  30. Dialysis Scotland Accessed 22 May 2006
  31. Geography of Wales BBC Wales, Accessed 22 May 2006
  32. Geography of Northern Ireland University of Ulster Accessed May 22 2006
  33. "UK population approaches 60 million", Office for National Statistics, 25 August 2005; Retrieved 14 May 2006.
  34. Rising birth rate, longevity and migrants push population to more than 60 million. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2006-08-25.
  35. Census 2001: South East, Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 14 May 2006.
  36. All people population: City of London. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved on 2006-08-31.
  37. United Kingdom. Humana. Retrieved on 2006-05-18.
  38. [1] Commission for Racial Equality: Multi Ethnic Britain
  39. Immigration fails to stem European population loss. The Guardian (2006-08-17). Retrieved on 2006-08-20.
  40. London. Commission for Racial Equality.
  41. BirminghamCommission for Racial Equality.
  42. LeicesterCommission for Racial Equality.
  43. 43.0 43.1 Office for National Statistics, International migration: Net inflow rose in 2004, 15 December 2005, accessed 22 November 2006
  44. Office for National Statistics, International migration 2005: Net inflow 185,000, 2 November 2006, accessed 22 November 2006
  45. The Telegraph 5th January 2007 [2]
  46. Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue & Customs and Department for Communities and Local Government, Accession Monitoring Report: May 2004-September 2006, 21 November 2006, accessed 22 November 2006.
  47. 'Nearly 600,000' new EU migrants, BBC, 22 August 2006. Retrieved 22 August 2006.
  48. Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah and Catherine Drew, Brits Abroad: Mapping the scale and nature of British emigration, London: Institute for Public Policy Research, 11 December 2006, accessed 20 January 2007 (see also www.bbc.co.uk/britsabroad).
  49. English-Language Dominance, Literature and Welfare Melitz, Jacques; Centre for Economic Policy Research; 1999; Accessed May 26 2006
  50. "Census shows 72% identify as Christians", Office for National Statistics, Retrieved 14 May 2006
  51. Eurobarometer poll conducted in 2005 European Commission, Retrieved 07 December 2006
  52. We need imams who can speak to young Muslims in their own words. The Times (2006-08-05). Retrieved on 2006-08-09.
  53. Veil: British papers back Straw. CNN (2006-07-10). Retrieved on 2006-05-11.
  54. Hindus in Britain Stage Rare Open-Air Cremation. Washington post (2006-07-15). Retrieved on 2006-08-09.
  55. "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects", International Monetary Fund, 2005. Retrieved 15 May 2006.
  56. Index of Services (experimental). Office for National Statistics (2006-04-26). Retrieved on 2006-05-24.
  57. "Debate on Scottish financial services industry", Mark Lazarowicz Labour MP, 30 April 2003. Retrieved 16 May 2006.
  58. International Tourism Receipts (PDF). UNWTO Tourism Highlights, Edition 2005 pp. 12. World Tourism Organization. Retrieved on 2006-05-24.
  59. TUC Manufacturing Conference, Patricia Hewitt speech, Department for Trade and Industry, 15 July. Retrieved 16 May 2006.
  60. CIA World Factbook - United Kingdom
  61. EMU Entry And EU Constitution. MORI (2005-02-28). Retrieved on 2006-05-17.
  62. http://www.dtistats.net/energystats/ecuk2_2.xls Passenger kilometres by bus, rail, air, motorcycle, pedal cycle, 1970 to 2004, URN No: 06/453, DTI
  63. Sea Vision UK. Why is the maritime sector so important?. Sea Vision UK (2006). Retrieved on 2006-11-16.
  64. Chapter II: REGIONAL OVERVIEW AND CONTRIBUTIONS OF KEY ALLIES: Contributions of Selected NATO Allies. Allied Contributions to the Common Defense: A Report to the United States Congress by the Secretary of Defense. United States Department of Defense (March 2001). Retrieved on 2006-10-14.
  65. About Defence: Defence Spending (2006-12-07).
  66. "Annual Reports and Accounts 2004-05", Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 14 May 2006. PDF
  67. Office for National Statistics "UK 2005: The Official Yearbook of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" p. 89
  68. "Top 500 World Universities (1-100)", Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 2005. Retrieved 15 May 2006
  69. "Britain second in world research rankings", Guardian, 21 March 2006, retrieved 14 May 2006.
  70. Encyclopedia Britannica article on Shakespeare, MSN Encarta Encyclopedia article on Shakespeare, Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia article on Shakespeare. Accessed Feb. 26, 2006.
  71. ABC Newspaper Circulation Figures The Times, May 12 2006, accessed May 16 2006.
  72. Audit Bureau of Circulation Interactive Analysis National Newspaper Selection - Average Net Circulation (UK) 03-Jul-2006 to 30-Jul-2006. Retrieved on 2006-09-04. Lists Daily Telegraph as 844,929 and The Times as 620,456.
  73. http://www.footy-live.com/Premiership.html
  74. "Chinese phone maker's fancy footwork", BBC News, 27 October 2003. Retrieved on 2006-08-09.
  75. It is sometimes asserted by those used to a legislative tradition that "God Save the Queen" is not the actual national anthem of the UK, (or sometimes that it is the de facto national anthem) because no law has ever been passed to say that that is the case. In the UK, however, such laws are unnecessary; custom, practice and proclamation are sufficient to establish it as the official national anthem.
  76. Britannia on British Coins. Chard. Retrieved on 2006-06-25.

External links

UK topics
Subdivisions England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Crown dependencies | Overseas territories
History Timeline | England | Scotland | Wales | Ireland | British Empire | Social History | Foreign relations of the United Kingdom
Politics Parliament | House of Commons | House of Lords | The Crown | Prime Minister | Cabinet | Government departments | Constitution | Local government | Elections | Political parties
Geography Geology | Mountains | Lakes | Rivers | Transport
Economy Economic History | Stock Exchange | Pound Sterling | Banks | Bank of England | Taxation
Military Military history | Royal Navy | British Army | Royal Air Force | Nuclear weapons
Demographics Languages | Religion | Subdivision | Cities | Towns
Culture Art | Literature | Music | Cinema | Television | Sport | Media

Retrieved from "http://localhost../art/c.html"

This text comes from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for a given article, visit the corresponding entry on the English Wikipedia and click on "History" . For more details about the license of an image, visit the corresponding entry on the English Wikipedia and click on the picture.