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[Portal] United Kingdom

The United Kingdom Portal

Flag of the United Kingdom
Coat of Arms for the United Kingdom
Map of the United Kingdom in the British Isles.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK or U.K.) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north­western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north­eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

The United Kingdom is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the world's longest-serving current head of state. The United Kingdom's capital and largest city is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. Other major cities include Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and Liverpool.

The United Kingdom consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast, respectively. Apart from England, the countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers, but such power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution. The nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey are not part of the UK, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defence and international representation. The medieval conquest and subsequent annexation of Wales by the Kingdom of England, followed by the union between England and Scotland in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the union in 1801 of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the UK in 1922, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There are fourteen British Overseas Territories, the remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land mass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language, culture and political systems of many of its former colonies.

The United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It has a high-income economy and has a very high Human Development Index rating, ranking 14th in the world. It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power, with considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence internationally. It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and is sixth in military expenditure in the world. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946. It has been a leading member state of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), since 1973. A referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9% of the turnout being in favour of leaving the EU, which is currently scheduled to take place on or before 31 January 2020. The United Kingdom is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Interpol and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Featured article

Brick Lane

The East End of London is the area of London, England, east of the medieval walled City of London and north of the River Thames. Starting in the 19th century, the area experienced extreme overcrowding and a concentration of poor people and immigrants. Successive waves of immigration began with Huguenot refugees creating a new extramural suburb in Spitalfields in the 17th century. They were followed by Irish weavers, Ashkenazi Jews and, in the 20th century, Bangladeshis. Many of these immigrants worked in the clothing industry. The abundance of semi- and unskilled labour led to low wages and poor conditions throughout the East End. This brought the attentions of social reformers during the mid-18th century and led to the formation of unions and workers associations at the end of the century. The radicalism of the East End contributed to the formation of the Labour Party and demands for the enfranchisement of women. Official attempts to address the overcrowded housing began at the beginning of the 20th century under the London County Council. World War II devastated much of the East End, with its docks, railways and industry forming a continual target, leading to dispersal of the population to new suburbs, and new housing being built in the 1950s. The final closure of the London docks in 1980 created further challenges and led to attempts at regeneration and the formation of the London Docklands Development Corporation. The Canary Wharf development, improved infrastructure, and the Olympic Park mean that the East End is undergoing further change, but some of its parts continue to contain some of the worst poverty in Britain. (more...)

Featured biography

1722 facsimile of first page of Cotton manuscript of Asser's 'Life of King Alfred'

Asser was a Welsh monk from St. David's, Dyfed, who became Bishop of Sherborne in the 890s. In about 885 he was asked by Alfred the Great to leave St. David's and join the circle of learned men which Alfred was recruiting for his court. After spending a year at Caerwent due to an illness, he accepted. In 893 Asser wrote a biography of Alfred, called the Life of King Alfred. The manuscript survived to modern times in only one copy, which was part of the Cotton library. That copy was destroyed in a fire in 1731, but transcriptions that had been made earlier, allied with material from Asser's work that was included by other early writers, have enabled the work to be reconstructed. The biography is now the main source of information about Alfred's life, and provides far more information about Alfred than is known about any other early English ruler. Asser also assisted Alfred in his translation of Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care, and possibly with other works. Asser is sometimes cited as a source for the legend of Alfred having founded the University of Oxford, which is now known to be false. A short passage making this claim was interpolated by William Camden into his 1603 edition of Asser's Life. Doubts have also been raised periodically about whether the entire Life is a forgery, written by a slightly later writer, but it is now almost universally accepted as genuine. (more...)

Did you know...

Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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Passchendaele village, before and after the Battle of Passchendaele
Photo credit: UK Government

The 1917 Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was one of the major battles of World War I, fought by British, ANZAC, and Canadian soldiers against the German army. The battle was fought for control of the village of Passendale, (Belgium-French Passchendaele on maps of that time), near the Belgian town of Ypres in West Flanders.

In the news

Wikinews UK

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

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