Country Profile: The United Kingdom
241,590 sq km
-4 to 8 degrees Nov-April
6 to 35 degrees May-Aug
60,776,238 (0.3% growth rate),
CurrencyPound Sterling (£)
LanguagesEnglish, Welsh, Gaelic, Scots
ReligionsChristian (Anglican, Catholic,
Presbyterian, Methodist) 71.6%
Economic SummaryGDP: $2.137 trillion
Of labour force (30.1million): 1.5% Agriculture, 19.1% Industry, 79.5%
Main industriesAerospace Engineering
Chemical / Pharmaceuticals
Financial Sector (Stock Exchange,
Major trading partnersUSA, Germany, France, Ireland,
Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Italy,
The United Kingdom has one of the highest GDPs in the world, and as such remains a global power. It is a founding member of the EU, and is also member of such organisations as the United Nations Security Council, G8, NATO, OECD, WTO and the Commonwealth of Nations. Much of the UK's labour force work in the service sector, and within that the finance and tourism sectors are most important; other key industries include electric equipment, chemicals, metals, petroleum, shipbuilding and clothing. The UK has some coal reserves and dwindling natural gas and oil resources, although UCG is another energy alternative.
A brief history of the United Kingdom
In 1st century BC, Romans invaded the UK and brought Britain into contact with Europe. They withdrew in 5th century AD, leaving behind many reminders of their occupation which form a fascinating part of the archaeology of Britain today. The departure of the Romans left Britain vulnerable to invasion by many races, including Angles, Saxons and Jutes, which marked the beginning of Anglo Saxon Britain and caused original Britons to flee to Wales and Scotland. The country finally became united under the Kings of Wessex, and after the death of Edward the Confessor in 1066, there was a dispute over succession and William the Conqueror invaded.
In 1215, King John signed the Magna Carta, which awarded basic rights to the people of Britain. The House of Commons was developed in the 13th and 14th centuries, and this was followed by the Hundred Years War against France and the Black Death. By 1485, the Tudors had won the throne of England in the Battle of Bosworth, marking the end of the Wars of the Roses.
The independence of the Church of England from Roman Catholicism was established under the reign of Henry VIII, and after much tension between the two, Queen Elizabeth I propounded a milder, modernised Church of England.
Throughout the latter half of the 17th century the struggle between Parliament and monarchy established the primacy of Parliament. When Queen Anne died in 1714, the Hanoverian line began, the first sovereign of which was King George I. His relutance to manage the political affairs of the country lead to the establishment of the cabinet and the appointment of a First Lord of the Treasury. In the time of Robert Walpole, this position came to be known as Prime Minister.
The Treaty of Union, 22nd July 1706, was agreed by the Kingdom of England (including Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland. A year later, on 1st May 1707, the United Kingdom was created. Ireland, which had been under the control of England since 1691, did not merge with the United Kingdom until 1800.
Britain had begun establishing its empire in the 16th and 17th centuries through trading outposts and colonies in the Americas and Africa. This rose to become an enormous global power by the 1920s, when the British Empire covered approximately a quarter of the globe.
In the early 20th century, following Queen Victoria's reign, Britain entered both the First and Second World Wars, suffering heavy losses, particularly in WWI.
Queen Elizabeth II entered her reign in 1952, and in 1992 the UK became one of the 12 founding members of the European Union.
Culture of the United Kingdom
Nowadays the UK is highly multicultural and many different foods from around the world can be found throughout the country; Chinese, Indian, Italian, French, Japanese and many more. True English cuisine has been thought to include the English breakfast, roast dinners, fish and chips, bangers and mash, sandwiches, and pies, but other more sophisticated and typically English cuisine includes high tea, cheeses (such as Cheddar and Wensleydale), and pickles and preserves. Of course, the British are also known for their sterling ability to drink copious amounts of tea.
England is able to lay claim to many famous and influential playwrights, poets and authors. Probably the most famous of all of these is William Shakespeare, the 16th century playwright who lived in Statford-upon-Avon. Other notable writers are Geoffrey Chaucer (Canterbury Tales) and Thomas Mallory (Le Morte d'Arthur), Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, William Blake, William Wordsworth, H.G. Wells, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, and even most recently, J.K. Rowling.
There were many bands contributing to the development of rock music in the UK, such as the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, Queen. Many other genres had roots in the UK, such as punk rock, New Wave, New Romantic, indie rock, techno, electronica, with bands such as Radiohead, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Oasis and Blur. More recently international artists have included the Spice Girls and Coldplay.
Historically the UK also produced many notable classical music composers; Purcell, Holst, Vaughn Williams, Elgar and Benjamin Britten.
Notable artists from Britain include Constable, Turner, Reynolds, Gainsborough, William Morris, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst, the Chapman Brothers, Tracy Emin.
London is home to many world famous galleries, such as the Royal Academy, the Saatchi Gallery, the Tate and Tate Modern.
There are many developments both in science and technology that you may be surprised to learn were based in the UK. The invention of the world wide web by Tim Berners-Lee, the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming, DNA structure by Watson and Crick, the theory of gravity by Isaac Newton, the Theory of Evolution by Charles Darwin, the television by John Logie Baird, and many others.
Sport in the UK
Sports developed or popular in the UK include rugby, football, golf, cricket, tennis, snooker, horse racing, motorsport (such as Formula One), and rowing.
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