In 43 AD, Britannia referred to the Roman province that encompassed modern day England and Wales. Great Britain encompassed the whole island, taking in the land north of the River Forth known to the Romans as Caledonia in modern Scotland (i.e. "greater" Britain). In the Middle Ages, the name "Britain" was also applied to a small part of France now known as Brittany. As a result, Great Britain (likely from the French "Grande Bretagne") came into use to refer specifically to the island, with Brittany often referred to as "Little Britain". However, that name had no official significance until 1707, when the island's kingdoms of England and Scotland were united as the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Although the United Kingdom is a sovereign country, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also widely referred to as countries.
NUTS 1 regions of the United Kingdom refer to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as "regions". Northern Ireland is also referred to as a "province". With regard to Northern Ireland, the descriptive name used "can be controversial, with the choice often revealing one's political preferences".
The term "Great Britain" conventionally refers to the island of Great Britain, or politically to England, Scotland and Wales in combination. It is sometimes used as a loose synonym for the United Kingdom as a whole. The word England is occasionally used incorrectly to refer to the United Kingdom as a whole, a mistake principally made by people from outside the UK.
Permanent Committee on Geographical Names recognises "United Kingdom", "UK" and "U.K." as shortened and abbreviated geopolitical terms for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in its toponymic guidelines; it does not list "Britain" but notes that "it is only the one specific nominal term 'Great Britain' which invariably excludes Northern Ireland". The BBC historically preferred to use "Britain" as shorthand only for Great Britain, though the present style guide does not take a position except that "Great Britain" excludes Northern Ireland.
The adjective "British" is commonly used to refer to matters relating to the United Kingdom and is used in law to refer to United Kingdom citizenship and matters to do with nationality. People of the United Kingdom use several different terms to describe their national identity and may identify themselves as being British, English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish, or Irish; or as having a combination of different national identities. The official designation for a citizen of the United Kingdom is "British citizen".
fully incorporated into the Kingdom of England, and Ireland was constituted as a kingdom in personal union with the English crown. In what was to become Northern Ireland, the lands of the independent Catholic Gaelic nobility were confiscated and given to Protestant settlers from England and Scotland.
The English Reformation ushered in political, constitutional, social and cultural change in the 16th century. Moreover, it defined a national identity for England and slowly, but profoundly, changed people's religious beliefs and established the Church of England.
In 1603, the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland were united in a
James VI, King of Scots, inherited the crowns of England and Ireland and moved his court from Edinburgh to London; each country nevertheless remained a separate political entity and retained its separate political, legal, and religious institutions.
overseas colonies, particularly in North America and the Caribbean.
Though previous attempts at uniting the two kingdoms within Great Britain in 1606, 1667, and 1689 had proved unsuccessful, the attempt initiated in 1705 led to the Treaty of Union of 1706 being agreed and ratified by both parliaments.
On 1 May 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain was formed, the result of Acts of Union 1707 being passed by the parliaments of England and Scotland to ratify the 1706 Treaty of Union and so unite the two kingdoms.
In the 18th century, cabinet government developed under
slave ships transported nearly 3.3 million slaves from Africa. The slaves were taken to work on plantations in British possessions, principally in the Caribbean but also North America. Slavery coupled with the Caribbean sugar industry had a significant role in strengthening and developing the British economy in the 18th century. However, with pressure from the abolitionism movement, Parliament banned the trade in 1807, banned slavery in the British Empire in 1833, and Britain took a role in the movement to abolish slavery worldwide through the blockade of Africa and pressing other nations to end their trade with a series of treaties.
First World War (1914–1918). Alongside their French, Russian and (after 1917) American counterparts, British armed forces were engaged across much of the British Empire and in several regions of Europe, particularly on the Western Front. The high fatalities of trench warfare caused the loss of much of a generation of men, with lasting social effects in the nation and a great disruption in the social order. After the war, Britain became a permanent member of the Executive Council of the League of Nations and received a mandate over a number of former German and Ottoman colonies. The British Empire reached its greatest extent, covering a fifth of the world's land surface and a quarter of its population. Britain had suffered 2.5 million casualties and finished the war with a huge national debt. The consequences of the war persuaded the government to expand the right to vote in national and local elections with the Representation of the People Act 1918.
By the mid-1920s, most of the British population could listen to
General Strike of 1926. Britain had still not recovered from the effects of the First World War when the Great Depression (1929–1932) occurred. This led to considerable unemployment and hardship in the old industrial areas, as well as political and social unrest in the 1930s, with rising membership in communist and socialist parties. A coalition government was formed in 1931.
Nonetheless, "Britain was a very wealthy country, formidable in arms, ruthless in pursuit of its interests and sitting at the heart of a global production system."
Second World War by declaring war on Germany in 1939. Winston Churchill became prime minister and head of a coalition government in 1940. Despite the defeat of its European allies in the first year of the war, Britain and its Empire continued the war against Germany. Churchill engaged industry, scientists and engineers to advise and support the government and the military in the prosecution of the war effort.
decolonisation was unavoidable. Independence was granted to India and Pakistan in 1947. Over the next three decades, most colonies of the British Empire gained their independence, with all those that sought independence supported by the UK, during both the transition period and afterwards. Many became members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
The UK was the third country to develop
Commonwealth countries. In the following decades, the UK became a more multi-ethnic society than before. Despite rising living standards in the late 1950s and 1960s, the UK's economic performance was less successful than many of its main competitors such as France, West Germany
Leaders of EU states in 2007. The UK entered the EEC in 1973. In a 1975 referendum 67% voted to stay in it; in 2016 52% voted to leave the EU.
Following a period of widespread economic slowdown and industrial strife in the 1970s, the Conservative government of the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher initiated a radical policy of monetarism, deregulation, particularly of the financial sector (for example, the Big Bang in 1986) and labour markets, the sale of state-owned companies (privatisation), and the withdrawal of subsidies to others.
In 1982, Argentina invaded the British territories of South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. The occupation provoked a military response from the United Kingdom leading to the Falklands War which lasted for 10 weeks. Argentine forces were defeated and surrendered to British troops. The inhabitants of the islands are predominantly descendants of British settlers, and strongly favour British sovereignty, as shown by a 2013 referendum. From 1984, the UK economy was helped by the inflow of substantial North Sea oil revenues.
2 billion doses of Oxford University-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine were sent to more than 170 countries by November 2021.
The UK broadly supported the United States' approach to the "war on terror" in the early years of the 21st century. Controversy surrounded some of Britain's overseas military deployments, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The total area of the United Kingdom is approximately 244,820 square kilometres (94,530 sq mi). The country occupies the major part of the British Isles archipelago and includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland and some smaller surrounding islands. It lies between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea with the southeast coast coming within 22 miles (35 km) of the coast of northern France, from which it is separated by the English Channel.
In 1993 10 per cent of the UK was forested, 46 per cent used for pastures and 25 per cent cultivated for agriculture.
Prime Meridian in Washington, DC, in 1884, although due to more accurate modern measurement the meridian actually lies 100 metres to the east of the observatory.
The United Kingdom lies between latitudes 49° and 61° N, and longitudes 9° W and 2° E. Northern Ireland shares a 224-mile (360 km) land boundary with the Republic of Ireland. The coastline of Great Britain is 11,073 miles (17,820 km) long. It is connected to continental Europe by the Channel Tunnel, which at 31 miles (50 km) (24 miles (38 km) underwater) is the longest underwater tunnel in the world.
The prevailing wind is from the southwest and bears frequent spells of mild and wet weather from the Atlantic Ocean, although the eastern parts are mostly sheltered from this wind. Since the majority of the rain falls over the western regions, the eastern parts are therefore the driest. Atlantic currents, warmed by the Gulf Stream, bring mild winters; especially in the west where winters are wet and even more so over high ground. Summers are warmest in the southeast of England and coolest in the north. Heavy snowfall can occur in winter and early spring on high ground, and occasionally settles to great depth away from the hills.
The average total annual sunshine in the United Kingdom is 1339.7 hours, which is just under 30% of the maximum possible. The hours of sunshine vary from 1200 to about 1580 hours per year, and since 1996 the UK has been and still is receiving above the 1981 to 2010 average hours of sunshine.
United Kingdom is ranked 4 out of 180 countries in the
Wales accounts for less than one-tenth (9 per cent) of the total area of the UK, covering 20,779 square kilometres (8,020 sq mi). Wales is mostly mountainous, though South Wales is less mountainous than North and mid Wales. The main population and industrial areas are in South Wales, consisting of the coastal cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, and the South Wales Valleys to their north. The highest mountains in Wales are in Snowdonia and include Snowdon (Welsh: Yr Wyddfa) which, at 1,085 metres (3,560 ft), is the highest peak in Wales. Wales has over 2,704 kilometres (1,680 miles) of coastline. Several islands lie off the Welsh mainland, the largest of which is Anglesey (Ynys Môn) in the north-west.
The Supreme Court also recognises that some acts of Parliament have special constitutional status, and are therefore part of the constitution. These include Magna Carta, which in 1215 required the King to call a "common counsel" (now called Parliament) to represent people, to hold courts in a fixed place, to guarantee fair trials, to guarantee free movement of people, to free the church from the state, and to guarantee rights of "common" people to use the land. (Most of Magna Carta is no longer in force; those principles it established that still exist are mostly protected by other enactments.) After the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and the Glorious Revolution, the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Claim of Right Act 1689 cemented Parliament's position as the supreme law-making body, and said that the "election of members of Parliament ought to be free".
In accordance with the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, the
UK Parliament can carry out constitutional reform through acts of Parliament, and thus has the political power to change or abolish almost any written or unwritten element of the constitution. No sitting parliament can pass laws that future parliaments cannot change.
political party with the most seats in the House of Commons and hold office by virtue of their ability to command the confidence of the House of Commons.
The prime minister not only has statutory functions (alongside other ministers), but is the monarch's principal adviser and it is for them to advise the monarch on the exercise of the royal prerogative in relation to government. In particular, the prime minister recommends the appointment of ministers and chairs the Cabinet.
The geographical division of the United Kingdom into counties or shires began in England and Scotland in the early Middle Ages, and was completed throughout Great Britain and Ireland by the early Modern Period. Administrative arrangements were developed separately in each country of the United Kingdom, with origins that often predated the formation of the United Kingdom. Modern local government by elected councils, partly based on the ancient counties, was established by separate Acts of Parliament: in England and Wales in 1888, Scotland in 1889 and Ireland in 1898, meaning there is no consistent system of administrative or geographic demarcation across the UK.
Until the 19th century there was little change to those arrangements, but there has since been a constant evolution of role and function.
For local government purposes, Scotland is divided into 32 council areas with a wide variation in both size and population. The cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee are separate council areas, as is the Highland Council, which includes a third of Scotland's area but only just over 200,000 people. Local councils are made up of elected councillors, of whom there are 1,223; they are paid a part-time salary. Elections are conducted by single transferable vote in multi-member wards that elect either three or four councillors. Each council elects a Provost, or Convenor, to chair meetings of the council and to act as a figurehead for the area.
Local government in Wales consists of 22 unitary authorities, each led by a leader and cabinet elected by the council itself. These include the cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, which are unitary authorities in their own right. Elections are held every four years under the first-past-the-post system.
Since 1973, local government in Northern Ireland has been organised into 26 district councils, each elected by single transferable vote. Their powers are limited to services such as waste collection, dog control, and maintaining parks and cemeteries. In 2008 the executive agreed on proposals to create 11 new councils and replace the present system.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have their own
unicameral legislature. England, the largest country of the United Kingdom, has no devolved executive or legislature and is administered and legislated for directly by the UK's government and parliament on all issues. This situation has given rise to the so-called West Lothian question, which concerns the fact that members of parliament from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can vote, sometimes decisively, on matters that affect only England. The 2013 McKay Commission on this recommended that laws affecting only England should need support from a majority of English members of parliament.
and the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
North-South Ministerial Council, where the Northern Ireland Executive cooperates and develops joint and shared policies with the Government of Ireland. The British and Irish governments co-operate on non-devolved matters affecting Northern Ireland through the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference, which assumes the responsibilities of the Northern Ireland administration in the event of its non-operation.[citation needed
The UK does not have a
codified constitution and constitutional matters are not among the powers devolved to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Under the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, the UK Parliament could, in theory, therefore, abolish the Scottish Parliament, Senedd or Northern Ireland Assembly. Indeed, in 1972, the UK Parliament unilaterally prorogued the Parliament of Northern Ireland, setting a precedent relevant to contemporary devolved institutions. In practice, it would be politically difficult for the UK Parliament to abolish devolution to the Scottish Parliament and the Senedd, given the political entrenchment created by referendum decisions. The political constraints placed upon the UK Parliament's power to interfere with devolution in Northern Ireland are even greater than in relation to Scotland and Wales, given that devolution in Northern Ireland rests upon an international agreement with the Government of Ireland. The UK Parliament restricts the three devolved parliaments' legislative competence in economic areas through an Act passed in 2020.
The United Kingdom, the 14 British Overseas Territories and the three Crown Dependencies form 'one undivided Realm'. All parts of the realm are under the sovereignty of the British Crown, but the Territories and Dependencies are not part of the UK. This is distinct from the status of Commonwealth realms, who have separate monarchies, but share the same monarch.
The 14 British Overseas Territories are remnants of the British Empire:
Both English law, which applies in England and Wales, and
Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice (for civil cases) and the Crown Court (for criminal cases). The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land for both criminal and civil appeal cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and any decision it makes is binding on every other court in the same jurisdiction, often having a persuasive effect in other jurisdictions.
Scots law is a hybrid system based on both common-law and
Sheriff courts deal with most civil and criminal cases including conducting criminal trials with a jury, known as sheriff solemn court, or with a sheriff and no jury, known as sheriff summary Court. The Scots legal system is unique in having three possible verdicts for a criminal trial: "guilty", "not guilty" and "not proven". Both "not guilty" and "not proven" result in an acquittal.
Crime in England and Wales increased in the period between 1981 and 1995, though since that peak there has been an overall fall of 66 per cent in recorded crime from 1995 to 2015,
prison population of England and Wales has increased to 86,000, giving England and Wales the highest rate of incarceration in Western Europe at 148 per 100,000.His Majesty's Prison Service, which reports to the Ministry of Justice, manages most of the prisons within England and Wales. The murder rate in England and Wales has stabilised in the first half of the 2010s with a murder rate around 1 per 100,000 which is half the peak in 2002 and similar to the rate in the 1980s Crime in Scotland fell slightly in 2014–2015 to its lowest level in 39 years with 59 killings for a murder rate of 1.1 per 100,000. Scotland's prisons are overcrowded but the prison population is shrinking.
British-Irish Council. Britain's global presence and influence is further amplified through its trading relations, foreign investments, official development assistance and military engagements. Canada, Australia and New Zealand, all of which are former colonies of the British Empire which share King Charles as their head of state, are the most favourably viewed countries in the world by British people.
The British armed forces played a key role in establishing the
influence world events. Since the end of the British Empire, the UK has remained a major military power. Following the end of the Cold War, defence policy has a stated assumption that "the most demanding operations" will be undertaken as part of a coalition.
The service sector made up around 80% of the UK's GVA in 2021. London is one of the world's largest financial centres, ranking second in the world in the Global Financial Centres Index in 2022. London also has the largest city GDP in Europe. Edinburgh ranks 17th in the world, and sixth in Western Europe in the Global Financial Centres Index in 2020.Tourism is very important to the British economy; London was named as Europe’s most popular destination for 2022. The creative industries accounted for 5.9% of the UK's GVA in 2019, having grown by 43.6% in real terms from 2010. Creative industries contributed more than £111bn to the UK economy in 2018, growth in the sector is more than five times larger than growth across the UK economy as a whole as reported in 2018.WPP plc, the world's biggest advertising company, is also based in the UK.
of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based.
Following the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union, the functioning of the UK internal economic market is enshrined by the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 which ensures trade in goods and services continues without internal barriers across the four countries of the United Kingdom.
The Industrial Revolution started in Britain with an initial concentration on the textile industry, followed by other heavy industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining and steelmaking. British merchants, shippers and bankers developed overwhelming advantage over those of other nations allowing the UK to dominate international trade in the 19th century. Ship building continues, between September 2021 and the end of 2022, the UK Government announced £4.34 billion in shipbuilding contracts to UK companies. The UK also produces luxury boats from Princess, Sunseeker and Fairline. Manufacturing remains a significant part of the economy but accounted for only 9.2 per cent of national output in 2022.
The automotive industry employs around 800,000 people, with a turnover in 2022 of £67 billion, generating £27 billion of exports (10% of the UK's total export of goods). In 2022, the UK produced around 775,000 passenger vehicles and 101,600 commercial vehicles, including luxury cars such as Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Range Rover. The UK is a major centre for engine manufacturing: in 2021 around 1.6 million engines were produced. The UK motorsport industry employs more than 40,000 people, comprises around 4,300 companies and has an annual turnover of around £10 billion.
7 of the 10 Formula One teams are based in the UK, with their technology being used in supercars and hypercars from McLaren, Aston Martin and Lotus.
The aerospace industry of the UK is the second- or third-largest national aerospace industry in the world depending upon the method of measurement and has an annual turnover of around £30 billion.
, Chief Engineer: Gordon Murray, Produced 1989-1998
The UK space industry was worth £16.5bn in 2019/20 and employed 47,000 people. Since 2012, the number of space organisations has grown on average nearly 21% per year, with 1,293 organisations reported in 2021. The UK Space Agency has stated in 2023 that it is investing £1.6 billion in space related projects that could revolutionise our ability to journey deeper into space.
The agriculture industry is intensive, highly mechanised and efficient by European standards, producing about 60 per cent of food needs with less than 1.6 per cent of the labour force (535,000 workers). Around two-thirds of production is devoted to livestock, one-third to arable crops. The UK retains a significant, though much reduced fishing industry. It is also rich in a variety of natural resources including coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica and an abundance of arable land.
In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic the UK Government introduced Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which paid up to 80% of an employees income to stay at home, if they were not able to work from home and they were not an essential worker. Measures caused the UK economy to shrink by 20.4 per cent between April and June compared to the first three months of that year.
The UK annual GDP output is estimated to have grown by 4.1% in 2022. The UK Government debt was £2,436.7 billion at the end of Quarter 2 (Apr to June) 2022. The UK has the 2nd best debt-to-GDP ratio out of the G7 countries.
Scientific research and development remains important in British universities, with many establishing
British Medical Journal and The Lancet. London ranks in 1st place overall in The European Digital Social Innovation Index which ranks cities against 32 criteria grouped into 6 themes, it also ranks London in 1st place for the skills theme. In 2023 London ranks in 1st place in the rankings for best cities for startups in Europe. The United Kingdom was ranked fourth in the Global Innovation Index 2020, 2021 and 2022, which is based on around 80 indicators, including measures of the political environment, education, infrastructure and knowledge creation. Within the related report it was found that Cambridge was the most 'Science and Technology' intensive cluster in the world.
UK technology company, Arm produces semiconductor intellectual property which is used in over 250 billion chips globally. About 70% of the world's population use Arm-based technology and are used in products of major global brands.
A radial road network totals 29,145 miles (46,904 km) of main roads, 2,173 miles (3,497 km) of motorways and 213,750 miles (344,000 km) of paved roads. The M25, encircling London, is the largest and busiest bypass in the world. In 2022 there were a total of 40.8 million licensed vehicles in Great Britain.
is the world's oldest underground passenger railway.
Red double-decker buses in London
The UK has a railway network of 10,072 miles (16,209 km) in
Northern Ireland. Railways in Northern Ireland are operated by NI Railways, a subsidiary of state-owned Translink. In Great Britain, the British Rail network was privatised between 1994 and 1997, which was followed by a rapid rise in passenger numbers. The UK was ranked eighth among national European rail systems in the 2017 European Railway Performance Index assessing intensity of use, quality of service and safety.HS2 is a new high speed railway under construction linking up London, the Midlands, the North and Scotland serving over 25 stations, including eight of Britain's 10 largest cities and connecting around 30 million people, capable of speeds of up to 225 mph.Crossrail, which was renamed the Elizabeth line in 2016, in honour of Queen Elizabeth II, opened in 2022, it was Europe's largest construction project at the time and will bring in an estimated £42 billion to the UK economy.
public body that will oversee rail transport in Great Britain from 2023. In 2014, there were 5.2 billion bus journeys in the UK, 2.4 billion of which were in London. The red double-decker bus has entered popular culture as an internationally recognised icon of England. The London bus network is extensive, with over 6,800 scheduled services every weekday carrying about six million passengers on over 700 different routes making it one of the most extensive bus systems in the world and the largest in Europe.
In the year from October 2009 to September 2010 UK airports handled a total of 211.4 million passengers.
international passenger traffic and has the most international passenger traffic of any airport in the world; it is the hub for the UK flag carrier British Airways, as well as Virgin Atlantic.
, and wind power production is its fastest-growing supply.
In 2021, the UK was the world's 14th-largest consumer of energy and the 22nd-largest producer. The UK is home to many large energy companies, including two of the six major oil and gas companies – BP and Shell.
The total of all renewable electricity sources provided 38.9 per cent of the electricity generated in the UK in the third quarter of 2019, producing 28.8 TWh of electricity. The UK is one of the best sites in Europe for wind energy, and wind power production is the country's fastest-growing supply; in 2019, almost 20 per cent of the UK's total electricity was generated by wind power.
In 2023, the UK had 9 nuclear reactors normally generating about 15 per cent of the UK's electricity.
barrels per day (bbl/d) of oil (and other liquids) and consumed 1,258 thousand bbl/d. Production is now in decline and the UK has been a net importer of oil since 2005. In 2020[update], the UK had around 2 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves.
In 2021, the UK was the 21st-largest producer of natural gas in the world. Production is now in decline and the UK has been a net importer of natural gas since 2004.
In 2020, the UK produced 1.8 million tonnes of coal falling 91% in 10 years.
fracking', and based on current UK coal consumption, such reserves could last between 200 and 400 years. Environmental and social concerns have been raised over chemicals contaminating groundwater and minor earthquakes damaging homes.
In England and Wales water and sewerage services are provided by 10 private regional water and sewerage companies and 13 mostly smaller private "water only" companies. In Scotland, water and sewerage services are provided by a single public company, Scottish Water. In Northern Ireland water and sewerage services are also provided by a single public entity, Northern Ireland Water.
Map of population density in the UK as at the 2011 census
median age of the UK population was 41.7 years.
England's population in 2011 was 53 million, representing some 84 per cent of the UK total. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with 420 people resident per square kilometre in mid-2015, with a particular concentration in London and the south-east. The 2011 census put Scotland's population at 5.3 million, Wales at 3.06 million and Northern Ireland at 1.81 million.
In 2017 the average total fertility rate (TFR) across the UK was 1.74 children born per woman. While a rising birth rate is contributing to population growth, it remains considerably below the baby boom peak of 2.95 children per woman in 1964, or the high of 6.02 children born per woman in 1815, below the replacement rate of 2.1, but higher than the 2001 record low of 1.63. In 2011, 47.3 per cent of births in the UK were to unmarried women. The Office for National Statistics published a bulletin in 2015 showing that, out of the UK population aged 16 and over, 1.7 per cent identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual (2.0 per cent of males and 1.5 per cent of females); 4.5 per cent of respondents responded with "other", "I don't know", or did not respond. The number of transgender people in the UK was estimated to be between 65,000 and 300,000 by research between 2001 and 2008.
Historically, indigenous British people were thought to be
Basque people.[needs update] The UK has a history of non-white immigration with Liverpool having the oldest Black population in the country dating back to at least the 1730s during the period of the African slave trade. During this period it is estimated the Afro-Caribbean population of Great Britain was 10,000 to 15,000 which later declined due to the abolition of slavery. The UK also has the oldest Chinese community in Europe, dating to the arrival of Chinese seamen in the 19th century. In 1950 there were probably fewer than 20,000 non-white residents in Britain, almost all born overseas. In 1951 there were an estimated 94,500 people living in Britain who had been born in South Asia, China, Africa and the Caribbean, just under 0.2 per cent of the UK population. By 1961 this number had more than quadrupled to 384,000, just over 0.7 per cent of the United Kingdom population.
Since 1948 substantial immigration from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia has been a legacy of ties forged by the British Empire. Migration from new EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe since 2004 has resulted in growth in these population groups, although some of this migration has been temporary. Since the 1990s, there has been substantial diversification of the immigrant population, with migrants to the UK coming from a much wider range of countries than previous waves, which tended to involve larger numbers of migrants coming from a relatively small number of countries.
Academics have argued that the
2011[update], 87.2 per cent of the UK population identified themselves as white, meaning 12.8 per cent of the UK population identify themselves as of one of number of ethnic minority groups. In the 2001 census, this figure was 7.9 per cent of the UK population. Because of differences in the wording of the census forms used in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, data on the Other White group is not available for the UK as a whole, but in England and Wales this was the fastest-growing group between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, increasing by 1.1 million (1.8 percentage points). Amongst groups for which comparable data is available for all parts of the UK level, the Other Asian category increased from 0.4 per cent to 1.4 per cent of the population between 2001 and 2011, while the Mixed category rose from 1.2 per cent to 2 per cent.
Ethnic diversity varies significantly across the UK. 30.4 per cent of London's population and 37.4 per cent of
ethnic group. In the 1991 UK census 94.1 per cent of people reported themselves as being White British, White Irish or White Other with 5.9 per cent of people reporting themselves as coming from other minority groups.
monolingual English speakers. 5.5 per cent of the population are estimated to speak languages brought to the UK as a result of relatively recent immigration. South Asian languages are the largest grouping which includes Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Sylheti, Hindi and Gujarati. According to the 2011 census, Polish has become the second-largest language spoken in England and has 546,000 speakers. In 2019, some three quarters of a million people spoke little or no English.
In the 2001 census, 71.6 per cent of all respondents indicated that they were Christians, with the next largest faiths being Islam (2.8 per cent), Hinduism (1.0 per cent), Sikhism (0.6 per cent), Judaism (0.5 per cent), Buddhism (0.3 per cent) and all other religions (0.3 per cent). Of the respondents, 15 per cent stated that they had no religion and a further 7 per cent did not state a religious preference. A Tearfund survey in 2007 showed that only one in ten Britons actually attend church weekly. Between the 2001 and 2011 census, there was a 12 per cent decrease in the number of people who identified as Christian, whilst the percentage of those reporting no religious affiliation doubled. This contrasted with growth in the other main religious group categories, with the number of Muslims increasing by the most substantial margin to a total of about 5 per cent. The Muslim population has increased from 1.6 million in 2001 to 2.7 million in 2011, making it the second-largest religious group in the UK.
In a 2016 survey conducted by
Eastern Orthodox) constituted 17 per cent. Of the young people aged 18 to 24 that responded, 71 per cent said they had no religion.
2021 UK census, less than half the English and Welsh population were Christian; 46.2% of the people of England and Wales said they were Christian, 37.2% that they had no religion, and 6.5% said they were Muslim.
Percentage of total population that was born abroad
The United Kingdom has experienced successive waves of migration. The Great Famine in Ireland, then part of the United Kingdom, resulted in perhaps a million people migrating to Great Britain. Throughout the 19th century, a small population of 28,644 German immigrants built up in England and Wales. London held around half of this population, and other small communities existed in Manchester, Bradford and elsewhere. The German immigrant community was the largest group until 1891, when it became second to Russian Jews. After 1881, Russian Jews suffered bitter persecutions and 2 million left the Russian Empire by 1914. Around 120,000 settled permanently in Britain, becoming the largest ethnic minority from outside the British Isles, and by 1938 this population had increased to 370,000. Unable to return to Poland at the end of the Second World War, over 120,000 Polish veterans remained in the UK permanently. After the war, many people immigrated from colonies and former colonies in the Caribbean and Indian subcontinent, as a legacy of empire or driven by labour shortages. In 1841, only 0.25 per cent of the population of England and Wales was born in a foreign country, increasing to 1.5 per cent by 1901, 2.6 per cent by 1931 and 4.4 per cent in 1951.
In 2014, the immigration
late-2000s recession in the UK reduced the economic incentive for Poles to migrate to the UK, making migration temporary and circular. The proportion of foreign-born people in the UK remains slightly below that of many other European countries.
Immigration is now contributing to a rising UK population, with arrivals and UK-born children of migrants accounting for about half of the population increase between 1991 and 2001. According to official statistics released in 2015, 27 per cent of UK live births in 2014 were to mothers born outside the UK. The ONS reported that net migration rose from 2009 to 2010 by 21 per cent to 239,000.
In 2013, approximately 208,000 foreign nationals were naturalised as British citizens, the highest number since 1962. This figure fell to around 125,800 in 2014. Between 2009 and 2013, the average number of British citizenships granted annually was 195,800. The most common previous nationalities of those naturalised in 2014 were Indian, Pakistani, Filipino, Nigerian, Bangladeshi, Nepali, Chinese, South African, Polish and Somali. The total number of grants of settlement, which confer permanent residence in the UK but not citizenship, was approximately 154,700 in 2013, higher than the previous two years.
Estimated number of British citizens living overseas by country in 2006
In 2008, the British Government introduced a
points-based immigration system for immigration from outside the European Economic Area to replace former schemes, including the Scottish Government's Fresh Talent Initiative. In June 2010, a temporary limit on immigration from outside the EU was introduced, aiming to discourage applications before a permanent cap was imposed in April 2011.
Emigration was an important feature of British society in the 19th century. Between 1815 and 1930, around 11.4 million people emigrated from Britain and 7.3 million from Ireland. Estimates show that by the end of the 20th century, some 300 million people of British and Irish descent were permanently settled around the globe. Today, at least 5.5 million UK-born people live abroad, mainly in Australia, Spain, the United States and Canada.
Education in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter, with each country having a separate education system.
Considering the four systems together, about 38 per cent of the United Kingdom population has a university or
college degree, which is the highest percentage in Europe, and among the highest percentages in the world. The United Kingdom has some of the best universities in the world with Oxford University and Cambridge University often competing for the number 1 position on global rankings.
government commission's report in 2014 found that privately educated people comprise 7 per cent of the general population of the UK but much larger percentages of the top professions, the most extreme case quoted being 71 per cent of senior judges.
Pisa testing, which compares the academic performance of adolescents around the world, has improved in recent years but remains lower than other parts of the UK. In 2019, just under 60% of entrants passed their main English and Maths GCSEs. The obligation to receive education in Wales ends at the age of 16. In 2017 and 2018, just under 80% of 16 to 18 and just under 40% of 19 to 24-year-olds were in some kind of education or training.
"British literature" refers to literature associated with the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Most British literature is in the English language. In 2005, some 206,000 books were published in the United Kingdom and in 2006 it was the largest publisher of books in the world.
A number of UK cities are known for their music. Acts from Liverpool have had 54 UK chart number 1 hit singles, more per capita than any other city worldwide. Glasgow's contribution to music was recognised in 2008 when it was named a UNESCOCity of Music. Manchester played a role in the spread of dance music such as acid house, and from the mid-1990s, Britpop. London and Bristol are closely associated with the origins of electronic music sub-genres such as drum and bass and trip hop. Birmingham became known as the birthplace of heavy metal, with the band Black Sabbath starting there in the 1960s.
settled in Britain, producing hybrid dishes, such as chicken tikka masala.Vegan and vegetarian diets have increased in Britain in recent years. In 2021, a survey found that 8% of British respondents eat a plant-based diet and 36% of respondents have a favourable view of plant-based diets.
The BBC, founded in 1922, is the UK's publicly funded radio, television and Internet broadcasting corporation, and is the oldest and largest broadcaster in the world. It operates numerous television and radio stations in the UK and abroad and its domestic services are funded by the television licence. The BBC World Service is an international broadcaster owned and operated by the BBC. It is the world's largest of any kind. It broadcasts radio news, speech and discussions in more than 40 languages.
London dominates the media sector in the UK: national newspapers and television and radio are largely based there, although Manchester is also a significant national media centre. Edinburgh and Glasgow, and Cardiff, are important centres of newspaper and broadcasting production in Scotland and Wales, respectively.
In 2009, it was estimated that individuals viewed a mean of 3.75 hours of television per day and 2.81 hours of radio. In that year the main BBC public service broadcasting channels accounted for an estimated 28.4 per cent of all television viewing; the three main independent channels accounted for 29.5 per cent and the increasingly important other satellite and digital channels for the remaining 42.1 per cent. Sales of newspapers have fallen since the 1970s and in 2010 41 per cent of people reported reading a daily national newspaper. In 2010, 82.5 per cent of the UK population were Internet users, the highest proportion amongst the 20 countries with the largest total number of users in that year.
Symbols of the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man
Union Jack flags in London
Saint Patrick's Flag. Wales is not represented in the Union Flag, as Wales had been conquered and annexed to England prior to the formation of the United Kingdom. The possibility of redesigning the Union Flag to include representation of Wales has not been completely ruled out. The national anthem of the United Kingdom is "God Save the King
", with "King" replaced with "Queen" in the lyrics whenever the monarch is a woman.
Victorian Britain. In 2012, the President of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, stated, "This great, sports-loving country is widely recognised as the birthplace of modern sport. It was here that the concepts of sportsmanship and fair play were first codified into clear rules and regulations. It was here that sport was included as an educational tool in the school curriculum".
A 2003 poll found that football is the most popular sport in the UK.
In 2003, rugby union was ranked the second most popular sport in the UK.
British and Irish Lions
which tours Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Cricket was invented in
Scotland cricket team does not have Test status and has only recently started to play in One Day Internationals. Scotland, England (and Wales), and Ireland (including Northern Ireland) have competed at the Cricket World Cup, which England won in 2019. There is a professional league championship that consists of clubs representing 17 English counties and one Welsh county.
St Andrews, Scotland, the home of golf. The standard 18 hole golf course was created at St Andrews in 1764.
Golf is the sixth most popular sport, by participation, in the UK. Although
British Open—the oldest golf tournament in the world and the first major championship in golf—is played annually on the weekend of the third Friday in July.
Rugby league originated in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, in 1895 and is generally played in Northern England. A single 'Great Britain Lions' team competed in the Rugby League World Cup and Test match games before 2008 when England, Scotland and Ireland began to compete as separate league nations. Great Britain is still retained as the full national team. Super League is the highest level of professional rugby league in the UK and Europe. It consists of 11 teams from Northern England, and one each from London, Wales and France.
Celtic culture and heritage, especially that of the Scottish Highlands.
^"This category could include Polish responses from the country specific question for Scotland which would have been outputted to 'Other White' and then included under 'White' for UK. 'White Africans' may also have been recorded under 'Other White' and then included under 'White' for UK."
^Although the United Kingdom has traditionally been seen as a unitary state, an alternative description of the UK as a "union state", put forward by, among others, Vernon Bogdanor, has become increasingly influential since the adoption of devolution in the 1990s. A union state is considered to differ from a unitary state in that while it maintains a central authority it also recognises the authority of historic rights and infrastructures of its component parts.
^Some of the devolved countries, Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories issue their own sterling banknotes or currencies, or use another nation's currency. See List of British currencies for more information.
^The United Kingdom does not have a codified constitution but an unwritten one formed of Acts of Parliament, court judgments, traditions, and conventions.
Acts of Union
which reads: the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland shall...be united into one Kingdom, by the Name of "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland".
^The 2011 Census recorded Gypsies and Travellers as a separate ethnic group for the first time.
^In the 2011 Census, for the purpose of harmonising results to make them comparable across the UK, the ONS includes individuals in Scotland who classified themselves in the "African" category (29,638 people), which in the Scottish version of the census is separate from "Caribbean or Black" (6,540 people), in this "Black or Black British" category. The ONS note that "the African categories used in Scotland could potentially capture White/Asian/Other African in addition to Black identities".
^Berkeley is in fact Irish but was called a 'British empiricist' due to the territory of what is now known as the Republic of Ireland being in the UK at the time.
^Berry, Ciara (15 January 2016). "National Anthem". The Royal Family. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
^"Definition of Great Britain in English". Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2014. Great Britain is the name for the island that comprises England, Scotland and Wales, although the term is also used loosely to refer to the United Kingdom.
^"Key facts about the United Kingdom". Directgov. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2015. The full title of this country is 'the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'. Great Britain is made up of England, Scotland and Wales. The United Kingdom (UK) is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 'Britain' is used informally, usually meaning the United Kingdom. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not part of the UK.
^"After the political union of England and Scotland in 1707, the nation's official name became 'Great Britain'", The American Pageant, Volume 1, Cengage Learning (2012).; "From 1707 until 1801 Great Britain was the official designation of the kingdoms of England and Scotland". The Standard Reference Work: For the Home, School and Library, Volume 3, Harold Melvin Stanford (1921); "In 1707, on the union with Scotland, 'Great Britain' became the official name of the British Kingdom, and so continued until the union with Ireland in 1801". United States Congressional serial set, Issue 10; Issue 3265 (1895).; Gascoigne, Bamber. "History of Great Britain (from 1707)". History World. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, One specific problem – in both general and particular senses – is to know what to call Northern Ireland itself: in the general sense, it is not a country, or a province, or a state – although some refer to it contemptuously as a statelet: the least controversial word appears to be jurisdiction, but this might change.; "Changes in the list of subdivision names and code elements"
(PDF). ISO 3166-2. International Organization for Standardization. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
Magna Carta 1215 clauses 1 ("the English church shall be free"), 12 and 14 (no tax "unless by common counsel of our kingdom"), 17 ("Common pleas shall ... be held in some fixed place"), 39–40 ("To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice"), 41 ("merchants shall have safe and secure exit from England, and entry to England"), and 47–48 (land taken by the King "shall forthwith be disafforested
^Sherman, Jill; Norfolk, Andrew (5 November 2004). "Prescott's dream in tatters as North East rejects assembly". The Times Online. Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 15 February 2008. The Government is now expected to tear up its twelve-year-old plan to create eight or nine regional assemblies in England to mirror devolution in Scotland and Wales.
. The UK Internal Market Act gives ministers sweeping powers to enforce mutual recognition and non-discrimination across the four jurisdictions. Existing differences and some social and health matters are exempted but these are much less extensive than the exemptions permitted under the EU Internal Market provisions. Only after an amendment in the House of Lords, the Bill was amended to provide a weak and non-binding consent mechanism for amendments (equivalent to the Sewel Convention) to the list of exemptions. The result is that, while the devolved governments retain regulatory competences, these are undermined by the fact that goods and services originating in, or imported into, England can be marketed anywhere.
. That phase of joint working was significantly damaged by the UK Internal Market Act, pushed through by the Johnson government in December 2020...the Act diminishes the authority of the devolved institutions, and was vehemently opposed by them.
. Retrieved 18 April 2021. the Internal Market Bill—a Bill that contains provisions which, if enacted, would significantly constrain, both legally and as a matter of practicality, the exercise by the devolved legislatures of their legislative competence; provisions that would be significantly more restrictive of the powers of the Scottish Parliament than either EU law or Articles 4 and 6 of the Acts of the Union...The UK Parliament passed the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 and the Internal Market Act 2020 notwithstanding that, in each case, all three of the devolved legislatures had withheld consent.
doi:10.1080/21622671.2021.1921613. Taken as a whole, the Internal Market Act imposes greater restrictions upon the competences of the devolved institutions than the provisions of the EU Single Market which it replaced, in spite of pledges to use common frameworks to address these issues. Lord Hope
, responsible for many of the leading judgments relating to the first two decades of devolution, regarded the legislation's terms as deliberately confrontational: 'this Parliament can do what it likes, but a different approach is essential if the union is to hold together'.
. The Act has restrictive – and potentially damaging – consequences for the regulatory capacity of the devolved legislatures...This was not the first time since the Brexit referendum that the Convention had been set aside, but it was especially notable given that the primary purpose of the legislation was to constrain the capacity of the devolved institutions to use their regulatory autonomy...in practice, it constrains the ability of the devolved institutions to make effective regulatory choices for their territories in ways that do not apply to the choices made by the UK government and parliament for the English market.
. Notwithstanding substantial differences among the schemes, an important common factor is that the UK Parliament has not renounced legislative sovereignty in relation to the three nations concerned. For example, the Scottish Parliament is empowered to enact primary legislation on all matters, save those in relation to which competence is explicitly denied ... but this power to legislate on what may be termed "devolved matters" is concurrent with the Westminster Parliament's general power to legislate for Scotland on any matter at all, including devolved matters ... In theory, therefore, Westminster may legislate on Scottish devolved matters whenever it chooses...
. The British parliament has the power to abolish the Scottish parliament and the Welsh assembly by a simple majority vote in both houses, but since both were sanctioned by referenda, it would be politically difficult to abolish them without the sanction of a further vote by the people. In this way, several of the constitutional measures introduced by the Blair government appear to be entrenched and not subject to a simple exercise of parliamentary sovereignty at Westminster.
. [T]he distinctive involvement of two governments in the Northern Irish problem means that Northern Ireland's new arrangements rest upon an intergovernmental agreement. If this can be equated with a treaty, it could be argued that the forthcoming distribution of power between Westminster and Belfast has similarities with divisions specified in the written constitutions of federal states...Although the Agreement makes the general proviso that Westminster's 'powers to make legislation for Northern Ireland' remains 'unaffected', without an explicit categorical reference to reserved matters, it may be more difficult than in Scotland or Wales for devolved powers to be repatriated. The retraction of devolved powers would not merely entail consultation in Northern Ireland backed implicitly by the absolute power of parliamentary sovereignty but also the renegotiation of an intergovernmental agreement.
on 2 September 2006. Retrieved 31 July 2008. The legislature passes primary legislation, which requires approval by The Queen in Council, and enacts subordinate legislation in many areas without any requirement for Royal Sanction and under powers conferred by primary legislation.
.; Section 8 ('Duty of local education authorities to secure provision of primary and secondary schools'), Sections 35–40 ('Compulsory attendance at Primary and Secondary Schools') and Section 61 ('Prohibition of fees in schools maintained by local education authorities ...'), Education Act 1944.
(PDF). New York University. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
^Fisher, Peter. "The NHS from Thatcher to Blair". NHS Consultants Association. Archived from the original on 20 November 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2018. The Budget ... was even more generous to the NHS than had been expected amounting to an annual rise of 7.4 per cent above the rate of inflation for the next five years. This would take us to 9.4 per cent of GDP spent on health ie around EU average.
^"Dafydd ap Gwilym". Academi.org. 2011. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2011. Dafydd ap Gwilym is widely regarded as one of the greatest Welsh poets of all time, and amongst the leading European poets of the Middle Ages.