Portal:United Kingdom
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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 Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern 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 its east, the English Channel to its south and the Celtic Sea to its south-south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 21st-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. The monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the 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 urban areas in the UK include the conurbations centred on Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow and Liverpool.

The United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Their capitals are London, Belfast, Edinburgh, and Cardiff respectively. Apart from England, the countries have devolved administrations, each with varying powers. 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 legal systems of many of its former colonies.

The United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's fifth-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, ranking 16th 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 United Kingdom 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; however, a referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9% of UK voters favouring leaving the European Union, and the country's exit is being negotiated. 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

The first edition The Country Wife" (1675)

The Country Wife is a Restoration comedy from 1675 by William Wycherley. A product of the tolerant early Restoration period, the play reflects an aristocratic and anti-Puritan ideology, and was controversial for its sexual explicitness even in its own time. Even its title contains a lewd pun. Based on several plays by Molière, it turns on two indelicate plot devices: a rake's trick of pretending impotence in order to safely have clandestine affairs with married women, and the arrival in London of an inexperienced young "country wife", with her discovery of the joys of town life, especially the fascinating London men. The scandalous trick and the frank language have for much of the play's history kept it off the stage and out of print. Between 1753 and 1924, The Country Wife was considered too outrageous to be performed at all and was replaced on the stage by David Garrick's cleaned-up and bland version The Country Girl. The original play is again a stage favourite today, and is also acclaimed by academic critics, who praise its linguistic energy, sharp social satire, and openness to different interpretations.

Featured biography

Judge Norman Birkett at the bench during the Nuremberg Trials

Norman Birkett, 1st Baron Birkett (1883-1962) was a British barrister, politician and judge noted for his skill as a speaker. Born in Ulverston, Lancashire, he initially trained to be a Methodist preacher, and attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge to study theology and history with that in mind. He became President of the Cambridge Union, and after switching to law graduated in 1910. He was called to the Bar in 1913 and developed a reputation as a barrister able to defend people with almost watertight criminal cases against them, such as in the second of the Brighton trunk murders and the Blazing Car murder. He sat as a Member of Parliament for the constituency of Nottingham East for two Parliaments in the 1920s, and was described as "the Lord Chancellor that never was". In 1941, he became a judge of the High Court, and later served as the alternate British judge in the Nuremberg Trials. Unhappy with his time in the High Court, he accepted a position in the Court of Appeal in 1950, but after finding he enjoyed it even less, retired in 1956 when he had served long enough to draw a pension. Following his retirement he was made a hereditary peer, and spoke regularly in the House of Lords. After speaking there in 1962 he collapsed at home, and following a failed operation died aged 78. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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George IV of the United Kingdom
Credit: Thomas Lawrence

George IV of the United Kingdom as the Prince Regent, circa 1814. He served as king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1820 to 1830. The Regency, George's nine-year tenure as Prince Regent, which commenced in 1811 and ended with George III's death in 1820, was marked by victory in the Napoleonic Wars in Europe.

In the news

Wikinews UK

20 September 2018 - Storm Bronagh
Bronagh, the second named storm of the 2018-19 European windstorm season, begins moving across Ireland and the United Kingdom. (ITV)
20 September 2018 - Brexit negotiations
At a European Union leaders' meeting in Salzburg, European Council President Donald Tusk says that he will push for an additional gathering in mid-November, allowing the United Kingdom's proposals to be "reworked and further negotiated". (AFP via Dawn)
16 September 2018 - British space programme
The first of a series of British satellites, known as NovaSAR, is launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India. The Surrey Satellite Technology satellite is designed to monitor suspicious shipping activity. (BBC)
13 September 2018 - Mass surveillance in the United Kingdom
The European Court of Human Rights rules that the United Kingdom breached provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to mass surveillance practices exposed by American whistleblower Edward Snowden. (AP News)
5 September 2018 - Poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal
Russia says that the United Kingdom declines to provide them with the suspects' fingerprints. (TASS)
30 August 2018 - Economy of the United Kingdom
Panasonic announces their intent to move their European headquarters from London to Amsterdam, citing concern over Brexit. (BBC)

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