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The United Kingdom Portal

Flag of the United Kingdom
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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 located 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 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 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 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; however, a referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9 per cent 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).

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Sir Ernest Shackleton taken during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (Endurance expedition)

The Shackleton–Rowett Expedition was the last Antarctic expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton (pictured), and the final episode in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. The venture, lasting from 1921 to 1922, financed by businessman John Quiller Rowett, is sometimes referred to as the Quest Expedition after its ship, a small converted Norwegian whaler. Before the expedition's work could properly begin, Shackleton died aboard ship, just after its arrival at the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia. The major part of the subsequent foreshortened expedition was a three-month cruise to the eastern Antarctic, under the leadership of second-in-command Frank Wild. In these waters the shortcomings of Quest were soon in evidence: slow speed, heavy fuel consumption, a tendency to roll in heavy seas, and a steady leak. The ship was unable to proceed further than longitude 20°E, well short of its easterly target, and its engine's low power was insufficient for it to penetrate far into the Antarctic ice. Following several fruitless attempts to break southwards through the pack ice, Wild returned the ship to South Georgia, after a nostalgic visit to Elephant Island, where he and 21 others had been stranded during Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition six years earlier. Although not greatly regarded in the histories of polar exploration, the Quest voyage is of historical significance, standing at the very end of the Heroic Age and the beginning of the "Mechanical Age" that followed it. (more...)

Featured biography

Walter de Coventre was a 14th-century Scottish ecclesiastic. There is no direct evidence of his birthdate, his family, or his family's origin, although he may have come from the region around Abernethy, Scotland, where a family with the name de Coventre is known to have lived. Walter appeared in the records for the first time in the 1330s, as a student at the University of Paris. From there he went on to the University of Orléans, initially as a student before becoming a lecturer there. He studied the arts, civil law and canon law, and was awarded many university degrees, including two doctorates. His studies were paid for, at least partially, by his benefices in Scotland. Despite holding perhaps more than five at one stage, he did not return to Scotland until the late 1350s. Following his return to Scotland, Walter soon became involved, as Dean of Aberdeen Cathedral, in high-level ecclesiastical affairs with the Scottish church and political affairs with the Earl of Mar. Sometime before June 1361, the cathedral chapter of Dunblane elected him Bishop of Dunblane. He went to France to secure confirmation from the Pope at Avignon, who authorised his consecration. Walter was bishop for 10 years after returning home to Scotland. Records of his episcopate are thin, but there are enough to allow a modest reconstruction of his activities: he presided over legal disputes, issued a dispensation for an important irregular marriage, attended parliaments, and acted as an envoy of the Scottish crown in England. He died in either 1371 or 1372. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland - Jan 2011.jpg
Photo credit: David Iliff

Eilean Donan (Scottish Gaelic: Eilean Donnain) is a small island in Loch Duich in the western Highlands of Scotland. It lies about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the village of Dornie, and is dominated by a picturesque castle which frequently appears in photographs, film and television. Eilean Donan is part of the Kintail National Scenic Area, one of 40 in Scotland. In 2001, the island had a recorded population of just one person.

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Wikinews UK

15 August 2019 – Iran–United Kingdom relations; Iran–United States relations
Gibraltar says the United States has applied to seize the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, which is being held by the United Kingdom territory for an alleged breach of European Union sanctions against Syria. (Reuters)
The UK releases Grace 1 back to Iran after receiving written assurance that the oil would not be sent to Syria. (BBC)
12 August 2019 – Human rights in Venezuela
Venezuelan activist Tamara Sujú visits London to ask the United Kingdom, and specifically Dominic Raab, to pressure the International Criminal Court to investigate claims of torture and human rights abuses by the Nicolás Maduro government. (The Guardian)
9 August 2019 –
A massive power failure affects most of the northwestern and southeastern United Kingdom and London, leaving thousands of homes, various train lines, and parts of Newcastle International Airport without power. (Reuters)
5 August 2019 – 2019 Persian Gulf crisis
The United Kingdom announces it is joining a United States-led naval mission in the Persian Gulf to protect oil tankers, following several seizures in international waters by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. (The Guardian)
28 July 2019 – Hong Kong protests
During protests, Hong Kong groups organize to put pressure on the United Kingdom, asking for help to uphold the city-state's legal rights. The Joint Agreement of 1997 signed by the UK and China outlines that Hong Kong will have legislative and judiciary independence, based on systems implemented there under British rule. (The Guardian)

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