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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 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. However, a referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9% of the turnout being in favour of leaving the EU, which is expected to take place on 31 October 2019. 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

A Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Fulham

The Premier League is an English professional league for association football clubs. At the top of the English football league system, it is the country's primary football competition. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the Football League. The Premier League is a corporation in which the 20 member clubs act as shareholders. Seasons run from August to May, with teams playing 38 matches each, totalling 380 matches in the season.

The competition formed as the FA Premier League on 20 February 1992 following the decision of clubs in the Football League First Division to break away from The Football League and take advantage of a lucrative television rights deal. The Premier League is the most-watched football league in the world, broadcast in 212 territories to an audience of 643 million viewers. The Premier League ranked first in the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) coefficients of leagues based on performances in European competitions over the last five years, ahead of the Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A.

Of the 45 clubs to have competed since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, five have won the title: Manchester United (12 titles), Arsenal (3), Chelsea (3), Blackburn Rovers (1) and Manchester City (1). The current champions are Manchester City, who won the title in the 2011–12 season. (more...)

Featured biography

John Dee. Sixteenth century portrait, artist unknown.

John Dee was a noted British mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer and consultant to Elizabeth I. He also devoted much of his life to alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy. Dee straddled the worlds of science and magic. One of the most learned men of his time, he was lecturing to crowded halls at the University of Paris in his early twenties. He was an ardent promoter of mathematics, a respected astronomer and a leading expert in navigation, training many of those who would conduct England's voyages of discovery. At the same time, he immersed himself deeply in Christian angel-magic and Hermetic philosophy, and devoted the last third of his life almost exclusively to these pursuits. For Dee, as for many of his contemporaries, these activities were not contradictory, but aspects of a consistent world-view. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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Frontispiece to The Song of Los by Wiliam Blake

The frontispiece to The Song of Los by the poet and painter William Blake, published in Lambeth in 1795. The poem is one of Blake's prophetic books, a group of epic poems drawing on his own personal mythology to comment on his times. The Song of Los is in two sections, the first describing the decline of European morality and the second urging for revolution.

In the news

Wikinews UK

20 September 2019 –
A woman who previously accused late United States financier Jeffrey Epstein of sexually abusing her when she was a teenager says she was "trafficked" to Prince Andrew of the United Kingdom and was abused by him at a house in London. She calls him "an abuser" and "a participant". Prince Andrew denies the allegations. (BBC)
19 September 2019 – Brexit
The UK Supreme Court finishes hearing arguments on the lawfulness of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's prorogation of Parliament. The court states it expects to rule next week. It is jointly considering appeals against two rulings. One, made by the High Court in London under English law, ruled prorogation was an entirely political decision over which courts had no jurisdiction. The other, made by the Court of Session in Edinburgh under Scots law, ruled Johnson acted unlawfully and the prorogation was a nullity that must be reversed. (BBC)
17 September 2019 – Brexit, 2019 British prorogation controversy
The UK Supreme Court begins considering the lawfulness of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's prorogation of Parliament. It is jointly considering two appeals. One is against a ruling by the High Court under English law that the issue is solely a matter for the Prime Minister and one the courts do not have jurisdiction over. The other is against a ruling by the Court of Session under Scots law declaring the suspension unlawful and a nullity, and requiring Johnson to recall Parliament. (BBC)
16 September 2019 – Brexit
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson abruptly pulls out of a press conference in Luxembourg to avoid an anti-Brexit protest organised and attended by British citizens living in Luxembourg. Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel attends the press conference, where, during a short speech followed by questions from journalists, he contradicts Johnson's prior public statements and exposes that the UK government has not submited any concrete proposals for amendments to the UK's Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union, or delivered any alternative to the "Irish backstop" which Johnson wishes to replace. Bettel warns that Johnson "holds the future of all UK citizens in his hands" and that he shouldn't "hold the future hostage for party political gain". (BBC)
11 September 2019 – Politics of the United Kingdom
Scotland's Court of Session rules that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson violated the law by his suspension of Parliament from 9 September to 14 October, encouraging calls for MPs to get back to work immediately. (Reuters)
The Johnson ministry releases the Operation Yellowhammer contingency plans in the event of a no-deal Brexit to the public. (BBC)

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