Portal:United Kingdom

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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 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

The sovereign state 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 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 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

Triptych, May–June 1973 is a triptych completed in 1973 by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon. The oil-on-canvas work was painted in memory of Bacon's lover George Dyer, who committed suicide on the eve of the artist's retrospective at Paris's Grand Palais in October 1971. The triptych is a portrait of the moments before Dyer's death. Bacon was preoccupied by Dyer's suicide in his last twenty years, during which time he painted a number of similarly themed works. He admitted to friends that he never fully recovered from the event, and described painting the triptych as an exorcism of his feelings of loss and guilt. The work is stylistically more static and monumental than Bacon's earlier triptychs. It has been described as one of his "supreme achievements", and is generally viewed as his most intense and tragic canvas. Of the three "Black Triptychs" that Bacon created to confront Dyer's death, Triptych, May–June 1973 is generally regarded as the most accomplished. In 2006, The Daily Telegraph's art critic Sarah Crompton wrote that "emotion seeps into each panel of this giant canvas…the sheer power and control of Bacon's brushwork take the breath away". In 1989, the work sold at Sotheby's for US$6,270,000, the highest price then paid for a Bacon work. (more...)

Featured biography

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722) was a prominent English soldier and statesman whose career spanned the reigns of five monarchs throughout the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Churchill's role in defeating the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 helped secure James, the Duke of York on the throne, yet just three years later he abandoned his Catholic mentor for the Protestant Dutchman, William of Orange. Churchill served with distinction in the early years of the Nine Years' War, but persistent charges of Jacobitism brought about his fall from office and temporary imprisonment in the Tower. His marriage to Sarah Jennings – Queen Anne's friend – ensured Marlborough's rise to a dukedom. Becoming de facto leader of Allied forces during the War of the Spanish Succession, his victories in battles ensured his place in history as one of Europe's great generals. But his wife's stormy relationship with the Queen, and her subsequent dismissal from court, was central to his being forced from office and into self-imposed exile. He returned to England and to influence under the House of Hanover with the accession of George I to the British throne in 1714, but his health gradually deteriorated, and he died on 16 June 1722 (O.S). (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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Radcliffe Camera as viewed from the tower of the Church of St Mary the Virgin
Photo credit: Diliff

A stitched image of the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, as seen from the tower of the Church of St Mary the Virgin. The building, often abbreviated as 'Rad Cam', was built by James Gibbs in 1737–1749 to house the Radcliffe Science Library. After the Radcliffe Science Library moved into another building, the Radcliffe Camera became a reading room of the Bodleian Library.

In the news

Wikinews UK

20 October 2018 – Opposition to Brexit in the United Kingdom
More than 600,000 people gather at Parliament Square in London as protesters from the People's Vote campaign call for a second Brexit referendum deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union. (BBC) (Time)
15 October 2018 – Hydraulic fracturing in the United Kingdom
Fracking for shale gas begins in the United Kingdom for the first time since it was suspended in 2011 after being linked to a series of earthquakes. Cuadrilla Resources say they will spend at least three months fracking two horizontal wells in Lancashire. (BBC)
6 October 2018 – Foreign fighters in the Syrian and Iraqi Civil Wars
Jack Letts, a British Islamic State fighter held in Syria, faces deportion from Syria to Canada instead of the United Kingdom. (Al-Masdar News) (The Guardian)
2 October 2018 – Politics of the United Kingdom, Brexit
DUP leader Arlene Foster says that extra border checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain are the "one red line" for her party. (Bloomberg)
25 September 2018 – Brexit, Opposition to Brexit in the United Kingdom
The Labour Party plans to reject UK Prime Minister Theresa May's Chequers Agreement and is open to a new Brexit referendum. (Reuters) (AP News)
24 September 2018 – Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
The foreign ministers of Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China and Iran agree to the creation of a Special Purpose Vehicle, a financial facility in the European Union, to facilitate payments and continue trade with Iran after the US withdrawal from the Iran deal. (Associated Press)

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