United Kingdom - Geography
Official Name: United Kingdom of Great Britain
Capital City: London
Languages: English, Welsh, and the Scottish form of Gaelic
Official Currency: Pound Sterling
Religions: Anglican, Catholic, others
Land Area: 241,600 sq km
Landforms: The island is mostly rugged hills with low, granite mountains (Pennines run north to south) (Cambrian Mountains in Wales). Rolling plains and flatter
land in east and southeast. The Severn and Thames are major rivers
Land Divisions: (UK Administrative divisions) 47 counties, 7 metropolitan counties, 26 districts, 9 regions and 3 islands areas
(England) 39 counties and 7 metropolitan counties
(Scotland) 9 regions, 3 islands areas
(Wales) 9 counties
UK Dependent areas: (no longer called colonies) Anguilla, Bermuda,
British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland
Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands,
Saint Helena, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Turks and Caicos
United Kingdom - History
In the first milenium B. C. the teritory of United Kingdom is populated
by celtic tribes (Britons). In first century a big part of country is conquered by Rome. In V-VII century Britain
is conquered by North-Germanic tribes Angles, Saxes, Jutes and Frisians, which form several kingdoms here. In 829 a large part
of the country is united in a single state England. In 1066 it is invaded by the Normans. William I Conqueror becomes English king (till 1087). With the creation of the Parliament (1265) England is formed as estate
monarchy. After The Hundred-year war (1337-1453) the English crown loose its lands in France. During the war, in 1381
a revolt of Wot Tylor expells. After the war between the Red and the White Rose (1455-1485) , continuous feudal civil war, the dynasty of Tudores is established (1485-1603) which imposed absolutism.
The English Burgeois revolution (1640-1660) strngthens the position of capitalism and establishes burgeois system in the coutry.
The parties of Vigues and Tores appear (later -Liberal and Conservative parties). Since 1707, the official name of the United Kingdom becomes United Kingdom of Great Britain. As a result of successful wars of conquest during three centuries (17, 18, and 19) at the end of 19 century Great Britain rules over 1/4 of the teritory of the world (including India, New Zeeland, South Africa etc.) During WW2 it is a part of the anti-fashiste coalition. After WW2, the British colonial empire disintegrates. Great Britain is member of UNO(1945), NATO (1949) and EU (1973).
United Kingdom - Economy
The United Kingdom is the fourth-largest economy in the world and the second-largest economy in the European Union.
GDP (at current market prices, 2003 est.): $1.664 trillion.
Annual growth rate (2003 est.): 2.1%.
Per capita GDP (2003 est.): $27,700.
The economy is made up of (in order of how much they contribute), the economies of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
There are about 3.7 million companies in the UK.
Natural resources: coal, oil, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica.
The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves. Primary energy production accounts for 10% of GDP, one of the highest shares of any industrial nation. Due to North Sea oil, during the 1990s the UK became a net hydrocarbon exporter, and the second largest producer of oil in Western Europe after Norway. Around about 80% of UK electricity is currently generated from fossil fuels. Nuclear power and an increasing contribution from wind turbines make up the bulk of the remainder. The UK is the world's 8th greatest producer of carbon emissions, producing around 2.3% of the total generated from fossil fuels. Due to the island location of the UK, the country has great potential for generating electricity from offshore windfarms, wave power and tidal power, although these have not yet been exploited on a commercial basis.
Industry: steel, heavy engineering and metal manufacturing, textiles, motor vehicles and aircraft, construction (5.2% of GDP), electronics, chemicals.
Manufacturing continues to decline in importance. In the 1960s and 70s much of the UK's heavy manufacturing industry was government run and had failed to respond to world markets. State industries were sold off and over the 20th century many (and others) closed as it was unable to compete.Since 1979, the British Government has privatized most state-owned companies, including British Steel, British Airways, British Telecom, British Coal, British Aerospace, and British Gas, although in some cases the government retains a "golden share" in these companies. The Labour government has continued the privatization policy of its predecessor, including by encouraging "public-private partnerships" (partial privatization) in such areas as the National Air Traffic Control System.
Agriculture and fishing (1.1% of GDP): cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables, cattle, sheep, poultry, fish.
Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanised, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with only 1% of the labour force. It contributes around 2% of GDP. Around two thirds of production is devoted to livestock, one third to arable crops. The main crops that are grown are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, sugar beets, fruits and vegetables. The livestock which are raised are cattle and sheep.
The UK is one of the world’s leading fishing nations. Its fleets bring home fish of every kind, ranging from sole to herring. Kingston upon Hull, Grimsby, Fleetwood, Great Yarmouth, Peterhead, Fraserburgh, and Lowestoft are among the coastal towns that have large fishing industries.
The service sector is the dominant sector of the UK economy.
About 75% of British jobs are in service industries – hotels, restaurants, travel, shopping and computer and finances. It employs over 20 million people.
London is the world's largest financial centre, with financial services based around two districts 'The City' (the City of London) and the Docklands (particularly around Canary Wharf). The City houses the London Stock Exchange (shares and bonds), Lloyds of London (insurance), and the Bank of England. The Docklands began development in the 1980s and is now home to the Financial Services Authority, as well as several important financial institutions (such as Barclays Bank and Citigroup). There are now over 500 banks with offices in the City and Docklands, with the majority of business in London being conducted on an international basis, with established leads in areas such as Eurobonds, Foreign exchange markets, and global insurance. Edinburgh also has a long established financial industry, with a large number of domestic firms (Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland) and international firms. The Scottish Stock Exchange is part of the London Stock Exchange, but maintains a distinct culture.
Tourism is the 6th largest industry in the UK, contributing 76 billion pounds to the economy. It employs 1,800,000 full-time equivalent people — 6.1% of the working population.
Exports of goods and services (2003 est.) - $304.5 billion: manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals, food, beverages, tobacco. Major markets - USA, EU. Imports of goods and services - $363.6 billion: manufactured goods, machinery, fuels, foodstuffs. Major suppliers - USA, EU, Japan.
The cost of houses is rising and has increased much faster than people’s wages. The average annual wage in 2003 was 20 000 pounds whilst the average home over 120 000 pounds. The average cost of houses in 2005 is 182 920 pounds.
United Kingdom - Culture
The United Kingdom contains some of the world's leading universities, including the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the University of London (which incorporates, amongst others, King's College London, Imperial College London, The London School of Economics and University College London).
In the UK, there are two types of schools, Public Schools and State Schools. Public schools are typically funded by the individual whom attends it, making it a more popular choice among the more wealthy citizens. State schools, however, are funded by the government through taxes.
It has produced many great scholars, scientists and engineers including Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, James Clark Maxwell, Lord Kelvin, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel; the nation is credited with many inventions including the locomotive, vaccination, television, the railway, and both the internal combustion and the jet engine.
In 2006, it was reported that the UK was the most productive source of research after the United States; with the UK producing, for instance, 9% of the world's scientific research papers with a 12% share of citations.
Playwright William Shakespeare is arguably the most famous writer in the history of the English language. Other well-known writers from the United Kingdom include the Bronte sisters (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne), William Thackeray, John Milton, Oscar Wilde, H. G. Wells, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Orwell. Important poets include Lord Byron, Robert Burns.
The UK was, with the US, one of the two main contributors in the development of rock and roll, and the UK has provided some of the most famous rock stars, including The Beatles, Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and many others. The UK was at the forefront of punk rock music in the 1970s with bands such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash, and the subsequent rebirth of heavy metal with bands such as Motorhead and Iron Maiden.
United Kingdom -- Political system, law and government --
Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy in which the power of the king is formal. The
king has mainly representative functions. The politics of the United Kingdom are based upon a unitary state country that is governed constitutionally as one single unit, with one constitutionally created legislature and a constitutional monarchy.
The head of state and theoretical source of executive, judicial and legislative power in the UK is the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II.
By convention, the monarch chooses the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons to become the Prime Minister, even though in theory the monarch possesses the right to choose any British citizen to be her Prime Minister, even if they are not an MP or a member of the House of Lords. The monarch grants Royal Assent to a Bill from Parliament, albeit theoretically (s)he possesses the ability to refrain from doing so. The Royal Assent is almost never refused, in accordance with contemporary constitutional conventions. The monarch dissolves Parliament at the time suggested by the Prime Minister, though in theory the Sovereign holds the right to dissolve parliament whenever s/he wishes. Other royal powers called royal prerogative, such as patronage to appoint ministers and the ability to declare war, are exercised by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
Today the Sovereign has an essentially ceremonial role restricted in exercise of power by convention and public opinion, though the monarch does exercise three essential rights: the right to be consulted, the right to advise and the right to warn. Prime ministers have weekly confidential meetings with the monarch. In practical terms, the political head of the UK is the Prime Minister (Tony Blair since May 2, 1997).
The Government performs the Executive functions of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister appointed by the monarch selects the other Ministers which make up the Government and act as political heads of the various Government Departments. About twenty of the most senior government ministers make up the Cabinet.
As in other Parliamentary systems of government, the executive (called "the government") is drawn from and is answerable to Parliament - a successful vote of no confidence will force the government either to resign or to seek a parliamentary dissolution and a general election. In practice members of parliament of all major parties are strictly controlled by "whips" who try to ensure they vote according to party policy. If the government has a large majority, then they are very unlikely to lose many votes when voting on legislation. Governments with a small majority, or coalition governments, are much more vulnerable.
Parliament is the centre of the political system in the United Kingdom. It is the supreme legislative body (parliamentary sovereignty), and Government is drawn from and answerable to it. Parliament is bicameral, consisting of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
House of Commons
The UK is divided into parliamentary constituencies of broadly equal population each of which elects a Member of Parliament to the House of Commons. There almost always is a party with an outright majority of MPs in the House. In modern times, all Prime Ministers and Leaders of the Opposition have been drawn from the Commons, not the Lords.
Parliament meets at the Palace of Westminster.
The House of Lords was previously a hereditary, aristocratic chamber. Major reform has been partially completed and it is currently a mixture of hereditary members, bishops of the Church of England and appointed members (life peers, with no hereditary right for their descendants to sit in the House). It currently acts to review legislation formed by the House of Commons, with the power to propose amendments, and exercises a suspensive veto — it can delay legislation it does not approve of for twelve months. However, the use of vetoes is limited by convention — the Lords may not veto the "money bills", or major manifesto promises.
The House of Lords is currently also the final court of appeal within the United Kingdom, although in practice only a small subset of the House of Lords, known as the Law Lords, hears judicial cases. However, the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 outlines plans for a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom to replace the role of the Law Lords.
The UK is divided into a variety of different types of Local Authorities, which are further subdivided in rural areas and some urban areas into parishes. The vast Council, together head the Local Authority. In addition to Local Authorities there are several public safety authorities - Police, Fire Service, Ambulance, Coast Guard, Mountain Rescue - independent from the councils whose borders generally coincide with those of the authorities they serve.
Local Authorities are responsible for such matters as administering education, public transport, and the management of public spaces. Local authorities are often engaged in community politics.
The United Kingdom is a member of the European Union (EU). As such, UK citizens elect Members of the European Parliament to represent them in the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg. The UK elects 78 MEPs.
In recent years, there have been divisions in both major parties as to whether the UK should form greater ties within the EU, leave things as they are, or reduce the EU's supranational powers. Opponents of greater European integration are known as Eurosceptics, supporters Pro-Europeans.
The strong showing of the eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in the 2004 European Parliament elections has shifted the debate over UK relations with the EU, with perhaps a third of the electorate supportive of leaving the EU.