|United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland
"God Save the Queen"[note 1]
(and largest city)
|Recognised regional languages||Irish, Ulster Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, Welsh, Cornish[note 2]|
|Ethnic groups (2001
See: UK ethnic groups list)
4.0% South Asian
|Demonym||British or Briton|
|Government||Unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy|
|-||Prime Minister||David Cameron MP|
|-||Upper House||House of Lords|
|-||Lower House||House of Commons|
|-||Acts of Union 1707||1 May 1707|
|-||Acts of Union 1800||1 January 1801|
|-||Anglo-Irish Treaty||12 April 1922|
|-||Total||243,610 km2 (80th)
Template:Convert/LoffAoffDoutput number onlySoff sq mi
|-||Mid-2010 estimate||62,262,000 (22nd)|
|GDP (PPP)||2010 estimate|
|-||Total||$2.173 trillion (7th)|
|-||Per capita||$34,920 (21st)|
|GDP (nominal)||2010 estimate|
|-||Total||$2.247 trillion (6th)|
|-||Per capita||$36,120 (22nd)|
|HDI (2010)||0.849 (very high) (26th)|
|Currency||Pound sterling (
|Time zone||GMT (UTC+0)|
|-||Summer (DST)||BST (UTC+1)|
|Date formats||dd/mm/yyyy (AD)|
|Drives on the||left[note 3]|
|Internet TLD||.uk[note 4] </div>|
|Ethnic group||Population||% of total*|
|Other Asian (non-Chinese)||247,644||0.4%|
|* Percentage of total UK population, according to the 2001 Census|
Historically, indigenous British people were thought to be descended from the various ethnic groups that settled there before the 11th century: the Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse and the Normans. Recent genetic studies have shown that more than 50 percent of England's gene pool contains Germanic Y chromosomes, though other recent genetic analysis indicates that "about 75 per cent of the traceable ancestors of the modern British population had arrived in the British isles by about 6,200 years ago, at the start of the British Neolithic or Stone Age", and that the British broadly share a common ancestry with the Basque people.
The UK has a history of small-scale non-white immigration, with Liverpool having the oldest Black population in the country dating back to at least the 1730s, and the oldest Chinese community in Europe, dating to the arrival of Chinese seamen in the 19th century. In 1950 there were probably less than 20,000 non-white residents in Britain, almost all born overseas.
Since 1945 substantial immigration from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia has been a legacy of ties forged by the British Empire. Migration from new EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe since 2004 has resulted in growth in these population groups but, as of 2008, the trend is reversing and many of these migrants are returning home, leaving the size of these groups unknown. As of 2001 92.1% of the population identified themselves as White, leaving 7.9% of the UK population identifying themselves as mixed race or of an ethnic minority.
Ethnic diversity varies significantly across the UK. 30.4% of London's population and 37.4% of Leicester's was estimated to be non-white as of June 2005, whereas less than 5% of the populations of North East England, Wales and the South West were from ethnic minorities according to the 2001 census. As of 2011, 26.5% of primary and 22.2% of secondary pupils at state schools in England are members of an ethnic minority.
- Main article: Languages of the United Kingdom
The UK's official language is English, a West Germanic language descended from Old English which features a large number of borrowings from Old Norse, Norman French and Latin. The English language has spread across the world, largely because of the British Empire, and has become the international language of business as well as the most widely taught second language.
Scots, a language descended from early northern Middle English, is recognised at European level, as is its regional variant in the northern counties of Ireland, Ulster Scots. There are also four Celtic languages in use in the UK: Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Cornish. In the 2001 Census over a fifth (21%) of the population of Wales said they could speak Welsh, an increase from the 1991 Census (18%). In addition it is estimated that about 200,000 Welsh speakers live in England.
The 2001 census in Northern Ireland showed that 167,487 (10.4%) people "had some knowledge of Irish" (see Irish language in Northern Ireland), almost exclusively in the Catholic/nationalist population. Over 92,000 people in Scotland (just under 2% of the population) had some Gaelic language ability, including 72% of those living in the Outer Hebrides. The number of schoolchildren being taught in Welsh, Gaelic and Irish is increasing. Welsh and Scottish Gaelic are also spoken by small groups around the globe with some Gaelic still spoken in Nova Scotia, Canada (especially Cape Breton Island), and Welsh in Patagonia, Argentina.
Across the United Kingdom it is generally compulsory for pupils to study a second language to some extent: up to the age of 14 in England, and up to age 16 in Scotland. French and German are the two most commonly taught second languages in England and Scotland. In Wales, all pupils up to age 16 are either taught in Welsh or taught Welsh as a second language.
- Main article: Religion in the United Kingdom
Forms of Christianity have dominated religious life in what is now the United Kingdom for over 1,400 years. Although a majority of citizens still identify with Christianity in many surveys, regular church attendance has fallen dramatically since the middle of the 20th century, while immigration and demographic change have contributed to the growth of other faiths, most notably Islam. This has led some commentators to variously describe the UK as a multi-faith, secularised, or post-Christian society. In the 2001 census 71.6% of all respondents indicated that they were Christians, with the next largest faiths (by number of adherents) being Islam (2.8%), Hinduism (1.0%), Sikhism (0.6%), Judaism (0.5%), Buddhism (0.3%) and all other religions (0.3%). 15% of respondents stated that they had no religion, with a further 7% not stating a religious preference. A Tearfund survey in 2007 showed only one in ten Britons actually attend church weekly.
The (Anglican) Church of England is the established church in England. It retains a representation in the UK Parliament and the British monarch is its Supreme Governor. In Scotland the Presbyterian Church of Scotland is recognised as the national church. It is not subject to state control, and the British monarch is an ordinary member, required to swear an oath to "maintain and preserve the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government" upon his or her accession. The Church in Wales was disestablished in 1920, and there is no established church in Northern Ireland. Although there are no UK-wide data in the 2001 census on adherence to individual Christian denominations, Ceri Peach has estimated that 62% of Christians are Anglican, 13.5% Roman Catholic, 6% Presbyterian, 3.4% Methodist with small numbers of other Protestant denominations and the Orthodox church.
- Main article: Immigration to the United Kingdom since 1922
The United Kingdom has experienced successive waves of migration. The Great Famine brought a large influx of Irish immigrants. Over 120,000 Polish veterans settled in Britain after World War II, unable to return home. In the 20th century there was significant immigration from the British Empire, driven largely by post-World War II labour shortages. Many of these migrants came from the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent.
The proportion of foreign-born people in the UK remains slightly below that of some other European countries, although immigration is now contributing to a rising population, accounting for about half of the population increase between 1991 and 2001. Analysis of Office for National Statistics data shows that 2.3 million net migrants moved to the UK in the period 1991 to 2006. In 2008 it was predicted that migration would add 7 million to the UK population by 2031, though these figures are disputed. The latest provisional official figures show that, in 2010, 586,000 people arrived to live in the UK while 344,000 left, meaning that net inward migration was 242,000.
A record 203,790 foreign nationals became British citizens in 2009. 194,780 people were granted permanent settlement rights in 2009, of whom people from the Indian subcontinent accounted for 34 per cent, 25 per cent were from Africa and 21 per cent from elsewhere in Asia. 24.7 per cent of babies born in England and Wales in 2009 were born to mothers born outside the UK, according to official statistics released in 2010.
At least 5.5 million British-born people are living abroad, the top four destinations being Australia, Spain, the United States and Canada. Emigration was an important feature of British society in the 19th century. Between 1815 and 1930 around 11.4 million people emigrated from Britain and 7.3 million from Ireland. Estimates show that by the end of the 20th century some 300 million people of British and Irish descent were permanently settled around the globe.
Citizens of the European Union have the right to live and work in any member state, including the UK. Transitional arrangements apply to Romanians and Bulgarians whose countries joined the EU in January 2007. Research conducted by the Migration Policy Institute for the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that, between May 2004 and September 2009, 1.5 million workers migrated from the new EU member states to the UK, two thirds of them Polish, but that many have since returned home, resulting in a net increase in the number of nationals of the new member states in the UK of some 700,000 over that period. The late-2000s recession in the UK reduced the economic incentive for Poles to migrate to the UK, with the migration becoming temporary and circular. In 2009, for the first time since enlargement, more nationals of the eight central and eastern European states that had joined the EU in 2004 left the UK than arrived.
The UK government is currently introducing a points-based immigration system for immigration from outside the European Economic Area that will replace existing schemes, including the Scottish Government's Fresh Talent Initiative. In June 2010 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government introduced a temporary cap on immigration of those entering the UK from outside the EU, with the limit set at 24,100, in order to stop an expected rush of applications before a permanent cap is imposed in April 2011. The cap has caused tension within the coalition: business secretary Vince Cable has argued that it is harming British businesses.
- Main article: Education in the United Kingdom
Education in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter, with each country having a separate education system.
Education in England is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Education, though the day-to-day administration and funding of state schools is the responsibility of local authorities. Universally free of charge state education was introduced piecemeal between 1870 and 1944, with education becoming compulsory for all 5 to 14 year-olds in 1921. Education is now mandatory from ages five to sixteen (15 if born in late July or August). The majority of children are educated in state-sector schools, only a small proportion of which select on the grounds of academic ability. State schools which are allowed to select pupils according to intelligence and academic ability can achieve comparable results to the most selective private schools: out of the top ten performing schools in terms of GCSE results in 2006 two were state-run grammar schools. Despite a fall in actual numbers the proportion of children in England attending private schools has risen to over 7%. Over half of students at the leading universities of Cambridge and Oxford had attended state schools. The universities of England include some of the top universities in the world; the University of Cambridge, University College London, the University of Oxford and Imperial College London are all ranked in the global top 10 in the 2010 QS World University Rankings, with Cambridge ranked first. Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) rated pupils in England 7th in the world for maths and 6th for science. The results put England's pupils ahead of other European countries, including Germany and the Scandinavian countries.
Education in Scotland is the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, with day-to-day administration and funding of state schools the responsibility of Local Authorities. Two non-departmental public bodies have key roles in Scottish education: the Scottish Qualifications Authority is responsible for the development, accreditation, assessment and certification of qualifications other than degrees which are delivered at secondary schools, post-secondary colleges of further education and other centres; and Learning and Teaching Scotland provides advice, resources and staff development to the education community to promote curriculum development and create a culture of innovation, ambition and excellence. Scotland first legislated for compulsory education in 1496. The proportion of children in Scotland attending private schools is just over 4%, although it has been rising slowly in recent years. Scottish students who attend Scottish universities pay neither tuition fees nor graduate endowment charges, as fees were abolished in 2001 and the graduate endowment scheme was abolished in 2008.
Education in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Minister of Education and the Minister for Employment and Learning, although responsibility at a local level is administered by five education and library boards covering different geographical areas. The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) is the body responsible for advising the government on what should be taught in Northern Ireland's schools, monitoring standards and awarding qualifications. The Welsh Government has responsibility for education in Wales. A significant number of Welsh students are taught either wholly or largely in the Welsh language; lessons in Welsh are compulsory for all until the age of 16. There are plans to increase the provision of Welsh-medium schools as part of the policy of creating a fully bilingual Wales.
- Main article: Healthcare in the United Kingdom
Healthcare in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter and each country has its own system of private and publicly funded health care, together with alternative, holistic and complementary treatments. Public healthcare is provided to all UK permanent residents and is free at the point of need, being paid for from general taxation. The World Health Organization, in 2000, ranked the provision of healthcare in the United Kingdom as fifteenth best in Europe and eighteenth in the world.
Regulatory bodies are organised on a UK-wide basis such as the General Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and non-governmental-based, such as the Royal Colleges. However, political and operational responsibility for healthcare lies with four national executives; healthcare in England is the responsibility of the UK Government; healthcare in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive; healthcare in Scotland is the responsibility of the Scottish Government; and healthcare in Wales is the responsibility of the Welsh Assembly Government. Each National Health Service has different policies and priorities, resulting in contrasts.
Since 1979 expenditure on healthcare has been increased significantly to bring it closer to the European Union average. The UK spends around 8.4 per cent of its gross domestic product on healthcare, which is 0.5 percentage points below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average and about one percentage point below the average of the European Union.
- Main article: Culture of the United Kingdom
The culture of the United Kingdom has been influenced by many factors including: the nation's island status; its history as a western liberal democracy and a major power; as well as being a political union of four countries with each preserving elements of distinctive traditions, customs and symbolism. As a result of the British Empire, British influence can be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former colonies; including Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the United States.
- Main article: Cinema of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has had a considerable influence on the history of the cinema. The British directors Alfred Hitchcock and David Lean are among the most critically acclaimed of all-time, with other important directors including Charlie Chaplin, Michael Powell, Carol Reed and Ridley Scott. Many British actors have achieved international fame and critical success, including: Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, Michael Caine, Charlie Chaplin, Sean Connery, Vivien Leigh, David Niven, Laurence Olivier, Peter Sellers and Kate Winslet. Some of the most commercially successful films of all time have been produced in the United Kingdom, including the two highest-grossing film franchises (Harry Potter and James Bond). Ealing Studios has a claim to being the oldest continuously working film studio in the world.
Despite a history of important and successful productions, the industry has often been characterised by a debate about its identity and the level of American and European influence. Many British films are co-productions with American producers, often using both British and American actors, and British actors feature regularly in Hollywood films. Many successful Hollywood films have been based on British people, stories or events, including Titanic, The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean and the 'English Cycle' of Disney animated films.
In 2009 British films grossed around $2 billion worldwide and achieved a market share of around 7% globally and 17% in the United Kingdom. UK box-office takings totalled £944 million in 2009, with around 173 million admissions. The British Film Institute has produced a poll ranking of what it considers to be the 100 greatest British films of all time, the BFI Top 100 British films. The annual British Academy Film Awards, hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, are the British equivalent of the Oscars.
- Main article: British literature
'British literature' refers to literature associated with the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands as well as to literature from England, Wales and Scotland prior to the formation of the UK. Most British literature is in the English language. In 2005, some 206,000 books were published in the United Kingdom and in 2006 it was the largest publisher of books in the world.
The English playwright and poet William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest dramatist of all time. Shakespeare's contemporaries Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson added depth. More recently the playwrights Alan Ayckbourn, Harold Pinter, Michael Frayn, Tom Stoppard and David Edgar have combined elements of surrealism, realism and radicalism.
Notable pre-modern and early-modern English writers include Geoffrey Chaucer (14th century), Thomas Malory (15th century), Sir Thomas More (16th century), and John Milton (17th century). In the 18th century Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe) and Samuel Richardson were pioneers of the modern novel. In the 19th century there followed further innovation by Jane Austen, the gothic novelist Mary Shelley, children's writer Lewis Carroll, the Brontë sisters, the social campaigner Charles Dickens, the naturalist Thomas Hardy, the realist George Eliot, the visionary poet William Blake and romantic poet William Wordsworth. Twentieth century English writers include: science-fiction novelist H. G. Wells; the writers of children's classics Rudyard Kipling, A. A. Milne (the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh) and Enid Blyton; the controversial D. H. Lawrence; modernist Virginia Woolf; the satirist Evelyn Waugh; the prophetic novelist George Orwell; the popular novelists W. Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene; the crime writer Agatha Christie (the best-selling novelist of all time); Ian Fleming (the creator of James Bond); the poets T. S. Eliot, Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes; and the fantasy writers J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling.
Scotland's contributions include the detective writer Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes), romantic literature by Sir Walter Scott, children's writer J.M. Barrie, the epic adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson and the celebrated poet Robert Burns. More recently the modernist and nationalist Hugh MacDiarmid and Neil M. Gunn contributed to the Scottish Renaissance. A more grim outlook is found in Ian Rankin's stories and the psychological horror-comedy of Iain Banks. Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, was UNESCO's first worldwide City of Literature.
Britain's oldest known poem, Y Gododdin, was probably composed in Cumbric or Old Welsh in the late 6th century and contains the earliest known reference to King Arthur. Geoffrey of Monmouth developed the Arthurian legend with his pseudohistorical account of British history, the Historia Regum Britanniae. Wales' most celebrated medieval poet, Dafydd ap Gwilym (fl 1320–1370), composed Welsh language poetry on themes including nature, religion and especially love. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest European poets of his age. Until the late 19th century the majority of Welsh literature was in Welsh and much of the prose was religious in character. Daniel Owen is credited as the first Welsh-language novelist, publishing Rhys Lewis in 1885. The best-known of the Anglo-Welsh poets are both Thomases. Dylan Thomas became famous on both sides of the Atlantic in the mid 20th century. The Swansea writer is remembered for his poetry – his "Do not go gentle into that good night; Rage, rage against the dying of the light." is one of the most quoted couplets of English language verse – and for his 'play for voices', Under Milk Wood. Influential Church in Wales 'poet-priest' and Welsh nationalist, R. S. Thomas, was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996. Leading Welsh novelists include Richard Llewellyn and Kate Roberts.
Authors of other nationalities, particularly from Commonwealth countries, the Republic of Ireland and the United States, have lived and worked in the UK. Significant examples through the centuries include Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and more recently British authors born abroad such as Kazuo Ishiguro and Sir Salman Rushdie.
- Main article: Media of the United Kingdom
The BBC, founded in 1922, is the UK's publicly funded radio, television and Internet broadcasting corporation, and is the oldest and largest broadcaster in the world. It operates numerous television and radio stations in the UK and abroad and its domestic services are funded by the television licence. Other major players in the UK media include ITV plc, which operates 11 of the 15 regional television broadcasters that make up the ITV Network, and News Corporation, which owns a number of national newspapers through News International such as the most popular tabloid The Sun and the longest-established daily "broadsheet" The Times, as well as holding a large stake in satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting. London dominates the media sector in the UK: national newspapers and television and radio are largely based there, although Manchester is also a significant national media centre. Edinburgh and Glasgow, and Cardiff, are important centres of newspaper and broadcasting production in Scotland and Wales respectively. The UK publishing sector, including books, directories and databases, journals, magazines and business media, newspapers and news agencies, has a combined turnover of around £20 billion and employs around 167,000 people.
In 2009 it was estimated that individuals viewed a mean of 3.75 hours of television per day and 2.81 hours of radio. In that year the main BBC public service broadcasting channels accounted for an estimated 28.4% of all television viewing; the three main independent channels accounted for 29.5% and the increasingly important other satellite and digital channels for the remaining 42.1%. Sales of newspapers have fallen since the 1970s and in 2009 42% of people reported reading a daily national newspaper. In 2010 82.5% of the UK population were Internet users, the highest proportion amongst the 20 countries with the largest total number of users in that year.
- Main article: Music of the United Kingdom
Various styles of music are popular in the UK from the indigenous folk music of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to heavy metal. Notable composers of classical music from the United Kingdom and the countries that preceded it include William Byrd, Henry Purcell, Sir Edward Elgar, Gustav Holst, Sir Arthur Sullivan (most famous for working with librettist Sir W.S. Gilbert), Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten, pioneer of modern British opera. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is one of the foremost living composers and current Master of the Queen's Music. The UK is also home to world-renowned symphonic orchestras and choruses such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Chorus. Notable conductors include Sir Simon Rattle, John Barbirolli and Sir Malcolm Sargent. Some of the notable film score composers include John Barry, Clint Mansell, Mike Oldfield, John Powell, Craig Armstrong, David Arnold, John Murphy, Monty Norman and Harry Gregson-Williams. George Frideric Handel, although born German, was a naturalised British citizen and some of his best works, such as Messiah, were written in the English language. Andrew Lloyd Webber has achieved enormous worldwide commercial success and is a prolific composer of musical theatre, works which have dominated London's West End for a number of years and have travelled to Broadway in New York.
The Beatles have international sales of over one billion units and are the biggest-selling and most influential act in the history of popular music. Other prominent British contributors to have influenced popular music over the last 50 years include Queen, Cliff Richard, the Bee Gees, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones; all of whom have world wide record sales of 200 million or more. According to research by Guinness World Records eight of the ten acts with the most UK chart singles are British: Status Quo, Queen, The Rolling Stones, UB40, Depeche Mode, the Bee Gees, the Pet Shop Boys and the Manic Street Preachers. More recent UK music acts that have had international success include Coldplay, Radiohead, Oasis, Spice Girls, Amy Winehouse, Muse, Adele and Gorillaz.
A number of UK cities are known for their music. Acts from Liverpool have had more UK chart number one hit singles per capita (54) than any other city worldwide. Glasgow's contribution to music was recognised in 2008 when it was named a UNESCO City of Music, one of only three cities in the world to have this honour.
- Main article: British philosophy
The United Kingdom is famous for the tradition of 'British Empiricism', a branch of the philosophy of knowledge that states that only knowledge verified by experience is valid, and 'Scottish Philosophy', sometimes referred to as the 'Scottish School of Common Sense'. The most famous philosophers of British Empiricism are John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume; while Dugald Stewart, Thomas Reid and William Hamilton were major exponents of the Scottish "common sense" school. Two Britons are also notable for a theory of moral philosophy utilitarianism, first used by Jeremy Bentham and later by John Stuart Mill in his short work Utilitarianism. Other eminent philosophers from the UK and the unions and countries that preceded it include Duns Scotus, John Lilburne, Mary Wollstonecraft, Sir Francis Bacon, Adam Smith, Thomas Hobbes, William of Ockham, Bertrand Russell and A.J. "Freddie" Ayer. Foreign-born philosophers who settled in the UK include Isaiah Berlin, Karl Marx, Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
- Main article: Art of the United Kingdom
The history of British visual art forms part of western art history. Major British artists include: the Romantics William Blake, John Constable, Samuel Palmer and J.M.W. Turner; the portrait painters Sir Joshua Reynolds and Lucian Freud; the landscape artists Thomas Gainsborough and L. S. Lowry; the pioneer of the Arts and Crafts Movement William Morris; the figurative painter Francis Bacon; the Pop artists Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton and David Hockney; the collaborative duo Gilbert and George; the abstract artist Howard Hodgkin; and the sculptors Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Henry Moore. During the late 1980s and 1990s the Saatchi Gallery in London helped to bring to public attention a group of multi-genre artists who would become known as the "Young British Artists": Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili, Rachel Whiteread, Tracey Emin, Mark Wallinger, Steve McQueen, Sam Taylor-Wood and the Chapman Brothers are among the better-known members of this loosely affiliated movement.
The Royal Academy in London is a key organisation for the promotion of the visual arts in the United Kingdom. Major schools of art in the UK include: the six-school University of the Arts London, which includes the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and Chelsea College of Art and Design; Goldsmiths, University of London; the Slade School of Fine Art (part of University College London); the Glasgow School of Art; the Royal College of Art; and The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art (part of the University of Oxford). The Courtauld Institute of Art is a leading centre for the teaching of the history of art. Important art galleries in the United Kingdom include the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern (the most-visited modern art gallery in the world, with around 4.7 million visitors per year).
- Main article: Sport in the United Kingdom
Major sports, including association football, rugby league, rugby union, rowing, boxing, badminton, cricket, tennis, darts and golf, originated or were substantially developed in the United Kingdom and the states that preceded it. A 2003 poll found that football is the most popular sport in the United Kingdom. In most international competitions, separate teams represent England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, including at the Commonwealth Games. (In sporting contexts, these teams can be referred to collectively as the Home Nations). However there are occasions where a single sports team represents the United Kingdom, including at the Olympics where the UK is represented by the Great Britain team. London was the site of the 1908 and 1948 Olympic Games, and in 2012 will become the first city to play host for a third time.
Each of the Home Nations has its own football association, national team and league system, though a few clubs play outside their country's respective systems for a variety of historical and logistical reasons. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete as separate countries in international competition and, as a consequence, the UK does not compete as a team in football events at the Olympic Games. There are proposals to have a UK team take part in the 2012 Summer Olympics but the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations have declined to participate, fearing that it would undermine their independent status – a fear confirmed by FIFA president Sepp Blatter. England has been the most successful of the home nations winning the World Cup on home soil in 1966, although there has historically been a close-fought rivalry between England and Scotland.
Cricket was invented in England. The England cricket team, controlled by the England and Wales Cricket Board, is the only national team in the UK with Test status. Team members are drawn from the main county sides, and include both English and Welsh players. Cricket is distinct from football and rugby where Wales and England field separate national teams, although Wales had fielded its own team in the past. Irish and Scottish players have played for England because neither Scotland nor Ireland have Test status and have only recently started to play in One Day Internationals. Scotland, England (and Wales), and Ireland (including Northern Ireland) have competed at the Cricket World Cup, with England reaching the finals on three occasions. There is a professional league championship in which clubs representing 17 English counties and 1 Welsh county compete. Rugby league is a popular sport in some areas of the UK. It originates in Huddersfield and is generally played in Northern England. A single 'Great Britain Lions' team had competed in the Rugby League World Cup and Test match games, but this changed in 2008 when England, Scotland and Ireland competed as separate nations. Great Britain is still being retained as the full national team for Ashes tours against Australia, New Zealand and France. The highest form of professional rugby league in the UK and Europe is Super League where there are 11 teams from Northern England, 1 from London, 1 from Wales and 1 from France. Rugby union is organised on a separate basis for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, each has a top-ranked international team and were collectively known as the Home Nations. The Six Nations Championship, played between the Home Nations as well as Italy and France, is the premier international tournament in the northern hemisphere. The Triple Crown is awarded to any of the Home Nations who beats the other three in that tournament.
The game of lawn tennis first originated in the city of Birmingham between 1859 and 1865. The Championships, Wimbledon are international tennis events held in Wimbledon in south London every summer and are regarded as the most prestigious event of the global tennis calendar. Snooker is one of the UK's popular sporting exports, with the world championships held annually in Sheffield. In Northern Ireland Gaelic football and hurling are popular team sports, both in terms of participation and spectating, and Irish expatriates throughout the UK and the US also play them. Shinty (or camanachd) is popular in the Scottish Highlands.
Thoroughbred racing, which originated under Charles II of England as the "sport of kings", is popular throughout the UK with world-famous races including the Grand National, the Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot. The UK has proved successful in the international sporting arena in rowing. Golf is the sixth most popular sport, by participation, in the UK. Although The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in Scotland is the sport's home course, the world's oldest golf course is actually Musselburgh Links' Old Golf Course.
The UK is closely associated with motorsport. Many teams and drivers in Formula One (F1) are based in the UK, and drivers from Britain have won more world titles than any other country. The UK hosted the very first F1 Grand Prix in 1950 at Silverstone, the current location of the British Grand Prix held each year in July. The country also hosts legs of the World Rally Championship and has its own touring car racing championship, the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC).
The flag of the United Kingdom is the Union Flag (also referred to as the Union Jack). It was first created in 1606 by the superimposition of the Flag of England on the Flag of Scotland and updated in 1801 with the addition of Saint Patrick's Flag. Wales is not represented in the Union Flag as Wales had been conquered and annexed to England prior to the formation of the United Kingdom; the possibility of redesigning the Union Flag to include representation of Wales has not been completely ruled out. The national anthem of the United Kingdom is "God Save the King", with "King" replaced with "Queen" in the lyrics whenever the monarch is a woman.
Britannia is a national personification of the United Kingdom, originating from Roman Britain. Britannia is symbolised as a young woman with brown or golden hair wearing a Corinthian helmet and white robes. She holds Poseidon's three-pronged trident and a shield, bearing the Union Flag. Sometimes she is depicted as riding on the back of a lion. At and since the height of the British Empire, Britannia has often associated with maritime dominance, as in the patriotic song Rule, Britannia!. The lion symbol is depicted behind Britannia on the British fifty pence coin and one is shown crowned on the back of the British ten pence coin. It is also used as a symbol on the non-ceremonial flag of the British Army. The bulldog is sometimes used as a symbol of the United Kingdom and has been associated with Winston Churchill's defiance of Nazi Germany.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 English language : Directgov – Government, citizens and rights
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Commonwealth Secretariat – UK
- ↑ "European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages". Scottish Government. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/ArtsCulture/gaelic/gaelic-english/17910/europeancharter. Retrieved on 11 December 2010.
- ↑ "United Kingdom population by ethnic group" (XLS). United Kingdom Census 2001. Office for National Statistics. 1 April 2001. http://www.statistics.gov.uk/StatBase/Expodata/Spreadsheets/D6588.xls. Retrieved on 15 April 2009.
- ↑ "Population change". Office for National Statistics. 30 June 2011. http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=950.
- ↑ "Census 2001: Population estimates". Office for National Statistics. http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/pop2001/united_kingdom.asp. Retrieved on 21 April 2011.
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- Official website of the British Monarchy
- Official website of HM Government
- Chief of State and Cabinet Members
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- General information
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- United Kingdom from UCB Libraries GovPubs
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