The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,[note 10] is a sovereign country in north-western Europe, 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 within the British Isles. Northern Ireland shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland. Otherwise, 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 total area of the United Kingdom is 94,000 square miles (240,000 km2).
The United Kingdom is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy.[note 11] The monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952. The United Kingdom’s capital is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. The United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, respectively. Other than England, the constituent countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers.
The union between the Kingdom of England (which included Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, followed by their union in 1801 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. The UK’s name was adopted in 1927 to reflect the change.[note 12]
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. There are also 14 British Overseas Territories, the last remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world’s landmass 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 has the world’s fifth-largest economy by nominal gross domestic product (GDP), and the tenth-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). It has a high-income economy and a very high human development index rating, ranking 13th in the world. The UK became the world’s first industrialised country and was the world’s foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today the UK remains one of the world’s great powers, with considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific, technological and political influence internationally. It is a recognised nuclear weapon state and is ranked sixth globally in military expenditure. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946.
The United Kingdom is 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). It was a member of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), from 1973 until withdrawing in 2020.
1 Etymology and terminology
2.1 Prior to the Treaty of Union
2.2 Kingdom of Great Britain
2.3 From the union with Ireland to the end of the First World War
2.4 Interwar years and the Second World War
2.5 Postwar 20th century
2.6 21st century
4.2 Administrative divisions
4.3 Devolved governments
4.5 Law and criminal justice
4.6 Foreign relations
5.2 Science and technology
5.5 Water supply and sanitation
6.1 Ethnic groups
7.3 Visual art
8 See also
11 External links
Etymology and terminology
See also: Britain (place name) and Terminology of the British Isles
The 1707 Acts of Union declared that the kingdoms of England and Scotland were “United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great …
Collection: Country Punks