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United Kingdom

United Kingdom

At a Glance

Official Name: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Continent: Europe

Area: 93,278 square miles (241,590 sq. km)

Population: 59,647,790

Capital City: London

Largest City: London (6,976,500)

Unit of Money: British pound

Major Languages: English, Welsh

Natural Resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica

The Place

United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy located in northwestern Europe. The country is a series of islands located in the British Isles. Its official name is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Great Britain is the largest island, and England is the largest and most populous division of Great Britain. Wales is located to the west, and Scotland is to the north of England. Northern Ireland is located in the northeast corner of Ireland, the second largest island in the British Isles.

The capital of the United Kingdom is London, which is located near the southeastern tip of England.

The United Kingdom covers 93,278 square miles (241,590 square kilometers). Britain is densely populated, and is highly developed in the arts, economics, sciences and technology. The country has large deposits of coal, and controls some oil fields in the North Sea.

The climate, in general, is mild, chilly, and often wet. Up to 300 days each year have rainy or over-cast skies. These conditions make Britain lush and green, with rolling plains in the south and east and rough hills and mountains to the west and north.

The People

English is the official language of the United Kingdom, and is used throughout most of the country. Less than one fifth of the people of Wales speak both English and Welsh, while thousands of people in Scotland speak Scottish Gaelic. Irish Gaelic is spoken by a small number of people in Ireland.

People have migrated to the British Isles from many parts of the world including America, China, Russia, Poland, Estonia, Italy, and Spain. Since the early 1970s, Ugandan Asians and immigrants from Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Sri Lanka have sought political refuge in Britain. People of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi origin account for more than half of the country's total ethnic minority population. Life expectancy is 77 years.

Education

Primary and secondary education is a local responsibility in the United Kingdom, and the Local Education Authorities (LEA) hires teachers and provides education to students. Primary education is free and compulsory from age 5 to 11. LEAs also provide secondary education for children aged 11 to 19, which is free and compulsory to age 16.

In most parts of the United Kingdom, secondary schools are open to pupils of all abilities, and students can continue past the minimum leaving age of 16 to earn a certificate or take public examinations that qualify them for higher education or technical training.

Universities are mostly independent and self-governing; however, they have close links with the central government.

Government

Type: Constitutional Monarchy

Structure: Executive

Leader: Queen/Prime Minister

Defense

116,000 army personnel

918 tanks

54 major ships

559 combat aircraft

Popular Culture/Daily Life

Britain has been important in the arts throughout modern times, especially for its plays, novels, stories and music. Britain has produced many 20th-century artists and composers, including painter David Hockney and composer Sir Edward Elgar, as well as popular music artists such as the Beatles.

The independent Arts Council, formed in 1946, supports many kinds of contemporary creative and performing arts in the United Kingdom. The state-owned British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and privately owned Channel Four Television are also major patrons of the arts, especially music and films. Similar to other countries, there has been a clash of tastes and values between generations.

British filmmakers regularly win more U.S. Academy Awards (Oscars) than those from any other country outside the United States do.

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