United Kingdom

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United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland


FLAG: The Union Jack, adopted in 1800, is a combination of the banners of England (St. George's flag: a red cross with extended horizontals on a white field), Scotland (St. Andrew's flag: a white saltire cross on a blue field), and Ireland (St. Patrick's flag: a red saltire cross on a white field). The arms of the saltire crosses do not meet at the center.

ANTHEM: God Save the Queen.

MONETARY UNIT: The pound sterling (£) is a paper currency of 100 pence. Before decimal coinage was introduced on 15 February 1971, the pound had been divided into 20 shillings, each shilling representing 12 pennies (p) or pence; some old-style coins are still in circulation. Under the new system, there are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 pence and 1 and 2 pounds, and notes of 5, 10, 20, and 50 pounds. £1 = $1.85185 (or $1 = £0.54) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Although the traditional imperial system of weights and measures is still in use (sample units: of weight, the stone of 14 pounds equivalent to 6.35 kilograms; of length, the yard equivalent to 0.914 meter; of capacity, a bushel equivalent to 36.37 liters), a changeover to the metric system is in progress.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Good Friday; Easter Monday (except Scotland); Late Summer Holiday, last Monday in August or 1st in September (except Scotland); Christmas, 25 December; and Boxing Day, 1st weekday after Christmas. Also observed in Scotland are bank holidays on 2 January and on the 1st Monday in August. Northern Ireland observes St. Patrick's Day, 17 March; and Orangeman's Day, 12 July, commemorating the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.



The United Kingdom is situated off the northwest coast of Europe between the Atlantic Ocean on the n and nw and the North Sea on the e, separated from the Continent by the Strait of Dover and the English Channel, 34 km (21 mi) wide at its narrowest point, and from the Irish Republic by the Irish Sea and St. George's Channel. Its total area of 244,820 sq km (94,526 sq mi) consists of the island of Great Britainformed by England, 130,439 sq km (50,363 sq mi); Wales, 20,768 sq km (8,018 sq mi); and Scotland, 78,783 sq km (30,418 sq mi)and Northern Ireland, 14,120 sq km (5,452 sq mi), on the island of Ireland, separated from Great Britain by the North Channel. Comparatively, the area occupied by the United Kingdom is slightly smaller than the state of Oregon.

There are also several island groups and hundreds of small single islands, most of them administratively part of the mainland units. The United Kingdom extends about 965 km (600 mi) ns and about 485 km (300 mi) ew. Its total boundary length is 12,789 km (7,947 mi), of which 12,429 km (7,723 mi) is coastline. The Isle of Man, 588 sq km (227 sq mi), and the Channel Islands, comprising Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark, with a combined area of 194 sq km (75 sq mi), are not part of the United Kingdom but are dependencies of the crown. The 0° meridian of longitude passes through the old Royal Observatory, located at Greenwich in Greater London. The United Kingdom's capital city, London, is located in the southeast part of Great Britain.


England is divided into the hill regions of the north, west, and southwest and the rolling downs and low plains of the east and southeast. Running from east to west on the extreme north Scottish border are the Cheviot Hills. The Pennine Range runs north and south from the Scottish border to Derbyshire in central England. The rest of the countryside consists mainly of rich agricultural lands, occasional moors, and plains. South of the Pennines lie the Midlands (East and West), a plains region with low, rolling hills and fertile valleys. The eastern coast is low-lying, much of it less than 5 m (15 ft) above sea level; for centuries parts of it have been protected by embankments against inundation from gales and unusually high tides. Little of the south and east rises to higher than 300 m (1,000 ft).

The highest point in England is Scafell Pike (978 m/3,210 ft) in the famed Lake District of the northwest. The longest of the rivers flowing from the central highlands to the sea are the Severn (about 340 km/210 mi) in the west and the Thames (about 320 km/200 mi) in the southeast. Other rivers include the Humber, the Tees, the Tyne, and the Tweed in the east, the Avon and Exe in the south, and the Mersey in the west.

Scotland has three distinct topographical regions: the Northern Highlands, occupying almost the entire northern half of the country and containing the highest point in the British Isles, Ben Nevis (1,343 m/4,406 ft), as well as Loch Ness, site of a fabled "monster"; the Central Lowlands, with an average elevation of about 150 m (500 ft) and containing the valleys of the Tay, Forth, and Clyde rivers, as well as Loch Lomond, Scotland's largest lake; and the Southern Uplands, rising to their peak at Merrick (843 m/2,766 ft), with moorland cut by many valleys and rivers.

Wales is largely mountainous and bleak, with much of the land suitable only for pasture. The Cambrian Mountains occupy almost the entire area and include Wales's highest point, Mt. Snowdon (1,086 m/3,563 ft). There are narrow coastal plains in the south and west and small lowland areas in the north, including the valley of the Dee.

Northern Ireland consists mainly of low-lying plateaus and hills, generally about 150 to 180 m (500600 ft) high. The Mourne Mountains in the southeast include Slieve Donard (852 m/2,796 ft), the highest point in Northern Ireland. In a central depression lies Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom's long and rugged coastline, heavily indented, has towering cliffs and headlands and numerous bays and inlets, among them the deep and narrow lochs and the wide firths of Scotland. Many river estuaries serve as fine harbors.


Despite its northern latitude, the United Kingdom generally enjoys a temperate climate, warmed by the North Atlantic Drift, a continuation of the Gulf Stream, and by southwest winds. Mean monthly temperatures range (north to south) from 3°c to 5°c (3741°f) in winter and from 12°c to 16°c (5461°f) in summer. The mean annual temperature in the west near sea level ranges from 8°c (46°f) in the Hebrides to 11°c (52°f) in the far southwest of England. Rarely do temperatures rise in summer to over 32°c (90°f) or drop in winter below -10°c (14°f).

Rainfall, averaging more than 100 cm (40 in) throughout the United Kingdom, is heaviest on the western and northern heights (over 380 cm/150 in), lowest along the eastern and southeastern coasts. Fairly even distribution of rain throughout the year, together with the prevalence of mists and fogs, results in scanty sunshineaveraging from half an hour to two hours a day in winter and from five to eight hours in summer.

In the spring of 1997 there was an intense drought in southern and western England; the previous two years were the driest in England and Wales since reliable record-keeping began in 1767.


With its mild climate and varied soils, the United Kingdom has a diverse pattern of natural vegetation. Originally, oak forests probably covered the lowland, except for the fens and marsh areas, while pine forests and patches of moorland covered the higher or sandy ground. Over the centuries, much of the forest area, especially on the lowlands, was cleared for cultivation. Fairly extensive forests remain in east and north Scotland and in southeast England. Oak, elm, ash, and beech are the most common trees in England. Pine and birch are most common in Scotland. Almost all the lowland outside the industrial centers is farmland, with a varied seminatural vegetation of grasses and flowering plants. Wild vegetation consists of the natural flora of woods, fens and marshes, cliffs, chalk downs, and mountain slopes, the most widespread being the heather, grasses, gorse, and bracken of the moorlands. There are over 1,600 plant species in the country.

The fauna is similar to that of northwestern continental Europe, although there are fewer species. Some of the larger mammalswolf, bear, boar, and reindeerare extinct, but red and roe deer are protected for sport. Common smaller mammals are foxes, hares, hedgehogs, rabbits, weasels, stoats, shrews, rats, and mice; otters are found in many rivers, and seals frequently appear along the coast. There are at least 50 species of mammal native to the region. There are few reptiles and amphibians. Roughly 230 species of birds reside in the United Kingdom, and another 200 are migratory. Most numerous are the chaffinch, blackbird, sparrow, and starling. The number of large birds is declining, however, except for game birdspheasant, partridge, and red grousewhich are protected. With the reclamation of the marshlands, waterfowl are moving to the many bird sanctuaries. The rivers and lakes abound in salmon, trout, perch, pike, roach, dace, and grayling. There are more than 21,000 species of insects.


Government officials and agencies with principal responsibility for environmental protection are the Department of the Environment, the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland, and the secretaries of state for Scotland and Wales. The National Trust (for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty), an organization of more than 1.3 million members, has acquired some 750 km (466 mi) of coastline in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. In addition, 127 km (79 mi) of coastline in Scotland are protected under agreement with the National Trust of Scotland. Two countryside commissions, one for England and Wales and one for Scotland, are charged with conserving the beauty and amenities of rural areas. By 1982, the former had designated 10 national parks, covering 13,600 sq km (5,250 sq mi), or 9% of the area of England and Wales. An additional 36 areas of outstanding beauty have been designated, covering 17,000 sq km (6,600 sq mi). Scotland has 40 national scenic areas, with more than 98% of all Scottish lands under the commission's jurisdiction. Northern Ireland has eight designated areas of outstanding natural beauty, seven country parks, and one regional park. There are also seven forest parks in Great Britain and nine in Northern Ireland. England and Wales have 600,000 hectares (1,500,000 acres) of common land, much of which is open to the public. The Nature Conservancy Council manages 214 national nature reserves in Great Britain and 41 in Northern Ireland.

Air pollution is a significant environmental concern for the United Kingdom. In 1992 the nation had the world's eighth-highest level of industrial carbon dioxide emissions, which totaled 566.2 million metric tons, a per capita level of 9.78 metric tons. In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 567.8 million metric tons. In addition, its sulphur contributes to the formation of acid rain in the surrounding countries of Western Europe. Air quality abatement has improved greatly in the United Kingdom as a result of the Control of Pollution Act of 1974 and other legislation. London is no longer densely smog-ridden, and winter sunlight has been increasing in various industrial cities.

Water pollution from agricultural sources is also a problem. The nation has 145 cubic km of water of which 3% of annual withdrawals is used for farming activity and 77% for industrial purposes. The United Kingdom's cities produce an average of 22 million tons of solid waste per year. Pollution of the Thames has been reduced to one-quarter of its level in the 1950s, and more than 80% of the population is served by sewage treatment plants.

The Food and Environment Protection Act of 1985 introduced special controls over dumping and marine incineration in response to the problems of regulation of oil and gas development and of large-scale dumping at sea.

As of 2003, 20.9% of the United Kingdom's total land area is protected, including 163 Ramsar wetland sites and 5 natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 10 types of mammals, 10 species of birds, 12 species of fish, 2 types of mollusks, 8 species of other invertebrates, and 13 species of plants. The European otter, Atlantic sturgeon, Atlantic ridley, Eskimo curlew, and Spengler's freshwater mussel are classified as endangered. The great auk has become extinct.


The population of United Kingdom in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 60,068,000, which placed it at number 22 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 16% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 18% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 96 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.2%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 64,687,000. The overall population density was 245 per sq km (635 per sq mi); in England there were 371 persons per sq km (961 per sq mi), with 4,233 persons per sq km (10,968 per sq mi) in Greater London.

The UN estimated that 89% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.36%. The capital city, London, had a population of 7,619,000 in that year. Other major metropolitan areas in England, with estimated populations, were Birmingham, 2,215,000; Manchester, 2,193,000; Leeds, 1,402,000; and Liverpool, 975,000. Other large English towns include Sheffield, 516,000; Bradford, 478,800; Bristol, 406,500; and Coventry, 300,844. The major cities in Scotland are Glasgow (1,099,400) and Edinburgh (460,000). Belfast, the major city in Northern Ireland, had a population of 287,500; and Cardiff, in Wales, 305,000.


From 18151930, the balance of migration was markedly outward, and well over 20 million persons left Britain, settling mainly within the British Empire and in the United States. Since 1931, however, the flow has largely been inward. From 193140, when emigration was very low, there was extensive immigration from Europe, including a quarter of a million refugees seeking sanctuary; during the 1950s, immigration from the Commonwealth, especially from the Caribbean countries, India, and Pakistan, steadily increased. The net influx of some 388,000 people (chiefly from the Commonwealth) during 196062 led to the introduction of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962, giving the government power to restrict the entry of Commonwealth citizens lacking adequate prospects of employment or means of self-support. Effective 1 January 1983, a new law further restricted entry by creating three categories of citizenship, two of whichcitizens of British Dependent Territories and "British overseas citizens"entail no right to live in the United Kingdom. Those in the last category, consisting of an estimated 1.5 million members of Asian minorities who chose to retain British passports when Malaysia and Britain's East African lands became independent, may not pass their British citizenship to their children without UK government approval.

Immigration is now on a quota basis. From 198691, 1,334,000 persons left the United Kingdom to live abroad, and 1,461,000 came from overseas to live in the United Kingdom, resulting in a net in-migration of 127,000. The total number of foreign residents in the United Kingdom was about 1,875,000 in 1990. Of these, more than one-third were Irish (638,000). Indians were second (155,000) and Americans third (102,000). Between the 1990s and 2002, net migration in the United Kingdom rose from 50,000 per year to 172,000. In spite of guest worker programs, the number of unauthorized foreigners grew to around 500,000 in 2003. In addition to these increases, "failed" asylum seekers who were subject to "removal" were a burden, with estimates at 155,000 to 283,000 in the United Kingdom in 2004. In that same year, Prime Minister Tony Blair declared that immigration had reached a "crunch point." Migration became a political issue of the 5 May 2005 elections. Conservative Party leader Michael Howard declared that if he were elected the United Kingdom would stop recognizing the 1951 UN Conventions on Refugees and an annual limit of 20,000 would be placed on immigration. The Labour Party stayed in power and Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed a tiered point system to control immigration. In July 2005 the Home Office estimated that there were 570,000 unauthorized foreigners. A five-tiered guest worker system was introduced: tier one, for highly skilled migrants and investors; tier two, for skilled workers in shortage occupations; tier three, for unskilled workers via accredited recruiters, and tier four, for foreign students, and tier five, for cultural exchange workers. After the death of 52 people in the 2 July 2005 bombings in London tubes and buses by British-born South Asians, tension increased and the far-right British National Party called for revamped laws to restrict immigration.

In response to the Kosovo crisis in 1999, the United Kingdom received 4,346 Kosovar refugees from Macedonia under the UNHCR/IOM Humanitarian Evacuation Programme. As of 1999, the United Kingdom had the second-largest number of asylum applications in Europe, but by 2004 it ranked seventh. In 2004, there were 9,800 asylum seekers. Main countries of origin among 47 countries included Somalia, India, Sri Lanka, Eritrea, Afghanistan, and the DROC. However, in 2004 the United Kingdom hosted refugees in larger numbers, 289,059 refugees from, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Serbia and Montenegro, Iran, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and DROC. The net migration rate in 2005 was estimated as 2.18 migrants per 1,000 population.


The present-day English, Welsh, Scots, and Irish are descended from a long succession of early peoples, including Iberians, Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, and Normans, the last of whom invaded and conquered England in 106670. According to the 2001 census, about 83.6% of UK residents are English. The Scottish form about 8.6% of the population, Welsh account for 4.9%, and the Northern Irish make up 2.9%. About 1.8% of the population are Indian, and 1.3% are Pakistani. There are about 300,000 persons who belong to a group known as Travellers, a blend of Roma, Irish, and other ethnic groups who maintain an itinerant lifestyle.


Spoken throughout the United Kingdom and by over 456 million people throughout the world, English is second only to Mandarin Chinese in the number of speakers in the world. It is taught extensively as a second language and is used worldwide as a language of commerce, diplomacy, and scientific discourse. In northwestern Wales, Welsh, a form of Brythonic Celtic, is the first language of most of the inhabitants.

Approximately 26% of those living in Wales speak Welsh (up from 19% in 1991). Some 60,000 or so persons in western Scotland speak the Scottish form of Gaelic (down from 80,000 in 1991), and a few families in Northern Ireland speak Irish Gaelic. On the Isle of Man, the Manx variety of Celtic is used in official pronouncements; in the Channel Islands some persons still speak a Norman-French dialect. French remains the language of Jersey for official ceremonies.


There is complete religious freedom in the United Kingdom. All churches and religious societies may own property and conduct schools. Established churches are the Church of England (Anglican) and the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian). The former is uniquely related to the crown in that the sovereign must be a member and, on accession, promise to uphold the faith; it is also linked with the state through the House of Lords, where the archbishops of Canterbury and York have seats. The archbishop of Canterbury is primate of all England. The monarch appoints all officials of the Church of England. The established Church of Scotland has a Presbyterian form of government: all ministers are of equal status and each of the congregations is locally governed by its minister and elected elders.

About 71.6% of the population belong to one of the four largest Christian denominations in the country: the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Scotland, and the Methodist Church in Britain (originally established as a type of revival movement by the Church of England minister John Wesley, 170391). Many immigrants have established community religious centers in the United Kingdom. Such Christian groups include Greek, Russian, Polish, Serb-Orthodox, Estonian and Latvian Orthodox, and the Armenian Church; Lutheran churches from various parts of Europe are also represented. A total of about 2% of the population are Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Scientists, or Unitarians. The Anglo-Jewish community, with an estimated 300,000 members, is the second-largest group of Jews in Western Europe. There are also sizable communities of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and Buddhists.

In Northern Ireland, about 53% of the population are nominally Protestants and 44% are nominally Catholics; only about 3035% of all Northern Irish are active participants in religious services. The Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland tend to live in self-segregated communities.


In Great Britain, railways, railway-owned steamships, docks, hotels, road transport, canals, and the entire London passenger transport systemthe largest urban transport system in the worldwere nationalized on 1 January 1948 under the control of the British Transport Commission (BTC). In 1962, the BTC was replaced by the British Railways Board, the London Transport Board, the British Transport Docks Board, and the British Waterways Board. Under the 1968 Transport Act, national transport operations were reorganized, with the creation of the National Freight Corp., the Freight Integration Council, and the National Bus Co. Organization of public transport in Northern Ireland is autonomous.

In 2003, Great Britain had 392,931 km (244,403 mi) roadway, all of it paved, including 3,431 km (2,134 mi) of express motorways. Licensed motor vehicles in Great Britain numbered 32,576,891 as of 2003, including 29,007,820 passenger cars and 3,569,071 commercial vehicles. The Humber Bridge, the world's longest singlespan suspension bridge, with a center span of 1,410 m (4,626 ft), links the city of Hull with a less developed region to the south. Eurotunnel, a British-French consortium, recently built two high-speed 50-km (31-mi) rail tunnels beneath the seabed of the English Channel. The project, referred to as the "Chunnel," links points near Folkestone, England (near Dover), and Calais, France. The Channel Tunnel is the largest privately financed construction project to date, with an estimated cost (in 1991) of $15 billion; it also has the longest tunnel system (38 km/24 mi) ever built under water. In November 1996, a truck aboard a freighter entering the tunnel caught fire, causing serious damage to the tunnel but no loss of life. Partial operations were resumed within a few weeks, and all repairs were completed by May 1997.

There were 17,274 km (10,727 mi) of standard and narrow gauge railway in Great Britain in 2004, including 5,296 km (3,289 mi) of electrified track. Standard gauge accounts for nearly all of the nation's railway system at 16,814 km (10,441 mi). Underground railway systems operate in London, Glasgow, and Liverpool. In London, the Underground consists of some 3,875 cars that operate over about 408 km (254 mi) of track, 167 km (104 mi) of which is underground. The Underground, the oldest part of which dates to 1863, operates 20 hours per day and is comprised of 248 stations on 11 lines that provide 2.7 million rides per day. In early 1997 the government proposed privatizing London's subway system because of lack of funds needed to restore the aging network. Capital investment has been diminished since the 1960s, resulting in increasing failures of signals and rolling stock and the deterioration of stations and track.

Great Britain has about 3,200 km (1,988 mi) of navigable inland waterways, mainly canals dating back to the pre-railroad age, of which as of 2004, some 620 km (386 mi) are still in commercial use. Great Britain has some 300 ports, including the Port of London, one of the largest in the world. Other major ports are Liverpool, Southampton, Hull, Clydeport (near Glasgow), the inland port of Manchester, and Bristol. The British merchant fleet, privately owned and operated, consists of 429 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaled 9,181,284 GRT in 2005. In an effort to curb the flagging of British merchant ships to less regulatory foreign nations, a British offshore registry program was initiated in the late 1980s. Under this program, merchant ships registered to the Isle of Man, Gibraltar, the Cayman Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands are entitled to fly the Red Ensign as if under the administration of the United Kingdom.

The Civil Aviation Authority was created in 1971 as an independent body responsible for national airline operations, traffic control, and air safety. In 2004, there were an estimated 471 airports. As of 2005 a total of 334 had paved runways, and there were also 11 heliports. International flights operate from London's Heathrow; Gatwick, London's second airport; Glasgow, in Scotland; Ringway (for Manchester); Aldergrove (for Belfast); and Elmdon (for Birmingham). The two government-owned airlines, British European Airways and British Overseas Airways Corp., were amalgamated in 1974 to form British Airways (BA). In 1984, BA was reestablished as British Airways PLC, a public limited company under government ownership, soon thereafter to be sold wholly to the public. There are a number of privately operated airlines, some of which operate air taxi services. British Caledonian, which maintained scheduled flights on both domestic and international routes, merged with British Airways in 1988. The Concorde, a supersonic jetliner developed jointly in the 1960s by the United Kingdom and France at a cost exceeding £1 billion, entered service between Heathrow and the United States in 1976. In 2003, the United Kingdom's airlines performed 5,251 million freight ton-km of freight service, and carried 76.377 million passengers on domestic and international flights.


The earliest people to occupy Britain are of unknown origin. Remains of these early inhabitants include the stone circles of Avebury and Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Celtic tribes from the Continent, the first known settlers in historical times, invaded before the 6th century bc. The islands were visited in ancient times by Mediterranean traders seeking jet, gold, pearls, and tin, which were being mined in Cornwall. Julius Caesar invaded in 55 bc but soon withdrew. In the 1st century ad, the Romans occupied most of the present-day area of England, remaining until the 5th century.

With the decline of the Roman Empire and the withdrawal of Roman troops (although many Romans had become Britonized and remained on the islands), Celtic tribes fought among themselves, and Scots and Picts raided from the north and from Ireland. Early raids by Angles, Saxons, and Jutes from the Continent soon swelled into invasions, and the leaders established kingdoms in the conquered territory while the native Celts retreated into the mountains of Wales and Cornwall. Although the Welsh were split into a northern and a southern group, they were not permanently subdued. In the 10th century, a Welsh king, Howel the Good (Hywel Dda), united Wales, codified the laws, and encouraged the Welsh bards.

Among the new English kingdoms, that of the West Saxons (Wessex) became predominant, chiefly through the leadership of Alfred the Great, who also had to fight a new wave of invasions by the Danes and other Norsemen. Alfred's successors were able to unify the country, but eventually the Danes completed their conquest, and King Canute (II) of Denmark became ruler of England by 1017. In 1042, with the expiration of the Scandinavian line, Edward the Confessor of Wessex became king. At his death in 1066, both Harold the Saxon and William, duke of Normandy, claimed the throne. William invaded England and defeated Harold in the Battle of Hastings, beginning the Norman Conquest (106670).

William I instituted a strong government, which lasted through the reigns of his sons William II and Henry I. The latter's death in 1135 brought a period of civil war and anarchy, which ended with the accession of Henry II (1154), who instituted notable constitutional and legal reforms. He and succeeding English kings expanded their holdings in France, touching off a long series of struggles between the two countries.

The Magna Carta

Long-standing conflict between the nobles and the kings reached a climax in the reign of King John with the victory of the barons, who at Runnymede in 1215 compelled the king to grant the Magna Carta. This marked a major advance toward the parliamentary system. Just half a century later, in 1265, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, leader of the barons in their opposition to Henry III, summoned the first Parliament, with representatives not only of the rural nobility but also of the boroughs and towns. In the late 13th century, Edward I expanded the royal courts and reformed the legal system; he also began the first systematic attempts to conquer Wales and Scotland. In 1282, the last Welsh king, Llewellyn ap Gruffydd, was killed in battle, and Edward I completed the conquest of Wales. Two years later, the Statute of Rhuddlan established English rule. The spirit of resistance survived, however, and a last great uprising against England came in the early 15th century, when Owen Glendower (Owain ap Gruffydd) led a briefly successful revolt.

Scotland was inhabited in early historic times by the Picts and by roaming bands of Gaels, or Celts, from Ireland. Before the Romans left Britain in the 5th century, Scotland had been converted to Christianity by St. Ninian and his disciples. By the end of the following century, four separate kingdoms had been established in Scotland. Norsemen raided Scotland from the 8th to the 12th century, and some settled there. Most of the country was unified under Duncan I (r.103440). His son, Malcolm III (r.105993), who gained the throne after defeating Macbeth, the murderer of his father, married an English princess, Margaret (later sainted), and began to anglicize and modernize the lowlands.

Scotland United

Under David I (r.112453), Scotland was united, responsible government was established, walled towns (known as burghs) were developed, and foreign trade was encouraged. William the Lion (r.11651214) was captured by Henry II of England in 1174 and forced to accept the Treaty of Falaise, by which Scotland became an English fief. Although Scotland purchased its freedom from Richard I, the ambiguous wording of the agreement allowed later English kings to revive their claim.

When Alexander III died in 1286, Edward I of England, who claimed overlordship of Scotland, supported the claims of John Baliol, who was crowned in 1293. Edward began a war with Philip of France and demanded Scottish troops, but the Scots allied themselves with Philip, beginning the long relationship with France that distinguishes Scottish history. Edward subdued the Scots, put down an uprising led by William Wallace, executed Wallace in 1305, and established English rule. Baliol's heir was killed by Robert the Bruce, another claimant, who had himself crowned (1309), captured Edinburgh, and defeated Edward II of England decisively at Bannockburn in 1314. In 1328, Edward III signed a treaty acknowledging Scotland's freedom.

Under Edward III, the Hundred Years' War (13371453) with France was begun. Notable victories by Edward the Black Prince (son of Edward III), Henry IV, and Henry V led to no permanent gains for England, and ultimately the English were driven out of France. The plague, known as the Black Death, broke out in England in 1348, wiping out a third of the population; it hastened the breakdown of the feudal system and the rise of towns. The 14th century was for England a time of confusion and change. John Wycliffe led a movement of reform in religion, spreading radical ideas about the need for churchly poverty and criticizing many established doctrines and practices. A peasant rebellion led by Wat Tyler in 1381 demanded the abolition of serfdom, monopolies, and the many restrictions on buying and selling.

In 1399, after 22 years of rule, Richard II was deposed and was succeeded by Henry IV, the first king of the house of Lancaster. The war with France continued, commerce flourished, and the wool trade became important. The Wars of the Roses (145585), in which the houses of Lancaster and York fought for the throne, ended with the accession of Henry VII, a member of the Tudor family, marking the beginning of the modern history of England.

The Tudors

Under the Tudors, commerce was expanded, English seamen ranged far and wide, and clashes with Spain (accelerated by religious differences) intensified. Earlier English dominance had not had much effect on Wales, but the Tudors followed a policy of assimilation, anglicizing Welsh laws and practices. Finally, under Henry VIII, the Act of Union (1536) made English the legal language and abolished all Welsh laws "at variance with those of England." In 1531, Henry separated the Anglican Church from Rome and proclaimed himself its head. After his death (1547), the succession to the throne became a major issue during the reigns of Edward VI (154753), Mary I (155358), and Elizabeth I (15581603).

In Scotland, James I (r.140637) had done much to regulate Scottish law and improve foreign relations. His murder in 1437 began a century of civil conflict. James IV (r.14881513) married Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VII of England, a marriage that was ultimately to unite the crowns of England and Scotland.

French influence in Scotland grew under James V (r.151342), who married Mary of Guise, but the Scottish people and nobility became favorably inclined toward the Reformation, championed by John Knox. After James's death, Mary ruled as regent for her daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, who had married the dauphin of France, where she lived as dauphiness and later as queen. By the time Mary returned to Scotland (1561), after the death of her husband, most of the Scots were Protestants. A pro-English faction had the support of Queen Elizabeth I against the pro-French faction, and Mary, who claimed the throne of England, was imprisoned and executed (1587) by Elizabeth. Under Elizabeth, England in 1583 acquired its first colony, Newfoundland, and in 1588 defeated the Spanish Armada; it also experienced the beginning of a golden age of drama, literature, and music, among whose towering achievements are the plays of William Shakespeare.

Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth

Elizabeth was succeeded by Mary's son, James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England (r.160325), establishing the Stuart line. Under James and his son, Charles I (r.162549), the rising middle classes (mainly Puritan in religion) sought to make Parliament superior to the king. In the English Civil War, which broke out in 1642, Charles was supported by the Welsh, who had remained overwhelmingly Catholic in feeling, but most Scots opposed him. Charles was tried and executed in 1649, and Oliver Cromwell as Protector ruled the new Commonwealth until his death in 1658. Cromwell ruthlessly crushed uprisings in Ireland and suppressed the Welsh. In 1660, Charles II, eldest son of the executed king, regained the throne. The Restoration was marked by a reaction against Puritanism, by persecution of the Scottish Covenanters (Presbyterians), by increased prosperity, and by intensified political activity; during this period, Parliament managed to maintain many of its gains. Charles II's younger brother, James II (r.168588), who vainly attempted to restore Roman Catholicism, was overthrown in 1688 and was succeeded by his daughter, Mary II, and her Dutch husband, William III, who were invited to rule by Parliament. By this transfer of power, known to English history as the Glorious Revolution, the final supremacy of Parliament was established. Supporters of James II (Jacobites) in Scotland and Ireland, aided by France, sought to restore the deposed Stuart line, but their insurrection was suppressed in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne, fought on the banks of the Irish river of that name.

In Wales, after Cromwell and the Commonwealth, the people began to turn to Calvinism; dissent grew, and such ministers as Griffith Jones, a pioneer in popular education, became national leaders. Most Welsh were won to the Calvinistic Methodist Church, which played a large part in fostering a nonpolitical Welsh nationalism. A long struggle to disestablish the Church of England in Wales culminated successfully in a 1914 act of Parliament.

Colonial Expansion

English colonial expansion developed further in the 17th and 18th centuries, in competition with France and the Netherlands, while at the same time the English merchant marine gained commercial supremacy over the Dutch. The wars of the Grand Alliance (168897) and of the Spanish Succession (170114) consolidated Britain's overseas possessions. At home, to ensure Scottish allegiance to England and prevent possible alliances with inimical countries, the Act of Union of Scotland and England was voted by the two parliaments in 1707, thereby formally creating the kingdom of Great Britain under one crown and with a single Parliament composed of representatives of both countries. This union held, despite Jacobite uprisings in 1715 and 174546, the latter under Prince Charles (Bonnie Prince Charlie, or the Young Pretender, grandson of James II); his defeat at Culloden Moor was the last land battle fought in Great Britain. Scottish affairs eventually became the province of the secretary of state for Scotland, a member of the British cabinet. Nevertheless, a nationalist movement demanding independence for Scotland persists to this day.

The accession of George I of the House of Hanover in 1714 (a great-grandson of James I) saw the beginning of the modern cabinet system, with the king leaving much of the governing to his ministers. The 18th century was a time of rapid colonial and mercantile expansion abroad and internal stability and literary and artistic achievement at home. Britain won control of North America and India in the Seven Years' War (ended in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris), which also established British supremacy over the seas; however, the American Revolution (177583) cost Britain its most important group of colonies. A few years later, British settlement of Australia and then of New Zealand became key elements in the spreading British Empire. Britain increased its power further by its leading role in the French Revolutionary Wars and in the defeat of Napoleon and French expansionist aims.

Birth of the United Kingdom

In 1800, with the Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland, the United Kingdom formally came into being. The conquest of Ireland had never been consolidated; the Act of Union followed an Irish rebellion in 1798 after the failure of a demand for parliamentary reform. But although the act established Irish representation in Parliament, the Irish question continued to cause trouble throughout the 19th century. Absentee landlordism, particularly in the 26 southern counties, fostered poverty and hatred of the English. Moreover, there was a growing division of interest between these counties and the six counties of the north, popularly called Ulster, where, early in the 17th century, Protestant Scots and English had settled on land confiscated by the British crown after a rebellion. While the north gradually became Protestant and industrial, the rest of Ireland remained Catholic and rural. With the introduction of the first Home Rule Bill in 1886, the northern Irish, fearing domination by the southern Catholic majority, began a campaign that ended in the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, which established separate domestic legislatures for the north and south, as well as continued representation in the UK Parliament. The six northern counties accepted the act and became Northern Ireland. The 26 southern counties, however, did not accept it; in 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed, by which these counties left the United Kingdom to become the Irish Free State (now the Irish Republic, or Éire), which was officially established in 1922.

Queen Victoria's Reign

The Industrial Revolution, beginning in the second half of the 18th century, provided the economic underpinning for British colonial and military expansion throughout the 1800s. However, the growth of the factory system and of urbanization also brought grave new social problems. The enclosure of grazing land in the Scottish highlands and the industrialization of southern Wales were accompanied by extensive population shifts and led to largescale emigration to the United States, Canada, and Australia. Reform legislation came slowly, although the spirit of reform and social justice was in the air. Slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1834. The great Reform Acts of 1832, 1867, and 1884 enfranchised the new middle class and the working class. Factory acts, poor laws, and other humanitarian legislation did away with some of the worst abuses, and pressure mounted for eliminating others. The long reign of Queen Victoria (18371901) saw an unprecedented commercial and industrial prosperity. This was a period of great imperial expansion, especially in Africa, where at the end of the century Britain fought settlers of predominantly Dutch origin in the South African (or Boer) War. Toward the end of the century, also, the labor movement grew strong, education was developed along national lines, and a regular civil service was finally established.

The 20th Century

The vast economic and human losses of World War I, in which nearly 800,000 Britons were killed, brought on serious disturbances in the United Kingdom as elsewhere, and the economic depression of the 1930s resulted in the unemployment of millions of workers. In 1931, the Statute of Westminster granted the status of equality to the self-governing British dominions and created the concept of a British Commonwealth of Nations. During the late 1930s, the government of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sought to avoid war by appeasing Nazi Germany, but after Hitler invaded Poland, the United Kingdom declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. Prime Minister Winston Churchill led the United Kingdom during World War II in a full mobilization of the population in the armed services, in home defense, and in war production. Although victorious, the United Kingdom suffered much destruction from massive German air attacks, and the military and civilian death toll exceeded 900,000. At war's end, a Labour government was elected; it pledged to carry out a full program of social welfare "from the cradle to the grave," coupled with the nationalization of industry. Medicine was socialized, other social services were expanded, and several industries were put under public ownership. Complete nationalization of industry, however, was halted with the return to power of the Conservatives in 1951. During Labour's subsequent terms in office, from 1964 to 1970 and from 1974 to 1979, little further nationalization was attempted.

Post-World War II Era

To a large extent, the United Kingdom's postwar history can be characterized as a prolonged effort to put the faltering economy on its feet and to cope with the economic, social, and political consequences of the disbandment of its empire. By early 1988, all that remained of what had been the largest empire in the world were 14 dependencies, many of them small islands with tiny populations and few economic resources. The United Kingdom has remained firmly within the Atlantic alliance since World War II. A founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the United Kingdom overcame years of domestic qualms and French opposition when it entered the European Community (EC) on 1 January 1973. After a Labour government replaced the Conservatives in March 1974, the membership terms were renegotiated, and United Kingdom voters approved continued British participation by a 67.2% majority in an unprecedented national referendum.

The principal domestic problems in the 1970s were rapid inflation, labor disputes, and the protracted conflict in Northern Ireland. Long-smoldering tensions between Protestants and Catholics erupted into open warfare after civil rights protests in 1969 by Catholics claiming discrimination and insufficient representation in the government. The Protestant reaction was violent, and the Irish Republican Army (IRA), seeking the union of Ulster with the Irish Republic, escalated the conflict by committing terrorist acts in both Northern Ireland and England. British troops, first dispatched to Belfast and Londonderry in August 1969, have remained there since.

On 30 March 1972, Northern Ireland's parliament (Stormont) was prorogued, and direct rule was imposed from London. Numerous attempts to devise a new constitution failed, as did other proposals for power sharing. In 1982, legislation establishing a new 78-member Northern Ireland Assembly was enacted. Elections were held that October, but the 19 Catholic members chosen refused to claim their seats. Meanwhile, the violence continued, one of the victims being the British war hero Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who was murdered while vacationing in Ireland on 27 August 1979. In October 1980, IRA members imprisoned in Ulster began a series of hunger strikes; by the time the strikes ended the following October 10 men had died. In November 1985, the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic signed an agreement committing both governments to recognition of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom and to cooperation between the two governments by establishing an intergovernmental conference concerned with Northern Ireland and with relations between the two parts of Ireland.

The "Downing Street Declaration" of December 1993 between British Prime Minister John Major and Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds over the future of Northern Ireland suggested that undisclosed contacts had been maintained for some time between the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Sinn Feìn (the political wing of the IRA), and the British government. Tony Blair, who became prime minister in May 1997, also invested in normalization of relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom and in a longterm solution to the sectarian strife in Northern Ireland. In 1998, Ireland and the United Kingdom signed a peace agreement (Good Friday agreement) in which Ireland pledged to amend Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution, which lay claim to the territory in the North. In return, the United Kingdom promised to amend the Government of Ireland Act.

In 1979, a Conservative government, headed by Margaret Thatcher, came to power with a program of income tax cuts and reduced government spending. Thatcher, who won reelection in 1983 and 1987, embarked on a policy of "privatizing"selling to the private sectormany of the UK's nationalized businesses. In foreign policy, the government's most dramatic action was sending a naval task force to the Falkland Islands following Argentina's occupation of the islands on 2 April 1982. After intense fighting, British administration was restored to the Falklands on 14 June.

Thatcher's leadership was challenged by Conservative MPs in November 1990, and she failed to win the necessary absolute majority. Thatcher withdrew and was replaced by John Major. The Conservatives were returned to power in April 1992 with a reduced majority. Major's government sought to redefine Conservative values with a renewed emphasis on law and order.

Labour Party leader Tony Blair was elected prime minister on 2 May 1997, ending 18 years of Conservative Party rule and signaling a major shift in British domestic policy (he was reelected in 2001 and 2005). Blair, who moved his party to the center of the political spectrum during the campaign, pledged initiatives to modernize Britain's political structures. To that effect, he organized the creation of regional assemblies for Scotland and Wales and a municipal government for London. The regional parliaments were ratified by a referendum in late 1997 and began their first session in 1998. The city council for greater London came into being in mid-2000 and London's first mayor in 15 years was Ken Livingstone (reelected 2004), a left-wing Labourite not much liked by the middle-of-the-road Blairites.

As promised, Blair's government also restructured the House of Lords to do away with the large number of hereditary peers. Only 75 of the 650 hereditary peers now sit in the House of Lords alongside 500 life peers, several senior judges, 26 bishops of the Church of England, and 15 deputy speakers.

The Blair government has also spent much time in tackling the Northern Ireland problem. The Good Friday Accord of 1998 envisioned a Catholic-Protestant administration and the gradual decommissioning of the IRA. The power-sharing government came into being in December 1999, but was suspended 11 weeks later because the IRA refused to make any disarmament commitments. A breakthrough occurred in May 2000 when the IRA agreed to allow leading international figures to inspect arms dumps and to begin the process of complete and verifiable disarmament. The Protestant party voted to revive the power-sharing arrangements on 27 May 2000 and the UK government promised to restore substantial authority to the new Northern Irish cabinet (this was accomplished on 29 May). However, decommissioning of the IRA did not progress in early 2001. In October 2002, Sinn Feìn's offices at Stormont (the Northern Ireland Assembly) were raided due to a large police investigation into intelligence-gathering operations on behalf of Irish republicans. On 14 October, devolution was suspended due to the spying allegations and direct rule from London was reimposed on Northern Ireland. Blair announced in May 2003 elections for the National Assembly would be postponed, due to the lack of evidence of peaceful intentions on behalf of the IRA. Elections were held on 26 November 2003, however, with the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Feìn forming the two largest parties. On 28 July 2005, the IRA announced it would halt its armed campaign to oust British rule. The statement was received with skepticism by the DUP.

Prime Minister Blair offered strong support for the US-led war on terrorism begun after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States; British forces took part in the campaign in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime. The United Kingdom in 200203 also stood with the United States in its diplomatic and military efforts to force Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq to disarm itself of any weapons of mass destruction it might possess. The war in Iraq began on 19 March 2003. British forces fought side-by-side with US forces, especially in southern Iraq. In the aftermath of the war, Blair indicated a central role must be played by the UN in the reconstruction of Iraq; in this he stood with other European leaders. In October 2004, the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) concluded there had been no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq for some time before the war. British intelligence withdrew a controversial claim that Saddam Hussein could have used WMD with 45 minutes' notice. Blair acknowledged that the intelligence had been flawed, but denied having misrepresented it in making the case for war. Another controversy related to the Iraq War was the publication by The London Times on 1 May 2005 of a memo (subsequently labeled the "Downing Street memo") containing an overview of a secret 23 July 2002 meeting among British intelligence, government, and defense leaders discussing the build-up to the Iraq War. The memo included direct reference to classified US policy of the time and indicated that "intelligence and facts were being fixed" around the policy of removing Saddam Hussein from power. This was taken to show that US intelligence prior to the war had been deliberately falsified, and not just mistaken. The memo suggested that the UN weapons inspections that began after 8 November 2002 were manipulated to provide a legal pretext for the war, and that the removal by force of the Iraq regime had been planned prior to the date of the secret British meeting. In the United States, demands for an explanation of the revelations contained in the memo and calls for a formal Congressional inquiry were ignored by the Bush administration.

In mid-2005 the United Kingdom was wracked by terrorist violence. On 7 July 2005 four suicide bombers struck London's transit system, killing 52 people and injuring more than 700. Three underground trains were bombed, as was one double-decker bus. Two weeks later, on 21 July, bombings of three underground trains and one bus were attempted, but the suicide bombers' bombs failed to fully detonate. On 22 July, a Brazilian man, Jean Charles de Menezes, was shot to death at the Stockwell underground station by British police who believed him to be implicated in the bombing attempts. He was found not to have played any role in the 21 July attacks.

The United Kingdom remains one of three European Union (EU) members not adopting European economic and monetary union and embracing the euro as its currency. The other two nations are Denmark and Sweden.


The United Kingdom is a monarchy in form but a parliamentary democracy in substance. The sovereignElizabeth II since 1952is head of state and as such is head of the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and temporal head of the established Church of England. In practice, however, gradually evolving restrictions have transmuted the sovereign's legal powers into instruments for affecting the popular will as expressed through Parliament. In the British formulation, the sovereign reigns but does not rule, for the sovereign is under the law and not above it, ruling only by approval of Parliament and acting only on the advice of her ministers.

The United Kingdom is governed, in the name of the sovereign, by Her Majesty's Governmenta body of ministers who are the leading members of whichever political party the electorate has voted into office and who are responsible to Parliament. Parliament itself, the supreme legislative authority in the realm, consists of the sovereign, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. Northern Ireland had its own parliament (Stormont) subordinate to Westminster; however, because of civil strife in Ulster, the Stormont was prorogued on 30 March 1972, and direct rule was imposed from Westminster. After several abortive attempts over the next decade to devise a system of home-rule government acceptable to both Protestant and Catholic leaders, the 78-member Northern Ireland Assembly was established in 1982, but it was dissolved in 1986. As a result of the 1998 "Good Friday Agreement," a Catholic-Protestant power-sharing government came into being in 1999. It was suspended in October 2002, and direct rule from London returned.

In 1979, proposals for the establishment of elected legislatures in Wales and Scotland failed in the former and, though winning a bare plurality, fell short of the required margin for approval (40% of all eligible voters) in the latter. Regional parliaments for Scotland and Wales were ratified by referendum in 1997, however, and they began their first sessions in 1998.

The sovereign formally summons and dissolves Parliament. The House of Lords, whose size has been greatly reduced, used to count about 1,200 peers, including hereditary peers, spiritual peers (archbishops and bishops of the Church of England), and life peers (eminent persons unwilling to accept a hereditary peerage). Over the centuries, its powers have gradually been reduced; today, its main function is to bring the wide experience of its members into the process of lawmaking. As of 2005, the House of Commons had 646 members. A general election must be held every five years but is often held sooner. All British subjects 18 years old and over may vote in national elections; women won equal franchise with men in 1922. Citizens of Ireland resident in Britain may also vote, as may British subjects abroad for a period of five years after leaving the United Kingdom.

Each Parliament may during its lifetime make or unmake any law. Parliamentary bills may be introduced by either house, unless they deal with finance or representation; these are always introduced in the Commons, which has ultimate authority for lawmaking. The House of Lords may not alter a financial measure or delay for longer than a year any bill passed by the Commons in two successive sessions. Bills passed by both houses receive the traditional royal assent and become law as acts of Parliament; no bill has received a royal veto for more than 200 years. The Speaker of the Parliament is the chief officer of the House of Commons. The Speaker is nonpartisan and functions impartially. The first female Speaker was elected in 1992.

Executive power is vested in the prime minister, who, though nominally appointed by the sovereign, is traditionally the leader of the majority party in Parliament. The prime minister is assisted by ministers, also nominally appointed by the sovereign, who are chosen from the majority party and mostly from the Commons, which must approve the government's general policy and the more important of its specific measures. The most senior ministers, about 20, compose the cabinet, which meets regularly to decide policy on major issues. Ministers are responsible collectively to Parliament for all cabinet decisions; individual ministers are responsible to Parliament for the work of their departments. There are around 30 major central government departments, each staffed by members of the permanent civil service.

The British constitution is made up of parliamentary statutes, common law, and traditional precepts and practices known as conventions, all evolved through the centuries. Largely unwritten, it has never been codified and is constantly evolving.


UK parliamentary government based on the party system has evolved only during the past 100 years. Although the 18th-century terms "Whig" and "Tory" indicated certain political leanings, there was no clear-cut division in Parliament and no comprehensive party organization. Not until the 19th-century Reform Acts enfranchised millions of new voters did the modern party system develop. The British party system is based on the assumption that there are at least two parties in the Commons, each with a sufficiently united following to be able to form an alternative government at any time. This assumption is recognized in the fact that the largest minority party is officially designated as Her Majesty's Opposition; its leader, who designates a "shadow government," is paid a salary from public funds.

The main political parties represented in Parliament today are the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, and the Liberal Democrats (a coalition of the Liberal and Social Democratic parties, which voted in favor of a formal merger in 1988). From time to time during the past 50 years, other parties have arisen or have splintered off from the main groups, only to disappear or to become reabsorbed. Thus, the Fascists, who were of some significance before World War II, no longer put up candidates for elections. The British Communist Party has not elected a candidate to Parliament since 1950.

Since World War I, the Labour Party has replaced the Liberal Party, a major force during the late 19th century, as the official opposition to a Conservative government. Founded in 1900 as the political arm of the already powerful trade union movement, the Labour Party was until 1918 a federation of trade unions and socialist groups and had no individual members. Today, its constituent associations consist of affiliated organizations (such as trade unions, cooperative societies, branches of socialist societies, and trade councils), as well as individual members organized into wards. Its program calls for public ownership of the means of production, improvement of the social and economic conditions of the people, defense of human rights, cooperation with labor and socialist organizations of other countries, and peaceful adjustment of international disputes. Between the world wars, it established two short-lived Labour governments while still a minority party, and then joined Churchill's coalition government in World War II. Returned to power with a huge majority in 1945, Labour instituted a program of full employment through planned production; established social services to provide adequate medical care, old age care, nutrition, and educational opportunities for all; began the nationalization of basic industries; and started to disband the empire by granting independence to India, Pakistan, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and Burma (Myanmar).

If the rapid rise of the Labour Party has been an outstanding feature of 20th-century British politics, the continuing vitality and adaptability of the Conservative Party, successor of the 18th-century Tories, has been no less remarkable. In foreign affairs, there has been little difference between the parties since World War II. Both have generally been firm allies of the United States, and both are pledged to the maintenance of NATO. The two parties have also been in general agreement about the country's social and economic needs. They differ mainly on the degree of state control to be applied to industry and commerce and on practical methods of application. Conservative emphasis is on free enterprise, individual initiative, and restraining the power of the unions. Even on these matters, however, pragmatism is the norm. In office, the Conservatives have let stand much of Labour's social program, and Labour, during Britain's economic difficulties in the late 1970s, imposed its own policy of wage restraints.

After World War II, Labour was in power during 194551, 196470, 197479, and since 1997; the Conservatives have held office during 195164, 197074, and 197997. Scottish National Party members were decisive in the fall of the Labour government in March 1979, after Labour was unable to enact its program for limited home rule (including elected legislatures) in Scotland and Wales. In elections of 3 May 1979, after a campaign fought mainly on economic grounds, Conservatives won 339 seats, with 43.9% of the vote, to Labour's 268 seats, with 36.9%, and Margaret Thatcher replaced James Callaghan as prime minister. Amid growing dissension, the Labour Party moved leftward in the early 1980s and broke with the Conservatives over defense policy, committing itself to the removal of all nuclear weapons from the United Kingdom and, in 1986, to the removal of US nuclear bases. The Social Democratic Party, founded in 1981 by moderate former Labour ministers, had by 30 September 1982 obtained 30 seats in Parliament, 27 of whose occupants were breakaway Labour members. In the elections of 9 June 1983, the Conservatives increased their parliamentary majority, winning 397 seats and about 42% of the vote. The Labour Party captured 209 seats and 28% of the vote, its poorest showing in more than five decades. The Alliance of Liberals and Social Democrats won 25% of the vote but only 23 seats (Liberals 17, Social Democrats 6). Minor parties took 5% of the vote and 21 seats.

In the elections of 11 June 1987, the Conservatives won 376 seats and about 42% of the vote. The Labour Party won 229 seats and 31% of the vote. The Liberal-Social Democratic Alliance won nearly 23% of the vote but only 22 seats (Liberals 17, Social Democrats 5). Minor parties took about 4% of the vote and 23 seats: Ulster Unionist (Northern Ireland), 9; Democratic Unionist (Northern Ireland), 3; Scottish National Party, 3; Plaid Cymru (Welsh Nationalist), 3; Social Democratic and Labour Party (Northern Ireland), 3; Sinn Feìn (Northern Ireland), 1; and Popular Unionist (Northern Ireland), 1.

The general election of 9 April 1992 resulted in a continuation of Conservative government under John Major with 42% of the vote and 336 seats. Labour followed with 34% of the vote and 271 seats. The Liberal Democrats took almost 18% of the vote, which netted 20 seats. Minor parties received 3% of the vote and 17 seats.

The Labour Party, under the leadership of Tony Blair, won a landslide victory in the general election of 1 May 1997, restoring it to power for the first time in 18 years. Of 659 possible seats, the Labour Party won 418 (43.1%), gaining 146 seats; the Conservative Party won only 165 seats (30.6%), losing 178 seats. The Liberal Democrats won 46 seats (16.7%), a gain of 26 seats since 1992 and the most seats held by the party since the 1920s. Other parties received 9.6% of vote, with the following representation after the 1997 elections: Ulster Unionist, 10; Scottish National, 6; Plaid Cymru, 4; Social Democrat and Labour, 3; Democratic Unionist, 2; Sinn Feìn, 2; Independent, 2; and United Kingdom Unionist, 1.

The June 2001 election was called "the quiet landslide" following the major victory of the Labour Party in the 1997 election. Labour won 40.7% of the vote and secured 413 seats; the Conservative Party gained only one seat (166) and registered 31.7% of the vote. The Liberal Democrats gained six seats (52; 18.3% of the vote) from their historic high in 1997. Other parties received 9.3% of the vote, with the following representation after the 2001 election: Ulster Unionist, 6; Scottish National, 5; Democratic Unionist, 5; Plaid Cymru, 4; Sinn Feìn, 4; Social Democrat and Labour, 3; and Independent, 1.

In the general election held on 5 May 2005, Labour lost 47 seats but retained its majority with 356 seats in Parliament (35.3% of the vote); the Conservatives gained 33 seats to end up with 198 (32.3% of the vote). The Liberal Democrats held 62 seats after gaining 11 (22.1% of the vote). Other parties garnered 10.3% of the vote, with the following representation in Parliament after the election: Democratic Unionist Party, 9; Scottish National Party, 6; Sinn Feìn, 5; Plaid Cymru, 3; Social Democrat and Labour Party, 3; Ulster Unionist Party, 1; Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern, 1; and others, 2. The next parliamentary election was to be held in May 2010.


The scope of local governing bodies is defined and limited by acts of Parliament, which also makes certain ministers responsible for the efficient functioning of local services. In England, local government is supervised by the Department of the Environment; the regional parliaments supervise local governments in Wales and Scotland; and Northern Ireland, which was supposed to also have devolved powers, was placed back under the supervision of the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland.

From 1965 to 1985, Greater London, the nation's largest metropolitan area, was subdivided into 32 London boroughs; the Greater London Council was the chief administrative authority. Under the Local Government Act of 1985, however, the Greater London Council was abolished and its functions were transferred to London borough and metropolitan district councils, excepting certain services (such as police and fire services and public transport) now administered by joint borough and council authorities. The Labour Party government returned local government to London. However, the mayor's office has a limited budget and few policy powers. The mayor's office coordinates relationship among the different boroughs and controls local transport (Underground).

Under the Local Government Act of 1972, the county system that had prevailed throughout the rest of England and Wales was replaced by a two-tier structure of counties and districts. In the 1990s, local governmental structures were reorganized, and single-tier administrations with responsibility for all areas of local government were reestablished. There are currently 46 unitary authorities in England, and 34 shire counties split into 238 nonmetropolitan districts. These in turn are subdivided into electoral wards and districts. In 2000, a two-tier structure was reestablished for London; it has 32 boroughs and the City of London. Scotland is subject to the administration of both the UK government in Westminster and the Scottish executive in Edinburgh, and Wales is subject to the administration of Westminster and the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff. Scotland is divided into 32 council areas, which in turn are divided into electoral wards and communities. Wales is subdivided into 22 unitary authorities, which in turn are divided into electoral divisions and communities. Northern Ireland is subject to the administration of both the UK government and the Northern Ireland Executive in Belfast. It is divided into 26 districts, which in turn are divided into electoral wards. The United Kingdom has more than 10,000 electoral wards/divisions. The minimum voting age in local elections is 18.


The United Kingdom does not have a single body of law applicable throughout the realm. Scotland has its own distinctive system and courts; in Northern Ireland, certain spheres of law differ in substance from those operating in England and Wales. A feature common to all UK legal systems, howeverand one that distinguishes them from many continental systemsis the absence of a complete code, since legislation and unwritten or common law are all part of the "constitution."

The main civil courts in England and Wales are 218 county courts for small cases and the High Court, which is divided into the chancery division, the family division, and the Queen's Bench division (including the maritime and commercial courts), for the more important cases. Appeals from the county courts may also be heard in the High Court, though the more important ones come before the Court of Appeal; a few appeals are heard before the House of Lords, which is the ultimate court of appeal for civil cases throughout the United Kingdom. In Scotland, civil cases are heard at the sheriff courts (corresponding roughly to the English county courts) and in the Outer House of the Court of Session, which is the supreme civil court in Scotland; appeals are heard by the Inner House of the Court of Session. Trial by jury in civil cases is common in Scotland but rare in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Criminal courts in England and Wales include magistrates' courts, which try less serious offenses (some 96% of all criminal cases) and consist most often of three unpaid magistrates known as justices of the peace, and 78 centers of the Crown Court, presided over by a bench of justices or, in the most serious cases, by a High Court judge sitting alone. All contested cases receive a jury trial. Cases involving persons under 17 years of age are heard by justices of the peace in specially constituted juvenile courts. Appeals may be heard successively by the Crown Court, the High Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal, and in certain cases by the House of Lords. In Scotland, minor criminal cases are tried without jury in the sheriff courts and district courts, and more serious cases with a jury in the sheriff courts. The supreme criminal court is the High Court of the Justiciary, where cases are heard by a judge sitting with a jury; this is also the ultimate appeals court.

All criminal trials are held in open court. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, 12-citizen juries must unanimously decide the verdict unless, with no more than two jurors dissenting, the judge directs them to return a majority verdict. Scottish juries of 15 persons are permitted to reach a majority decision and, if warranted, a verdict of "not proven." Among temporary emergency measures passed with the aim of controlling terrorism in Northern Ireland are those empowering ministers to order the search, arrest, and detention of suspected terrorists and permitting juryless trials for terrorist acts in Northern Ireland.

Central responsibility for the administration of the judicial system lies with the lord chancellor (who heads the judiciary and also serves as a cabinet minister and as speaker of the House of Lords) and the home secretary (and the secretaries of state for Scotland and for Northern Ireland). Judges are appointed by the crown, on the advice of the prime minister, lord chancellor, or the appropriate cabinet ministries.

In 2005 Parliament passed the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005, which provides for a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom to abolish the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords and to reduce the role of the lord chancellor, among other changes.

The United Kingdom accepts the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice with reservations.


After the general demobilization that followed World War II, compulsory national service for all eligible males over 19 years of age was introduced. Call-ups of national servicemen ceased in 1960, but those who had been trained formed part of the general reserve until June 1974, when the national service legislation expired. Reserves now form part of the long-term reserve established in 1964, composed of all men under 45 years of age who have served in the regular army since 28 February 1964, plus the highly trained units of the territorial army volunteer reserve. Home service forces are stationed in Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, and the Falkland Islands.

Total active army strength in 2005 was 116,760. Equipment included 543 main battle tanks, 475 reconnaissance vehicles, 575 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 2,503 armored personnel carriers, and 877 artillery pieces. The navy had 26,430 personnel including 7,000 Royal Marines and 6,200 naval aviation personnel. Major units of the British fleet included 15 nuclear submarines (four SSBNs; 11 SSNs), three aircraft carriers, 11 destroyers, 20 frigates, 24 coastal/patrol, 22 mine warfare, and three amphibious and 26 logistical/support ships. The Royal Air Force had a strength of 48,140 active personnel, with 339 combat capable aircraft, including 128 fighters, 117 strike/fighter ground attack, and 74 pure fighter ground attack aircraft. As of 2005, the United Kingdom's strategic missile force was based on 58 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with fewer than 200 operational warheads.

Basing its defense policy on NATO, the British government in the 1970s reduced its overseas commitments. The defense budget for 2005 was $51.1 billion. British troops participate in a number of peacekeeping missions. The United States has 9,800 military personnel stationed in the United Kingdom.


The United Kingdom became a charter member of the United Nations on 24 October 1945; it participates in the ECE, ECLAC, and ESCAP, as well as in all the nonregional specialized agencies. The United Kingdom is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. The United Kingdom is also a member of the Council of Europe, the European Union, NATO, OECD, OSCE, the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, G-5. G-7, G-8, the Paris Club (G-10), and the WTO. The headquarters of the IMO is in London. The country holds observer status in the OAS.

The Commonwealth of Nations, an organization of 49 states, provides a means for consultation and cooperation, especially on economic matters, between the United Kingdom and its former colonies. Its main coordinating organ is the Commonwealth Secretariat, which was established in London in 1965 and is headed by a secretary-general appointed by the heads of the member governments. The heads of governments hold biennial meetings; meetings also are held by diplomatic representatives known as high commissioners and among other ministers, officials, and experts.

Despite controversy within the nation itself, the United Kingdom has been a strong supporter of the US-led international war on terrorism. The country has support UN missions and operations in Kosovo (est. 1999), Liberia (est. 2003), Sierra Leone (est. 1999), Georgia (est. 1993), the DROC (est. 1999), and Cyprus (est. 1964), among others. The United Kingdom is part of the Australia Group, the Zangger Committee, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), the Nuclear Energy Agency, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The nation holds guest status in the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, the United Kingdom is part of the Antarctic Treaty; the Basel Convention; Conventions on Biological Diversity, Whaling, and Air Pollution; Ramsar; CITES; the London Convention; International Tropical Timber Agreements; the Kyoto Protocol; the Montréal Protocol; MARPOL; the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


The United Kingdomone of the most highly industrialized countries in the world, with the world's fourth-largest economy, and one of four countries in Western Europe with a trillion dollar economy (the others are Germany, France, and Italy)lives by manufacture, trade, and financial and commercial services. Apart from coal and low-grade iron ore, some timber, building materials, and natural gas and North Sea oil, it has few natural resources. Agriculture provides 60% of the food needed with only about 2% of the labor force. The remainder of the United Kingdom's food supply and most raw materials for its industries have to be imported and paid for largely through exports of manufactures and services. The United Kingdom is in fact one of the world's largest markets for food and agricultural products and the fifth-largest trading nation. Vast quantities of imported wheat, meat, butter, livestock feeds, tea, tobacco, wool, and timber have been balanced by exports of machinery, ships, locomotives, aircraft, and motor vehicles. The pattern of exports is gradually changing, however. Post World War II reduction in output of textilesonce a leading British exportdue to competition from Asia, and in coal output, because of competition from oil and mines in Europe, has been offset by industries such as electronics and chemicals. A major source of earnings is the variety of commercial services that stem from the United Kingdom's role as central banker of the sterling area. Shipping, income from overseas investment, insurance, and tourism also make up an important part of the economy.

The British economy is one of the strongest in Europe: as of the early 2000s, inflation, interest rates, and unemployment remained low. Since the 197981 recession, the British economy has posted steady gains. Between 1983 and 1990, real GDP increased by nearly 25%. Individual productivity increased by 14% during the 198085 period and another 25% during 198590. In less than a decade, the United Kingdom went from heavy dependence on imported oil to energy self-sufficiency, but this ended in 1989, although the United Kingdom's dependence on energy imports in the 1990s was far lower than in the past. Inflation fell from 18% in 1980 to an annual rate of 1.9% by July 1987. However, it averaged 6.3% a year during 198892 before falling to 1.6% in 1993. From 1994 to 1997, annual growth was over 3% (3.125%), but fell an average 2.5% from 1998 to 1999. An increase to 3.1% in 2000 was slowed to 2% and 1.6% in the global economic slowdown of 200103, exacerbated by the high value of the pound and the bursting of the "new economy" bubble, which hurt manufacturing and exports. Inflation, which stood at 2.7% in 1998, had fallen to 2.2% in 2002. After falling to 5.8% in 1990, the unemployment rate crept up to 10.4% in 1993 but declined to 8% in 1995, and 7.5% in 1998. In 2002, recorded unemployment was 5.1%. The estimated unemployment rate in 2004 was 4.8%. Real GDP growth stood at an average 2.3% from 200105. Inflation during that period averaged 1.5%. Real GDP grew by 1.8% in 2005, and was forecast to expand by just 1.6% in 2006, before rebounding to 2.1% in 2007.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the government privatized many major companies, as well as a number of subsidiaries of nationalized industries and other businesses. Among the major companies privatized were British Telecom, British Gas, British Steel, British Airways, British Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, Austin Rover, Cable and Wireless, ICL, British water utilities, British Coal, and British Rail.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 the United Kingdom's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $1.9 trillion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $30,900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 1.8%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 3.2%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 1.1% of GDP, industry 26%, and services 72.9%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $5.029 billion or about $85 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.3% of GDP.

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in United Kingdom totaled $1.174 trillion or about $19,814 per capita based on a GDP of $1.8 trillion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 3.1%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 14% of household consumption was spent on food, 9% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 3% on education. It was estimated that in 2002 about 17% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


The total workforce of the United Kingdom in 2005 was estimated at 30.07 million. As of 2004, the services sector accounted for 79.5% of the labor force, with industry at 19.1% and agriculture only 1.5%. Between 1983 and 1992 there was a substantial shift in employment from previously dominant manufacturing to service industries. Employment in industry, which had been 7,788,000 in 1983, was down to 4,986,000 in 1998. The unemployment rate in 2005 was estimated at 4.7%.

The Employment Relations Act protects union organization, the statutory right to strike, and minimum employment standards. Nearly all trade unions of any size are affiliated with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the national center of the trade union movement. There is also a separate Scottish Trades Union Congress. The legal status of the trade unions is defined by the Trade Union and Labor Relations Act of 1974. Restrictions on the power of the trade unions are embodied in the Employment Acts of 1980 and 1982 and in the Trade Union Act of 1984. As of 2005, about 29% of Britain's workforce was unionized. In the public sector, 57% of the labor force belongs to a union, while in the private sector only 17% are union members.

The standard workweek is limited to 48 hours, which is averaged over a period of 17 to 26 weeks. Besides the statutory public holidays, most employees have at least four weeks' annual vacation with pay. Children under the age of 16 are not permitted to work unless it is part of an educational experience. Children under age 13 are prohibited from working in any capacity. As of 2005, the national minimum wage rate varied from $7.45 per hour to $8.82 per hour depending upon the employee's age. Although these rates are insufficient to provide a decent living standard, the gap is filled by a range of government benefits, which includes free medical care under the National Health Service.


Agriculture is intensive and highly mechanized, producing about 60% of the United Kingdom's food needs. Agriculture's importance has declined in recent years; including forestry and fishing, it contributed about 1% to the GDP in 2003, down from 2.3% in 1971. In 2003, agricultural products accounted for 4.9% of exports and there was an agricultural trade deficit of almost $20.2 billion (second after Japan). Agriculture engages 1% of the labor force.

Nearly 24% of Great Britain's land area was devoted to crops in 2003. There were about 280,600 holdings, down from 422,000 in the late 1960s. In Great Britain roughly 70% of the farms are primarily or entirely owner-occupied, but in Northern Ireland nearly all are.

Most British farms produce a variety of products. The type of farming varies with the soil and climate. The better farming land is generally in the lowlands. The eastern areas are predominantly arable, and the western predominantly for grazing. Chief crops (with estimated 2004 production in tons) were barley, 5,860,000; wheat, 15,706,000; potatoes, 6,000,000; sugar beets, 7,600,000; oats, 652,000; and oilseed rape, 1,600,000. Mechanization and research have greatly increased agricultural productivity; between 1989 and 1999, for example, production of wheat per hectare rose 12%; of barley, 7%; and of sugar beets, 32%. The yield of cereal crops increased by almost 10% between 199294 and 200204. Consequently, the United Kingdom now produces about 60% of its total food needs, whereas prior to World War II (193945), it produced only about 33%, and in 1960, less than half. The estimated number of tractors in the United Kingdom in 2003 was 500,000, as against 55,000 in 1939; some 47,000 combines were also in use.


Livestock continues to be the largest sector of the farming industry. The United Kingdom raises some of the world's finest pedigreed livestock and is the leading exporter of pedigreed breeding animals. Most of the internationally famous breeds of cattle, sheep, hogs, and farm horses originated in the United Kingdom. In England and Wales, fattening of animals for food is the pre-dominant activity in the southeast, the east, and the Midlands, while stock rearing is widespread in northern England and in Wales. In Scotland, dairying predominates in the southwest, cropping and fattening in the east, and sheep raising in the hilly regions. Northern Ireland's livestock industry provides 90% of its agricultural income.

In 2005, there were about 10,378,000 head of cattle (including two million dairy cows), 35,253,000 sheep and goats, and 4,851,000 hogs. There are also an estimated 157 million chickens. Output of livestock products for 2005 included 747,000 tons of beef and veal, 310,000 tons of mutton and lamb, 704,000 tons of pork, 1,573,000 tons of poultry, 14,577,000 tons of milk, 133,000 tons of butter, and 399,000 tons of cheese.

The most highly reputed beef breeds are Hereford and Aberdeen Angus; distinguished dairy breeds are Guernsey, Jersey, and Ayrshire. To ensure sound breeding, there is compulsory licensing of bulls. On 20 March 1996 the British government reported concern over a possible link between bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or the so-called "Mad Cow" disease) in cattle and a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. BSE was first identified in the United Kingdom in 1986. Transmission of BSE to cattle occurs from contaminated meat and bone meal in concentrate feed, with sheep or cattle as the original source. The United Kingdom is the only country with a high incidence of the disease, and the epidemic was mainly due to recycling affected bovine material back to cattle before a ban on ruminant feed began in July 1988. As a result, consumption of beef dropped and many countries banned imports of British cattle and beef.


Lying on the continental shelf, the British Isles are surrounded by waters mainly less than 90 m (300 ft) deep, which serve as excellent fishing grounds and breeding grounds for fish. Small fishing villages are found all along the coast, but the modern large-scale industry is concentrated at Hull, Grimsby, Fleetwood, Yarmouth, and Lowestoft in England. The major herring landings are made at numerous east coast ports of Scotland, notably Aberdeen. The fishing industry has been declining, but it remains important to Scotland, which accounts for 67% by weight of all fish landings in the United Kingdom; England and Wales account for 30% and Northern Ireland for 3%.

The deep-sea fleet has declined in recent years, primarily because the adoption by most nations, including the United Kingdom, of a 200-mi fishery limit decreased the opportunity to fish in distant waters. Some of the larger vessels have, instead, turned to fishing for mackerel and herring off the west coast. The British fishing fleet had a capacity of 223,039 gross tons in 2004, about 12% of EU capacity. Landings of all types of fish by UK fishing vessels totaled 457,712 tons in 2004 (27% shellfish). Leading species caught that year were mackerel (115,299 tons), herring (56,214 tons), and haddock (45,384 tons). The United Kingdom exported $1,669 million in fishery products in 2003, while imports were valued at $2,507 million.

Salmon farming takes place primarily in Scotland; total UK production of farmed salmon in 2003 was around 145,600 tons. Domestic demand for seafood grew during the late 1990s due to public concerns over beef tainted by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or Mad Cow disease).


The estimated total area of woodland in 2002 was 2.8 million hectares (6.89 million acres), or over 10% of Great Britain's land area. Roughly 40% of the area is in England, 49% in Scotland, and 11% in Wales. State-owned forests cover 33% of the forest area, and 67% are in the private sector. The principal species in the forest area are spruces (34%), pines (22%), oak (9%) and larch (8%), with smaller amounts of beech, ash, birch, and fir. The lumber industry employs about 55,000, and supplies the United Kingdom with 13% of its timber demand. Because of the high proportion of unproductive woodland, largely a legacy of overfelling during the two world wars, major efforts have been directed toward rehabilitation.

The timber cut in 2004 yielded an estimated 8.1 million cu m (286 million cu ft) of roundwood. In 2004, UK sawmills cut 4.93 million cu m (174 million cu ft) of logs to produce 2.76 million cu m (97.4 million cu ft) of sawn lumber. Except for the two wartime periods, home woodlands have made only a limited contribution in this century to the national requirements in wood and wood products, almost 90% of which are met by imports. The United Kingdom imports softwood lumber from Canada, hardwood lumber and softwood plywood from the United States, hardwood veneer from Germany, hardwood plywood from Russia, and particleboard from Belgium.

The Forestry Commission promotes development of afforestation and increased timber production. Clearance of forests for agriculture began in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, so that by the time of the Domesday survey in 1086, only 15% of England was forested. There was a considerable degree of reforestation in the second half of the 20th century. During 19902000, the total forest area increased by 0.6%.


Although the United Kingdom had comparatively few mineral resources (except for North Sea oil), it was a significant player in the world mining and mineral-processing industries, because of the extensive range of UK companies that had interests in the international mineral industry. An organized coal-mining industry has been in existence for over 300 years, 200 years longer than in any other country, and has traditionally been by far the most important mineral industry. Mine production of ferrous and nonferrous metals has been declining for more than 30 years, as reserves became depleted, necessitating imports for the large and important metal processing industry. Metals, chemicals, coal, and petroleum were among the country's leading industries in 2003, and fuels and chemicals ranked second and third, respectively, among export commodities. The industrial minerals sector has provided a significant base for expanding the extractive industries, and companies had a substantial interest in the production of domestic and foreign aggregates, ball clay, kaolin (china clay), and gypsum. The United Kingdom was a leading world producer and exporter of ball clay and kaolin; operations were mainly in Dorsetshire and Devonshire.

Other minerals extracted in 2003 included: common sand and gravel, 91 million tons (estimated); crushed limestone, 82 million tons (estimated); crushed dolomite, 12.950 million tons (reported); crushed igneous rock, 50.4 million tons (estimated); china clay kaolin (dry weight sales), 2.097 million tons (reported); ball and pottery clay (dry weight sales), 885,000 tons (reported); potash, 621,000 tons (reported); dimension sandstone, 250,000 tons (estimated); gypsum and anhydrite, 1.7 million tons (estimated); fluorspar (all grades), 56,000 tons (estimated); and crushed chalk, 8.5 million tons (estimated). Lead and hematite iron ore were worked on a small scale. The output of iron ore (gross weight) dropped from an estimated 1,000 metric tons in 1999, to 500 metric tons in 2003. Alumina was produced from imported bauxite. Zinc and tungsten are no longer mined. In 2003, the United Kingdom also produced barite and witherite, bromine, hydraulic cement, clays (including fire clay, fuller's earth, and shale), feldspar (china stone), quicklime and hydrated lime, nitrogen, rock and brine salt, sodium compounds, slate, sulfur, pyrophyllite and soapstone talc, and titania. Most slate mining was in northern Wales, and the Penrhyn quarry, at Bethesda, was considered the world's largest, and has been in operation for more than 400 years. Small amounts of calcite stone were produced from 1999 through 2003.

Most nonfuel mineral rights in the United Kingdom were privately owned, except gold and silver, the rights to which were vested in the royal family and were known as Crown Rights. Onshore exploration activities were to be directed mainly toward precious metals, mainly gold. In Northern Ireland, the rights to license and to work minerals were vested in the state.


The United Kingdom (UK) is the European Union's (EU) largest petroleum and natural gas producer, thanks to its offshore oil reserves in the North Sea. It is also one of Europe's largest consumers of energy.

The United Kingdom, as of 1 January 2005 had proven oil reserves estimated at 4.49 billion barrels, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. The bulk of these reserves are located in the North Sea, on the UK Continental Shelf. Sizable reserves also are located north of the Shetland Islands, with smaller amounts located in the North Atlantic. The United Kingdom also has Europe's largest onshore oil field, the Wytch Farm field. In 2004, oil production averaged an estimated 2.08 million barrels per day, with domestic consumption that year estimated at 1.86 million barrels per day. Net exports that same year averaged an estimated 0.22 million barrels per day. The United Kingdom's crude oil refining capacity, as of 1 January 2003 totaled an estimated 1.8 million barrels per day. British Petroleum (BP) has the most refining capacity in the United Kingdom, operating a 196,000 barrel-per-day facility in Grangemouth, Scotland, and a 163,000-barrel-per-day facility in Coryton, England. The largest refinery in the United Kingdom is the 321,000 barrel per day Fawley facility, operated by ExxonMobil. The United Kingdom is simultaneously a major importer and exporter of oil. Since North Sea oil is a light, high-quality oil, the United Kingdom exports this oil and imports crude oils of various qualities. In 2002, imports of petroleum, including crude oil, averaged 1,439,900 barrels per day, of which crude oil accounted for 1,060,110 barrels per day. In 2002, imports of dry natural gas totaled 180.11 billion cu ft.

As of 1 January 2005, the United Kingdom's proven natural gas reserves were estimated at 20.8 trillion cu ft. In 2002, natural gas production totaled an estimated 3.6 trillion cu ft, of which an estimated 3.3 trillion cu ft was consumed domestically. Net exports of natural gas that year were estimated at 0.3 trillion cu ft.

The United Kingdom is the fifth-largest producer of coal in the EU. In 2001, the country had recoverable coal reserves estimated at 1.65 billion short tons. According to the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), a total of 31.1 million short tons were produced in 2003. However, this figure is down by 82% from the early 1970s. In addition, demand for coal has also dwindled. In 1970, according to the DTI, consumption fell from 175.9 million short tons to 68.7 million short tons in 2003. Falling domestic demand and a surge in cheap imported coal put coal imports at 35.7 million short tons in 2003. Of that total, 38% came from South Africa, 18% from Australia, and 16% from Russia. Also in that year, electric power generation accounted for 86% of all coal consumption.

In 2003, according to the DTI, installed electric power generating capacity totaled 78.5 GW, of which conventional thermal plants accounted for 77% of capacity, followed by nuclear at 15%, hydropower at 5%, and 2% from other renewable sources. Electric power output in 2003 totaled 376.8 billion kWh, with consumption that same year at 399.8 billion kWh. Imports that year totaled 5.1 billion kWh, most of which came from France, according to the DTI. The UK electric power sector is privatized and competitive. Distributors and generators of electricity trade power on a wholesale market.


The United Kingdom is one of the most highly industrialized countries in the world. The industrial sector of the economy declined in relative importance after 1973, because of the worldwide economic slowdown; however, output rose in 1983 and 1984 and in 1985 was growing at an annual rate of 3%. Manufacturing accounted for 25.1% of GDP in 1985, 22.3% in 1992, and 26.3% in 2004. Since World War II, some traditional industries have markedly declinede.g., cotton textiles, steel, shipbuilding, locomotivesand their place has been taken by newer industries, such as electronics, offshore oil and gas products, and synthetic fibers. The United Kingdom had a total oil refining capacity of 1.8 million barrels per day in 2005. In the chemicals industry, plastics and pharmaceuticals have registered the most significant growth.

The pattern of ownership, organization, and control of industry is varied: public, private, and cooperative enterprises are all important. The public sector plays a significant role; however, since 1979 the government has sold off a number of companies and most manufacturing is conducted by private enterprise. Although the average firm is still fairly small, there has been a trend in recent years toward the creation of larger enterprises.

Metals, engineering, and allied industriesincluding steel, nonferrous metals, vehicles, and machineryemploy nearly half of all workers in manufacturing. The United Kingdom's automotive industry produced 1.75 million automobiles in 2002. It also produced 14,682 heavy trucks in 2000. Britain's aerospace industry is among the world's foremost. Rolls-Royce, which was privatized in 1987, is one of the principal aero-engine manufacturers in the world. British Aerospace, nationalized during 197880 but now privately owned again, manufactures civil aircraft, such military aircraft as the Harrier and the Hawk advanced trainer, and guided weapons, including the Rapier ground-to-air missile.

While the relative importance of the textile and clothing industries has declined considerably since World War II, the United Kingdom continues to produce high-quality woolen textiles. Nevertheless, foreign competition has significantly cut into the textile industry. Following the expiration of the World Trade Organization's longstanding system of textile quotas at the beginning of 2005, the EU signed an agreement with China in June 2005, imposing new quotas on 10 categories of textile goods, limiting growth in those categories to between 8% and 12.5% a year. The agreement runs until 2007, and was designed to give European textile manufacturers time to adjust to a world of unfettered competition. However, barely a month after the EU-China agreement was signed, China reached its quotas for sweaters, followed soon after by blouses, bras, T-shirts, and flax yarn. Tens of millions of garments piled up in warehouses and customs checkpoints, which affected both retailers and consumers.

Certain smaller industries in the United Kingdom are noted for the quality of their craftsmanshipe.g., pottery, jewelry, goldware, and silverware. Other sectors are the cement industry (which focuses on the manufacture of Portland cement, a British invention); the rubber industry, the world's oldest; paper industries; and leather and footwear. The industrial sector's 26.3% share of GDP in 2004 continues to demonstrate the importance of industry to the development of the British economy. The industrial production growth rate declined in 2004, however, to 0.9%. Industrial production was forecast to contract by 1.3% in 2005.


Great Britain, preeminent in the Industrial Revolution from the mid-18th to the mid-19th century, has a long tradition of technological ingenuity and scientific achievement. It was in the United Kingdom that the steam engine, spinning jenny, and power loom were developed and the first steam-powered passenger railway entered service. To British inventors also belongs credit for the miner's safety lamp, the friction match, the cathode ray tube, stainless steel, and the first calculating machine. One of the most famous scientific discoveries of the 20th century, the determination of the double-helix structure of the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecule, took place at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University. In February 1997 the first successful cloning of an animal from an adult (resulting in "Dolly" the lamb) was performed at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland's leading animal research laboratory. The United Kingdom is also in the forefront of research in radio astronomy, laser holography, and superconductivity.

The total national expenditure for research and development (R&D) in 2002 was $29.06 billion, or 1.88% of GDP. Of that amount, the business sector provided the largest portion at 46.7%, followed by the government at 26.9%. Foreign sources accounted for 20.5%, with higher education and private nonprofit organizations providing 1% and 4.9%, respectively. In 1998 (the latest year for which data was available) there were 2,691 scientists and engineers that were engaged in research and development per one million people. In 2002, of all bachelor's degrees awarded, 31.4% were in the sciences (natural, mathematics and computers, engineering).

The leading government agency for supporting science and technology is the Ministry of Defense, which plays an important role in both the United Kingdom's national security and its role in NATO. In addition, government-industry cooperation in aerospace, biotechnology and electronics have opened new frontiers in science. In 2002, high-tech exports were valued at $71.481 billion and accounted for 31% of manufactured exports.

The largest issue facing British scientists, engineers and technicians is the challenge of providing new technological innovations in the global economy. In 1993, a government white paper, Realizing our Potential, called for the most sweeping changes in British science and technology since World War II. Among the changes called for in this white paper is the creation of a "technology forecasting program" which will allow scientists and engineers from all over Great Britain to have a more direct say in setting national science and technology priorities. It is likely that many of the recommendations from the white paper will be incorporated into national science and technology priorities, including the technology forecasting program, over time.

The most prestigious scientific institution in the United Kingdom is the Royal Society, founded in 1660 in London. The British Association for the Advancement of Science, headquartered in London, promotes public understanding of science and technology.


London is the leading wholesale and importing center, accounting for more than half the total wholesale turnover. Other important distribution centers are Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow, and Hull.

Supermarkets have hurried to diversify into other businesses recently because of competition, falling prices, and a mature domestic market. As of 2005, the franchise industry was worth over £9 billion per year in the United Kingdom alone: the industry employs some 330,000 people, with more than 31,000 franchisees operating their own franchised business. Direct marketing is common. A value-added tax of 17.5% applies to most goods and services.

Normal banking hours are 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, but this may vary in country areas. Business hours in London are 9 am to 5:30 pm, Monday through Friday; shops in certain areas may be open to 7:30 one night a week, usually Wednesday or Thursday. Outside of London, the shops of each town or village may close for a half or full day at midweek. Saturday shopping hours are 9 am to 5:30 pm. Sunday shopping is becoming increasingly available, from 10 am to 4 pm.


The United Kingdomthe world's fifth-largest trading nation, the fifth-largest exporter of goods, and the second-largest exporter of servicesis highly dependent on foreign trade. It must import almost all its copper, ferrous metals, lead, zinc, rubber, and raw cotton;

United States48,080.439,360.38,720.1
Italy-San Marino-Holy See13,836.119,357.9-5,521.8
Special Categories12,414.213,329.6-915.4
() data not available or not significant.

most of its tin, raw wool, hides and skins, and many other raw materials; and about one-third of its food.

The United Kingdom's major export commodities are manufactured items, crude petroleum, chemicals, food, beverages, and tobacco. As of 2005, the top 14 best prospect sectors for trade and investment in the United Kingdom were aircraft and parts, apparel, automotive parts and service equipment, computers and peripherals, cosmetics and toiletries, drugs and pharmaceuticals, education and training, furniture, medical equipment, pollution control, renewable energy equipment, safety and security equipment, telecommunications equipment, and travel and tourism.

In 2004, the United Kingdom's major exports were finished manufactures (53% of total exports), semi-manufactures (29.6%), and oils and other fuels (9.4%). Major imports were finished manufactures (56.9% of all imports), semi-manufactures (24.2%), and food, beverages, and tobacco (8.9%). The United Kingdom's leading markets in 2004 were the United States (15% of all exports), Germany (11.5%), France (9.8%), and Ireland (7%). Leading suppliers were Germany (13.9% of all imports), the United States (8.8%), France (8%), and the Netherlands (7.2%). Exports of goods totaled $349.6 billion in 2004, and imports totaled $456.9 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $107.3 billion.


Throughout the 1960s, revaluations of other currencies adversely affected the pound sterling. Large deficits in the balance of payments appeared in 1964 and 1967, leading to devaluation in November 1967. Another run on sterling prompted a decision to let the pound float on 23 June 1972. The pound then declined steadily, dropping below a value of $2.00 for the first time on 9 March 1976. The oil crisis and the rise in commodity prices in 1974 were even harsher blows to the UK economy. Increasing unemployment, the worldwide recession, and a large budgetary deficit placed the government in an extremely difficult position, since replenishment

Current Account-33.5
   Balance on goods-77.3
   Balance on services-269.1
   Balance on income36.0
   Current transfers-16.0
Capital Account2.1
Financial Account27.1
   Direct investment abroad-51.2
   Direct investment in United Kingdom15.5
   Portfolio investment assets-56.3
   Portfolio investment liabilities149.3
   Financial derivatives-8.5
   Other investment assets-432.3
   Other investment liabilities410.5
Net Errors and Omissions1.8
Reserves and Related Items2.6
() data not available or not significant.

of currency reserves cost more in terms of sterling, and the need to curb inflation prevented expansion in the economy. Borrowing from the oil-producing states and the EU helped finance the deficits, but a further approach to the IMF became necessary. During the late 1970s, the United Kingdom's visible trade balance was generally negative, although surpluses on invisibles sometimes were sufficient to produce a surplus in the current account.

Increased North Sea oil exports helped produce substantial trade surpluses in 198082. The United Kingdom has run a deficit in visible trade since 1983, reaching a peak of $47 billion in 1989, as consumer demand for imported goods ballooned. As recession took hold, imports fell, reducing the visible trade deficit dramatically in 1991. The devaluation of the pound, following the United Kingdom's late 1992 withdrawal from the EU's Exchange Rate Mechanism, increased the cost of imports at the end of 1992. However, the sterling's trade-weighted exchange rate index stabilized by 1995. In recent years, the export-oriented manufacturing sector has been challenged by an overvalued exchange rate. The United Kingdom is a major overseas investor (especially in the United States) and has an extremely important service sector, dominated by banking and insurance, which consistently generates invisible trade credits.

In 2002, the United Kingdom's current account balance was - $13 billion, or -0.8% of GDP. The current account balance in 2003 was -1.6% of GDP. Exports of goods totaled $349.6 billion in 2004, and imports totaled $456.9 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $107.3 billion. The current account balance in 2004 was -$33.46 billion.


The United Kingdom is known throughout the world for its expertise in the field of banking, ranking third in the world after New York and Tokyo. Most activity takes place in the City of London, which has the greatest concentration of banks and the largest insurance market in the world. Until the Labour government of Tony Blair disengaged it from the Treasury, the Bank of England, established in 1694 as a corporate body and nationalized in 1946, held the main government accounts, acted as government agent for the issue and registration of government loans and other financial operations, and was the central note-issuing authority, with the sole right to issue bank notes in England and Wales (some banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland have limited noteissuing rights). It administered exchange control for the Treasury and is responsible for the application of the government's monetary policy to other banks and financial institutions. After its separation from the Treasury, the Bank of England retained the power to establish interest rates, while the Treasury continued to reign in public spending.

The banks handling most domestic business are mainly limited liability companies. The four major clearing commercial banking groups are Barclays, Lloyds, Midland, and National Westminster. These banks carry out most of the commercial banking in England and Wales. In Scotland, which has its own clearing system, there are three clearing banks: the Bank of Scotland, the Clydesdale Bank, and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Other institutions, notably the building societies, have begun to compete with the clearing banks by providing current and deposit account facilities.

There are concerns that Frankfurt, Germany, will develop as the major financial center in the EU. The City of London's role in this context is under threat mainly because Frankfurt is the site of the European Central Bank, which controls monetary policy for the euro-area EU states.

The National Savings Movement, started in 1916, encourages widespread savings investment by small depositors in trustee savings banks and the National Savings Bank (formerly known as the Post Office Savings Bank), the largest organization of its kind in the world, with about 20,000 in post offices. Merchant banks are of great importance in the financing of trade, both domestic and overseas. In addition, about 275 overseas banks are directly represented in London.

After the "Big Bang"the deregulation of the United Kingdom's financial marketsthe Financial Services Act, which became law in November 1986, set out a system of self-regulating organizations (SROs) to oversee operations in different markets under the overall control of an umbrella body, the Securities and Investment Board (SIB). In 1996 there were five SROs covering the main financial activities, and since April 1988 any firm conducting investment business must have authorization to do so from the appropriate SRO. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, M2an aggregate equal to currency and demand deposits plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $1.63 trillion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 5.08%.

In 1762, a club of securities dealers was formed in London to fix rules for market transactions, and in 1773 the first stock exchange was opened in London. In 1801, the London Stock Exchange was constructed on part of its present site. Since that time, it has provided a market for the purchase and sale of securities and has played an important part in providing new capital for industry. The Stock Exchange opened to international competition in October 1986, permitting wider ownership of member firms. Minimum rates of commission on stock sales were abolished. In April 1982, the London Gold Futures Market began operations; it is the only market in Europe making possible worldwide, round-the-clock futures dealings in the metal. As of 2004, a total of 2,486 companies were listed on the London Stock Exchange, which had a market capitalization of £1.47 trillion.


London is the leading international insurance center. Lloyd's, the world-famous society of private insurers, was originally established in the 17th century as a center for marine insurance but has since built up a worldwide market for other types of insurance.

The Central Statistical Office (CSO) recently compiled information on institutions whose primary business is the long-term investment of funds in the securities markets. It covers pension funds, insurance companies, investment trusts, unit trusts, and property trusts. Total net investment by institutions in 1994 was £45.4 billion ($69.6 billion), down from the record £51.6 billion in 1993. The biggest net investment by an institutional group was that of the long-term insurance companies, with £24.2 billion of this total.

In the mid-1990s, total life insurance in force came to £1.04 trillion. In the United Kingdom, third-party automobile liability, employers'

Revenue and Grants441,048100.0%
   Tax revenue316,61071.8%
   Social contributions85,68919.4%
   Other revenue34,8687.9%
   General public services29,9706.3%
   Public order and safety24,9635.2%
   Economic affairs37,6267.9%
   Environmental protection6,3031.3%
   Housing and community amenities8,9201.9%
   Recreational, culture, and religion6,2511.3%
   Social protection190,31939.8%
() data not available or not significant.

liability, nuclear facility liability, oil pollution liability, aircraft operators' liability and professional liability is compulsory, with the government having a monopoly on workers' compensation. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $246.733 billion, of which life insurance premiums accounted for $154.842 billion. For that same year, the top nonlife insurer was Norwich Union, with net written nonlife premiums of £5 billion, while the nations leading life insurer had gross written life insurance premiums of £8.148 billion.


The onset of recession in 1990 led to an increased level of public borrowingabout £14 billion in 199192, or 2.25% of GDP. By 199394, the public sector borrowing requirement had risen to £50 billion, or 8.1% of GDP. In 1994 the government initiated a series of stringent fiscal measures designed to curb the spiraling public sector borrowing requirement (PSBR). Since 1998, the United Kingdom has taken aggressive steps to reform its public spending activities. Reforms included limits on expenditures, higher governmental accountability regarding spending, better resource budgeting, and improved spending flexibility.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 the United Kingdom's central government took in revenues of approximately $881.4 billion and had expenditures of $951 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$69.6 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 42.2% of GDP. Total external debt was $7.107 trillion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, general government revenues were £441,048 million and expenditures were £478,748 million. The value of revenues was us$720,078 million and expenditures us$771,339 million, based on a market exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = £.6125 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 6.3%; defense, 6.9%; public order and safety, 5.2%; economic affairs, 7.9%; environmental protection, 1.3%; housing and community amenities, 1.9%; health, 17.0%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.3%; education, 12.5%; and social protection, 39.8%.


Taxes on income include a graduated individual income tax and a corporation tax. Although personal income taxes are still high, they have been reduced several times since 1980.

As of 1 April 2004 the United Kingdom (UK) imposed a standard 30% corporate profits income tax rate. However, for companies with profits under £300,000, the rate was 19%. For companies with profits under £10,000, the rate was 0%. In addition, companies having profits up to £1.5 million, marginal relief was available. There is a 50% petroleum tax assessed on profits from all exploration and production which is deductible from other corporate tax. Capital gains are taxed at the standard corporate rate, but nonresidents companies are generally not taxed on capital gains derived from the sale of shares in a resident subsidiary company. However, companies that derive capital gains from the sale of assets that are located in and are used to carry on business activity in the United Kingdom are subject to the capital gains tax. Dividends are not taxed. Income from interest and royalties are subject to withholding taxes of 20% and 22%, respectively.

Income tax is charged on all income that has its origin in Britain and on all income arising abroad of persons resident in Britain. However, the United Kingdom has entered into agreements with many countries to provide relief from double taxation. Generally, the United Kingdom has a progressive personal income tax structure with a top rate of 40%. For the 2005/2006 fiscal year, a 10% rate was applied to taxable income up to £2,090. A 22% rate was applied on income up to £32,400, with a 40% rate on income above that amount. Inheritance taxes are 40%. Each taxpayer's marginal rate applies to capital gains in excess of £8,500. The main local taxes are land assessments, or "rates."

In January 1973, a value-added tax (VAT) was introduced with a standard rate of 10%, replacing the purchase tax, and bringing the UK's tax policy into harmony with the EU. In 1991, the standard rate was increased to 17.5% and in 1997, the reduced rate, applied to some medicines, medical equipment, heating oil, gas, electricity, small service businesses and some transportation services, was lowered from 8% to 5%. A zero rate applies to most foods, books, newspapers and periodicals, and certain other goods. Services such as insurance, health, education, and land and rents are also exempt. Other taxes are levied on petroleum products, tobacco, and alcoholic drinks. There are also various stamp duties.


Import licensing and quotas were the general rule in the United Kingdom between 1939 and 1959. For specified items from specified countries or groups of countries, an individual license was required for each import. In June 1959, however, the United Kingdom began to remove important controls on virtually all raw materials and basic foodstuffs and on some machinery imported from the United States. With UK entry into the free trade area of the EU, a tariff-free area has been created. In addition, the United Kingdom uses the EU's common external tariff for non-EU imports. Rates range from 214% on most goods. The four principal types of import charges are customs duties, agricultural levies, value-added taxes, and excise duties on goods such as alcohol, tobacco, and tobacco products. The United Kingdom also levies a VAT on imports with a standard rate of 17.5%, with reduced rates ranging from 05%.


London is considered to be Europe's top financial and business center. London is the headquarters for some 130 of the top 500 global companies. With few exceptions, the United Kingdom does not discriminate between nationals and foreign individuals, and imposes few impediments to foreign ownership. Public-sector procurement policies seek best value and best practice regardless of national origin. The privatization of state-owned utilities is ongoing, and offers additional opportunities for foreign investment. The tax rate on the profits of large companies is 30%, but the effective tax burden is higher; it rose markedly after the Labour government assumed office in 1997.

Over the 10-year period 1992 to 2002, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow totaled $484.5 billion, the second highest in the world (after the United States by some distance: the United States' 10-year total was $1.3 trillion). In 1997, FDI inflow rose 60% over 1996 to $33.3 billion, placing the United Kingdom third in the world, behind the United States and China. FDI inflow peaked in 2000 at $116.6 billion (a fourth-place finish, behind the United States, Belgium-Luxembourg, and Germany), and then fell to $62 billion in the economic slowdown of 2001. The stock of inward FDI by yearend 2003 was $672 billion. Direct investment inflows in 2003 were $14.5 billion, down from $27.8 billion in 2002. From 200105, FDI inflows averaged 2.9% of GDP.

The United Kingdom's outward FDI has normally exceeded its inward flow. Before World War I, British overseas investments were valued at more than $30 billion (adjusted into 1960 dollars). Even in the period between the two world wars, British foreign investments remained remarkably high. After World War II, the United Kingdom, having given up many of its overseas dependencies and having incurred enormous foreign debts to wage the war, had to liquidate a large part of its overseas holdings. As its economy recovered, the United Kingdom again began to invest overseas. From 1955 to 1964, gross total private capital outflow was at an annual average of £300 million. The abolition of exchange controls in 1979 also encouraged overseas investment. By 1985, private British investment overseas (direct and portfolio) had risen to £76.7 billion ($101 billion). In 1994, outward FDI amounted to £100 billion ($154 billion). In 1997, the outflow was $43.7 billion. By yearend 2003, the stock of outward UK FDI investment totaled $1.129 billion. FDI outflows in 2003 totaled $55.1 billion, up from $35.2 billion in 2002.

The United States and the United Kingdom are the largest foreign investors in each other's country. By the end of 2003, the United States had invested $273 billion (historical cost) in the United Kingdom. After the United States, the most popular destinations for outward UK FDI in 2003 were France and Canada. For inward FDI, the Netherlands was the largest overall investor in the United Kingdom in 2003, followed by the United States and Germany.

The United Kingdom is the most favored inward investment location in Europe, attracting over 40% of all direct investment in the EU.


Like many other industrialized nations of the West, the United Kingdom has sought to combine steady economic growth with a high level of employment, increased productivity, and continuing improvement in living standards. Attainment of these basic objectives, however, had been hindered after World War II by recurrent deficits in the balance of payments and by severe inflationary pressures. As a result, economic policy has chiefly had to be directed toward correcting these two underlying weaknesses in the economy. When crises have arisen, emergency measures have often conflicted with long-term objectives. In 1967, for example, the government devalued the pound by 14% in order to improve the balance-of-payments position, but simultaneously increased taxes and reduced the growth rate of public expenditures in order to restrain home demand in both public and private sectors. Since the almost uninterrupted upward trend in prices resulted principally from the tendency for money income to rise faster than the volume of production, the government sought to institute a policy designed to align the rise in money income with increases in productivity.

Various bodies have been set up to foster economic development and improve industrial efficiency, notably the National Economic Development Council, established in 1962 but abolished in 1992, was responsible for the coordination of industry. Another important body, created in 1974, the National Enterprise Board, was set up to help plan industrial investment, particularly in manufacturing and export industries; the NEB was combined with the National Research and Development Corp. in 1981 to form the British Technology Group, which was privatized in 1991. The Labour government in the 1970s began to de-emphasize increased social services and government participation in the economy and to stress increased incentives for private investment. (A notable exception was in the exploitation of North Sea oil resources.) General investment incentives included tax allowances on new buildings, plants, and machinery. The Conservative government elected in 1979 sought to reduce the role of government in the economy by improving incentives, removing controls, reducing taxes, moderating the money supply, and privatizing several large state-owned companies. This policy was continued by succeeding Conservative governments into the 1990s. The election of a Labour government in 1997 did not reverse this trend. Indeed, privatization is now widely accepted by most of the Labour Party (with the exception of the dwindling numbers of the wing of the party with strong ties to trade unions).

The United Kingdom has long been a major source of both bilateral aid (direct loans and grants) and multilateral aid (contributions to international agencies) to developing countries. To coordinate the overall aid program and its proportions of bilateral and multilateral aid, capital aid, and technical assistance, the Ministry of Overseas Development was set up in 1962. Its functions were subsequently taken over by the Overseas Development Administration (ODA) and are now administered by the Department for International Development (DFID). Since 1958, the terms for development loans have progressively softened, and a policy of interest-free loans for the poorest developing countries was introduced in 1965. Unlike other donors, the United Kingdom provides funds to the recipient governments, rather than funding individual projects. The United Kingdom made a commitment to increase its official development assistance (ODA) from 0.26% of GNP in 1997 to 0.33% in 200304 (the UN's target for donor countries' development aid is 0.7% of GNP). In 2004, the United Kingdom actually donated 0.34% of its GNP for development aid, or $7.836 billion. The United Kingdom's aid budget was set to increase to over $8.2 billion for 200506, and to $10.6 billion by 2008.

The most important issue facing Britain in the early 2000s was membership in the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair decided to opt out of EMU at its inception in 1998 and promised a referendum on British membership. By 2005, however, there was little or no prospect of the United Kingdom holding a referendum on joining the EMU over the succeeding five years. The opposition Conservatives oppose abandoning the pound and have the support of a majority of the British population on the issue. The government in 2005 devoted its attention on the domestic front to improving such public services as health, education, and transportation. Large increases in public spending have been set aside for this purpose, but public finances have deteriorated to an extent due to lowered tax receipts. An additional long-term priority for the Labour government in 2005 was to implement reforms to raise the country's productivity performance, which remains below the OECD average.

Another long-term economic problem facing the United Kingdom is the aging of its population and the pressures this phenomenon will place on its pension system. By 2035 the number of pensioners in the United Kingdom will rise by 45% as the postwar baby boomer generation retires; by 2050 the increase will reach 55%. If these people are to maintain their standards of living in relation to the rest of society, the share of GDP transferred to them will have to rise sharply, from 9.4% in 2005 to 14.5% in 2050. One option is to raise the state pension age, which was 65 for men and 60 for women in 2005; the government's Pensions Commission proposes a yearly rise in the retirement age per decade, so that it would reach 68 by 2050. Higher public spending on pensions is another option, but that will mean workers will have to pay more taxes to support the aging population.


A gradually evolved system of social security, placed in full operation in 1948, provides national insurance, industrial injuries insurance, family allowances, and national assistance throughout the United Kingdom. The National Insurance scheme provides benefits for sickness, unemployment, maternity, and widowhood, as well as guardian's allowances, retirement pensions, and death grants. The program is financed by contributions from employees, employers, and the government. A percentage of these contributions are allocated to the National Health Service which provides extensive benefits to workers and their families. Retirement pensions cover men at 65 and women at 60, and benefits increase annually to adjust for cost of living. The first work injury law was instituted in 1897, and currently covers all employees with the exception of the self-employed. There is a universal child benefit and tax credit to residents with one or more children, funded by the government.

Financial assistance for the poor is provided through a system of benefits in the form of a supplementary pension for those over statutory retirement age and a supplementary allowance for others. It also provides temporary accommodation for the homeless in specially designated reception centers. For poverty-stricken families in which the head of the household is in full-time employment, a family income supplement is paid. Maternity benefits cover women who have been employed for 26 weeks.

Equal opportunity between the sexes is provided for by law, although some discrimination against women continues. Sexual harassment is a problem in the workplace and women on average earn 18% less than men. Violence against women persists, however there are many laws providing protection and the substantial penalties are strictly enforced. In 2004 domestic violence accounted for one-fourth of all violent crime. The government is committed to children's rights and welfare.

Although racial discrimination is prohibited by law, people of Asian and African origin are subject to discrimination and harassment. Ethnic minorities are also more likely to be stopped and searched by police. The government at all levels fully respects the legal right to freedom of religion. Human rights organizations have criticized legislation in Northern Ireland which denies suspects the right to immediate legal counsel and the right to silence. There are also some security-related restrictions on the freedoms of assembly and association in Northern Ireland.


Life expectancy has increased from 50 years at birth in 1900 to 78.38 years in 2005. Rising living standards, medical advances, the growth of medical facilities and their general availability, and the smaller size of the family are some factors in the improved health of the British people. Deaths from infectious diseases have been greatly reduced, although the proportion of deaths from circulatory diseasesincluding heart attacks and strokesand cancer has risen. Infant mortality has decreased from 142 per 1,000 live births in 190002 to 5.16 in 2005. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 11.3 and 10 per 1,000 people. A high portion of women aged 1544 used birth control in the mid-1990s (82%).

A comprehensive National Health Service (NHS), established in 1948, provides full medical care to all residents of the United Kingdom. NHS delivers health care through 129 health authorities, each of which receives money from the government and then purchases a preset amount of treatment each year from hospitals. Included are general medical, dental, pharmaceutical, and optical services; hospital and specialist services (in patients' homes when necessary) for physical and mental illnesses; and local health authority services (maternity and child welfare, vaccination, prevention of illness, health visiting, home nursing, and other services). The patient is free to choose a family doctor from any in the service, subject to the physician's acceptance. General tax revenues meet most of the cost of the NHS; the remainder is paid through National Health Insurance contributions and charges for certain items, including eyeglasses and prescription drugs. Compared with other OECD countries, the United Kingdom's per capita expenditure on health care is low. In the United Kingdom, 6.9% of the GDP went to health expenditures.

All specialist and auxiliary health services in England are the direct responsibility of the secretary of state for social services. In Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland the corresponding services and administrative bodies are under the respective secretaries of state. All hospitals, except a few run mostly by religious orders, are also in the NHS. In 1991, the United Kingdom implemented major reforms in its health care services, including improvements in virtually all facets of the program. Areas of concern included incidence of coronary/stroke, cancer, accidents, mental illness, and HIV/AIDS. Smoking prevalence was similar between men (28%) and women (26%) over 15 years old. Half the British population is currently overweight. These high rates have been attributed to a sedentary lifestyle during leisure time.

The NHS is has been undergoing restructuring; increased numbers of NHS hospitals are being decentralized by conversion to NHS Trust, established in 1991. NHS costs Britain's taxpayers more than $73 billion per year. An aging population, costlier treatments, and a budget crisis have forced the cancellation of nonemergency treatment at some centers. The number of beds available is below the level of demand, causing long waits for treatment.

As of 2004, there were an estimated 166 physicians, 497 nurses, 40 dentists, 59 pharmacists and 43 midwives per 100,000 people. The immunization rates for children under one year of age were as follows: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 92%; polio, 94%; measles, 92%; and tuberculosis, 75%. The rates for DPT and measles were, respectively, 93% and 91%. Since 1982, to help control the spread of AIDS, the government has funded and implemented measures for blood testing, research, public education, and other social services relating to the disease. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.20 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 51,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 500 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


At the 2001 census, there were about 25,456,00 dwellings in the United Kingdom. Of these, 21,207,000 were in England, 2,345,000 in Scotland, 1,274,000 in Wales, and 649,000 in Northern Ireland.

In England, 79.9% of all households lived in detached houses or bungalows and 19.7% lived in flats, maisonettes, or apartments. About 68% of all homes were owner occupied; 19% of households were renting from a social landlord (defined as a Council, Housing Association, or registered Social Landlord), and 12% were renting from a private owner. The average number of rooms per household was 5.33. In 2003, the estimated dwelling stock was at 21,464,000.

In Wales at the 2001 census, 88.2% of all households lived in houses or bungalows and 11.4% lived in flats, maisonettes, or apartments. About 71% of all homes were owner occupied; 18% were rented from social landlords and 11% were rented from private owners. The average number of rooms per household was 5.59. It was estimated that about 1.5 million households in England and Wales were overcrowded. The highest percentage was found in London, with about 17% of households overcrowded. In Wales, only about 4% of all households were overcrowded. Even so, the degree of overcrowding in the United Kingdom is lower than in most European countries.

In Scotland in 2001, 20% of all housing was in the form of detached homes, 20% were semidetached, 22% were terraced homes, and 8% were flats or maisonettes, and 4% other. The same year in Northern Ireland, 34% of dwellings were detached homes, 23% were semidetached homes, 35% were terraced homes, and 7% were flats or maisonettes, and 2% other. The 2003 estimate of dwelling stock for Northern Ireland was 669,000 dwellings.

Over 50% of families now live in a post-1945 dwelling, usually a two-story house with a garden. Most homeowners finance their purchase through a home mortgage loan from a building society, bank, insurance company, or other financial institution. New houses are built by both the public and private sectors, but most are built by the private sector for sale to owner-occupiers. The main providers of new subsidized housing are housing associations, which own, manage, and maintain over 600,000 homes in England alone and completed over nearly 30,000 new homes for rent or shared ownership per year in the mid-1990s. Local housing authorities were in the past primarily concerned with slum clearance; however, large-scale clearance virtually ended in the mid-1980s, with emphasis shifting to modernization of substandard homes and community improvement.


Although responsibility for education in the United Kingdom rests with the central government, schools are mainly administered by local education authorities. The majority of primary students attend state schools that are owned and maintained by local education authorities. A small minority attend voluntary schools mostly run by the churches and also financed by the local authorities.

Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 16. Since 1989, the government has introduced a "National School Curriculum" in England and Wales comprised of four key stages: five to seven (infants); 7 to 11 (juniors); 11 to 14 (preGCSE); and 14 to 16 (GCSE). Similar reforms are being introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The main school examination, the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is taken in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland at around the age of 16. A separate exam system exists in Scotland. Of the 2,500 registered independent schools, the largest and most important (Winchester, Eton, Harrow, and others) are known in England as "public schools." Many have centuries of tradition behind them and are world famous. The academic year runs from September to July.

In 2001, about 83% of children between the ages of three and four were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 100% of age eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 95% of age-eligible students. Most students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 17:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 19:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 4.9% of primary school enrollment and 55.8% of secondary enrollment.

Including the Open University, a nonresidential institution whose courses are conducted by television and radio broadcasts and correspondence texts, Britain had 47 universities in the 1990s (compared with 17 in 1945). As a result of legislation, nearly all polytechnics have become universities and started awarding their own degrees in 1993. The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge date from the 12th and 13th centuries, respectively; the Scottish universities of St. Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh from the 15th and 16th centuries. Besides the universities, there are more than 800 other institutions of higher education, including technical, art, and commercial colleges run by local authorities.

National policy stipulates that no person should be excluded from higher education by lack of means. More than 90% of students in higher education hold awards from public or private funds. In 1997, the government began to reconsider its policy of cost-free tuition by announcing that students would become responsible for some of the expense. In 2003, it was estimated that about 64% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate has been estimated at about 99%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.3% of GDP, or 11.5% of total government expenditures.


London has more than 500 libraries, among them the British Library, which is the national library and the largest library in the United Kingdom, with about 150 million items in 2005 and an average acquisition rate of about 3 million items per year. Special collections and treasures include the Magna Carta, a notebook of Leonardo da Vinci, original manuscripts of Jane Austen and James Joyce (among others), and musical manuscripts of G.F. Handel and the Beatles (among others). There is a branch location of the British Library at Boston Spa, West Yorkshire. The National Library of Scotland, with about seven million volumes, is in Edinburgh, and the National Library of Wales, with some four million volumes, in Aberystwyth. Each of these is a copyright library, entitled to receive a copy of every new book published in the United Kingdom. The Bodleian Library at Oxford University is also a copyright library with about 6.7 million volumes; there are nine branch locations of the Bodleian in Oxford. Oxford University sponsors over 100 departmental libraries. The Cambridge University Library, also a copyright library, has 5.9 million volumes throughout five locations.

Other major libraries in London include the University of London Central Library (two million), the London Library (the largest public subscription library), the Science Museum Library (600,000), the Victoria and Albert Museum Art Library, the Public Record Office (containing such national historical treasures as the Domesday Book), and the libraries of such institutions as the Royal Institute of International Affairs (140,000), the Royal Commonwealth Society (150,000), the Royal Geographical Society (150,000), the Royal Academy of Arts (22,000), and the National Library for the Blind. In 2002 a Women's Library opened in London giving a home to publications documenting women's lives in Britain.

There are major libraries at the Universities of Edinburgh (2.4 million), Glasgow (1.4 million), Queen's University in Belfast (1.1 million), and St. Andrew's (920,000). Manchester Metropolitan University has one million volumes.

London has about 395 public libraries. The South Western Regional Library System links the public libraries of Bristol, Devon, Foursite (Somerset, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset), Gloucestershire, Swindon, and Wiltshire. The Edinburgh City Libraries maintain a central library and 25 branch libraries, as well as a mobile unit and two lending locations, plus several hospitals. Over 50 public libraries in Scotland were established through the assistance of the industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Nearly all of the public libraries in Scotland are linked via the Internet. Public libraries in Northern Ireland are managed by five regional Education and Library Boards. The Bel-fast Education and Library Board maintains the Belfast Central Library and 20 community public libraries, as well as two mobile libraries.

The United Kingdom is a museum-lover's dream. Almost every city and large town has museums of art, archaeology, and natural history. There are more than 1,000 museums and art galleries, ranging from nearly two dozen great national institutions to small collections housed in a few rooms. London has the British Museum (founded 1759), with its vast collections of archaeological and ethnographic material from all over the world, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, including extensive collections of works of fine and applied arts. In the late 1990s, the British Museum was struggling financially; trustees rejected admission fees, and a multimillion-dollar deficit was projected when the government, which had funded most of the $84.5 million budget through the National Lottery, began reducing contributions. The National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery are among other prestigious London art museums. Other museums located in London include the London Transport Museum (founded 1978), the National Maritime Museum (1934), the Natural History Museum (1963), and the Science Museum (1857). There is also a collection of royal ceremonial dress at Kensington Palace, and the Sherlock Holmes Museum, featuring Victorian memorabilia, opened in 1990. The Tate Gallery of Modern Art, featuring rotating exhibits arranged by theme, opened in May 2000. There are important museums and art galleries in Liverpool, Manchester, Leicester, Birmingham, Bristol, Norwich, Southampton, York, Glasgow, Leeds, and other cities. Oxford and Cambridge each have many museums, and several other universities also have important collections. Private art collections in historic family mansions are open to the public at specified times.

The National Museum and Gallery of Wales and the Museum of Welsh Life are in Cardiff. There is also a Welsh State Museum in Llanberis. The national museums of Scotland include the Royal Museum, the Museum of Scotland, and the National War Museum of Scotland, all in Edinburgh. The Museum of Scottish Country Life is in East Kilbride. There are at least three museums in Scotland that celebrate the life and work of native poet Robert Burns. The Ulster Museums and the Northern Irish Folk Museum are in Belfast.


The Post Office, founded in 1635, was the first in the world to institute adhesive stamps as proof of payment for mail. It now operates nearly all postal services. As authorized by 1981 legislation, the Thatcher government relaxed postal and telecommunications monopolies in some areas. The Telecommunications Act of 1984 further promoted competition and denationalized British Telecommunications (Telecom). In 2003, there were an estimated 591 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 841 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Radio and television broadcasting services are provided by the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), which was established as a public corporation in 1927, and by the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and the Radio Authority, commercial concerns whose powers are defined in the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act of 1973. The BBC broadcasts on two television channels and the Independent Television Commission broadcasts on ITV and Channel Four, which began operating in 1982. BBC Radio offers five national radio networks in the medium- and long-wave bands, as well as FM programming and an overseas service in 37 languages. Both the BBC and IBA operate local radio services; the BBC has 39 local stations (including 2 for the Channel Islands). In September of 1992, the first national commercial radio station, Classic FM, was inaugurated. Since then, several commercial stations have entered the market. As of 1999, there were 225 AM and 525 (mostly repeater) FM radio stations and 78 television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 1,445 radios and 950 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 57.2 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 405.7 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 423 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 21,034 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

There are over 100 daily and Sunday newspapers, some 2,000 weekly papers, numerous specialized papers, and about 7,000 periodicals in circulation throughout the United Kingdom. Nine Sunday papers and 12 daily morning papers are "national" in the sense of circulating throughout Britain. National dailies, with their political tendencies and their average daily circulations in 2004 (as available), are: The Sun, left of center, 3,301,223; Daily Mail, independent conservative, 2,403,528; Daily Mirror, independent left-wing, 1,777,408; Daily Telegraph, independent conservative, 907,048; Daily Express, independent conservative, 929,323; Daily Star, independent, 882,709; The Times, independent, 658;182; The Observer, 433,934; Financial Times, independent, 426,369; The Guardian, independent, 371,494; and Evening Standard, independent, 361,340. Of these, The Times was the only paper that showed an increase (of 4.3%) in sales from 2003, all others saw a decline in circulation.

In 2004, the newspaper with the highest circulation was the tabloid News of the World, which distributes over 3.7 million papers per week. Six other Sunday papers have circulations in the millions. The provincial press included more than 100 daily and Sunday newspapers and some 1,600 weeklies in 2004.

In 2004, major papers outside of London included: The Express and Star, Wolverhampton (162,509); Manchester Evening News, Manchester (148,094); Liverpool Echo, Liverpool (135,273); Evening Mail, Birmingham (104,219); Evening Chronicle, NewcastleUpon-Tyne (91,523); the Yorkshire Evening Post, Leeds (81,804); and Sunday Mercury, Birmingham (79,527). The weekly Berrow's Worcester Journal, founded in 1690, claims to be the world's oldest continuously circulating newspaper.

Wales has five daily newspapers: South Wales Echo (in Cardiff, 59,200 circulation in 2004), South Wales Evening Post (West Glamorgan, 58,269), Western Mail (Cardiff, 44,470), South Wales Argus (Gwent, 31,803), and Evening Leader (Clwyd, 26,968).

Scotland has six morning, five evening, and four Sunday papers, plus the Scottish editions of the Daily Mail and the Sunday Express. The Glasgow Herald (2004 circulation 78,746) and The Scotsman (68,408), an Edinburgh paper, are the most influential. Others include: Sunday Mail (in Glasgow, 584,671 circulation in 2004), Daily Record (Glasgow, 478,980), Evening Times (Glasgow, 95,126), The Press and Journal (Aberdeen, 88,599), Courier and Advertiser (Dundee, 83,186), and Evening News (Edinburgh, 68,479). About 120 weekly papers are published in Scottish towns.

Northern Ireland has two morning papers, one evening paper, and one Sunday paper, all published in Belfast, plus a number of weeklies. The largest is the evening paper, Belfast Telegraph (circulation 94,602).

Britain's ethnic minorities publish over 60 newspapers and magazines, most of them weekly, fortnightly or monthly. These include the Chinese Sing Tao and Wen Wei Po, the Urdu Daily Jang, and the Arabic Al-Arab (the foregoing are all dailies), as well as newspapers in Gujarati, Bengali, Hindi and Punjabi. The Weekly Journal, aimed at Britain's black community, was begun in 1992.

The over 7,000 periodicals published weekly, monthly, or quarterly cover a huge range of special interests. Leading opinion journals are New Statesman, The Economist, and Spectator. The Times Literary Supplement is highly influential in cultural affairs. The chief news agency is Reuters, a worldwide organization servicing British papers with foreign and Commonwealth news and the world press with British and foreign news.

Although there is no government censorship of news or opinion, the Official Secrets Act, stringent libel and slander laws, and restrictions governing the disclosure of court proceedings do impose limitations on press freedom. In addition, the press regulates itself through the Press Council, which adjudicates complaints about newspaper practices from local officials and the public. Views critical of the government are well established.


The national body representing British industry is the Confederation of British Industry, incorporated in 1965 and directly or indirectly representing about 250,000 companies. The Association of British Chambers of Commerce (founded in 1860) has 240 affiliated UK chambers. Agricultural organizations include the National Farmers' Union, agricultural cooperative societies, and other specialized associations. There are numerous professional associations for nearly every occupation. While some of these include members from all of the United Kingdom, there are also several associations particularly for Scottish businesses and professionals.

A vast number of organizations in the United Kingdom carry on programs in every phase of human activity. Voluntary social service organizations number in the thousands. Social work on a national scale is carried out largely under religious sponsorship. Cooperation between Protestant churches is fostered by the British Council of Churches. The Council of Christians and Jews works for cooperation between these faiths. The principal coordinating body in general social service is the National Council of Social Service. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Habitat for Humanity, and other major international organizations.

The British Council promotes a wider knowledge of the United Kingdom and its people abroad and develops cultural relations with other countries. There are more than 300 learned societies. The Arts Council of Great Britain (founded in 1946) promotes the fine arts and higher artistic standards, and advises government bodies on artistic matters. The Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy are other leading bodies in the arts. The National Book League, the Royal Society of Literature, the British Academy, the English Association, the Bibliographical Society, and other groups foster interest in literature, language, and scholarship. There are also numerous clubs for hobbyists, enthusiasts, and fans with a wide variety of interests.

The Arts Council of Wales was established in 1967. Arts and Cultural organizations in Scotland include the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama; the Royal Celtic Society; the Royal Scottish Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture; the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society; the Scottish Arts Council; and the Scottish Games Association. Clan associations are also popular in Scotland, with many providing genealogical research and social events and contact. The Ulster Historical Foundation in Belfast is a prominent genealogical research group.

The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services includes most of the largest youth groups. The leading political parties, major religious denominations, and some adult voluntary organizations, such as the Red Cross, maintain youth organizations. There are also a Scouts Association and a Girl Guides Association. There are numerous sports associations for participants of all ages. The Scottish Games Association specifically promotes traditional Highland games.


The United Kingdom is a popular tourist destination, rich in natural as well as cultural attractions. Landscapes range from farmlands and gardens to sandy beaches, moors, and rocky coasts. Architectural sights include stone and thatched cottages, stately country houses, mansions, and castles. Among the many historic dwellings open to the public are the Welsh castles Cilgerran (11th century), Dolbadarn (12th century), and Conway and Caernarvon (both 13th century); the 10-century-old Traquair House near Peebles, the oldest continuously inhabited house in Scotland, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh; and Warwick Castle, near Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Distinguished cathedrals include St. Paul's in London and those in Canterbury, Exeter, Norwich, Winchester, and York. At Bushmills, in Northern Ireland, the oldest distillery in the world may be visited, and some of Scotland's 100 malt whiskey distilleries also offer tours.

Among London's extraordinary attractions are Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey. Of the wide range of entertainment available, London is particularly noted for its theater, including the Royal Shakespeare Company. Folk music may be heard throughout the United Kingdom; traditional community gatherings for music and dancing, called ceilidhs, are held in Scotland, often in pubs, and Edinburgh is the site of one of the world's largest folk festivals, as well as an annual festival of classical music and other performing arts.

Scotland, where golf developed in the 15th century, has many superb golf courses, as does the rest of the United Kingdom; some 70 Highland Games and Gatherings take place in Scotland from May to September. Other popular sports include fishing, riding, sailing, rugby, cricket, and football (soccer). Wimbledon is the site of perhaps the world's most prestigious tennis competition. London hosted the summer Olympics in 1908 and 1948, and is scheduled to host again in 2012. England hosted and won the World Cup soccer championship in 1966.

In principle, foreigners entering the United Kingdom must have a valid passport and a visa issued by British consular authorities abroad. However, citizens of Ireland do not need a passport, and citizens of OECD, Commonwealth, and Latin American countries, among others, need no visa. There were 24,715,000 visitors who arrived in the United Kingdom in 2003. Tourism receipts totaled $30.6 billion that year.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in London at $410. Other areas averaged $342 per day.


Rulers and Statesmen

English rulers of renown include Alfred the Great (84999), king of the West Saxons, who defeated and held off the Danish invaders; William I (the Conqueror, 102787), duke of Normandy, who conquered England (106670) and instituted many changes in the structure of English government and society; Henry II (113389), who centralized the power of the royal government, and his sons Richard I (the Lion-Hearted, 115799), leader of the Third Crusade, and John (1167?1216), from whom the barons wrested the Magna Carta; Edward I (12391307), who subdued Wales and established the parliamentary system; Edward III (131277), who for a time conquered part of France, and did much to promote English commerce; Henry VIII (14911547), who separated the Anglican Church from the Roman Catholic Church and centralized administrative power; Elizabeth I (15331603), during whose reign, begun in 1558, England achieved great commercial, industrial, and political power, and the arts flourished; and Victoria (18191901), under whom Britain attained unprecedented prosperity and empire.

Among the statesmen distinguished in English history are Thomas à Becket (1118?70), archbishop of Canterbury, who defended the rights of the church against the crown; Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester (1208?65), who in 1265 summoned the first Parliament; and Thomas Wolsey (1475?1530), cardinal, archbishop of York, and Henry VIII's brilliant lord chancellor. Oliver Cromwell (15991658) established a republican and Puritan Commonwealth. Sir Robert Walpole, first earl of Oxford (16761745), unified cabinet government in the person of the prime minister and laid the foundations for free trade and a modern colonial policy. As England moved increasingly toward democratic government, important progress was achieved under the liberal statesmen William Pitt, first earl of Chatham (170878); his son William Pitt (17591806); and Charles James Fox (17491806). Outstanding statesmen of the 19th century were William Wilberforce (17591833); Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston (17841865); Sir Robert Peel (17881850); Benjamin Disraeli, earl of Beaconsfield (180481); and William Ewart Gladstone (180998). Twentieth-century leaders include David Lloyd George, first earl of Dwyfor (18631945), prime minister during World War I; and Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (18741965), prime minister during World War II, historian, and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1953. In 1979, Margaret (Hilda Roberts) Thatcher (b.1925) became the nation's first woman prime minister. The reigning monarch since 1952 has been Queen Elizabeth II (b.1926). The heir to the throne is Charles, prince of Wales (b.1948), whose marriage on 29 July 1981 to Lady Diana Frances Spencer (19611997; at marriage, Diana, princess of Wales) was seen by a worldwide television audience of 750 million people.

Explorers and Navigators

British explorers and navigators played an important part in charting the course of empire. Sir Martin Frobisher (1535?94), who set sail from England in search of the Northwest Passage, reached Canada in 1576. Sir Francis Drake (1545?96) was the first Englishman to sail around the world. John Davis (1550?1605) explored the Arctic and Antarctic, sailed to the South Seas, and discovered the Falkland Islands. Henry Hudson (d.1611) explored the Arctic regions and North America. Sir Walter Raleigh (1552?1618) was a historian and poet, as well as a navigator and colonizer of the New World. James Cook (172879) charted the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. Scottish-born David Livingstone (181373) explored central Africa while doing missionary work. Welsh-born Henry Morton Stanley (John Rowlands, 18411904) was sent by a US newspaper to find Livingstone in 1871 and, having done so, returned for further exploration of Africa. Sir Richard Francis Burton (182190), an Orientalist known for his translation of the Arabian Nights, and John Hanning Speke (182764) explored central Africa while searching for the source of the Nile.

Great British military figures include John Churchill, first duke of Marlborough (16501722), who attained many victories in the War of the Spanish Succession and in later campaigns against the French; Horatio, Viscount Nelson (17581805), the foremost British naval hero, whose career was climaxed by victory and death at Trafalgar; the Irish-born soldier-statesman Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington (17691852), whose brilliant campaigns culminated in the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo; General Charles George Gordon (183385), who gained victories in China, acquiring the nickname "Chinese," and died while fighting against the Mahdi in Khartoum; Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery (Bernard Law Montgomery, 18871976), British military leader during World War II; Welsh-born Thomas Edward Lawrence (18881935), known as "Lawrence of Arabia," who led the Arabs in uprisings against the Turks during World War I; and Lord Mountbatten of Burma (Louis Battenberg, 19001979), supreme Allied commander in Southeast Asia (194346) and last viceroy and first governor-general of India (194648).

Philosophers and Legal Scholars

Sir Thomas Littleton (1407?81) wrote Tenures, a comprehensive work on English land law that was used as a textbook for over three centuries. Sir Edward Coke (15521634), a champion of the common law, wrote the Institutes of the Laws of England, popularly known as Coke on Littleton. Sir William Blackstone (172380) wrote Commentaries on the Laws of England, which became a basic text in modern legal education and strongly influenced the evolution of jurisprudence in the United States as well as in Britain. The jurist-philosopher Jeremy Bentham (17481832) championed liberal law reform.

Roger Bacon (1214?92), philosopher and scientist, wrote treatises ranging over the whole field of human knowledge. John Duns Scotus (1265?1308) was a Scottish-born dialectician and theologian. William of Ockham (1300?1349) laid the foundation of the modern theory of the separation of church and state. John Wesley (170391) was the founder of Methodism. Chief among modern philosophers are Thomas Hobbes (15881679), John Locke (16321704), the Irish-born bishop and idealist thinker George Berkeley (16851753), John Stuart Mill (180673), Alfred North Whitehead (18611947), George Edward Moore (18731958), Ludwig Joseph Johann Wittgenstein (b.Austria, 18891951), and Sir Alfred Jules Ayer (b.1910-1989). A philosopher and mathematician who widely influenced contemporary social thought was Bertrand Arthur William Russell, third Earl Russell (18721970).

Historians and Economists

Noted historians include Raphael Holinshed (d.1580?), Edward Gibbon (173794), John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, first Baron Acton (183492), William Edward Hartpole Lecky (18361903), John Richard Green (183783), Frederic William Maitland (18501906), George Macaulay Trevelyan (18761962), Giles Lytton Strachey (18801932), Sir Lewis Bernstein Namier (18801960), Arnold Joseph Toynbee (18891975), and Edward Hallett Carr (18921982).

Thomas Robert Malthus (17661834) and David Ricardo (17721823) were among the first modern economists. Robert Owen (17711858) was an influential Welsh-born socialist, industrial reformer, and philanthropist. Walter Bagehot (182677) was a distinguished critic and social scientist. The theories of John Maynard Keynes (Baron Keynes, 18831946) have strongly influenced the economic practices of many governments in recent years. Sir James George Frazer (18541941), a Scottish-born anthropologist and author of The Golden Bough, was a pioneer in the fields of comparative religion and comparative mythology. Herbert Spencer (18201903) was an influential economic and social philosopher. Sir Arthur John Evans (18511941) was an archaeologist who explored the ruins of ancient Crete. Anna Freud (b.Austria, 18951982), daughter of Sigmund Freud, and Melanie Klein (b.Austria, 18821960) were psychoanalysts influential in the study of child development. Noted anthropologists include Sir Edward Burnett Tylor (18321917); Polish-born Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski (18841942); Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey (190372) and his wife, Mary Leakey (191396), who discovered important fossil remains of early hominids in Tanzania; and Ashley Montagu (19051999).


Present-day concepts of the universe largely derive from the theories of the astronomer and physicist Sir James Hopwood Jeans (18771946), the astronomers Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (18821946) and Sir Fred Hoyle (19152001), and the radio astronomers Sir Martin Ryle (191884) and Anthony Hewish (b.1924), who shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 1974. Other British scientists and inventors who won fame for major contributions to knowledge include William Harvey (15781657), physician and anatomist, who discovered the circulation of the blood; Irish-born Robert Boyle (162791), physicist and chemist, who investigated the properties of gases; Sir Isaac Newton (16421727), natural philosopher and mathematician, who discovered gravity and made important advances in calculus and optics; German-born physicist Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit (16861736), who introduced the temperature scale named after him; James Watt (17361819), the Scottish-born engineer who invented the modern condensing steam engine; Edward Jenner (17491823), who discovered the principle of vaccination; the great chemists John Dalton (17661844), who advanced the atomic theory, and Sir Humphry Davy (17781829); George Stephenson (17811848), inventor of the locomotive steam engine; Michael Faraday (17911867), a chemist and physicist noted for his experiments in electricity; Scottish-born geologist Sir Charles Lyell (17971875), the father of modern geology; Charles Darwin (180982), the great naturalist who advanced the theory of evolution; James Prescott Joule (181889), a physicist who studied heat and electrical energy; Thomas Henry Huxley (182595), a biologist who championed Darwin's theory; James Clerk Maxwell (183179), the Scottish-born physicist who developed the hypothesis that light and electromagnetism are fundamentally of the same nature; Sir Alexander Fleming (18811955), bacteriologist, who received the 1945 Nobel Prize for medicine for the discovery of penicillin in 1928; and Francis Harry Compton Crick (19162004) and Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins (New Zealand, 19162004), two of the three winners of the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their research into the structure of the DNA molecule.

Literature and the Arts

Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?1400) wrote the Canterbury Tales and other works that marked the height of medieval English poetry. Other major medieval poets were John Gower (1325?1408) and William Langland (1332?1400?). William Caxton (142291) was the first English printer. Sir Thomas Malory (fl.1470) derived from French and earlier English sources the English prose epic traditionally known as Morte d'Arthur. Two religious reformers who translated the Bible into English, making it accessible to the common people, were John Wycliffe (1320?84), who made the first complete translation, and William Tyndale (1492?1536), who made the first translation from the original languages instead of Latin.

During the reign of Elizabeth I, England's golden age, emerged the dramatist and poet William Shakespeare (15641616), a giant of English and world literature, and a galaxy of other fine poets and playwrights. Among them were Edmund Spenser (1552?99), Irish-born author of the Faerie Queene; the poet and soldier Sir Philip Sidney (155486); and the dramatists Christopher Marlowe (156493) and Ben Jonson (15721637). Outstanding writers of the Stuart period include the philosopher, scientist, and essayist Francis Bacon (15611626), first Baron Verulam Viscount St. Albans; John Donne (15721631), the greatest of the metaphysical poets; the lyric poet Robert Herrick (15911674); John Milton (160874), author of Paradise Lost and other poems and political essays; John Bunyan (162888), who created the classic allegory Pilgrim's Progress; and the poet, playwright, and critic John Dryden (16311700). The greatest Restoration dramatists were William Wycherley (16401716) and William Congreve (16701729). Two authors of famous diaries mirroring the society of their time were John Evelyn (16201706) and Samuel Pepys (16331703).

Distinguished writers of the 18th century include the Irish-born satirist Jonathan Swift (16671745), author of Gulliver's Travels; the essayists Joseph Addison (16721719) and Sir Richard Steele (16721729), whose journals were the prototypes of modern magazines; the poets Alexander Pope (16881744) and Thomas Gray (171671); the critic, biographer, and lexicographer Samuel Johnson (170984); and the Irish-born playwrights Oliver Goldsmith (1730?74), also a poet and novelist, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan (17511816). The poet and artist William Blake (17571827) worked in a unique mystical vein.

The English Romantic movement produced a group of major poets, including William Wordsworth (17701850); Samuel Taylor Coleridge (17721834); George Noel Gordon Byron, sixth Lord Byron (17881824); Percy Bysshe Shelley (17921822); andJohn Keats (17951821). Victorian poets of note included Alfred, Lord Tennyson (180992); Elizabeth Barrett Browning (180661); her husband, Robert Browning (181289); Dante Gabriel Rossetti (182282); his sister, Christina Georgina Rossetti (183094); Algernon Charles Swinburne (18371909); and Gerard Manley Hopkins (184489). Edward FitzGerald (180983) is famous for his free translations of Omar Khayyam's Rubáiyát. Matthew Arnold (182288) was a noted poet and critic. Other prominent critics and essayists include Charles Lamb (17751834), William Hazlitt (17781830), Thomas De Quincey (17851859), John Ruskin (18191900), Leslie Stephen (18321904), and William Morris (183496). Thomas Babington Macaulay (18001859) was a distinguished statesman, essayist, and historian. John Henry Cardinal Newman (180190) was an outstanding Roman Catholic theologian. Irish-born Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (18541900) was famous as a playwright, novelist, poet, and wit.

Major poets of the 20th century include Alfred Edward Housman (18591936); Walter John de la Mare (18731956); Dame Edith Sitwell (18871964); US-born Thomas Stearns Eliot (18881965), winner of the Nobel Prize in 1949; Wystan Hugh Auden (190773); Welsh-born Dylan Thomas (191453); Philip Larkin (192285); and Ted Hughes (193098). Prominent critics include Frank Raymond Leavis (18951978) and Sir William Empson (190684).

The English novel's distinguished history began with Daniel Defoe (16601731), Samuel Richardson (16891761), Henry Fielding (170754), and Laurence Sterne (171368). It was carried forward in the 19th century by Jane Austen (17751817), William Makepeace Thackeray (181163), Charles Dickens (181270), Charles Reade (181484), Anthony Trollope (181582), the Brontë SistersCharlotte (181655) and Emily (181848)George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans, 181980), George Meredith (18281909), Samuel Butler (18351902), and Thomas Hardy (18401928), who was also a poet. The mathematician Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 183298) became world-famous for two children's books, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Rudyard Kipling (18651936), author of novels, stories, and poems, received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (18591930) is known throughout the world as the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

Twentieth-century fiction writers of note include the Polishborn Joseph Conrad (Teodor Józef Konrad Korzeniowski, 18571924); Herbert George Wells (18661946), who was also a popular historian and a social reformer; Arnold Bennett (18671931); John Galsworthy (18671933), also a playwright, who received the Nobel Prize in 1932; William Somerset Maugham (18741965), also a playwright; Edward Morgan Forster (18791970); Virginia Woolf (18821941); David Herbert Lawrence (18851930); Joyce Cary (18881957); Katherine Mansfield (b.New Zealand, 18881923); Dame Agatha Christie (18811976), also a playwright; Dame Ivy Compton-Burnett (18921969); Dame Rebecca West (b.Ireland, 18921983), also known for her political writings and as an active feminist; Aldous Huxley (18941963); John Boynton Priestley (18941984), also a playwright; Irish-born Robert Ranke Graves (18951985), also a poet, novelist, scholar, and critic; George Orwell (Eric Blair, 190350), also a journalist and essayist; Evelyn Waugh (190366); Graham Greene (190491); Anthony Dymoke Powell (19052000); Henry Green (Henry Vincent Yorke, 190574); Charles Percy Snow (Baron Snow, 190580), also an essayist and a physicist; William Golding (191193), Nobel Prize winner in 1983; Lawrence George Durrell (b.India, 191290); Anthony Burgess (191793); Doris Lessing (b.Iran, 1919); John Le Carré (David John Moore Cornwell, b.1931), and Ian McEwan (b.1948). The dominant literary figure of the 20th century was George Bernard Shaw (18561950), Dublin-born playwright, essayist, critic, and wit. Sir Kingsley William Amis (19221995) was a novelist, poet, critic, and teacher; his son Martin Amis (b.1949) became a novelist as well. Dame Antonia Susan "A.S." Byatt (b.1936) has been hailed by some as one of the great postmodern novelists in England. Byatt's younger sister Margaret Drabble (b.1939) is a novelist as well. Fay Weldon (b.1931) is a novelist, short story writer, playwright and essayist whose work has been associated with feminism. Hanif Kureishi (b.1954) is a Pakistani-British playwright, author, and director. Kazuo Ishiguro (b.1954) is a British author of Japanese origin. Joanne "J.K." Rowling (b.1965) is most famous as author of the Harry Potter fantasy series. Zadie Smith (b.1975) has been celebrated as one of Britain's most talented young authors. The playwright-composer-lyricist Sir Noel Coward (18991973) directed and starred in many of his sophisticated comedies. Harold Pinter (b.1930) has been a highly influential playwright; he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2005.

Actors and Actresses

The British stage tradition dates back to Richard Burbage (d.1619), the greatest actor of Shakespeare's time, and Edmund Kean (17871833), the greatest tragedian of the Romantic era. Luminaries of the modern theater are Dame Ellen Alicia Terry (18481928), Dame Sybil Thorndike (18821976), Dame Edith Evans (18881976), Sir Ralph Richardson (190283), Sir John Gielgud (19042000), Laurence Olivier (Baron Olivier of Brighton, 19071989), Sir Michael Redgrave (190885), and Derek George Jacobi (b.1938). Prominent stage directors are Peter Stephen Paul Brook (b.1925) and Sir Peter Reginald Frederick Hall (b.1930). Major contributors to the cinema have included the comic actor and director Charlie (Sir Charles Spencer) Chaplin (18891977); the directors Sir Alexander Korda (Sandor Corda, b.Hungary, 18931956), Sir Alfred Hitchcock (18991980), Sir Carol Reed (190676), Sir David Lean (190891), Sir Richard Attenborough (b.1923), and Stephen Frears (b.1941); and actors Cary Grant (Archibald Alexander Leach, 190486), Sir Alec Guinness (19142000), Deborah Kerr (b.1921), Welsh-born Richard Burton (192584), Belgian-born Audrey Hepburn (19291993), Irish-born Peter O'Toole (b.1932), Dame Elizabeth Taylor (b.1932), Dame Maggie Natalie Smith (b.1934), Dame Judi Dench (b.1934), Vanessa Redgrave (b.1937), Glenda Jackson (b.1936), Jacqueline Bisset (b.1944), Sir Michael Caine (b.1933), Albert Finney (b.1936), Ralph Fiennes (b.1962), Miranda Richardson (b.1958), Rachel Weisz (b.1971), Tilda Swinton (b.1960), and Kate Winslet (b.1975).


Great English architects were Inigo Jones (15731652) and Sir Christopher Wren (16321723). Famous artists include William Hogarth (16971764), Sir Joshua Reynolds (172392), Thomas Gainsborough (172788), Joseph Mallord William Turner (17751851), John Constable (17761837), the illustrator Aubrey Beardsley (187298), Graham Sutherland (190380), Francis Bacon (b.Ireland, 191092), and David Hockney (b.1937). Roger Eliot Fry (18661934) and Kenneth Mackenzie Clark (Lord Clark, 190383) were influential art critics. Sir Jacob Epstein (b.US, 18801959), Henry Moore (18981986), and Dame Barbara Hepworth (190375) are world-famous British sculptors. The most famous British potter was Josiah Wedgwood (173095).


English composers of note include John Dunstable (1370?1453), whose works exerted a profound influence on continental musicians; William Byrd (15431623) and Orlando Gibbons (15831625), who were proficient in both sacred and secular music; the great lutenist and songwriter John Dowland (15631626); the madrigalists John Wilbye (15741638) and Thomas Weelkes (1575?1623); Henry Purcell (1659?95), a brilliant creator of vocal and chamber works; German-born George Frederick Handel (Georg Friedrich Händel, 16851759), a master of baroque operas, oratorios, and concerti; and Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (18421900), whose musical settings of the librettos of Sir William Schwenk Gilbert (18361911) are among the most popular comic operas of all time. Significant 20th-century figures include Sir Edward Elgar (18571934), Frederick Delius (18621934), Ralph Vaughan Williams (18721958), Sir William Walton (190283), Sir Michael Kemp Tippett (190598), Edward Benjamin Britten (Baron Britten, 191376), Peter Maxwell Davies (b.1934), and, in popular music, John Winston Lennon (194080) and James Paul McCartney (b.1942) of the Beatles. Notable performers include pianists Dame Myra Hess (18901965) and Sir Clifford Curzon (190782), violinist Sir Yehudi Menuhin (19161999), guitaristlutenist Julian Bream (b.1933), singers Sir Peter Pears (191086) and Dame Janet Baker (b.1933), and conductors Sir Thomas Beecham (18791961), Sir Adrian Boult (18891983), Sir John Barbirolli (18991970), Sir Georg Solti (b.Hungary, 19121997), and Sir Colin Davis (b.1927).


Notable British athletes include Sir Roger Bannister (b.1929), who on 6 May 1954 became the first person to run a mile in under four minutes; golfer Tony Jacklin (b.1944), winner of the British Open in 1969 and the US Open in 1970; three-time world champion John Young "Jackie" Stewart (b.1939), a Scottish race-car driver; and the yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester (190172), winner of the first single-handed transatlantic race (1970) and the first sailor to make a solo circumnavigation of the globe (196667). Tennis player Sarah Virginia Wade (b.1945) won three Grand Slam singles titles and five Grand Slam doubles titles; she is particularly remembered for winning the women's singles title at Wimbledon in the championship's centenary year in 1977.

Natives of Scotland and Wales

Duncan I (r.103440) was the first ruler of the historical kingdom of Scotland. Macbeth (r.104057), who killed Duncan and seized the throne, furnished the subject of one of Shakespeare's greatest plays. Margaret (d.1093), Duncan's daughter-in-law, reformed the Church, won fame for piety and charity, and was made a saint. William Wallace (1272?1306) led a rebellion against the English occupation. Robert the Bruce (12741329), ruler of Scotland (130629), won its independence from England. Mary, Queen of Scots (Mary Stuart, 154287), a romantic historical figure, is the subject of many plays and novels. Her son James VI (15661625) became England's King James I.

Before the union with England, outstanding poets writing in Scottish include Robert Henryson (1425?1500?), William Dunbar (1460?1520?), Gavin Douglas (14741522), and Sir David Lindsay (1490?1555). One of the finest Scottish poets was William Drummond (15851649). Sir Thomas Urquhart (161160) produced a noted translation of Rabelais. John Knox (1514?72) was the founder of Presbyterianism. David Hume (171176) was an outstanding philosopher and historian. Economist and philosopher Adam Smith (172390) influenced the development of world economy and politics. James Boswell (174095) wrote the brilliant Life of Samuel Johnson. The 18th century produced several important poets, notably Allan Ramsay (16861758), James Thomson (170048), James Macpherson (173696), and the national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns (175996). A major 19th-century essayist and social critic was Thomas Carlyle (17951881). Scottish novelists of prominence include Tobias George Smollett (172171); Sir Walter Scott (17711832); Robert Louis Stevenson (185094), also a poet; John Buchan, first Lord Tweedsmuir (18751940); and Sir James Matthew Barrie (18601937), who also wrote popular plays.

Distinguished figures who were active primarily in Wales include the 6th-century monk Dewi (d.588?), who became St. David, the patron saint of Wales; Rhodri the Great (84477), who attained rule over most of Wales and founded two great ruling houses; Howel the Good (Hywel Dda, 91050), whose reformed legal code became the standard of Welsh law for centuries; the Lord Rhys ap Gruffydd (115597), ruler of southern Wales, who founded the national Eisteddfod; Dafydd ap Gwilym (fl.134070), a remarkable poet; and Owen Glendower (Owain ap Gruffydd, 1359?1416), the national hero of Wales, who led a rebellion against English rule. Bishop William Morgan (1541?1604) made a Welsh translation of the Bible which, with revisions, is still in use. Among literary figures are Ellis Wynne (16711734), Daniel Owen (183695), and Sir Owen Morgan Edwards (18581920).

Two natives of Northern IrelandBetty Williams (b.1943), a Protestant, and Mairead Corrigan (b.1944), a Roman Catholicreceived the Nobel Peace Prize (awarded in 1977) for their leadership of a peace movement in Ulster.


British overseas dependencies include the British Indian Ocean Territory and St. Helena (described in the Africa volume under UK African Dependencies); and Bermuda, the British Antarctic Territory, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, The Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat (described in the Americas volume under UK American Dependencies).


The colony of Gibraltar (5.83 sq km/2.25 sq mi in area), the smallest UK dependency, is a narrow peninsula connected to the south-west coast of Spain. From a low, sandy plain in the north, it rises sharply in the 430-m (1,400-ft) Rock of Gibraltar, a shrub-covered mass of limestone, with huge caves. Gibraltar has a pleasantly temperate climate, except for occasional hot summers. Average annual rainfall is 89 cm (35 in). There is a rainy season from December to May. The resident civilian population, almost entirely of European origin, was estimated at 27,714 in mid-2002. Gibraltar is an important port of call for cargo and passenger ships. There is a naval base at the northeast gate of the Strait of Gibraltar and a military airfield that is used by private companies. Telegraph, radio, and television are privately operated. The telephone system is government owned.

Known as Calpe in ancient times, Gibraltar was successively occupied by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, and Visigoths. Its strategic value was recognized early. In ad 711, it was captured by Moors under Tariq, and since then it has been known as Jabal Tariq or Gibraltar. It remained in Moor hands, except for short periods, until Spain took it in 1462. In 1704, a combined EnglishDutch fleet captured Gibraltar, and it was officially transferred to Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Since 1964, Spain has tried to negotiate the return of Gibraltar to Spanish control. However, in a referendum held in 1967, Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly (12,138 to 44) to retain their link with Britain. Since then, Spain has continued to raise the issue at the UN and put direct pressure on the Gibraltarians by closing the land frontier between the peninsula and the Spanish mainland and suspending the ferry service between Gibraltar and Algeciras; the border was reopened to limited pedestrian traffic in December 1982 and fully reopened in February 1985.

Under the 1969 constitution, Gibraltar is governed by a House of Assembly with 18 members, 15 of whom are elected by popular vote. The governor (who is also commander of the fortress) retains direct responsibility for defense and external affairs and can intervene in domestic affairs.

Gibraltar was once largely dependent on British subsidies, but in the late 1990s had made the transition to private sector industry. Tourism (with about six million visitors annually), reexports (largely fuel for shipping), shipping services, and duties on consumer goods contribute to the economy. Local industries are tobacco and coffee processing. The Gibraltar pound is at par with the British pound. The financial sector accounts for about 15% of GDP. Exports in 1998 (mainly reexports of petroleum and petroleum products) totaled an estimated us$81.1 million, and imports us$492 million. There is an income tax and an estate duty.

Illiteracy is negligible. Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 15. There are 12 primary schools, two single-sex comprehensive secondary schools, and the College of Further Education. The armed forces have their own schools; attendance by civilian children is available. Language spoken at home include Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, but the language of business and schools is English. The colony has a serious housing shortage.

Pitcairn Island

Pitcairn is a mountainous island of volcanic origin about 4.5 sq km (1.75 sq mi) in area, in the South Pacific at 25°4 s and 130°6w. Three smaller islands (Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno) associated with Pitcairn are uninhabited. Pitcairn Island was discovered in 1767 by the British and settled in 1790 by H.M.S. Bounty mutineers and the Polynesian women who accompanied them from Tahiti. The population, mainly descendants of the Bounty mutineers, after reaching a peak of 233 in 1937, decreased to 120 in 1962 and to about 52 in 1992 to 47 in 2002. Most of the younger members of the community have migrated to New Zealand. The climate is warm, with very little change throughout the year.

There is one village, Adamstown. Pitcairn is administered, together with the three other small islands, as a UK colony by the UK high commissioner in New Zealand. The local government consists of an island magistrate and a 10-member Island Council. Six of the Council's members are elected. New Zealand dollars (nz$) are used locally; nz$1 = us$0.5132 (or us$1 = nz$1.9486). There is no port or harbor; goods from ships are conveyed ashore in longboats. Cargo ships plying the route between Panama and New Zealand call periodically.

The main occupation is subsistence agriculture. A small surplus of fresh fruit and vegetables is sold to passing ships. Fish are abundant. Imports, mainly food, come from New Zealand. Fruit, woven baskets, carved curios, and stamps are sold to ships' passengers.


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United Kingdom

views updated Jun 11 2018


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Major Cities:
London, Belfast, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Cardiff

Other Cities:
Aberdeen, Armagh, Bristol, Coventry, Dover, Londonderry, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Newry, Nottingham, Plymouth, Portsmouth, St. Andrews, Sheffield, Southampton, Swansea


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated May 1996. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


The UNITED KINGDOM of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch. Its origins and traditions are found in each of its four component partsEngland, Scotland, Wales, and the six counties which occupy the northeast section of Ireland. England was first unified under a Saxon king in the ninth century. Wales eventually became part of that kingdom, as did Ireland before the end of the 13th century. In 1603, James I of England, who also ruled as James VI of Scotland, united the English and Scottish dynasties. In 1707, the Treaty for the Union of England and Scotland provided that the two countries "should be forever united into one kingdom." One parliament (the Parliament of Great Britain) served as the supreme authority in both countries.

In 1801, the Act for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland, joining the two parliaments, established the present-day U.K. In 1922, however, the 26 counties of southern Ireland became a self-governing, independent entity (the Republic of Ireland, or Eire).



London is one of the largest cities in Europe, the U.K.'s seat of government, and the center of commerce, education, and arts. Like all cities, London attracts people of all backgrounds who come for many reasons, both to visit and to live. As a city which has been preeminent for centuries, it is full of a rich and varied history.

The name London has no specific meaning. It was originally used to describe the city of London proper, still referred to as "the City," and now the financial and banking center of London. Today, the heart of the city consists of "the City" and the Borough of Westminster, also known commonly as the "West End." With the steady growth of the capital since the Middle Ages, surrounding districts were absorbed into the huge metropolis of today. The latest census (1994) showed that London had a population of nearly 7 million in an area of 157,944 hectares.

Greater London actually consists of 32 semi-independent boroughs (plus "the City"). Each has dozens of business, residential, and cultural centers of its own. Greater London has followed extensive coordinated post-war reconstruction programs, including successful intensive efforts to clean facades of famous surviving buildings.


London markets have a large selection of foods. Out-of-season fruits and vegetables are imported from around the world, and because of the diverse foreign community in London, ingredients for cuisines from nearly anywhere in the world can be found here. Supermarkets stock fresh, frozen, and packaged goods, nearly always at prices substantially higher than those in the U.S. British foods, eating habits, kitchen equipment, and terminology are different from U.S. counterparts.


Mediumweight fall and winter clothing is needed about 9 months of the year. Lightweight clothing is worn in summer. Be prepared for rain and cool weather at whatever time of year you arrive, as even summer has many cool days.

London department stores and specialty shops offer ready-made clothing for all family members in most quality ranges, but clothing costs considerably more than in the U.S., except during the January sales. The fashionable shopping districts offer a full range of designs from conservative to avant-garde.

Shoes in narrow and wide sizes are hard to find, particularly men's sizes larger than 12. Other sizes are available in many styles and makes but are expensive. People walk a good deal in London. Good walking shoes are essential.

Attire in London for office, theater, shopping, sporting events, and social occasions is in darker colors and more conservative styles than in the U.S. Casual attire often means a coat and tie. Instructions to wear "lounge suit," "day dress," "town coat," "tenue de ville," "informal," and "business suit," indicate the requirement for dark business suits for men and cocktail dresses for women. Formal, black tie, dinner jacket, tuxedo, and smoking jacket mean long gowns for women (or short, dressy gowns, depending on current fashion) and black tie for men.

Several shops in London rent formal wear. They stock appropriate attire for every formal occasion, from the Queen's Garden Party and Derby Races to opening nights at the theater.

Men: Collar sizes are the same as in the U.S., but it is hard to find long-sleeved shirts in larger collar sizes.

Women: Women in London usually wear long dresses or skirts for evening affairs, including informal receptions, and cocktail and dinner parties.

Supplies and Services

Almost anything is available from London's plentiful shops and stores. Stores compare favorably with those found in large U.S. cities. Household items, cosmetics, and toiletries of most varieties are available. Drugstores carry a complete range of medicines, medical preparations, and health aids. All prices are high.

Neighborhood shopping areas are scattered throughout greater London. Some American-type shopping malls opened in the 1980s. Virtually all shopping areas (the High Streets) offer common services: laundry and dry-cleaning, hair-dressers and barbers, gas stations, drugstores (chemists), hardware stores (iron mongers), travel and ticket agencies, restaurants, flowers hops, gifts hops, banks, libraries, newsstands (news agents), book-shops, jewelers, and the ever-present pubs, to mention a few.

Religious Activities

All major religions are represented in London. The Church of England is the established church, but various Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and other faiths have houses of worship in the London area. The American Church in London (Protestant) offers independent, interdenominational services specifically intended for Americans resident in London. It has Sunday school classes, fellowship meetings, Bible study, and youth groups. The Saturday Times lists the times of services for the following Sunday.


The London area has several schools offering American-curriculum instruction from nursery school through high school.

Parents must decide whether to keep their children in the U.S. system or introduce them into the British or international systems. It is generally agreed that the British educational system is good for children in their early years, when they can adapt easily, but that older children will find the adjustment more difficult.

Three of the most widely recognized national curriculums are the U.K. General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSEs) and "A" levels, the U.S. Graduation Diploma, and the International Baccalaureate (IB). There are criticisms of all three systems. The downside of the British curriculum is that it forces students to specialize quite early in their education. The opposite is said of the Graduation Diploma or the IB.

The British GCSE curriculum allows for specialization at age 16, when students choose two or three subjects for study up to Advanced Level ("A" level). The next 2 years of intensive study are viewed as preparation for university work.

The IB is administered by International Baccalaureate Offices in Geneva and London. There is a panel of examiners working together from many countries and cultures. The baccalaureate fulfills university entrance requirements in more than 40 countries. This qualification is aimed at providing a broad education with sufficient flexibility of subject choice to suit individual interests and abilities. Universities all over the world are coming to respect the IB, and, in the U.S., an IB candidate is sometimes eligible to go straight into the second year of a degree course.

It is wise to start considering schools as soon as you know you are coming to London. You might want to write directly to the school of your choice. They will send you a registration packet. If you have selected a school, contact the school and ask to preregister your child until you can complete and return the registration packet.

Following are some of the American and international schools used most often by American families, because of their good academic standards and their proximity to neighborhoods where Americans live:

American School in London: ASL is a private, coeducational day school, accredited in the U.S., offering instruction from nursery school through grade 12. The school is located in central London. There is a school bus service, and public transportation is good. No school uniform is required. Entrance requirements include school records for 3 1/2 years, forms of recommendation, and a candidate questionnaire for grades 5 to 12. Senior-year applicants require SAT or PSAT scores. Extracurricular activities are music, drama, and sports.

American School in London
2-8 Loudoun Road
London NW8 ONP
Tel. 44 171 722-0101

The American Community School: ACS is a private, coeducational day school which provides a progressive education from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 for children of all nationalities using an American curriculum. There are two geographically distinct campuses: one northwest of London, one southwest. Entrance requirements include an interview, previous school records, and testing for high school students. The IB is offered. Extracurricular activities include drama, music, sports, and crafts.

American Community School-Surrey Campus-Heywood
Portsmouth Road
Cobham, Surrey KT11 1BL
Tel. 44 932 67251

American Community School-Middlesex Campus
Hillingdon Court
Vine Lane
Uxbridge, Middlesex UB10 OBG
Tel. 44 0895 59771

Marymount International School: Marymount is a day and boarding school for girls in grades 7 to 12. It is one of a group of European Marymount Schools established by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary, a Roman Catholic foundation. It is accredited in the U.S. The international student body represents many religious affiliations. Students follow the American curriculum until age 16 when they may choose the IB rather than the high school diploma. Entrance requirements include previous school records, character and social references, and an interview. Extracurricular activities are educational tours, music, drama, and sports. Bus service is available for day students.

Marymount School London
George Road
Kingston Upon Thames
Surrey KT2 7PE
Tel. 44 181 949-0571

The American School in Switzerland, England: TASIS schools are found in Switzerland, Greece, France, and England. TASIS England is a coeducational boarding and country day school for children in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. It is accredited in the U.S. Boarders attend from grades 7 to 12. The curriculum followed is American. Entrance requirements include three teacher recommendations, official transcript, and an interview, unless distance prohibits that. Extracurricular activities are drama, music, clubs, and field trips.

TASIS England American School
Coldharbour Lane
Thorpe, Surrey TW20 8TE
Tel. 44 932 565252

SouthbankThe American International School: Southbank is a coeducational day school for students in grades 6 to 13. The school designs an individual study program for each pupil based upon previous education, needs, interests, and potential. Pupils can study for GCSE, the high school diploma, or the IB. High priority is given to the acquisition of proficiency in a second language. The school is located north of Holland Park in London's West End, well served by public transportation. Entrance requirements include an interview, previous school records, and a letter of recommendation. Extracurricular activities are music, drama, travel, and sports.

SouthbankThe America International School
36-38 Kensington Park Road
London W11 3BU
Tel. 44 171 229-8230

London Central High School: London Central is a Department of Defense School (DoDDS), 35 miles northwest of central London. It is accredited in the U.S., and offers a program for grades 7 to 12. It has advanced placement courses, study enrichment courses, and programs for somewhat handicapped students. Entrance requirements include previous school records and a health certificate. Extracurricular activities include music, theater, publications, and student council.

London Central High School
High Wycombe Air Station
Daws Hill Lane
Tel. 44 494 455188

West Ruislip DOD Elementary School: This DoDDS school for children in kindergarten through grade 6 is about 13 miles northwest of central London. There are special education and hearing-impaired programs. There are two bus pickup points for children living in central London. Entrance requirements include previous school records.

West Ruislip DOD Elementary School
RAF West Ruislip
Ickenham Road
Ruislip HA4 7DS
Tel. 44 8956 32870

State-operated schools: With few exceptions, State secondary schools provide a general education to the age of 16 under the system known as "comprehensive" education. Some schools have the facility to provide advanced education to age 18.

The large size of most state secondary schools makes it possible to offer many combinations of subjects; the disadvantage is that your child's special needs may be overlooked. The British system is not well designed to accommodate transfers between schools, much less between countries. Courses and programs vary from school to school, and the newcomer must catch up on missed work.

For information on state schools, contact:

Department of Education
Sanctuary Building
Great Smith Street
Tel. 44 171 925-5000

You must be able to tell them where you are living so they can give you information on schools in your area.

Private Schools: These schools usually offer only the most academic line of education and select those students who are likely to succeed. Be prepared for a competitive entrance process. Private schools (called public schools in the U.K.) are generally smaller than state schools.

Because of the large number of private schools in the London area, you are urged to contact one of the following educational consultants for more specific information:

Gabbitas Thring Educational
Trust, Ltd.
Broughton House
6 Sackville Street
Piccadilly, London W1X 2BR
Tel. 44 171 734-0601

Independent Schools Information Service (ISIS)
26 Buckingham Gate
London SW1E 6AJ
Tel. 44 171 222-7274 or 222-7353

For information on Catholic state schools, contact:

The Catholic Education Service
41 Cromwell Road
London SW7
Tel. 44 171 584-7491

Special Educational Opportunities

Each London Borough council offers a comprehensive selection of part-time, day, and evening courses for adults at locations throughout the city. The cost is minimal, and the selection is endless. Registration is in September, but places are sometimes available later in the year. The publication, Floodlight, with a full listing of courses, is on sale in bookstores and news agents in August. Local libraries have copies. There are innumerable courses on cooking, flower arranging, fine arts, and nearly anything else of interest.

Many American colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate programs here. Quality of programs varies, and costs range from moderate to expensive. Transfer of credits to and from other institutions can be a major problem. It is highly recommended that families seeking university education investigate costs, programs, and transferability before making their decisions.

The Educational Advisory Service of the Fulbright Commission, at 62 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LS, publishes a list of American colleges and universities in the U.K. They also have the largest collection of U.S. university/college catalogs, and have three full-time advisers.


You can participate in virtually every popular sport in London, outdoors and indoors, team and individual. Borough-run facilities are free or very inexpensive.

Spectators can enjoy both professional and amateur games year round. The annual Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race brings thousands to the footpaths along the Thames. The Henley Regatta, held in July, is host to rowing entries from all over the world. Horse lovers find pleasure at the major races of the yearEpsom Downs, Ascot, and Derby.

The most popular sports are soccer and rugby in winter, cricket and tennis in summer, and horse and golf events year round. TV coverage of these events is extensive. Tennis at Wimbledon, cricket at Lord's, football (soccer) at Wembley, and dog shows at Olympia are a few of the highlights of a sports program that is full, continuous, and of international caliber.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

London is well known as a sightseer's paradise. Whatever personal interests you have, London's museums, art galleries, libraries, historic places, pageantry, and parks are bound to fulfill them. Sightseers can explore the city by bus, on foot, and by boat on the Thames. A full calendar of daily events is available in several weekly publications.


Culturally, London is one of the richest cities on Earth. It has symphony orchestras, chamber music ensembles, and pop and rock concerts. The theater in London is unrivaled. World-famous British, American, and international artists are often on stage. Productions routinely move from Broadway to London and vice versa. There are year-round offerings of opera, ballet, and symphonic music at the Royal Opera House, the Sadler's Wells Hall, the Barbican and South Bank Centers, and the Royal Festival Hall. In addition to top-quality resident companies, famous continental and American groups often visit.

Central London offers a wide range of first-run films at theaters, film clubs, and art theaters. Going out to the movies is as easy and informal as in the U.S.

Restaurants, cafes, and tearooms of every size and price range abound here. Food ranges from fast food fare to exclusive English and international cuisine. Pubs and afternoon tea are two English traditions that should not be missed.

Museums and art galleries in London contain some of the most comprehensive collections of objects of artistic, archeological, scientific, historical, and general interest ever to exist in one city. The most notable are the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, National Gallery, Tate Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Imperial War Museum, Museum of London, Wallace Collection, British Museum of Natural History, Geological Museum, and Science Museum.

The British seem to go out of their way to provide entertainment for children. This is especially true during summer and at Christmas. Some of the popular outings are special theater productions, pantomimes and puppet shows, the zoo, concerts, and film festivals.

Social Activities

The American Club, composed of American and British business representatives, has good eating facilities. It sponsors activities such as special film showings, golf tournaments, celebrations of American national holidays, entertainment of distinguished visitors, and the promotion of fellowship between its members and the local community. The American Women's Club provides social and community service activities.

Although we share a common language and a special relationship with Great Britain, it is wise to remember that it is still a foreign country. To expect attitudes and conventions to be the same as those in the U.S. will make the transition to life in Britain frustrating. It is tempting to feel that the "settling in" process will be faster and easier in Britain than in other countries, but most people find it takes just as long as in other countries.

Private social and political clubs are a prominent social feature. Many have flourished for longer than 100 years. Largely frequented for their social advantages, all have their own premises, including licensed restaurants. Entrance fees and subscriptions vary. Most men's and women's clubs are exclusive, but members can entertain friends in a comfortable atmosphere.

The English Speaking Union is open to men and women who are citizens of the U.S. or Commonwealth countries. It has a dining room and offers a range of activities.

Focus Information Services, founded in 1982 by a group of American women familiar with international relocation, aids foreigners in adapting quickly to life in the U.K. They offer guidance on education and career opportunities, and provide foreigners with a chance to meet people of similar interests. There is a membership fee for seminars, but anyone may phone for general help.


Northern Ireland is a province of the U.K., created by the partition of Ireland in 1921. About the size of Connecticut, it has about 1.7 million peoplesome 297,000 in Belfast.

Although part of the U.K., Northern Ireland has its own distinct identity, a product of its history and the mixing of Irish, Scottish, and English traditions. Its beautiful rolling green countrysideunderpopulated by European standardsis dotted with historic monuments, from stone-age tombs to great 19th-century houses. Right in the middle is Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles. Northern Ireland has strong ties with the U.S. It claims 13 U.S. Presidents with ties to the province, and many families have relatives living in the U.S. Consular presence dates back to 1796. More than 24 U.S. manufacturing companies are located in the province, employing 10% of the industrial workforce.

Belfast was one of the U.K.'s first great industrial cities, making its reputation in the 19th century on shipbuilding, linen, and textiles. It is beautifully situated in the Valley of the River Lagan, which flows into a long bay called Belfast Lough, and is surrounded by hills. The city's name derives from two Gaelic words: "beal," a river mouth, and "fierste," hurry or haste.

The central part of the city was badly affected by the violence of the 1970s, but in recent years buildings have been restored, shopping greatly improved, and many new restaurants opened. The center of Belfast has been turned into a pedestrian mall, which draws crowds of shoppers. Although most of the city's substandard housing has been replaced by attractive public housing, several parts of the city are blighted by the economic and security effects of the "The Troubles." The rest of Belfast and its tranquil suburbs seem remote from the violence, but security forces are often evident. Generally, positive signs of progress can be seen and citizens have a resilient "business-as-usual" attitude. Political events in 1994 and 1995 have fostered much hope for resolving "The Troubles."

Northern Ireland has a temperate oceanic climate similar to that of the Pacific Northwest, but seasonal changes are less pronounced. Weather is often overcast and rainy (relieved by "sunny intervals"). It must be noted that most of the rain is merely a light mist. Because of Belfast's northern latitude, the number of daylight hours varies greatly between summer (about 18 hours in June) and winter (about 8 hours in December). The sunniest weather is in May and June. Light snow falls occasionally in January and February, but temperatures seldom remain below freezing for more than a day.


It is not necessary to bring anything except specialty foods. Daily food needs are bought primarily at one of the many local supermarkets that are well stocked with local and imported products and seasonal fresh items. A large selection of American groceries and frozen foods or reasonable substitutes are available on the local economy. Local prices are higher than in the U.S., but conveniences include a milk-man, butcher, and vegetable or egg person available for daily household delivery. Most popular brands of hard liquor, wines, liqueurs, and mixers are available at local stores. Beers (European and American) and a wide variety of American soft drinks are also available. It must be noted that the Northern Irish excel at bread making, and bakeries are varied and abundant.


Clothing styles are the same as in the U.S.; what is proper in the U.S. is acceptable in Belfast.

Men: Woolen clothing can be worn most of the year. Tropicalweight and wash-and-wear suits are seldom needed, but they may be useful on trips to southern parts of the British Isles and Europe. Ready-made or custom-made suits can be purchased both locally and in London, though not cheaply. Local suits are tailored somewhat differently than American suits and may not be to your liking. Rainwear is needed but can be purchased locally.

Women: Attractive, well-made women's clothing, very similar to American fashion, is available in Belfast. The prices are considerably higher than American-bought merchandise, but the quality is generally excellent.

Children: Children's clothing follows U.S. styles, with emphasis on casual slacks and jeans for both boys and girls. Shorts are worn by children for summer play, weather permitting. Children's dresses, slacks, and shirts are available, but prices are higher than in the U.S.

Supplies and Services

Toiletries, medical prescriptions, cosmetics, personal supplies, tobacco, and other sundry items are carried locally.

All basic services such as tailoring, dry cleaning, laundry, shoe repair, beauty shops, etc., are found in Belfast.

Religious Activities

Churches abound in Belfast. The major denominations are Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Church of Ireland (Episcopalian), and Methodist. Other faiths represented include Lutheran, Christian Scientist, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Baptist, and Jewish.


No American or international school is available in Belfast. However, numerous excellent primary and secondary level schools offer high academic standards and good extracurricular activities. Relative emphasis on subjects is not the same as in American schools, nor are transfers from one level of education to another. Tuition-free elementary and secondary schools similar to U.S. public schools are available, but Foreign Service families usually prefer to send children to preparatory or grammar (university preparatory) schools that are more like private schools in the U.S. Students who pass certain tests or who achieve high academic standards do not have to pay grammar school tuition. The school year extends from the first week in September through the end of June.

Recommended preparatory (primary) schools (ages 5-11) are:

Fullerton Preparatory School
(preparatory school for Methodist College: coeducational)
Lisburn Road
Belfast 9

Inchmarlo School
(preparatory school for the Royal
Belfast Academical Institution; boys only)
Cranmore Park
Belfast 9

Hunterhouse College (girls only)
Belfast 10

St Brides Primary School
Derryvolgie Avenue
Belfast 9

Recommended grammar (secondary) schools are:

Methodist College (coeducational)
1 Malone Road
Belfast 9

Royal Belfast Academical Institution
(boys only)
1 College Square East
Belfast 1

Richmond Lodge (girls only)
85 Malone Road
Belfast 9

Victoria College (girls only)
Cranmore Park
Belfast 9

Dominican College (girls only)
Fortwilliam Park
Belfast 15

Lagan College (integrated, coeducational)
63 Church Road

Belfast Royal Academy (coeducational)
Cliftonville Road
Belfast 14

Belfast has schools for children with special educational needs.

Preschool children under age of 4½ can be placed in a variety of programs including mother/toddler play-groups run by several of the churches (no fees); private nursery schools (parents pay fees); education and library board nursery schools or nursery classes attached to schools (like U.S. kindergartensno fees); or private play-groups (no fees).

Special Educational Opportunities

Queens University Belfast, known for its school of medicine, offers courses in most fields of study. Queens University and the Rupert Stanley College of Further Education offer a variety of adult education courses.


Belfast is an excellent city for sports enthusiasts, who can enjoy many sports inexpensively. The city environs have 10 golf clubs. Many clubs offer squash, tennis, badminton, yachting, and sailing. Several public leisure centers offer swimming and aerobics; Queens University has a complete physical education center. The country offers horseback riding; stag and fox hunts; fishing (salmon and trout); and geese, duck, snipe, and small game shooting. A few good beaches are within easy access, but the water is cold. Spectator sports include horse racing, soccer, rugby, cricket, Gaelic sports, motorcycling, and auto racing. Belfast also offers several bike and running races.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Northern Ireland offers opportunities for biking, "pony-trekking," water skiing, camping, sign posted walks and nature trails for hiking, and mountain climbing. All parts of Ireland, including the magnificent West Coast, are easily reached by car. Driving is on the left side of the road. Traveling by car is the most efficient and agreeable way of getting to see the area. The road network is good with 70 miles of motorway for those in a hurry, about 1,500 miles of dual carriageway and "A" roads, and very low traffic density. The two main motorways striking out west from Belfast skirt Lough Neah to the south (M1) and north (M2). Over 46 parks and playing field sites are currently under the control of the Belfast Parks Department. The National Trust administers several attractive historical and wilderness sites in Northern Ireland.

Belfast has a museum, castle, theaters, art galleries, antique shops, zoo, and botanical garden. The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is about 20 minutes by car from Belfast city center. One-and-a-half hours' drive from Belfast is the Ulster-American Folk Park. Air, rail, and ferry services connect Northern Ireland to Scotland, England, and Wales, though fares are high.

Accommodations (hotels, bed and breakfasts, guest houses, self-catering cottages) are plentiful and of high standard, and, whatever you are planning to do, there are several choices of places to stay, varying in price from moderate to expensive. The booklet, All The Places To Stay, published annually, lists all accommodations approved by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

Dublin, a 3-hour drive from Belfast or about 2½ hours by train, offers excellent theater, a variety of restaurants, and a cosmopolitan environment. Shopping is more varied in Dublin, especially for women's clothing, though generally more expensive.


Belfast is experiencing a cultural and culinary renaissance. The Grand Opera House and Ulster Hall attract national and international touring companies regularly, bringing opera, ballet, and theater. Frequent concerts are given by a good local symphony orchestra. Several good theater companies present plays, including those about the contemporary situation, in a number of modern theaters. The Lyric Theatre is of particular note. Each November a cultural festival, second only to Edinburgh in the U.K., brings 3 weeks of entertainment to the city. Occasional fairs and exhibitions are held at local centers. Cinemas and a film club at Queens University offer first-run and classic films. The Northern Ireland Arts Council is deeply involved in promoting a stimulating variety of arts throughout Belfast.

Many good restaurants, taverns, and cafes are common in Belfast. Some restaurants offer "pub grub" and other simple menus, while a number of French, Italian, Indian, and Chinese restaurants provide good meals at reasonable prices. Also a number of tea and coffee shops can be found.

Crafts are in abundance throughout Northern Ireland. A wide range of factories with shops offer daily tours of their works.

Social Activities

Besides those retired in Northern Ireland, fewer than 500 Americans live in the Belfast area. All are well integrated into the local community. The province has no specifically American organizations, except for the Ulster-American Woman's Club, which is quite active.

Northern Ireland people are very hospitable, and almost all areas of society are open to contact. Social life is built mainly around a private circle of friends and acquaintances and tends to develop among family, professional, club, and school lines. Social functions are similar to those found elsewhere, such as cocktail parties and dinners. You can also join any number of special-interest clubs or groups (golf, bridge, hiking, stamp collecting, etc.) or the Rotary Club.


Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The visual focal point of the city is Edinburgh Castle, which sits upon a high rocky hill in the city center. Much of the city's Georgian and Victorian architecture is carefully preserved in virtually its original appearance. The city's population of 444,000 is swollen by hundreds of thousands of visitors from all parts of the world, particularly during summer months and the Edinburgh International Festival which begins about August 15 each year and lasts 3 weeks.


The variety of food products available presents no problem to the American resident and there are a number of Safeway supermarkets in town. Food prices are about the same as in the U.S. Local meats are of good quality but generally more expensive than in the U.S. Bakery products are good and prices are reasonable. Milk is of excellent quality and perfectly safe. American baby foods are available locally.


All types of clothing are sold locally. Prices of some high-quality cotton dresses, shirts, and lingerie are the same as in the U.S. but generally of better quality. Extra-tall or large sizes can be difficult to find.

Men: Ready-made men's suits are widely available. Materials and quality are excellent.

Women: A wide range of clothing is available of both British and continental manufacture and styling. Women's suits in the medium-price range are nicely tailored and styled. Summerweight clothing is not necessary in Edinburgh, but a few items may be useful for those rare days when the temperature rises above 70°F. Medium-quality nylon hose compare favorably with American brands. Sweaters, woolen dresses, and winter coats are necessary for daytime wear and available at good prices. Since houses tend to be cooler, a type of wool heavier than in the U.S. can be useful in Edinburgh. Hats and gloves are occasionally required for formal daytime occasions. Suits are appropriate for luncheons and informal cocktail parties. Women's high-quality shoes are at least as expensive as in the U.S.

Children: Good quality clothes are available for children. Bring or buy locally warm clothing, underwear, and overshoes for preschool children. Private schools require special uniforms that must be purchased locally.

Supplies and Services

Toiletries, medicines, and other sundries commonly used for housekeeping, household repairs, and entertaining are available at local stores.

All basic services are available in Edinburgh.

Beauty shops provide service and prices comparable to those in the U.S.

Religious Activities

Most denominations common in the U.S. have places of worship in Edinburgh. The Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) is the established church. The Catholic and Episcopal Churches are also well represented. In addition, Methodist, Mormon, Christian Scientist, Baptist, and Jewish places of worship are available. Sunday school and youth fellowship groups are organized on much the same basis as in the U.S.


There is an excellent educational system operating in Edinburgh from primary through university levels. Many parents send children to day nurseries from the age of 3 until they begin the equivalent of first grade at the age of 5. Many pre-school nurseries and private day schools are available within a reasonable distance of residential districts. In addition to coeducational schools, separate schools are available for boys and girls. Private schools are generally better academically than the State (city-run) schools.

Because of the distance to most private schools, parents need to provide transportation each day or join a carpool. Edinburgh has no school bus service. Many older children take city buses to school. Fees at private schools are high, and most require pupils to wear locally purchased uniforms. Tuition does not cover lunches and outside activities.

Scottish schools place heavy stress on the three "Rs" from the time the 5-year-old begins school. At the end of the first year of school, the 5-year-old (who would have been in kindergarten in the U.S.) is expected to read, write, compose simple stories, and do double-digit addition and subtraction. With continued emphasis on basic subjects, Scottish children in junior and senior high school are usually well ahead of their American counterparts in these areas, often as much as 2 years in some subjects. Moreover, there is much earlier emphasis on mathematics, the sciences, and languages. Therefore, be prepared for a rather difficult transition period as older children work to catch up with Scottish classmates. Nevertheless, students who have done well in American schools usually do well in Scottish schools after they make the transition.

Not only the curriculum, but the entire system of education, is different in Scottish schools. A student can graduate from school at age 16. At this time, the student has had 11 years of education and completed a series of difficult exams called "O" (ordinary) levels. These exams mainly cover subjects of his or her choice. The student has specialized in these subjects and prepared for exams during the last 2 years of school. American students who have not had most of the final 2 years (ages 14 and 15) in Scottish school may find it difficult, but not impossible, to pass these exams and receive a Scottish Certificate of Education (SCE).

In Scotland, students wishing to attend a university will study another 1 or 2 years to prepare for a series of more difficult exams called "highers." Successful completion of these exams is required for entrance to all Scottish universities and are accepted by most universities in the rest of Britain. Scottish students wishing to enter universities may take a narrower series of "A" (advanced) level exams. These are the same kind of tests as those given in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and throughout the Commonwealth for students hoping to enter British universities. The "higher" exams are only given in Scotland.

Students older than 14 who arrive here may find it difficult to complete high school in a Scottish school unless they are willing to work hard. Nevertheless, American students have done very well in the local school system in the past. Entrance to private day school is by negotiation with headmasters.

The North Sea oil industry brought a large number of American families to Scotland in the 1970s, especially to the area around Aberdeen, 120 miles north of Edinburgh. Due largely to transition difficulties between American and Scottish systems of education, the American School of Aberdeen opened in 1972. It has an enrollment of 387 students, including military dependents from Edzell. It has two campuses and covers from primary grade through high school.

The American School of Edinburgh opened in September 1976 with 15 students. It now has 30-40 students at any one time, with about 30 teachers, the majority of whom are part time. The age of students ranges from 16-19 years old. It patterns itself on the American educational system, but does not have U.S. accreditation and operates mainly on a format of informal tutorials with only a few students in each class. It is, however, registered with the Scottish Education Department. Currently, no students from the U.S. attend. The school also administers standardized tests, such as the SAT for students interested in attending U.S. universities.

Special Educational Opportunities

There are 12 universities in Scotland. Three of these are in the Edinburgh metropolitan areaHeriotWatt, Napier, and Edinburgh. Edinburgh University is one of the best academic institutions in Britain.

Edinburgh University and the Lothian Regional Council offer excellent evening adult classes in a wide range of subjects including a good selection of languages. Classes are usually from October until May. Three foreign cultural officesthe French Institute, the Italian Institute, and the Danish Instituteoffer language classes in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh. Classes in Scottish traditional dancing and other folk art are held regularly in Edinburgh by the Scottish Country Dance Society.


Many fine private and public golf courses are available. The climate allows golf year round. The immediate Edinburgh area has 28 courses. Temporary memberships are available in all but the most select clubs.

Edinburgh has a number of tennis clubs and good squash courts. Several indoor swimming pools are open to the general public at nominal fees. The Meadowbank Sports Center and the Royal Commonwealth Pool were built to Olympic standards to accommodate the 1970 and 1986 Commonwealth Games. You can purchase golf clubs, fishing tackle, and other sports items locally.

The cool climate limits outdoor swimming to only a short time in summer. A number of fine beaches within easy reach of the city are suitable for picnicking, sun bathing, and swimming.

Skiing is possible around Glencoe and at Aviemore in the Cairngorms. They can be reached by car in about 3 hours and by train in about 4. Special ski trains are available when snow conditions are good. Many ski lifts operate in that area. Equipment can be rented.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Simple tourist accommodation is available in all cities and towns along main routes out of Edinburgh. Glasgow is only 1 hour away by train or car. A day trip to the Trossachs and to Loch Lomond is possible by car or tour bus. You can arrange trips with equal ease to the Borders. St. Andrews is interesting with its university and famous golf courses. It can be reached from Edinburgh during summer with ample time for lunch and a game of golf. Gleneagles, where the Scottish Open is played each year, has a world-famous (but expensive) hotel and four fine golf courses. Another pleasant weekend trip is to the area around Pitlochry, noted for its scenery and fishing. This could be coupled with a trip to Inverness and Loch Ness. A short trip to the north of Edinburgh presents a good view of the famous Firth of Forth Rail and Road Bridges. These are on the way to Dunfermline with its medieval abbey and home of Andrew Carnegie.

Many interesting castles, palaces, and homes are within a 1-day drive of Edinburgh. The price of gasoline is higher than in the U.S., but U.S. Government employees are reimbursed for the tax paid.


There is an active cultural life in Edinburgh with opera, orchestras, plays, top name artists, and exhibitions taking place throughout the year. The movie theaters show current U.S. films, and there is also a Film House showing international films.

During the Edinburgh International Festival you can see operas, leading ballet companies, symphony orchestra concerts of international caliber, and plays with outstanding casts. During the main Festival, the Fringe presents cabaret and late night musical and drama productions.

The International Film Festival features a number of first showings with leading performers present on opening night. There is also a Jazz Festival during this time in the summer.

Edinburgh boasts several excellent art museums. The Scottish National Library, Edinburgh Public Library, and two university libraries offer a wide selection of books, research materials, and an excellent music library.

Major hotels offer shows and dancing throughout the year. Other hotels and restaurants have more informal Friday and Saturday night dinner dances. During the tourist season, major hotels have regular Scottish nights. These are called Ceilidhs (pronounced "kaylee"), which include traditional Scottish dancing, singing, and music.

The city has many public houses or pubs. Some offer musical entertainment, jazz, and even country-western music. During the school year, the universities offer a wide variety of entertainment.

Social Activities

Social contact with other Americans is available through the American Women's Club of Edinburgh. A large U.S. community lives in the Aberdeen area, where there also is an American Women's Club.

The city has a reasonably active social life. Cocktail and small dinner parties are a way of life in winter. The English Speaking Union has a branch in Edinburgh which provides a focal point for association with local Scots. Also, Scottish country dance clubs teach regional dances and, at the same time, provide a means of social contact.


Birmingham lies in Warwickshire, central England, near the coal and iron deposits of the "black country." Now the second largest city in England, with a population of over 1 million, it is the chief center of hardware manufacturing and of the motor components industry. Birmingham was a market town trading in leather and wools when it was seized and burned by royalists in the civil wars. It revived at the advent of the industrial revolution, and the population grew with the expanding manufacture of metal products and guns. Birmingham's franchise came with the Reform Bill of 1832, and progressive city government has been the pattern since that time.

The city initiated a slum-clearing scheme in the 1870s, and was the first town with a municipal bank and water-supply service. After suffering heavy damage during World War II, Birmingham was extensively rebuilt. Architectural sights include the Town Hall, built in 1832-1834, and modeled after the Temple of Castor and Pollux in Rome; the Victoria Law Courts; the University of Birmingham in suburban Edgetaston; the 13th-century Church of St. Martin, which was rebuilt in 1873; the cathedrals; and some of the older markets.

Birmingham's more recent developments include the National Exhibition Centre, and the Aston Science Park, housing high-technology industries.

Culturally, Birmingham belies its reputation as a grimy industrial cityits library contains one of the world's finest Shakespearean collections, and its art museum is noted for its pre-Raphaelite holdings. There also is a museum of science and industry.


Glasgow is Scotland's largest city and principal port. Situated in Lanarkshire on the River Clyde, one of the world's chief commercial estuaries, it is a city of approximately 680,000 residents. Its many industrial companies include those for engineering, printing, chemicals, and aeronautical engines. In recent years, it also has developed as a conference site.

Glasgow was founded late in the sixth century by St. Kentigern Calso (also known as St. Mungo). It became an ecclesiastical center and seat of learning in the Middle Ages. The city grew as a port and commercial hub in the 18th and 19th centuries with the American cotton and tobacco trade. Perhaps because of its heavy concentration of industry, it is now blighted by some of the worst slums in Europe, although an urban renewal effort begun in the 1950s has had some ameliorating effect.

Glasgow's sights include St. Mungo's Cathedral (13th-century Gothic), the Institute of Fine Arts, the Burrell Collection Museum, the renowned University of Glasgow (founded in 1451), the University of Strathclyde (1964), and Glasgow Green, the oldest park in the city. The Scottish National Orchestra makes its home here, as do the Scottish Opera and the Scottish Ballet. In 1990 Glasgow was designated as a "European city of culture."


Liverpool, in Lancashire, near the mouth of the Mersey River, is England's major port for Atlantic commerce, and was once one of the great trading centers of the world. Colonized by Norsemen in the latter part of the eighth century, it received its first charter in 1207, and soon became a dispatch point for shipping men to and from Ireland, as evidenced by its now largely Irish population. Its first wet dock was completed in 1705; the city docks, on both sides of the river, today are over 38 miles long. Although known for its thriving industries, Liverpool has only recently recovered from the devastation and casualties suffered in the German bombing raids of 1940-1941. An economic downturn in the 1980s brought high unemployment to Liverpool. Recent business developments are attempting to make the city prosperous once more.

The city's outstanding building is undoubtedly the Cathedral Church of Christ, begun in 1903 but not completed until 1980. A Gothic-style structure, it is the largest church in the country and the fifth largest in the world. Among the many other important buildings are the classical St. George's Hall, Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral, Victoria Building of Liverpool University, and Philharmonic Hall. Liverpool had one of England's first public libraries, established in the mid-19th century; its Brown, Picton, and Hornby libraries now form the largest municipal central libraries in Europe.

Inhabitants of Liverpool (currently numbering 474,000) are known as "Liverpudlians." The city was once the home of the Beatles, the rock group which emerged in the early 1960s and dramatically influenced the world of modern music.


Leeds, in the lower Aire valley of Yorkshire in northern England, is the informal "capital" of the nation's industrial district, serving as a junction of rail, water, and air transportation routes. Leeds has produced woolen goods since the 14th century, and currently is the center for wholesale trade in clothing. Other industries here include engineering and chemical firms, and manufacturers of locomotives, heavy machinery, farm implements, airplane parts, furniture, and leather goods.

Leeds was incorporated in 1626 and became a city in 1893. Its current population is 724,000.

Notable among the city's landmarks are the parish church of St. Peter's; 17th-century St. John's Church; the Cathedral of St. Anne; the nearby Cistercian house, Kirkstall Abbey, dating to 1152; Adel Church, a Norman structure; and the University of Leeds, founded in 1904. Another interesting building (acquired by Leeds in the 1920s) is Temple Newsam, the birthplace of Lord Darnley (1545-1567), second husband of Mary Queen of Scots and claimant to the English throne.


Manchester, the leading textile city of England and the publishing and printing center of the north, is located in Lancashire on the Irwell River, 30 miles northeast of Liverpool. Its population of 431,000 is engaged in industry and commerce.

Known as Mancunium by the Romans, who occupied the area in A.D. 78, Manchester's earliest charter dates to 1301; its charter of incorporation was granted in 1838, and it became a city 15 years later. A center of the industrial revolution, it was the site of the first application of steam to machinery, and of the first English passenger railroad.

The Peterloo Massacre, which occurred in Manchester in 1819 when a cavalry charge on a peaceful demonstration killed more than 600 people, gave a significant boost to the growing reform movement of the 19th century. The "Manchester School," a group of economists advocating free trade, was active in the city at that time.

The world-famous liberal newspaper, The Manchester Guardian (now called The Guardian ), was founded here in 1821. The city is also known as the birthplace of British statesman David Lloyd George.

Among Manchester's principal places of interest are the 17th-century Chetham Library; the Rylands Library; a 15th-century cathedral; and the university founded as Owens College in 1851 and which, since 1903, has been called Victoria University of Manchester. The city is the home of the Hallé Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Exchange Theatre, the Royal Northern College of Music, and several fine art galleries.


Cardiff, in Glamorganshire, is the capital city of Wales, the principality which forms England's western peninsula. It is one of the world's greatest coal-shipping ports, and its numerous other industries include iron and steel works, car component manufacturing, paper mills, and fishing. Cardiff Castle was built on the site of a Roman fort in 1090, and the parish church of St. John dates to the 13th century.

Cardiff's name is Caerdydd in Welsh, which is one of the Celtic languages. Welsh is spoken by about 20% of the population (in addition to English), and both official and voluntary measures have been adopted in the past quarter-century to further revive its use. Support for bilingual education is reflected in the increasing number of students learning Welsh as part of their school curricula. Radio and television programs in Welsh are broadcast regularly. Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, spoke at length in the language during his investiture as prince of Wales in 1969.

Officially recognized as the capital of the principality, Cardiff is the chief urban center; the others are Swansea and Newport which, like Cardiff, are in the south.

There is a university here, the University of Wales; a National Folk Museum; the Cardiff College of Music and Drama; and a new conference and concert hall, St. David's. Cardiff has an approximate population of 300,000.

Much of Wales' cultural activity is centered in Cardiff, although other cities and towns also are active in professional activities in the fields of literature, music, and drama. The Welsh National Opera, formed in 1945 and based in Cardiff, has gained international repute.

Sports and recreation are popular here. Association football and rugby have wide appeal; the National Stadium at Cardiff Arms Park is one of Britain's most modern rugby structure.


ABERDEEN , a stronghold of royalist sentiment in the religious wars of the 17th century, is Scotland's third largest city, with a population of 219,000, and the principal European center for offshore oil exploration. It is also an ancient university town and was the Scottish royal residence from the 12th to the 14th century.

ARMAGH is the religious center of Northern Ireland, and diocesan headquarters for both the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church. Many of its public buildings and Georgian townhouses are the work of Francis Johnston, who also left his mark on Dublin. Armagh, a leading intellectual center from the fifth through the ninth centuries, is today a quiet city of 15,000 residents.

BRISTOL is the capital of England's west country, and famous for the prominent role it played in American colonization. It was from Bristol that John and Sebastian Cabot sailed to America in 1497. The city also was the birthplace of William Penn. Bristol, now a city of 399,000, was a royal borough before the Norman Conquest. It is an important shipping center, known for its Clifton Suspension Bridge, a 702-foot span over the Avon River. The University of Bristol was founded in 1909.

COVENTRY is a manufacturing city in central England, located 18 miles southeast of Birmingham, near the Avon River. Lady Godiva (1010-1067) made her legendary ride through the streets here. With her husband, the Earl of Mercia, she founded a monastery in the mid-11th century that brought wealth and trade to the city. Bicycle manufacture began in Coventry in 1868; it developed into a motor vehicle industry that is still an important employer. Other industries include engineering and machine-tool companies. The German Luftwaffe destroyed most of downtown Coventry in World War II air raids; rebuilding began immediately after the war. St. Michael's Cathedral, probably the city's most famous example of reconstruction, was designed by Sir Basil Spence. The old spire and nave have been left standing, next to the new cathedral. An important education center, Coventry is the site of the University of Warwick and Lanchester Polytechnic, among other institutions. The city's population is an estimated 303,000.

DOVER , the channel port on the Strait of Dover in southeastern England, was chief of the ancient Cinque Ports, which also included Hastings, Hythe, Romney, and Sandwich. Important since Roman times, it has been a stronghold in many eras of British history. During World War II, Dover was battered continually by German gunfire. Its current population is approximately 107,000.

LONDONDERRY , Ulster's well-preserved ancient city, dates from the year 546. It was subjected to attack many times during its tumultuous history, and withstood a 105-day siege by the forces of James II in 1688-89. The city, formerly called Derry, was a U.S. Navy base in World War II. It sits on a hill overlooking the Foyle estuary, about 95 miles northwest of Belfast and has a population of approximately 47,000.

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE , in Northumberland, is an important trade and coal-shipping center on the River Tyne. It stands on the site of the Roman military encampment of Pons Aelii, on Hadrian's Wall. Traces of the town walls and towers, attributed to Edward I (1271-1307), still stand. King's College, located in this city of 284,000, is affiliated with the University of Durham. The people of Newcastle-upon-Tyne are referred to as "Geordies"some say because of the support given to George I and George II in the 18th century, but more probably a nickname derived from the "geordie" safety lamp designed for local miners by George Stephenson.

NEWRY (in Irish, An Tlúr) is the seat of Newry and Mourne District, in Northern Ireland. It lies on the River Clanrye, near Carlingford Lough, about 30 miles southwest of Belfast. The first Protestant church in Ireland, St. Patrick's (1578), was built here. According to legend, St. Patrick planted the original yew treesymbol of immortalityin the region. Newry grew around a Cistercian abbey begun by St. Malachy (1094-1148) about 1144. It was frequently attacked from the 13th through the 17th centuries, because of its vulnerable position between the hills. Industries in Newry include linen and cotton spinning and weaving, waterproof clothing manufacture, and granite quarrying. Newry's population is close to 29,000.

NOTTINGHAM , with an estimated population of 282,000, is one of England's primary route centers. Situated about 100 miles northwest of London, it is also a major cultural hub of the central region. Two prominent theaters here include the Theatre Royal (1865), and the Playhouse (1963). The poet Byron (1788-1824), and the writer D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) are among the literary figures associated with the city. The legend of Robin Hood is commemorated in Nottingham by a statue on Castle Green. Industries in Nottingham include pharmaceutical, tobacco, and bicycle manufacturing. Most employment is in the service sector. The Anglo-Saxons settled the region in the sixth century, naming it Snotingaham, meaning the "ham," or village, of Snot's people. The site of three parliaments between 1330 and 1337, it was also in Nottingham that Charles I (1660-1649) raised his standard in 1642, starting the English civil war.

PLYMOUTH houses the British Navy's important Davenport Dockyard. With some 256,000 residents the city is situated 190 miles southwest of London, near Plymouth Sound. Long a vital port city, Plymouth was the embarkation point for the fleet that devastated the Spanish Armada in 1588. Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) sailed from here to colonize Virginia. The dockyards, dating from 1690, provide the Royal Navy with barracks, an engineering college, and a hospital. Plymouth withstood extensive damage in World War II; reconstruction was completed by 1962. Today, the city boasts noted commercial, shopping, and civic centers.

PORTSMOUTH , the birthplace of Charles Dickens, is situated in Hampshire, southern England. It is an important naval base whose dockyards were established in 1494, and also is a noted seaside resort. In 1940, the city suffered extensive German bombing. George Meredith (1828-1909), English writer and critic, is another of Portsmouth's famous sons. Its current population is 189,000.

ST. ANDREWS is a noted North Sea golfing resort town in the Fife region of eastern Scotland. It is the place where Scottish kings were crowned, and whose renowned university is the oldest in Scotland (1411). St. Andrews was Scotland's ecclesiastical capital until the Reformation. Its population is about 16,000.

SHEFFIELD is the center of England's cutlery industry, and is located 68 miles northeast of Birmingham in the South Yorkshire region. This industrial city of some 530,000 residents also manufactures steel, chemicals, and paints. Cutlery production began here in the early 18th century, with the steel industry starting about one hundred years later. The University of Sheffield dates to 1905.

SOUTHAMPTON , a chief shipping center for passenger and merchant vessels, lies on an estuary of the Test River in the southern English county of Hampshire. Roman and Saxon settlements once flourished on the site of the city. In 1620, the Pilgrims embarked from Southampton on their voyage to America; a Mayflower Memorial is erected within the city walls. The current population is roughly 212,000.

SWANSEA (in Welsh, Abertawe), located on Bristol Channel, is about 30 miles northwest of Cardiff, Wales. This city of 189,000 residents is the birthplace of the poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), who saluted the area in his writings. Swansea grew from a market town to an industrial center in the early 1700s; the economy still includes industries such as nearby lead/zinc and nickel works. Oil refining was introduced here in 1921. The city attracts customers from all of southwest Wales to its shopping and service facilities. Tourists come to Swansea for its beaches along Swansea Bay and the Gower Coast.


Geography and Climate

The islands comprising the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (U.K.) lie off the northwest coast of the European Continent. The English Channel, the Straits of Dover, and the North Sea separate the islands from the Continent. At the closest point, they are only 17.8 miles from the French coast. The capital city of London is in the southeast and lies on nearly the same latitude as Winnipeg, Canada. The U.K. has a total land area of 94,217 square miles, roughly the size of Oregon.

The British Isles have a complex geology with a rich variety of scenery and impressive contrasts in topography. Highland Britain contains the principal mountain ranges, which vary from 4,000 to 5,000 feet and occupy most of the north and west of the country. Lowland Britain, almost entirely composed of low, rolling hills and flatlands, lies to the southeast.

Prevailing southwesterly winds make Britain's climate temperate and equable year round. Average daily temperatures are 40°F in winter and 60°F in summer. Extreme temperatures are rare, but changeable weather patterns cause wide temperature ranges on any given day. Humidity in summer ranges from 50 to 80%. Average annual rainfall is 30-50 inches, usually distributed evenly throughout the year. Persistent cloud cover limits sunshine to an average of about 6-7 hours a day in summer and 1-2 hours a day in winter.


The estimated population of the U.K. in 2000 was 59.8 million. In addition to the ethnic groups indigenous to the British Isles, the past few decades have seen the arrival of large numbers of Indians, Pakistanis, and West Indians. Britain's population density is about 246 persons a square kilometer, with England being the most densely populated at 383 persons a square kilometer and Scotland the least populated at 65 persons a square kilometer. Britain's population is largely urban and suburban.

Britain is a cultural melting pot. In its early history, Britain was subjected to many invasions and migrations from Scandinavia and the Continent. The Romans occupied Britain for several centuries. The Normans, the last of a long succession of invaders, conquered England in 1066. Under the Normans, the pre-Celtic, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse influences were blended into the Briton of today.

Celtic languages still persist in Northern Ireland and Wales, and, to a lesser degree, in Scotland. But, English, derived from Anglo-Saxon and Norman-French, has long been the predominant language.

Religious freedom is guaranteed in the U.K. There are two official state churches: the Church of England and the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland. The Church of England, established during the 16th-century Reformation, is the major religious denomination. Other major denominations include Baptist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Methodist, Moslem, Roman Catholic, Sikh, and Unitarian.

Public Institutions

The U.K. is a Parliamentary state with a constitutional monarchy. The state's origins and traditions are found in each of its four component parts: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. England was first united under a Saxon king in the ninth century. Wales eventually became part of that kingdom, and Ireland joined it before the end of the 13th century. In 1603, James I of England, who also ruled as James VI of Scotland, united the English and Scottish dynasties. In 1707, the Treaty for the Union of England and Scotland provided that the two countries "should be forever united into one kingdom." One Parliament (the Parliament of Great Britain) served as the supreme authority in both countries. In 1801, the Act for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland (joining the Irish Parliament with the Parliament of Great Britain) established the present-day U.K. In 1922, however, the 26 counties of southern Ireland became a self-governing, independent entityThe Republic of Ireland, or Eire. Meanwhile, the Government of Ireland Act in 1920 enacted a Constitution for Northern Ireland that preserved the supreme authority of the U.K. Parliament and provided Northern Ireland with limited authority to deal with domestic " transferred " affairs. These arrangements remained in force until 1972 when, following several years of political instability and violence in Northern Ireland, a period of direct rule was introduced.

In July 1974, the Northern Ireland Act was introduced. It provides that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is to be responsible to the U.K. Parliament for delegated services. Responsibility for the administration of Northern Ireland departments rests temporarily with Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office. Although one state, the U.K. has adopted flexible methods of government. England, Wales, and Scotland have different legal, judicial, and educational systems. For most domestic matters they have different government departments. In Scotland, these departments are headquartered in Edinburgh and grouped under the Secretary of State for Scotland, a member of the British Cabinet. To a large degree, the administration of Welsh affairs is delegated to the Welsh Office under the Secretary of State for Wales, who also holds Cabinet rank.

The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (which are Crown dependencies and not part of the U.K.) have their own legislative assemblies, systems of local administration and law, and courts. Nonetheless, they maintain a special relationship with the U.K. because of their proximity and historical connections with the Crown. The U.K. Government is responsible for their defense and international relations.

The U.K. Constitution is formed by statute, by common law, and by precepts and practices known as conventions. These have never been codified and are not directly enforceable in a court of law but have a binding force as rules of the Constitution. The Constitution is not contained in any document and can be altered by an Act of Parliament or by general agreement to vary, abolish, or create a convention. Therefore, it can readily adapt to changing political conditions and ideas.

The organs of Government established by the U.K. Constitution are readily distinguishable, but their functions often intermingle and overlap. They are:

The Legislature, which comprises the Queen and Parliament (the Houses of Lords and Commons);

The Executive, which includes the Cabinet and other Ministers of the Crown who are responsible for initiating and directing national policy; government departments, which are responsible for administration at the national level; local authorities, who administer services at the local level; and public corporations that may be responsible for nationalized industries and services; and

The Judiciary, which determines common law and interprets statutes. It is independent of both the Legislature and the Executive.

Arts, Science, and Education

Artistic and cultural activity in Britain ranges from the highest professional standards to a variety of amateur performances and events. The arts also represent a major sector of economic activity, contributing an estimated $9 million a year to Britain's balance of payments.

Public and private art galleries offer a tremendous selection of Old World masters and contemporary artists. Festivals, such as the Edinburgh International Festival, attract world attention and participation. Devotion to the arts is rooted in the U.K.'s rich cultural heritage. This devotion has led to maintenance of many museums, concert halls, and theaters that provide a wide variety of classical and popular works.

In the last four decades, popular interest in the arts has increased steadily. This development is reflected in the profusion of amateur dramatic and musical societies, the growth in book and record sales, and the large attendance figures at major art exhibitions.

Scientific and technological innovation is aggressively pursued by various government departments, universities, learned societies (six of world renown), professional institutions, public and private councils, industry, and international scientific exchanges.

The government spends up to 2.7 billion pounds a year on civil research and development, distributing these moneys through five research councils and several universities. A long-term government goal is to encourage private industry to support more research, particularly in projects nearly ready for commercial use. Public corporations, independent trusts, and foundations and learned societies also support research projects.

Parents in Britain are required by law to see that their children receive efficient, full-time education, at school or elsewhere, between the ages of 5 and 16. Almost 93% attend public schools.

The higher education system in the U.K. comprises 83 universities. These include the Open Universities that were established to provide higher education for students with or without formal qualifications for obtaining a university degree. Higher education grew rapidly in the 1970s. Today, one in four young people begins university and college education.

Commerce and Industry

Although small in land area and accounting for just over 1% of the world's population, the United Kingdom has the fourth largest economy in the industrialized world and serves as one of the world's leading trading partners. About 60% of Britain's trade is with other member countries of the European Union (EU), to which the U.K. has belonged since 1973. Britain's twoway trade in goods and services with the U.S. amounted to $82.5 billion in 1993. The United States and the U.K. are also the largest foreign investors in each other's country. By the end of 2000, the U.S. had invested more than $230 billion in the U.K.

In the U.K., production is heavily oriented toward the service sectors, just as in the U.S. It can be broadly subdivided as follows: primary (consisting of agriculture and energy), 9%; secondary (manufacturing and construction), 30%; and tertiary (service industries, including government), 61%. Energy had been the fastest growing sector in the economy as the North Sea oil-fields were under development. However, North Sea production has about peaked. Manufacturing, long in decline, has revived as economic growth has carried firms back into profitability. Nevertheless, manufacturing is clearly secondary to the expanding service industries, such as catering, hotels, and financial services.

Housing has also become increasingly important in the U.K., as more people have sought to purchase their own homes. Today, over 70% of British houses are owner occupied, while 25% are rented from the government.

Personal incomes in Britain have improved dramatically in recent years, although they still lag behind the U.S., Japan, and some other EU countries. Before the EU expanded from 12 to 15 members, based on equivalent purchasing power per capita, the living standards in the U.K. ranked seventh.



The U.K. offers comprehensive, modern rail, air, and sea transportation. Inland travel is quick and efficient by public and private transportation systems. British Rail passenger services are concentrated on the high-speed, intercity lines, and commuter service around large cities, especially London and the southeast. Motorail services carry both passengers and cars.

Subway service in London is fast and frequent but closes at midnight and is subject to delay, with even a little snow. The present system is comprehensive, but stretched to near its capacity. It offers easy transfer to British Rail and buses.

All major urban and suburban areas have bus service. Intracity buses are painted red; long-distance lines are green. Bus route maps are furnished free by government-operated bus lines. Carrier-owned buses serve major air and sea terminals. Minibuses service some suburban areas.

Taxis cruise the streets of all major cities in large numbers. They are easy to find, except in rush hour or in the rain. Taxis are metered and charge a flat rate per mile; surcharges are paid for evening, weekend, and local holiday travel and for extra passengers. Many cab companies have telephone pickup services. Intracity trips average 5-9 pounds (tip is optional). Taxis may be found in taxi ranks (stands) in front of large hotels, or may be flagged down on the street when the yellow rooftop light is on.

In London, black London cabs pick up passengers on the streets, from taxi ranks, or can be called by phone. They are licensed, and, as each driver must pass an extensive test on London streets and important locations, they are very reliable. London cabs are metered. Unlicensed "minicabs" are also available in London, but they must be booked and are not allowed to "cruise" for fares on the streets. They are unmetered and passengers should agree to a charge before departure. Minicabs are usually less expensive than black cabs.

Belfast: Belfast offers travel by bus, train, and taxi. Public transportation is not too busy during rush hour, and the system operates regularly. Intracity transportation provides adequate, inexpensive service. The Ulsterbus service covers all Northern Ireland outside Belfast, and their express coaches also serve the Irish Republic.

Edinburgh: Scotland has an excellent network of roads and motor-ways for driving between the cities or out into the countryside. In some remote areas of the Highlands only single-lane roads exist. They can be extremely hazardous and virtually impassable during the winter months. Caution is necessary in driving through areas where grazing sheep may attempt to cross the road. Most people find a car desirable for sight-seeing, shopping, and business. But in the city centers, due to heavy traffic and parking problems, it is often desirable to use public transportation.

Both high-grade and low-grade petrol (gas) can be purchased at numerous filling stations. Unleaded petrol is becoming more readily available throughout Scotland in the larger cities and towns. Many gas stations can be closed on Sundays.


London is a hub of international travel, with air and sea routes to nearly all corners of the globe. Britain is served by ferry and hovercraft which link it to the Continent's road and rail system. The Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) officially opened in May 1994 and began full transportation service of passengers, cars, and commercial lorries via high-speed rail to France during 1995.

Edinburgh: Edinburgh has frequent airline, rail, and bus services to other parts of Scotland and the U.K. Regular airline shuttle service from Edinburgh's Turnhouse Airport to Heathrow and Gatwick Airports in London allows the traveler to make connecting flights to nearly any part of the world. Daily flights are scheduled from Turnhouse direct to Dublin and the Continent. Bus service to major British cities is frequent, reasonably fast, and inexpensive. Trains provide fast, more comfortable service, and include convenient night-sleeper service between Edinburgh and London.

Hovercraft and other car and passenger ferries operate regularly to and from the European Continent.

Belfast: Belfast has good bus and train service to most parts of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. There is convenient ferry service to Stranraer in Scotland as well as ferries to the Isle of Man and to Liverpool. Belfast has two airports. The Belfast International Airport (Aldergrove18 miles from the center of Belfast) has numerous daily London-Belfast flights, and regular service to other British and international destinations. The Belfast Harbor Airport (4 miles from city center) has services to London, other airports in Great Britain, and some flights to other cities in Europe.


Telephone and Telegraph

A direct-dial telephone system serves London and most of the U.K. The U.S. and Western Europe can be reached by direct dialing. Charges for home telephones and domestic and international calls are significantly more expensive than in the U.S.

Internal and international telegraph service is available and efficient.

Belfast local-and long-distance telephone service is good. Telegraph is available through several commercial companies. Edinburgh telephone and telegraph services are excellent. Telephone service is direct dial. It links Edinburgh to all cities in the U.K., most of Western Europe, and to the U.S.

Radio and TV

Television is broadcast through the state-owned British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)channels 1 and 2and the commercially financed Independent Television Network (ITN)channels 3 and 4. A fifth channel is in the discussion stages. Both BBC and ITN operate nationwide, with regional variations. All four channels operate in the UHF range.

Network programming is standard throughout the country in both content and timing. Considerable program flexibility is provided to allow for locally produced shows and news reports between network programs.

Cable and/or satellite TV are also available in many parts of London. There are many stations to choose from; they are on the air 24 hours daily and include 3 movie channels, 3 sports channels, CNN, SKY, and several family-and children-oriented channels.

Radio programming on AM, FM, and SW bands is excellent. BBC radio provides listeners with five national channels, including a new, 24-hour news channel. Broadcasts present all types of music, news, commentary, adult education programs, and works of artistic and intellectual interest. Independent commercial stations provide general entertainment and news. Broadcasts from Europe can also be received clearly. Reception of the Armed Forces Network broadcasts on radio and TV is possible.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

The British press caters to a wide variety of interests and political views. Ten morning papersThe Times, Financial Times, Guardian, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Sun, Daily Star, Daily Telegraph, and Independent are national. The total average daily circulation exceeds 2 million. Eight national Sunday papersSunday Times, Mail on Sunday, News of the World, The Observer, The Sunday People, Sunday Express, Sunday Mirror, and The Sunday Telegraph have a total average weekly circulation of more than 3 million copies.

The news media is served by three large British news agenciesReuters, the Press Association, and the Exchange Telegraph Company. UPI and AP have affiliates in London, as do most major U.S. newspapers. Many suburban daily papers contain news of local interest.

Britain has more than 4,500 periodicals and several prominent journals of opinion. Literary and political journals and those specializing in international and commonwealth affairs are published monthly or quarterly.

Publication of trade, technical, business, scientific, and professional journals has become a major aspect of the British publishing industry. These journals cover hundreds of subjects, many in great depth. In addition to circulating in Britain, these publications enjoy international distribution. They are an important medium for selling British goods overseas.

Periodicals published in England circulate throughout the U.K. Scotland has three monthly illustrated periodicals (Scottish Field, Scotland's Magazine, Scot's Magazine ), a weekly paper devoted to farming interests (Scottish Farmer ), several literary journals (the most famous is probably Blackwood's ), and many popular magazines. In Northern Ireland, weekly, monthly, and quarterly publications cover farming, the linen industry, building, motoring, politics, and social work.

European editions of Time, Newsweek, and the International Herald Tribune are readily available at newsstands and book-shops. A large number of bookshops in London carry American magazines such as Fortune, Forbes, Saturday Review, Harper's Bazaar, and the New Yorker.

Britain is served by a complete network of public libraries. About half the libraries lend a variety of phonograph records, and a growing number are adding loan collections of artworks, either original or reproduction. Nearly all libraries have children's departments and most also act as centers for film showings, adult education classes, lectures, exhibitions, drama groups, recitals, and children's story hours. They are a very useful resource for information on the neighborhood they serve.

Books of all types are available in bookshops and department stores.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

The U.K. has excellent medical facilities in all major cities. London, Belfast, and Edinburgh have medical training centers offering the full range of services. All U.K. residents are entitled to medical care under the National Health Service (NHS). Medical practitioners are allowed to maintain private (fee-for-service) practices in addition to NHS practices, and many do so. A relationship may be established with a local physician as a private patient in much the same manner as in the U.S. Many British physicians accept payment under U.S. health insurance plans.

Belfast offers a high standard of medical care, including an emergency "cardiac ambulance" staffed by coronary specialists. Specialists are available at the Royal Victoria Hospital, which is the major teaching facility of Queen's University Medical School, the City Hospital, the Ulster Clinic (mainly private care), and smaller hospitals scattered across Northern Ireland.

Edinburgh has long been famous for its medical schools, and the quality of local facilities is uniformly excellent.

Community Health

Living conditions in the U.K. are generally excellent; no major health hazards exist. Community sanitation standards are high and community environmental services are superior. Colds and other upper respiratory infections are common, but no more so than in comparable climates in the U.S.


Passage, Customs & Duties

A passport is required. Tourists are not obliged to obtain a visa for stays of up to six months in the United Kingdom or to enter Gibraltar. Those wishing to remain longer than one month in Gibraltar should regularize their stay with Gibraltar immigration authorities.

Further information on entry requirements may be obtained from the British Embassy at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel.: (202) 588-7800. Inquiries may also be directed to British Consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. The web site of the British Embassy in the United States is http://www.britainusa.com/consular/embassy/embassy.asp.

British customs authorities may strictly enforce regulations regarding the import or export of certain items, including material deemed likely to incite racial hatred, firearms and personal defense items such as mace or knives. It is advisable to contact the British Embassy in Washington or one of the United Kingdom's consulates in the U.S. for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Air travelers to and from the United Kingdom should be aware that penalties against alcohol-related and other in-flight crimes ("air rage") are stiff and are being enforced with prison sentences.

Americans living in or visiting the United Kingdom may register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in London, or at the U.S. Consulates General in Edinburgh or Belfast and obtain updated information on travel and security within the United Kingdom.

The U.S. Embassy is located at 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE; Telephone: in country 0207-499-9000, from the U.S. 011-44-207-499-9000 (24 hours); Consular Section fax: in country 0207-495-5012; from the U.S. 011-44-207-495-5012. The embassy web site is http://www.usembassy.org.uk.

The U.S. Consulate General in Edinburgh, Scotland, is located at 3 Regent Terrace, Edinburgh EH7 5BW; Telephone: in country 0131-556-8315, from the U.S. 011-44-131-556-8315. After hours: in country 0131-260-6495, from the U.S. 011-44-131-260-6495. Fax: in country 0131-557-6023; from the U.S. 011-44-131-557-6023. The web site is http://www.usembassy.org.uk/scotland.

The U.S. Consulate General in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is located at 14 Queen Street, Belfast BT1 6EQ; Telephone: in country 01232-328-239; from the U.S. 011-44-1232-328-239. After hours: in country 01232-241-279, from the U.S. 011-44-1232-661-629. Fax: in country 01232-248-482, from the U.S. 011-44-1232-248-482.

There is no U.S. consular representation in Gibraltar. Citizen services questions should be directed to the U.S. Embassy in London. Passport questions can be directed to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, located at Serrano 75/Madrid, Spain; telephone (34)(91) 587-2200, and fax (34)(91) 587-2303.


There is a concerted effort on the part of the U.K. Government to prevent the entry of rabies into the U.K. All dogs, cats, and other mammals entering Britain must undergo 6 calendar months' quarantine in government-approved kennels. No exceptions are made to this rule. If you desire to import a pet, write 6-10 weeks before departure to:

Ministry of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food
Hook Rise South
Surbiton, Surrey KT6 7HF

Application forms will be sent by return mail.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

The pound is divided into 100 pence (pennies). All transactions are made by using coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 pence, and one pound, and bills in denominations of 5, 10, 20, and 50 pounds.

The British pound is on a floating rate of exchange against the U.S. dollar. It currently falls in the range of £.684=$1.00 (May 2002).

The British use the avoirdupois weight system. Most items are measured in ounces and pounds. Human weight, however, is expressed in stones (1 stone= 14 lbs.). Many food items are imported from other EU countries, so most grocery stores mark items in both the metric and the avoirdupois systems. The imperial gallon is one-fifth larger than the American gallon. Road distance and speed are measured in miles, not in kilometers.

No monetary controls are imposed for importation or exportation of British or foreign currencies.

Travelers checks are widely accepted throughout Great Britain. Credit cards are widely used in Great Britain and are readily available from several sources. Most large stores and restaurants accept major credit cards.

U.S. ATM bank cards connected to major systems, such as Plus or Cirrus, are accepted by U.K. bank cash machines for pounds at a favorable exchange rate.


England & Wales

Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar. 1St. David's Day (Wales)

Mar/Apr.Good Friday*


Mar/Apr.Easter Monday*

Apr. 1 April Fool's Day

Apr. 21 Queen's Birthday

Apr. 23 St. George's Day (England)

May (1st Monday)May Day*

May (4th Monday) Spring Bank Holiday*

Aug.(4th Monday) Summer Bank Holiday*

Oct. 31Halloween

Nov. 5 Guy Fawkes Day

Nov. (Sun closest to Nov. 11) Remembrance Day*

Nov. 11Armistice Day

Dec. 25Christmas Day

Dec. 26Boxing Day

Northern Ireland

Jan. 1New Year's Day

Mar. 17St. Patrick's Day

Mar/Apr.Good Friday*


Mar/Apr.Easter Monday*

Mar/Apr.Easter Tuesday*

May (1st Monday)May Day*

May (4th Monday)Spring Bank Holiday

July (2nd Friday)Orangemen's Day

Aug. (4th Monday)Summer Bank Holiday

Oct. 31Halloween

Nov.(Sun closest to Nov. 11) Remembrance Day*

Nov. 11Armistice Day

Dec. 25Christmas Day

Dec. 26Boxing Day Scotland

Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Jan. 2Bank Holiday

Jan. 25Burn's Night (birth of Robert Burns)

Mar/Apr.Good Friday*


Mar/Apr.Easter Monday*

May (1st Monday)May Day*

May (3rd Monday)Victoria Day*

Aug. (1st Monday)Summer Bank* Holiday

Sept. (3rd Monday)Autumn Holiday*

Nov. (Sun closest to Nov. 11) Remembrance Day*

Nov. 11Armistice Day

Nov. 30St. Andrew's Day

Dec. 25Christmas

Dec. 26 Boxing Day



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Great Britain

Arnold, Eve. The Great British. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991.

Barnett, Correlli. The Collapse of British Power. Sutton: 1984

Birnbaum, Stephen. Birnbaum's Great Britain. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1991.

Britain 1995: An Official Handbook. Compiled by H.M. Central Office of Information. H.M. Stationery Office. (Published annually).

Cannon, John, and Ralph Griffiths. The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Churchill, Winston. A History of the English Speaking Peoples. Cassell: 1967.

Fodor's Great Britain: England, Scotland, and Wales. New York: David McKay, latest edition.

Gamble, Andrew. Britain in Decline. Macmillan: 1985

Grote, David. British English for American Readers: A Dictionary of the Language, Customs, and Places of British Life and Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992.

Halsey, A.H., ed. Changes in British Society. Oxford: 1981.

Kamm, Anthony. Britain and Her People. Avenal, NJ: Outlet Books, 1990.

Laing, Lloyd, and Jennifer Laing. Celtic Britain and Ireland, A.D. 200-800: The Myth of the Dark Ages. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.

Louis and Bul, ed. The Special Relationship. Oxford: 1986.

Michelin Guide to Great Britain and Ireland. Compiled by the Michelin Tire Co., Ltd. (published annually)

Moss, Norman. A British/American Dictionary. Hutchinson: 1994.

Ousby, Ian. The Englishman's England: Taste, Travel, and the Rise of Tourism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Sampson, Anthony. The Changing

Anatomy of Britain. Hodder: 1993.

Young, Hugo. One of Us : Macmillan: 1989.


England and Wales 1992. New York: Berlitz, 1992.

Fritze, Ronald H., ed. Historical Dictionary of Tudor England: 1485-1603. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1991.

Quincy, Anthony. The English Country Town. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1987.

Rossiter, S. Blue Guide England. E. Benn Ltd.: 1980

Ryder, J. and H. Silver. Modern English Society. Methuen: 1985.

Northern Ireland

Darby, John, ed. Northern Ireland: The Background to the Conflict. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1987.

Johnstone, Robert. Belfast: Portraits of a City. North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square, 1991.

Meyer, Caroline. Voices of Northern Ireland: Growing Up in a Troubled Land. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanivich, 1992.

Ulster Year Book, Government of Northern Ireland. H.M. Stationery office. (published annually)

Wallace, Martin. British Government in Northern IrelandFrom Devolution to Direct Role. David and Charles: 1982.


Fodor's Scotland. New York: David McKay, latest edition.

Galbraith, John Kenneth. The Scotch. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1985.

MacDonald, Angus, and Patricia MacDonald. The Highlands and Islands of Scotland. New York: Rizzoli International, 1991.

Mackie, J. D. A History of Scotland. Penguin: 1978.

MacSwean, Ann, and Mick Sharp. Prehistoric Scotland. New York: New Amsterdam Books, 1990.

Mitchison, Rosalind. A History of Scotland. Methuen and Co.: 1982.

Prebble, John. The Lion in the North. Seckler and Warburg: 1971.

Simpson, W. Douglas. The Ancient Stones of Scotland. Hale: 1968.

Turncock, David. The New Scotland. David and Charles Ltd: 1979.


England and Wales 1992 Travellers Guide. New York: Berlitz, 1992.

Morris, Jan. The Matter of Wales: Epic Views of a Small Country. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Thomas, Dylan. A Child's Christmas in Wales. New York: New Directions, 1969.

United Kingdom

views updated May 21 2018


United Kingdom of Great Britain and

Northern Ireland



The United Kingdom consists of a collection of islands which are located off the northwestern coast of Europe between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. Its total area of 244,820 square kilometers (94,525 square miles) is shared by 4 main territories. The largest is England, with an area of 130,373 square kilometers (50,337 square miles). To the west of England is Wales, with 20,767 square kilometers (8,018 square miles), and to England's north is Scotland, with an area of 78,775 square kilometers (30,415 square miles). Northern Ireland occupies 14,120 square kilometers (5,452 square miles) on the island of Ireland. England, Wales, and Scotland are collectively and commonly known as Great Britain. The United Kingdom also includes numerous small islands. These include the Orkney Islands, the Shetland Islands, the Outer Hebrides, Skye, Mull, Arran, the Isle of Man, the Isles of Scilly, and the Channel Islands. From the southern coast of England to the north of Scotland is a distance of some 1,000 kilometers (622 miles) and the widest part of Great Britain is under 500 kilometers (311 miles). The total boundary length of 8,352 kilometers (5,190 miles) includes a coastline of 7,918 kilometers (4,920 miles) and a land boundary with the Irish Republic of 434 kilometers (270 miles). London is the capital and it is located in southeastern England. London has a population of some 7,000,000, including its suburbs. Birmingham is the United Kingdom's second-largest city, with 934,000 people.


In July of 2001, the population of the United Kingdom was estimated to be 59,647,790. The nation has the third-largest population in Europe and the eighteenth-largest in the world. Currently, the population growth rate is 0.23 percent. A low birth rate and emigration will cause the population to decrease to under 57 million by 2030. The birth rate has remained low since the early 1970s. The current rate is 11.76 births per 1,000 people and the fertility rate is 1.76 children born for each woman. The infant mortality rate is 5.63 deaths per 1,000 live births. The overall mortality rate is 10.38 deaths per 1,000. About 75 percent of the population lives in urban areas and about 40 percent lives in the southeast region of the country. Many regions of Northern Ireland and areas of Scotland remain essentially rural. The United Kingdom has a large elderly population (nearly 16 percent of the total population is over age 65). The elderly are the fastest growing segment of the British population. Over time, this will put additional strains on the kingdom's social security and medical systems. The life expectancy for males is 74.97 years and 80.49 years for females.

The English make up 81.5 percent of the population, followed by the Scots at 9.6 percent, the Irish at 2.4 percent, the Welsh at 1.9 percent, and the Ulster Irish at 1.8 percent. Since the demise of the British Empire in the mid-1900s, many former colonial citizens have immigrated to the United Kingdom. There is a sizable community of immigrants and descendants of immigrants who combine to account for 2.8 percent of the population. The largest ethnic minority groups are Indian, West Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi. About 40 percent of the ethnic community were born in the United Kingdom, and some 74 percent are of mixed ethnicity. One of the most significant differences between the English and minority communities is age. About 42 percent of the British and Irish population is under 30, while 60 percent of the West Indian population and 70 percent of those from the Indian subcontinent are under 30. Ethnic minorities are also geographically concentrated in the greater London area. Both Scotland and Northern Ireland have very small ethnic minorities (less than 0.8 percent of the total population). English is the official language of the United Kingdom. About 26 percent of the people of Wales speak Welsh and about 60,000 Scots, mainly in western Scotland, still speak the Scottish dialect of Gaelic. A small number of the Northern Irish continue to speak the Irish form of Gaelic.

Christianity is the dominant religion of the United Kingdom. Anglicans and Roman Catholics are largest Christian groups. There are 27 million Anglicans, 9 million Roman Catholics, 800,000 Presbyterians and 760,000 Methodists. Immigration has resulted in a large non-Christian community. The Muslim community now numbers more than 1 million. In addition, there are some 400,000 Sikhs in the nation and 350,000 Hindus. The Jewish population is approximately 300,000. The United Kingdom has a history of religious strife between the Protestants and Catholics and while religious toleration is now widespread, conflict between the 2 groups continues in Northern Ireland.


During the 16th and 17th centuries, Great Britain became one of the world's foremost trading nations. The kingdom established colonies in India, Asia, the Caribbean, and North America. These colonies supplied raw materials to Great Britain, which then turned those resources into manufactured goods. These goods were then exported to markets in the colonies and around the world. As a result of this trading system, the United Kingdom was one of the first nations in the world to undergo an industrial revolution (a period of rapid industrial growth and a corresponding decline in agriculture). By the 1800s, the British industrial sector was the largest in the world. Economic expansion in Great Britain was fueled by the kingdom's empire, which at its height included one-quarter of the world's territory and almost one-third of its population. By 1900, rival economic powers such as Germany and the United States began to challenge British commercial advantages. The effects of World War I and World War II and the subsequent period of de-colonization in the 1950s and 1960s led to an erosion of British economic superiority. After decades of economic decline, the British economy began to rebound in the 1980s.

The British economy is currently one of the largest and most diversified in the world. In 1999, its GDP ranked seventh in the world. Its GDP per capita was US$21,800, which ranked twentieth in the world. When foreign investments are included, the British economy is the fourth-largest in the world and the second-largest in Europe. Its capital, London, ranks alongside New York as one of the globe's main financial centers. As such, the kingdom is one of the world's leading trading nations. The United Kingdom is also home to some of the largest international companies, including the oil company BP-Amoco (worth US$116 billion), British Telecommunications (US$92.58 billion), the telecommunications company Vodafone Airtouch (US$91.68 billion), HSBC Bank (US$69.56 billion) and the pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome (US$61.53 billion). In addition to its economic advantages, the country has a variety of natural resources including oil, natural gas, coal, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, and silicia.

The robustness of the British economy has led to considerable foreign investment and prompted many foreign companies to relocate to the kingdom. It has also led a number of large multinational companies to merge with or acquire British companies. In 2000, there were 560 international mergers and acquisitions in the United Kingdom. These had a value of US$86 billion and represented 42 percent of all multinational mergers and acquisitions in the European Union (EU).

The British economy has experienced a period of prolonged growth since the early 1990s. For instance, from 1995 to 1999 the economy of the United Kingdom grew by a total of 10.6 percent. Growth rates have averaged more than 2.7 percent per year. GDP per capita increased during this period from US$18,714 to US$21,800. In 2000, the economy grew by 2.8 percent, although the economic slowdown in the United States has produced a slower rate of growth than economic analysts predicted. The subsequent economic recovery of the country has not proceeded evenly. Most of the recent growth has occurred in southern England. Areas of Scotland and Wales remain economically depressed, as does the region of Northern Ireland. While the United Kingdom as a whole receives significant amounts of foreign investment, religious strife in Northern Ireland has led most foreign firms to avoid the area. That region consequently has the highest unemployment rate in the United Kingdom.

Like many of the world's leading economies, the United Kingdom's economy is marked by a growing service sector and a declining industrial base. The kingdom is one of the few nations in the world that has the capability to compete with the United States in some of the leading high-tech sectors, including e-commerce (business and services bought and sold through the Internet) and telecommunications. The United Kingdom is also home to some of the world's largest banking and financial service firms. Agriculture in the United Kingdom remains a strong, but small component of the economy. British farmers are among the most productive in Europe, but recent problems with hoof and mouth disease and mad-cow disease have caused widespread declines in agricultural production. While the industrial sector is declining in relation to other areas, it is a diversified and productive component of the kingdom's economy. For instance, British Steel is the largest steel manufacturer in Europe and the third-largest producer in the world. Other major industries include aerospace, chemicals, clothing, communications equipment, the production of machine tools and electric power tools, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, textiles, and paper and paper products. The most productive industry in the United Kingdom is the energy sector, which contributes 10 percent of the kingdom's GDP. The British produce coal, natural gas, and oil for both domestic use and export.

The British economy has 3 major problems that may limit future growth and long-term stability. First, British workers do not have the same levels of productivity as their American, European, or Japanese counterparts. This means that during a given period of time, British workers produce less of a product than workers in these other markets. Reasons for this include lower education rates for the British and less investment in new technology and manufacturing methods. Currently, wages are lower in the United Kingdom than these other areas. In addition to preventing inflation , the lower wages also continue to attract foreign investment, since investors pay less for labor. Second, the aging population will lead to a shortage of new workers beginning in the next decade. Immigration will alleviate some of this problem. However, the aging population's additional tax burden on the social security and health system will require increases in taxes or other government revenues. Third, and finally, the nation has had a trade deficit for some time. On average, the kingdom's trade deficit is 1.5 percent of GDP. In 1998, the trade deficit totaled US$35 billion. The strength of the British currency in relation to the euro (the new currency of the European Union) and the money of other nations has meant that imports into the kingdom are relatively inexpensive, while British exports are expensive.


The United Kingdom is a democratic, constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is the nation's monarch, and she serves as the head of state. Along with New Zealand and Israel, the United Kingdom is unique among the nations of the world in that it does not have a single formal written constitution. Instead, its constitution is based on a series of historical documents and traditional legal and political practices that are collectively known as English Common Law. The principal constitutional documents include the Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Right (1628), the Bill of Rights (1689), and the Act of Settlement (1701). This gives the constitution great flexibility since, unlike the United States, there is no formal amendment process needed to change it. The Parliament can simply enact legislation that changes the nature of a particular area of the constitution. An example of an unwritten component of the constitution is the practice that the prime minister must be a member of the Parliament (which is not recorded as a law).

There are 2 main principles behind the unwritten constitution. These are the rule of law and parliamentary sovereignty. The rule of law is based on the principle that the government is not above the law and can only do what it has the legal power to do. Parliamentary sovereignty means that the Parliament can legally pass any law it wishes, and no person or institution can override it. Any law can be repealed or changed by Parliament. This makes the government more powerful than its counterparts in Western Europe or the United States.

While the monarch has a lot of power in principle, custom has dictated that such power is only used sparingly. The role of the monarch is now mainly ceremonial. The Queen also serves as the head of state for many former British colonies such as Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Jamaica, Mauritius, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St. Lucia, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

The government is led by the prime minister, who is appointed by the Queen. The prime minister is usually the leader of the largest political party in Parliament. Parliament itself is bicameral (it consists of 2 chambers). The upper chamber is known as the House of Lords and the lower chamber is known as the House of Commons. Parliament can pass laws for the United Kingdom as a whole or for any of its constituent parts, including the dependencies such as the Channel Islands.

The House of Lords is comprised of nobles, senior bishops, and senior judges known as law lords. The 1999 House of Lords Act reduced the number of hereditary peers to 92. (A peer is a lord. Hereditary peers pass their status to their heirs, and in turn, their heirs become lords. "Life peers" do not have hereditary titles, thus their heirs cannot inherit their status.) This reduced the size of the House of Lords from 1,200 seats in 1997 to 670 in 2000. There are no elections for the House of Lords, and with the exception of bishops who retire, members serve for life. The most substantial legislative power of the chamber is its delaying capability. The Lords may reject a motion from the Commons. The lower house must then wait a year to resubmit it. The House of Commons consists of 659 members who are elected by universal adult suffrage. Of the members, 529 are from England, 40 from Wales, 72 from Scotland and 18 from Northern Ireland. Each is elected from single-member districts for a 5-year period, although new elections can be called early at the discretion of the prime minister. (In single-member districts, 1 person is elected to serve the entire district. This is the system in the United Kingdom and the United States. Some countries use proportional districts, in which several representatives are elected. This guarantees some minority-party representation in all districts.)

One of the major goals of the government has been to give the regions of the United Kingdom more political power. By 1999, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland had all been granted some degree of self-government and each area had a national legislative body. The king-dom's Parliament retains control over defense, foreign policy, and social security systems. The regional assemblies have a high degree of control over education, the environment, and culture.

There are 2 main political parties in the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. The Conservatives, known popularly as the Tories, are a center-right party that supports lower taxes and a smaller role for government in the economy. The Labour Party is center-left. It has traditionally supported unions and government control of major industries, but has recently moved closer to the Tory position on a number of economic issues, including trade and state-ownership of industries. The United Kingdom also has a number of minor or regional parties, including the Liberal Democrats, Ulster Unionists, Sinn Fein, Scottish National Party, and Plaid Cymru (Welsh National Party).

Among the nations of Europe, the government of the United Kingdom has traditionally been the most supportive of free trade and free enterprise in the domestic market. Nonetheless, the influence of the government runs deeper than that of nations such as the United States. Since the late 1970s, the government has been engaged in a program to sell off state-owned companies. Examples of companies that have already been privatized include British Airways, British Aerospace, British Gas, British Steel, and British Telecom. One continuing problem for the British government is the ongoing effort to reform the National Health System (NHS) which provides health care for Britons. The popularity of NHS has made it difficult for the government to carry out reforms that are needed to keep the program solvent . The aging of the British population has placed new pressures on the NHS, and the Conservative Party has called for the privatization of the system in order to prevent a potential economic crisis in the future.

In 1999, the British government had revenues of US$541 billion and expenditures of US$507.5 billion. Government spending accounted for 36.3 percent of GDP in 1998, down from more than 40 percent just 2 years prior. From 1995 to 1998, the government had budget deficits , but in 1998, the government had a surplus of 1.6 percent, and it has had surpluses since then. About 11.3 percent of the workforce is employed by government at some level, whether it be the national, regional or local governments. Government revenues are augmented by the kingdom's considerable energy resources in the North Sea. Although most companies in the energy sector are privately owned, they pay licensing fees to the government in exchange for the right to produce oil and natural gas. Corporate tax rates in the United Kingdom are designed to encourage the growth of small businesses. The tax rate for large corporations is 31 percent. Smaller companies, those with revenues of less than £300,000, have a corporate rate of 21 percent. The United Kingdom and Luxembourg have the lowest corporate tax levels in the EU. Personal tax brackets range from 20 percent to 40 percent, depending on income levels. When personal and corporate taxes are combined, the kingdom has the lowest tax levels in the EU.

The United Kingdom is a net contributor of foreign aid. In 1997, it donated US$3.4 billion in aid. Military expenditures hover around 2.7 percent of the GDP. In 1998, this amounted to US$36.9 billion. In 1999, the British military numbered 209,000 personnel, with 110,000 in the army, 44,000 in the Royal Navy and 55,000 in the Royal Air Force (RAF). The United Kingdom is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, a military alliance of many western European countries plus the United States and Canada). Britain is one of the few nations in the world to possess nuclear weapons, although it has cut back on its total number of nuclear warheads since the end of the Cold War in 1991.

The United Kingdom is the closest military and economic ally of the United States. The 2 nations have a long history of security cooperation that includes being allies in both World Wars as well as the Cold War. The United Kingdom has also cooperated closely with the United States in the United Nations and in various international economic organizations. The kingdom is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization of Economically Developed Countries (OECD) and the Group of Eight Industrialized Nations. One area in which the United States and the United Kingdom are currently collaborating on is the development of a transatlantic free-trade area that would eliminate tariffs and duties on goods and services between the United States and Europe.

A deep debate within the government and British public is over adoption of the euro as a common currency. The United Kingdom is a member of the European Union, but when other members of the EU decided to replace their national currencies with the euro in 1999, the British opted out of the agreement. Those who support replacing the pound sterling with the euro argue that this would make trade with other EU nations easier and less expensive. Those who oppose the euro maintain that loss of the pound sterling would also mean loss of control over monetary policy and make the United Kingdom vulnerable to economic problems from the European continent.

Government policy continues to emphasize low inflation. In 1999, the kingdom's inflation rate was 2.3 percent, down a full percentage point from 1996. However, many economists contend that the official inflation rate is actually about one point lower than it should be. The government has also worked to lower unemployment, which stood at 6 percent in 1999. There are few restrictions on foreign companies in the United Kingdom, and the government has adopted a variety of programs to attract foreign investment and foreign businesses. One result of these efforts is that the United Kingdom and the United States are the largest foreign investors in each other's markets. The only significant restrictions on foreign ownership of businesses are those firms in the broadcasting, air and maritime transport, fishing, and defense sectors. For instance, foreign ownership of a British airline is limited to 49 percent.


The United Kingdom has one of the most developed and extensive infrastructure systems in the world. Increasingly, many aspects of the infrastructure, including roads, railways and the communication systems, are aging and in need of repair. Because of constraints on the government's budget, London has endeavored to transfer responsibility for the maintenance and construction of new roads to local and regional governments. There are also increasing efforts to transfer control of infrastructure projects to private industry. To achieve these transfers, the government has 2 main programs, Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) and Private Finance Initiatives (PFI). The 2 programs use public funds to establish private corporations that then engage in infrastructure projects. PPP and PFI programs mean that the private companies take any risks in these projects, but also retain any profits. The government has also initiated privatization programs in the kingdom's infrastructure. Telecommunications, utilities (including electricity), gas and water supply, and passenger rail service have all been privatized.

The United Kingdom has 371,603 kilometers (230,914 miles) of roadways. This includes 3,303 kilometers (2,052 miles) of expressways. There are few roads that are not paved in some fashion. The kingdom also has 16,878 kilometers (10,488 miles) of railways. The majority of this track is standard gauge and one-quarter of it is electrified. Northern Ireland has 342 kilometers (212 miles) of older 1.6 meter gauge track. The extensive road and railway networks facilitate the movement of goods throughout the kingdom. The large oil and natural gas fields in the North Sea have led to the construction of lengthy pipelines to transport energy resources from the fields to refineries in the kingdom. There are 933 kilometers (580 miles) of crude oil pipelines, 2,993 kilometers (1,860 miles) of pipelines for other types of petroleum products, and 12,800 kilometers (7,954 miles) of natural gas pipelines. There is also an extensive network of canals and waterways which total 3,200 kilometers (1,988 miles).

Since the United Kingdom is an island, it is dependent on the maritime and air transport of goods. The nation has some of the world's busiest ports such as London, Glasgow, Manchester, and Portsmouth. Other major ports include Aberdeen, Belfast, Cardiff, Dover, Falmouth, Hull, Leith, Liverpool, Peterhead, Scapa Flow, Tees, and Tyne. These ports handled some 4.08 million tons of cargo per year. The kingdom has a large merchant marine, which totaled 173 ships in 2000. Of these, 50 ships were petroleum tankers, 39 were container vessels, 33 were general cargo ships, and 10 were passenger cruise ships. The British account for 6 percent of the world's maritime trade. The United Kingdom has 498 airports, of which 357 have paved runways. There are also 12 heli-ports. The nation's largest national airline is British Air. In 1997, the British air market totaled 130 million passengers and 17.9 million tons of cargo. By 2015, that market is expected to total 300 million passengers.

One of the most significant infrastructure projects in the history of the kingdom was the completion in 1994 of the Channel Tunnel, popularly known as the "Chunnel." This 35-kilometer (22-mile) tunnel under the English Channel connects England and France. For the first time in its history, the United Kingdom had a direct, if limited, land route for the transport of goods and people to and from the continent. Since its opening, the amount of goods that are transported through the Chunnel has grown by almost 20 percent per year.

CountryNewspapersRadiosTV Sets aCable subscribers aMobile Phones aFax Machines aPersonal Computers aInternet Hosts bInternet Users b
United Kingdom3291,43664545.925233.9263.0270.6012,500
United States2152,146847244.325678.4458.61,508.7774,100
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

The kingdom's communication systems are technologically advanced and sophisticated. The system has a mixture of underground cables, microwave relay systems, and fiber-optic links. The islands have 40 undersea cables that provide communications links with Europe and the Western Hemisphere. There is also an extensive satellite system that is supported by 10 earth relay stations. Mobile phone use has increased dramatically. Between 1993 and 1997, the number of cellular phone users increased by 294 percent. By 1998, there were 13 million mobile phones in use, but by 1999, that number had increased to 21.8 million. Internet usage has also increased substantially. In 1999, there were 364 Internet service providers. Approximately 8.6 million homes in the United Kingdom have Internet access (about 35 percent of all homes). This is 4 times the number of homes with Internet access from the previous 2 years. Two government-owned corporations, the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) and the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), provide television and radio service throughout the kingdom. The BBC also provides a world radio service with broadcasts in many languages. Increasingly, consumers are using satellite and cable television in order to access programming from other nations, particularly the United States.

Consumption of electricity in the United Kingdom was 333.012 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 1999. Domestic production of electricity that same year was 342.771 billion kWh. Electrical production was dominated by fossil fuels at 69.38 percent, followed by atomic power with 26.68 percent and hydroelectric generation at 1.55 percent. Renewable energy sources accounted for only 1.79 percent of production.


The economic sectors of the United Kingdom follow the pattern of most economically developed nations. The economy is dominated by the service sector, while industry and agriculture continue to decline in overall importance. Services are dominated by the financial sector and telecommunications. British firms have done especially well in overseas markets. During the last half of the 1900s, industrial decline was greatest. While many nations around the world invested in new technology and built new manufacturing plants, British firms were handicapped by a heavy tax burden and high labor costs. By the 1970s, few British firms were able to compete. However, during the 1980s, government privatization programs and legislation that reduced taxes and liberalized corporate law helped strengthen British industry. Corporations in specific industries, including the aerospace, energy, and steel sectors, are competitive and include some of the world's largest international firms. British agriculture is highly productive and is able to meet most of the kingdom's domestic needs.

The agricultural sector declined significantly during the 1900s. It now accounts for only a small percentage of the nation's workforce and GDP. In 1999, agriculture and fishing accounted for 2 percent of employment and 1.7 percent of GDP. The industrial sector has also declined in recent years. In 1999, industry employed 22.1 percent of the workforce and contributed 25.3 percent of the king-dom's GDP. Throughout the 1990s industrial production, with the exception of the energy sector, declined. In 1999 industrial production decreased by 0.3 percent. In the same year, the service sector accounted for nearly 76 percent of employment and 73 percent of GDP.


British agriculture is highly mechanized and productive. It is among the most efficient in Europe. With only 2 percent of the workforce, British agriculture and fishing provides 60 percent of the kingdom's food needs. In 1999, there were 500,000 tractors in use in the United Kingdom, 157,000 milking machines, and 47,000 harvesters. Large-scale agriculture is concentrated in the fertile soils of the southeast region of England. Diseases such as hoof and mouth disease and mad cow disease have led to declines in the livestock sector. In 1999, production in the sector declined by 3.78 percent. Concerns over the potential spread of these diseases have led to broad bans on the importation of British beef and veal by a variety of nations, including the EU countries and the United States.

In 1998, the total value of British agricultural exports was US$17.89 billion. Agricultural imports totaled US$30.76 billion. Approximately 18.5 million hectares are devoted to agriculture in the United Kingdom. Of this total, about 5 million hectares are used for crops and the rest for grazing livestock. In 1998, there were about 615,000 Britons engaged in agriculture for a living, of which approximately 80,000 were seasonal workers.

The primary crops include cereals, oilseeds, potatoes, and vegetables. Primary crop production in 1999 was 38.81 million metric tons. In 1996, production grew by some 15.43 percent, but there were declines of 1.14 percent in 1997 and 6.18 percent in 1998. These declines were stopped by a rise in production of 0.74 percent in 1999. Wheat is the largest individual crop. In 1999 total production of wheat amounted to 14.87 million metric tons. This marked a decline from previous years, including a recent high point of 16.1 million metric tons in 1996. Declines in wheat production have been driven by lower demand. The second largest crop is sugar beets. Production in 1999 was 10.33 million metric tons. That same year, potato production was 7.1 million metric tons and barley production was 6.5 million metric tons.

The primary livestock products include beef, veal, chicken, duck, goose, lamb, swine, and turkey. During the 1990s British beef and sheep farmers suffered from the outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as "mad cow" disease. The disease affects the nervous system of cattle and a similar disease, known as scrapie, affects sheep. Both are incurable. Ultimately, about 160,000 head of cattle were found to have BSE. No sooner had BSE been brought under control than a viral infection known as hoof and mouth or foot and mouth disease reached epidemic proportions. The disease is one of the most contagious in the world. By 2000, 408,000 cattle and sheep had been destroyed because of the disease and as many as 500,000 more faced future destruction. In an effort to prevent the spread of hoof and mouth disease, the government has ordered the inoculation of 200,000 cattle and the vaccination of an equal number of sheep. Concerns over the spread of foot and mouth disease have led most countries, including the EU nations and the United States, to ban imports of British livestock products.

In 1999, total livestock production was 3.59 million metric tons. Restrictions on the import of British beef and veal and the culling of herds in order to contain the spread of hoof and mouth disease have caused beef production to decline by one-third since 1995. Total beef production in 1999 was 678,000 metric tons. Lamb production has also declined since 1995 (by 20 percent) and production in 1999 was 361,000 metric tons. While there have been declines in these sectors, output of other livestock products has increased. Chicken production increased from 1.07 million metric tons in 1995 to 1.19 million tons in 1999, while swine output increased slightly from 1.01 million metric tons in 1995 to 1.04 million metric tons in 1999. The production of duck meat increased from 30,000 metric tons in 1995 to 41,000 metric tons in 1999. In 1998, there were 11.52 million head of cattle, 8.1 million pigs, 44.5 million sheep, and 61.4 million chickens and other fowl.

Fishing production in the United Kingdom increased from approximately 936,000 metric tons in 1993 to more than 1.1 million metric tons in 1999. In 1999, the total value of fish exports was US$1.3 billion. The main fish catches are cod, haddock, whiting, mackerel, herring, and shellfish. In 1998 haddock was the largest catch at 82,800 tons, followed by cod at 72,700 tons, and mackerel at 54,400 tons. Total shellfish catches exceeded 124,000 tons. The British fishing fleet numbered 7,639 ships in 1998, down from 11,189 in 1990. That same year there were about 18,000 people employed in the fishing sector. Exports of fish and shellfish amounted to £743.7 million.

For most of the 1900s, there was little significant production of forest products in the United Kingdom. Most of the land had either already been cleared or was owned by private or state entities. However, during the 1990s, production of forest products began to increase as the various species of trees on timber farms began to reach maturity. Production of forest products, mainly timber, increased from 7,093 metric tons to 10,094 metric tons in 1999.


British industry is a combination of publicly-and privately-owned companies. Since the 1980s, successive governments have worked to privatize most state-owned industries, but concerns over unemployment and public opposition to further privatization has slowed future plans. Examples of industries that remain owned by the government include railways, ship building, and some steel companies. Major segments of British industry include energy, mining, manufacturing, and construction.

One of the strongest components of the British economy is the energy sector. The United Kingdom is a net exporter of energy. In addition to oil, the kingdom has abundant reserves of natural gas, coal, and atomic power. Most of the kingdom's energy resources are concentrated in the North Sea. Currently there are more than 100 active oil and natural gas fields. In addition to the British companies operating in the area, there are a number of international firms, including Texaco, Philips Petroleum, and Chevron. The main energy resource is oil. The king-dom's proven reserves of oil exceed 5 billion barrels. In 1999, oil production reached it highest level at an average of 2.95 million barrels per day at 15 major oil refineries. Continued international demand for oil will lead companies to maintain these high levels of output. One distinguishing characteristic of the British energy industry has been consolidation. Many medium- and small-sized companies have merged or been bought out. The natural gas industry has been marked by increasing liberalization following the 1986 privatization of the state- monopoly British Gas. This was followed by the 1994 privatization of the nation's coal industry. The coal sector has undergone a dramatic decline. Coal production fell from 119 million short tons in 1986 to 46 million short tons in 1999.

The mining of minerals has declined over the past thirty years as the stocks of various minerals have been depleted. However, because British companies have substantial refining capabilities, many have switched to the processing of imported minerals. The main minerals still being mined are lead and tin. There is also significant production of refined metals such as aluminum and steel. The United Kingdom has substantial production of minerals used for construction. These include clay, kaolin, and gypsum. Britain is a major cement producer. About 75 percent of the market is controlled by 2 companies, Blue Circle Cement and Castle Cement. Blue Circle also controls about 25 percent of the Canadian market. British Steel is Europe's largest steel producer with revenues of US$12 billion. In the United Kingdom, British Steel produces about 13 million metric tons of steel per year. However, competition from foreign companies has led to plans by the manufacturer for significant reductions in the number of workers over the next 5 years.


The manufacturing sector in the United Kingdom is diverse and includes industries that range from aerospace to automobiles to chemicals. In 2000, there were 4.14 million Britons employed in manufacturing. There are 1,500 aerospace companies in the United Kingdom. British Aerospace manufacturers had revenues of US$12.8 billion, including exports of US$9.2 billion. About half of the British aerospace industry is geared toward the production of military aircraft and parts. Several British defense manufacturers, including British Aerospace (Bae), are the among the largest arms firms in the world. In 2000, the United Kingdom was the world's fourth-largest arms exporter. British weapons sales included missiles, ships, tanks, and aircraft. Most of the sales were concentrated to countries in the Middle East such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The United Kingdom is also one of the foremost publishing centers in the world, publishing more than 50,000 book titles per year. Several major British publishers, including Pearson and Palgrave, have moved into the American market by purchasing U.S. firms. Automobile manufacturers have a long and productive history in the United Kingdom. However, many British firms have recently been purchased by foreign companies. For example, Jaguar and Aston Martin are now owned by Ford, while Rover is owned by BMW. The world-renowned Bentley is now owned by the German firm Volkswagen, and after 2003, BMW will own Rolls Royce automobiles. Japanese automobile manufacturers such as Nissan, Honda, and Toyota have plants in the United Kingdom, and produce a combined 700,000 cars per year. Automobile manufacturers and car part makers employ some 850,000 British workers. In 2000, UK firms produced 1.629 million cars. Of this number, 1.138 million were exported. British manufacturers also produced 185,905 commercial vehicles, mainly trucks. Unlike cars, most commercial vehicles are made for the domestic market (only 74,922 were exported in 2000).

The British chemical industry has averaged 5 percent annual growth since the early 1990s. Most of this growth has been concentrated in the pharmaceutical sector, where demand for new medical products has risen dramatically. The increased demand for prescription and over-the-counter drugs has led to a drug store market that includes some 12,000 pharmacies. The chemical sector was worth US$56 billion, of which US$12.6 billion was pharmaceuticals.

After several years of decline, the construction industry rebounded in 1999 because of dramatic increases in the housing market. After several years of strong economic growth and increases in wages, many workers began to purchase new homes, or add expansions to their existing homes in 1999. Government spending on new projects, including hospitals, public housing, and government buildings, has also helped stabilize the market. In 2000 there were 1.8 million Britons employed in construction.


The service sector dominates the British economy. Business and financial services alone provide jobs for 5.23 million Britons, and in overall terms, services provide employment for 21.36 million Britons. Much like this segment in the United States, the British service sector is highly diversified and marked by high levels of competition. This provides consumers with wide choices over products and keeps prices in check. One trend in some segments of the service sector has been the emergence of large companies and the disappearance of smaller firms. This is especially true in the retail and food sectors. Like their American counterparts, British consumers tend to prefer "one-stop" shopping at stores where they can find a variety of products that range from groceries to hardware to apparel. The result has been the decline of traditional supermarkets and department stores and the emergence of hyper-markets (large chain stores that combine the different products and services of a grocery store, pharmacy, hardware or automotive store, and a department store) such as Wal-Mart. The main elements of the service sector include telecommunications, financial services, retail, and tourism.


The British telecommunications sector is currently worth US$34 billion. This equates to 2 percent of GDP and 1.7 percent of consumer spending. About 96 percent of British homes have a telephone, and there is an increasing demand for second telephone lines for computer or fax access. The market is adding about 500,000 new telephone land-lines per year. British Telecom is no longer a state monopoly, but it still dominates the British telecommunications sector with about 80 percent of the business market and 64 percent of the consumer market. Many U.S. companies have had success in the United Kingdom's long distance market, including Sprint, MCI, and AT&T. There are 4 companies with licenses to offer cellular service. These include the British Telecom-owned BT Cellnet, Vodafone, One-2-One and Orange.

The United Kingdom has an expanding e-commerce market. In 1999, the market was worth US$3 billion. There are about 9,000 companies primarily involved in e-commerce, and 72,000 that do some business over the Internet. E-commerce companies range from booksellers to food delivery services. Meanwhile, the computer software market was worth US$10.3 billion. Personal computer use is expected to increase by 15 percent over the next few years. Computer software sales and supplies totaled US$39 billion in 2000.


. British insurance firms dominate the maritime insurance market and provide insurance for about 25 percent of the world's merchant ships. London is a major international center for buying and selling currencies from around the world; almost one-third of all foreign exchange transactions in the world take place in London. In addition, 25 percent of all banking assets in the EU are located in the United Kingdom and the kingdom's banks accounted for 21 percent of all cross-border lending. The prominence of the United Kingdom as an international financial center is reflected by the number of banks and financial institutions in the country. There are 420 different banks in the United Kingdom. Of these, 190 are incorporated in the kingdom, 103 are banks from the EU, and 127 are from other countries in the world. The British banking sector is worth £2.66 trillion. Banking employs 415,000 people, or about 1.7 percent of the workforce. The British banking sector is dominated by banking groups or consortia of several different individual banks. The largest of these is Lloyds TSB. Lloyds TSB is made up of 8 banks with 2,529 branches. The second largest bank group is Barclays, with 1,899 branches in the United Kingdom. There are 37 different American banks with branches in the United Kingdom, including branches of Citibank, Bank of America, American Express, and Bank Boston.


. Franchises account for a significant share (one-third) of the British retail sector. This includes about 40 American franchises that employ about 30,000 workers in 3,000 stores and have revenues of US$1.65 billion. American specialty clothing stores such as The Gap, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger have done especially well in the US$40 billion United Kingdom clothing and apparel market. Retail food sales in the kingdom in 1998 were US$81.5 billion. Five major supermarkets control about 70 percent of the retail food market. These 5 companies are Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda/Wal-Mart, Safeway, and Somerfield. Restaurant sales in 2000 were US$25 billion and bar sales (which include food since many British citizens eat at pubs that serve both food and alcohol) were US$30 billion. There are 12 American restaurant franchisers in the United Kingdom, ranging from Denny's to Subway to Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). McDonald's alone operates 750 restaurants in the United Kingdom.


The hotel industry in the United Kingdom is worth US$10 billion alone. There are 22,000 economy hotels in the country and 10,000 medium to high-class hotels. One demonstration of the strength of the hotel sector is the fact that occupancy rates average 80 percent nationwide. Travel Inn and Travelodge account for 75 percent of the low-budget hotels in the kingdom while international firms such as Holiday Inn and Sheraton constitute a significant percentage of the upper scale lodgings. In 1997, about 25.5 million tourists visited the United Kingdom. This represented a 28 percent increase since 1993. In 1997, tourist revenues amounted to US$20 billion.

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): United Kingdom
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.


The United Kingdom's economy is dependent on foreign trade. The government supports free and unrestricted trade and has championed international trade organizations such as the World Trade Organization and the EU. Because of its dependency on trade, the British have few restrictions on foreign trade and investment. Of the kingdom's 500 largest corporations, 60 are American. The United Kingdom's main trade partner is the EU. Some 58 percent of the kingdom's exports go to EU nations. Its main EU partners are Germany, which accounts for 12 percent of exports; France, with 12 percent; and the Netherlands with 8 percent. The United Kingdom's largest single market is the United States, which accounts for 13 percent of its exports. The United States also provides 14 percent of the kingdom's imports. As a combined group, the EU provides 53 percent of British imports. Germany provides 13 percent, France 9 percent, the Netherlands 7 percent, and Italy 5 percent. The United Kingdom has trade treaties with 90 different nations.

The strength of the British pound and the state of the economy has made the United Kingdom an attractive investment area for foreign investors. The kingdom is the world's second-largest destination for investment. About 30 percent of all foreign investment going into the EU is directed at the United Kingdom. The British also invest heavily in other nations. In 1998, the United Kingdom had US$120 billion invested abroad. The United States is the largest single investor in the United Kingdom and accounts for 44 percent of all foreign investment in the United Kingdom. In 1997, U.S. investment in the United Kingdom amounted to US$138.8 billion. The total U.S. investment in the United Kingdom is more than the total American investment in Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands combined. In overall terms, foreign investment accounted for 5 percent of GDP.

For several decades, the United Kingdom has had a trade deficit, as it has imported more goods and services than it has exported. In 1998, the trade deficit amounted to US$35 billion or 1.5 percent of GDP. However, because of the attractiveness of the kingdom to foreign investors, new investment capital continues to allow the British to fund this deficit because the new investment monies exceed the money the kingdom loses through its trade deficit.

Foreign companies provide 40 percent of British exports and they have a significant presence in the manufacturing sector. About 20 percent of manufacturing companies are foreign-owned and 16 percent of employment in the sector is tied to foreign firms. In 1998 there were 25,800 foreign companies in the United Kingdom. Among the major international companies in the United Kingdom are Dupont, with sales in 1998 of US$2.7 billion, the Swiss chemical company Ciba, with sales of US$2.3 billion, and Coca-Cola, with sales of US$2.1 billion.

In order to attract foreign businesses and foreign investment, the British government has adopted a variety of programs. For instance, the Parliament allows local and regional governments to establish enterprise zones. In these zones, companies receive exemptions from property taxes and reimbursement for costs involved in the construction of new factories or business locations. These inducements may be extended for up to 10 years. There are also programs that provide incentives for companies to locate in economically depressed urban areas that are known as "Assisted Areas." In 1998, the total value of these programs was US$315 million. There are 7 free trade zones in the United Kingdom (Birmingham, Humberside, Liverpool, Prestwick, Sheerness, Southampton, and Tilbury). These zones allow goods to be stored for shipment without tariffs or import duties.


The British pound sterling has traditionally been one of the world's strongest currencies. In fact, the recent increase in value of the pound relative to other currencies such as the yen or the dollar has meant that goods imported are worth less than similar goods manufactured in the United Kingdom. It has also meant that British exports are more expensive than similar goods from other nations. In 1995, 1 U.S. dollar was equal to 0.6335 pounds. By 2000, 1 U.S. dollar was only equal to 0.6092 pounds.

London is one of the world's leading financial centers. The London Stock Exchange is the nation's largest stock exchange. In 1999, there were 1,945 companies listed on British stock markets. Total stock value in 1999 was US$2.93 trillion. While the British market is generally free and open, there are restrictions on foreign stock ownership of companies that the government still partially owns. In the case of state-owned companies, foreign ownership is limited to 49 percent of stock.

Exchange rates: United Kingdom
British pounds per US$1
Jan 20010.6764
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

In 1997, the government gave the Bank of England independence in currency matters. This means that the bank, not the government, is now responsible for monetary policy in the United Kingdom. The Bank sets the interest rates in the country and controls the amount of currency in circulation. One of the main policy goals of the bank is to keep inflation low, with a target of maintaining inflation at 2.3 percent. The bank has allowed the foreign exchange reserves of the United Kingdom to decline from US$42 billion in 1995 to US$32 billion in 1998 and US$29.8 billion in 1999. The reason for this decline has been the effort of the Bank of England to increase the amount of money in circulation (since 1995, the bank has increased the amount of currency by 7 percent per year). Partially because of these increases, inflation remains low1.6 percent by government estimates in 2000.


The United Kingdom has traditionally had deep divisions between the wealthy and poor. Unlike the United States, the middle class of the United Kingdom is smaller and there continues to be a more formal class system in the country. The United Kingdom has the highest degree of income inequality of any of the EU nations. The wealthiest 10 percent of the population controls 24.7 percent of the kingdom's wealth, while the poorest 10 percent controls only about 2.4 percent of wealth. Most significantly, since 1990 the poorest segment of the British population has seen a decline in income of about 8 percent, while the richest sector of the population has seen an increase in income of almost 68 percent. About 17 percent of the British population is considered to live in poverty. However, it should be noted that unlike most other developed nations, the United Kingdom does not have an official definition of poverty. Nonetheless, a government survey estimated that 22 percent of Britons were underpaid (paid at a rate that would not support the housing, food, and transportation needs of an individual).

The poor in the United Kingdom suffer from a variety of impediments that make it difficult to advance

GDP per Capita (US$)
United Kingdom13,01514,20515,54618,03220,237
United States19,36421,52923,20025,36329,683
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

economically or socially. For instance, 20 percent of all Britons do not have a bank account. In addition, the infant mortality rate for the poor was 8.9 deaths per 1,000 births, while the rate for the middle class was 5.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, and only 4 deaths per 1,000 live births for the wealthiest families. Finally, the middle and upper classes have an average life expectancy that is 7 years longer than that of the poor. Poverty in the United Kingdom is partially alleviated by several social security programs. The most significant of these is the national health care system, or NHS. This provides essentially free health care to all Britons. However, recent economic problems with NHS has led to efforts to economize and some reduction in services. Studies continue to show that the more affluent parts of society have better health care since they can afford some private medical services.

The country's first minimum wage law did not go into effect until 1999. Since that time, government agencies have collected US$4 million for employees who were still paid less than the minimum wage of US$5.50 per hour. While poverty rates increased in the United Kingdom during the 1990s, the unemployment rate decreased. In 2000, unemployment stood at its lowest level since the 1970s at 6 percent. However, unemployment rates are higher among several groups including minorities, Catholics in Northern Ireland, and the country's

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: United Kingdom
Lowest 10%2.6
Lowest 20%6.6
Second 20%11.5
Third 20%16.3
Fourth 20%22.7
Highest 20%43.0
Highest 10%27.3
Survey year: 1991
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
CountryAll FoodClothing and footwearFuel and power aHealth care bEducation bTransport & CommunicationsOther
United Kingdom147933658
United States139946851
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

youth. In order to help families who only earn minimum wage, the working families tax credit was established in 1999 to provide all families with a minimum weekly income of US$320. About 1.5 million British families receive some government assistance.

Poverty rates are highest among ethnic minorities. For instance, the poverty rate and unemployment is twice as high for people of African descent than it is for white Britons. Minorities receive only about 90 percent of the pay of their white counterparts in similar occupations. Although ethnic minorities make up only 2.8 percent of the population, they make up 12 percent of the poor. Women face even greater degrees of economic discrimination than do minorities, especially in hiring, promotion, and pay. On average, women receive only about 84 percent of the pay of their male counterparts who are working in the same jobs. A recent government report predicted that it would be the year 2040 before women gained equity in pay. About 44 percent of all women work, but women also have the highest rate of part-time work (45 percent of all women have only part-time jobs).


Under British law, all workers have the right to establish unions except those in law enforcement and the military. The 1999 Employment Relations Act reformed the regulations concerning unions and workers' rights. The law formalizes a worker's right to strike. In addition, the law mandates that all companies with 20 or more employees must allow unionization. About 30 percent of the British workforce is unionized. Union membership is highest in the construction and manufacturing sectors. The number of strikes in the United Kingdom has decreased by 43 percent since 1990. Among the 15 members of the EU, the United Kingdom had the sixth-lowest strike rate. On average, British companies lost 12 days per year per 1,000 workers due to strikes.

Forced labor is illegal, and children under the age of 16 are not allowed to be employed as industrial workers. The national minimum wage is US$5.50 per hour, but youths under the age of 18 may be paid a lower rate of US$4.75 per hour. Currently about 1.5 million British workers earn the minimum wage. New labor legislation enacted in 1999 established a 48-hour maximum work week. However, the average work week for most workers is between 37.5 and 40 hours. People employed in the financial sector tend to have shorter hours, while those employed in construction and other forms of manual labor have longer work weeks. Workers also receive mandatory rest periods after 4 hours of work each day and at least one day's rest per week (most Britons work a 5-day work week). Laws mandate additional pay for overtime work. In addition, national laws require that full-time workers receive a minimum of 4 weeks paid vacation per year.

Flexible work schedules (allowing workers to choose when to work their hours during the week) are becoming popular among both employers and employees. In 2000, 24 percent of all British workers reported some flexibility in their schedules. Workers who telecommute (use a computer to work from their home) make up 1 percent of the workforce.

One major problem that continues to affect British workers is a lack of mobility. British workers seldom change geographic location, even if they are unemployed. British workers are traditionally reluctant to change jobs and have one of the lowest rates of job transfer in the EU. In order to overcome this social phenomenon, the government has enacted a variety of worker retraining programs. Worker retraining in the United Kingdom increased by 8 percent from 1995 to 2000.


600s B.C. Celts begin to settle the British Isles.

55-44 B.C. Under Julius Caesar, Rome invades and ultimately conquers Britain.

901. The West Saxons, under Alfred the Great, conquer most of England.

1066. The French duke William the Conqueror defeats the Saxon forces under Harold Godwin and establishes a Norman dynasty.

1154-1189. Henry II establishes the Angevin dynasty and consolidates royal power through a series of political and legal reforms. The nation also begins a period of economic growth.

1215. The Magna Carta is signed. The document gives increased political power to the kingdom's nobles while it reduces the power of the king. The Magna Carta forms one of the components of the kingdom's contemporary constitution.

1337. The Hundred Years' War with France begins.

1415. Scottish forces under Robert the Bruce win the Battle of Bannockburn, which guarantees Scottish independence for several centuries.

1509-1547. Henry VIII breaks with the Catholic Church and establishes Anglicanism as the official religion.

1588. Under Elizabeth I, the British become a global power and defeat the Spanish Armada. British merchants begin trading with India and North America.

1600s. Numerous colonies are established in North America and the Caribbean. Trade patterns develop in which Great Britain imports raw materials from its colonies which are converted into manufactured goods and sold back to the colonies.

1642-1649. Civil War between the Royalistswho support the Catholic King Charles Iand the Puritans results in the beheading of the king.

1660. The monarchy is restored under Charles II.

1688. The Stuarts are overthrown during the "Glorious Revolution." The English Bill of Rights is adopted and William and Mary of the House of Orange ascend to the throne.

1707. The Treaty for the Union of Scotland and England creates a single monarchy for the 2 countries.

1760-1820. The reign of George III witnesses the loss of colonies in North America, but the general expansion of the empire. The British lead the coalition that defeats Napoleon in 1815.

1800s. Wide expansion of the empire and industrialization takes place. There is significant emigration from the British Isles to North America and other colonial areas such as Australia.

1832. Slavery is abolished in the empire.

1890s. Nations such as Germany and the United States overtake Great Britain as the dominant industrial powers in the world.

1914-1918. World War I deals major blow to British imperial supremacy.

1922. The 26 counties of southern Ireland are granted independence and form the Irish Free State (later the Irish Republic).

1939-1945. World War II. Alone among the major Western European powers, the British hold out against the Axis and are one of the 3 main powers, along with the United States and the USSR, in the wartime coalition that defeats the Axis.

1945. Widespread economic recession extends throughout the United Kingdom and its empire.

1947. India and Pakistan are granted independence.

1948. The National Health System (NHS) is created. Independence is granted to Burma and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

1952. George VI dies and is succeeded by his daughter, who is crowned Elizabeth II.

1970. Oil is discovered in the North Sea.

1972. As unrest escalates into violence in Northern Ireland, direct rule is imposed by London.

1973. The United Kingdom joins the European Community (now the EU). The Bahamas gains independence.

1975. Full production of offshore oil in the North Sea begins.

1979. Conservatives return to power with a substantial majority under Margaret Thatcher, Western Europe's first female prime minister. Thatcher implements a number of economic reforms which privatize industries and cut corporate taxes.

1982. Argentine military forces invade the Falkland Islands. These forces are defeated by the British during the Falkland Islands War.

1986. The natural gas industry is privatized.

1987. Thatcher wins a third term and ultimately becomes the longest-serving prime minister since Lord Liverpool in the 19th century.

1990. Economic problems and the proposal for an unpopular poll tax cause John Major to replace Margaret Thatcher as prime minister. The United Kingdom participates in the coalition that defeats Iraq in the Persian Gulf War.

1994. The "Chunnel" inaugurates direct transportation between the United Kingdom and France via a tunnel under the English Channel. The outbreak of "mad cow" disease (BSE) significantly harms British agriculture. The coal industry is privatized.

1997. Discontent over the economy leads the Labour Party to win a general election and Tony Blair becomes prime minister. The colony of Hong Kong is returned to China. The Bank of England is granted full autonomy in monetary matters.

1998. Scotland and Wales are granted limited self-government. The Good Friday Peace Accords in Northern Ireland establish a regional assembly.

1999. The House of Lords is reformed and reduced in size. The kingdom declines to join the European Monetary Union. The United Kingdom participates in the NATO-led military campaign against Serbia during the Kosovo Crisis.

2000. Unemployment reaches its lowest level since the 1970s (6 percent). Foot and mouth disease affects almost 50 percent of British livestock, devastating the beef and sheep sectors.


The British economy is sound and the country is poised for future growth. As a member of the European Union, the kingdom is able to export goods and services to the 14 other major economies of Western Europe without paying significant tariffs or duties. EU membership and the country's low tax burden have made it attractive to foreign companies. The United Kingdom continues to lead the EU in direct foreign investment with US$274 billion, or 22.95 percent, of the EU total (the number-two country is France with US$174 billion, or 14.57 percent). The availability of inexpensive labor and the well-developed infrastructure of the kingdom will also sustain the investment of new capital and new companies.

Since English is the primary language of the Internet, software development, telecommunications, and pharmaceuticals, the United Kingdom will draw high-tech industries well into the next century. The linguistic and cultural ties between the United States and the United Kingdom mean that tourism will continue to be a strong component of the economy. The kingdom's energy sector will further propel the economy since world energy prices will remain high for the foreseeable future.

There are, however, a number of issues that continue to create doubt about the British economy. Questions over the United Kingdom's relationship to the EU have created uncertainty in the economy. The government has indicated that it would develop criteria that might ultimately lead to the United Kingdom joining the European Monetary Union and adopting the euro as the country's currency. However, there is deep public sentiment against adopting the euro. During the 1990s, the EU implemented a ban on British beef because of mad cow disease. Although the rest of the EU ended the ban in 1996, France continues to enforce restrictions on British imports. These actions have created a backlash among the public against the EU and increased economic cooperation with EU members such as France. In addition, the euro has declined in value by 20 percent when compared with the British pound. These factors continue to constrain the ability of the government to adopt the euro.

One of the main political problems facing the United Kingdom is the status of Northern Ireland. For centuries, there has been an ongoing conflict in Ireland between the Protestants and the Catholics. When Ireland became independent in 1921, the 6 northern, mostly Protestant, counties remained part of the United Kingdom and became known as Northern Ireland. Since then, the pro-Catholic Irish Republican Army (IRA) has waged a terrorist campaign to reunite the 2 areas of Ireland. After years of difficult negotiations, in 1999 the "Good Friday Agreement" brought together both Catholics and Protestants in a regional assembly led by an elected executive committee. Problems arising over the implementations of the Agreement have delayed the ability of the executive committee to become the government of the region. Continued uncertainty over the future of Northern Ireland has significantly constrained the region's economy, as few firms are willing to invest in the area. Unemployment in Northern Ireland is the highest in the United Kingdom at approximately 10 percent.

The final major problem confronting the United Kingdom is the aging of the workforce. As the elderly population of the country continues to expand, the need for younger workers will become acute. The aging population will place strains on the country's already overburdened social security system. The most pressing problem for the social security is the National Health System (NHS).



The United Kingdom has a number of territories that are known as British Crown Dependencies. These areas were once directly owned by the British monarch. The main Crown Dependencies include the Isle of Man and the islands of Jersey and Guernsey (which are known as the Channel Islands). These regions are part of the United Kingdom, but they enjoy a significant amount of political and economic freedom. The Queen is the head of state of these dependencies and appoints the head of the government. The Channel Islands each have an appointed lieutenant-governor, while the Isle of Man is led by a chief minister chosen by the Queen. Each dependency has its own elected assembly, which may enact legislation that does not conflict with the laws of the United Kingdom. These laws are subject to approval by the head of government. The kingdom has responsibility for the defense and foreign policy of the dependency, and judges are appointed by the Lord Chancellor of England (who is the chief justice of both England and Wales). In the Channel Islands, the Queen also appoints the bailiff, who is the chief law-enforcement officer.

The Isle of Man has a total area of 572 square kilometers (221 square miles). It is located in the Irish Sea, between Great Britain and Ireland. It is 3 times the size of Washington, D.C. In 2001, the population of the Isle of Man was 73,489. The Channel Islands are located in the English Channel between France and the United Kingdom. Jersey is a single island with a size of 116 square kilometers (45 square miles) and a population of 89,361. Guernsey consists of 4 main islands and a number of smaller islands. It has an area of 194 square kilometers (75 square miles) and a population of 64,342. On the Isle of Man, the Manx dialect of the Celtic language is spoken alongside English. In the Channel Islands, some people still use a Norman French dialect, while French is still used in Jersey for official ceremonies.

Because of their degree of independence in local economic matters, each of the dependencies has enacted legislation which has made the particular territory attractive to international banking and financial firms. Incorporation fees are low, as are corporate taxes. Individual taxation is also lower, mainly in the case of estate taxes . This has led many Britons to transfer funds to bank accounts in the dependencies.

In 1998, the GDP of the Isle of Man was US$1.2 billion. The GDP per capita was US$16,000. Agriculture accounts for 1 percent of GDP and employs 3 percent of the population. Industry comprises 10 percent of the GDP and 21 percent of the workforce. Services account for 89 percent of GDP and 76 percent of workers. The dominant forces in the economy are offshore banking and tourism. The main exports are clothing, herring, shellfish and livestock. The island has an astoundingly low unemployment rate of 0.7 percent. The currency of the Island is the Manx pound, which is fixed at a one-for-one exchange rate with the British pound. The dependency's main trade partner is the United Kingdom

The GDP of Jersey in 1999 was US$2.2 billion. Its GDP per capita was US$24,800. Agriculture makes up 5 percent of GDP, while industry accounts for 2 percent and services make up 93 percent. The service sector also dominates employment with over 90 percent of the work-force. Financial services account for 60 percent of GDP, while tourism accounts for 24 percent. Dairy production is also significant. Exports include dairy products, electrical goods, foodstuffs and textiles. Jersey's unemployment rate is also extremely low at 0.7 percent. The Jersey pound is the currency of the island, with an exchange rate of one-to-one with the British pound. The area's main trade partners are the EU and the United Kingdom

In 1999, Guernsey's GDP was US$1.3 billion. Guernsey's GDP per capita was US$20,000. Financial services tower over other sectors of the economy and provide about 53 percent of GDP. In overall terms, agriculture accounts for 3 percent of the economy, industry 10 percent, and services 87 percent. The islands have full employment with an unemployment rate of only 0.5 percent. The main exports of the islands include tomatoes, flowers and ferns, sweet peppers, eggplants, and fruit. The Guernsey pound is the currency of the islands. It is fixed to the British pound at a one-to-one exchange rate. The main trading partners of Guernsey are the EU and the United Kingdom.


At its height in the early 1900s, the British Empire controlled one-fourth of the world's territory and one-third of its people. Following World War II, most of the British colonies became independent. Some of the few remaining colonial possessions are in the Caribbean and North Atlantic. These areas are known as Overseas Territories and include Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. In each of the Territories, the Queen is the head of state and she appoints a governor-general to represent her. In turn, the governor general appoints the head of the government from the largest political party or group in the area's elected assembly. The Territories have a high degree of independence on local matters, but the United Kingdom remains responsible for foreign policy and defense matters. The United Kingdom also provides economic assistance to the territories, mainly in the form of aid for infrastructure projects such as roads and ports. This political connection between the Territories and the United Kingdom has proven to be very popular. In 1995, the residents of Bermuda soundly rejected a referendum that would have granted the islands independence. After signing an agreement for independence that was supposed to go into effect in 1982, the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands worked out an arrangement to remain a Territory and forego independence.

Tourism is the mainstay of the economies of all of the islands, although in recent years, several Territories have developed significant financial sectors by adopting very liberal banking laws. These rules imposed low incorporation fees and low taxes on financial gains and allowed citizens of other countries to keep large accounts in international banks with little scrutiny.

Bermuda consists of a series of small islands in the Atlantic Ocean, east of North Carolina. It has an area of just 58 square kilometers (22 square miles) and is about 0.3 the size of Washington, D.C. In 2001, the islands had a population of 63,503. Its 2000 GDP was US$2.1 billion. This gives Bermuda one of the highest per capita GDPs in the world (US$33,000). Bermuda's economy is concentrated on tourism and international banking. Each year, Bermuda receives about 360,000 tourists and that sector accounts for about 28 percent of GDP. Financial services account for 45 percent of GDP. About 1 percent of GDP is based on agriculture, 10 percent on industry, and 89 percent on services. The Territories' main trade partners are the United Kingdom, the United States, and Mexico. In 1995, Bermuda received US$27.9 million in foreign aid, most of it from the United States and the United Kingdom. The currency is the Bermudan dollar which is fixed to the U.S. dollar at a one-for-one exchange rate.

The British Virgin Islands are located in the Caribbean, just east of Puerto Rico. The islands are 150 square kilometers (58 square miles) in size and had a population of 20,812 in 2001. The GDP of the Territory was US$311 million in 2000, and its GDP per capita was US$16,000. The economy is dependent on tourism, which contributed 45 percent of GDP in 1999. About 350,000 tourists, mostly Americans, visit the islands each year. Reforms enacted in 1997 have made the region a haven for international insurance companies, and some 200,000 insurance companies are registered in the islands because of their low incorporation fees and liberal insurance regulations. Agriculture accounts for 1.8 percent of GDP, while industry, mainly construction, accounts for 6.2 percent, and services account for 92 percent. The nation uses the American dollar as its official currency and its main trade partners are Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the United States. The nation receives about US$3 million per year in economic aid, mainly from the United Kingdom.

The Cayman Islands were part of Jamaica until 1962. When Jamaica became independent, the Cayman Islands decided to remain part of the United Kingdom. The Islands are located in the Caribbean between Cuba and Central America. There are 3 main islands that have a total area of 259 square kilometers (100 square miles). Unlike the other territories, the Cayman Islands have an appointed governor who acts as the head of government. The islands have no direct taxation and, as a result, have become a major center for international companies and banks. In 1999, the islands had 600 international banks and over 44,000 corporations. Nonetheless, tourism provides 70 percent of GDP. Total GDP in 1997 was US$930 million and per capita GDP was US$24,500. The Cayman's main trading partners are the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan. The territory has its own currency, the Caymanian dollar, which in 1999 had an exchange rate of 1 Caymanian dollar to 0.89 U.S. dollars.

The Turks and Caicos Islands were under the jurisdiction of Jamaica until that colony became independent in 1962. The islands were then administered by the British governor of the Bahamas. Full independence for the Turks and Caicos was set for 1982, but popular pressure led to the Territories remaining part of the United Kingdom. The Territory consists of 30 small islands with a total area of 430 square kilometers (166 square miles). In 2001, their population was 18,122. The Turks and Caicos had a GDP of US$128 million in 1999. Its GDP per capita was US$7,300. Tourism is the dominant factor in the economy, although government employs about one-third of the population. In 1998, 93,000 tourists visited the islands. Most of these were Americans. The Territory uses the American dollar as its currency and the United States and the United Kingdom are its main trade partners. The Turks and Caicos receive about US$6 million annually in foreign aid, most of it from the United Kingdom.


Darian-Smith, Eve. Bridging Divides: The Channel Tunnel and English Legal Identity in the New Europe. Berkeley: University of California, 1999.

Holden, Ken, Kent Mathews, and John Thompson. The UK Economy Today. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995.

Gowland, David, and Arthur Turner. Reluctant Europeans: Britain and European Integration, 1945-1998. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Lowe, Rodney. The Welfare State in Britain Since 1945. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Middleton, Roger. The British Economy Since 1945: Engaging With the Debate. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000: United Kingdom. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/uk.html>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: United Kingdom. <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/bgn/index.cfm?docid=3846>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: United Kingdom. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/2000/europe/index.html>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Department of State. The United Kingdom: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 1999. <http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/1999/index.cfm?docid=368>. Accessed February 2001.

Tom Lansford




Pound sterling (£). One pound equals 100 pence. Coins are in denominations of £2 and 1, as well as 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 pence. Currency comes in denominations of £50, 20, 10, and 5.


Manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals, food, beverages, and tobacco.


Manufactured goods, machinery, fuels, and foodstuffs.


US$1.36 trillion (2000 est.).


Exports: US$282 billion (2000 est.). Imports: US$324 billion (2000 est.).

United Kingdom

views updated Jun 11 2018

United Kingdom

Basic Data
Official Country Name:United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Language(s):English, Welsh, Scottish (Gaelic)
Literacy Rate:99%
Number of Primary Schools:23,306
Compulsory Schooling:11 years
Public Expenditure on Education:5.3%
Foreign Students in National Universities:198,839
Educational Enrollment:Primary: 5,328,219
 Secondary: 6,548,786
 Higher: 1,820,849
Educational Enrollment Rate:Primary: 116%
 Secondary: 129%
 Higher: 52%
Teachers:Primary: 283,492
 Secondary: 464,134
 Higher: 89,241
Student Teacher Ratio:Primary: 19:1
 Secondary: 13:1
Female Enrollment Rate:Primary: 116%
 Secondary: 139%
 Higher: 56%

History & Background

England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales: The term United Kingdom refers to the collective body of nations made up of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The four cut a wide swath of territory across the eastern face of Europe, in spite of being geographically apart from the rest of the continent by virtue of separation by the North and Irish Seas, the Strait of Dover, and the English Channel. The four countries, over time, have experienced transformations in coastline, climate, and vegetation, as well as changing values, culture, and governments. Changes in the educational systems of the four nations of the United Kingdom have been dramatic, but at no time have changes been more extensive than the 1990s and first years of the twenty-first century following attempts to dissolve the House of Lords in England and accomplishment of devolution in Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.

In this essay, references are to the mother country of England, except where headings or internal references clearly refer to the individual countries of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Although the countries have many similarities, the differences are important to acknowledge. The reader is urged to refer to the Ireland essay for earlier references to the north of Ireland. The political creation of Northern Ireland is a relatively recent historical event, traceable to the British putdown of an Irish rebellion in the seventeenth century, followed by its peopling of the six counties of the Ulster region with British and Scottish settlers of the Anglican faith. In 2001, Wales commenced a significant breakthrough for self-rule when it took large control of its system of higher education. Also, the Scottish Parliament has the power to pass or repeal legislation passed by the English Parliament, including education acts, or to amend portions of statutes.

Roman Occupation: The early inhabitants of Britain were pre-literate hunters, eventually cut off from the rest of Europe by the submerging of land under the waters of what became known as the English Channel. Extensive research by archaeologists in the twenty-first century has started to cast some light on early peoples of this area.

Protected by fierce inhabitants and a rugged climate, England was considered a prize for conquest and began to undergo attacks from Rome. Well known to any beginning student of Latin are the campaigns by Julius Caesar in 55 and 54 B.C. immortalized by his own writings; his early biographers paint a portrait of a much crueler conqueror than the self-image he presents.

Rome's attack on tribal leaders in Wales in the first century have become well known to twentieth-century players of fantasy games, because of the valiant, though doomed, fight of the Iceni warriors under Queen Boudicca, referred to by one Hollywood screenwriter as "a female Braveheart." Her story is dramatic. After being whipped and subject to vile indignities, including the rapes of her daughters, Boudicca massacred the residents of towns pledging allegiance to Rome until a counteroffensive wiped out her armies, and she committed suicide by taking poison. In spite of such furious fighting and heavy cost in lives, the Romans defeated the Welsh clans, failing to subjugate them. Little by little, however, their culture began reflecting the influence of Celtic Catholic missionaries among the Welsh people.

Likewise, the Roman forces relentlessly invaded Scotland, repelled the clans known as the Picts, and declared the country under its rule. For all practical purposes, Scotland's rugged geography, particularly in the Highlands and its numerous adjacent islands, left the Romans hardly in control of the defiant clans and their allied clans from Ireland, the Celts. Nonetheless, Rome did have some influence on the Scottish people during five centuries of occupation, in part because of the preaching of Christian missionaries.

Post-Roman Times, Invasions, & Power Struggles: In the fourth century, Roman Emperor Constant I gave his namesake son, Constantine II, the conquered lands of Britain, Gaul, and Spain, but he gave the remainder of the empire to another son, Constans I. The unhappy Constantine II waged war on his brother but was cut down and killed during a battle in Italy. In the fifth century, the Romans pulled out of the lands they had fought so hard to win, driven out themselves after years of assault by fierce warriors they dismissed as barbarian hordes. In addition to the clans, invasions to the vulnerable east and south of England came from Denmark and northern Germany from warlike peoples known as the Angles, the Jutes, and the Saxons. The latter, collectively called the Anglo-Saxons about the sixteenth century, later used the term themselves as they grew settled and became farmers or town dwellers. Eventually, the term "Anglo-Saxon" embraced all in Britain.

The Roman and British peoples of Wales also faced the invaders, but some pockets of the culture remained where they avoided enslavement. In general, culture and civilization declined until the seventh century when the Church of Rome sent missionaries to England and established monasteries dedicated to the preservation of learning and the transmission of culture and religion in written works. The immediate effect was to make the United Kingdom countries more open to trade and to developing the trappings of civilization already in place in other countries of Europe. Monasteries in the sixth and seventh centuries spread over Ireland and Scotland as well as England, though the politics of the time were chaotic, as kingdoms wielded power and waged conflict in these countries.

By the tenth and eleventh centuries, parish churches were a reality in the Anglo-Saxon country of England, as they were elsewhere in Europe. However, instability in England and Ireland continued because of attacks by seas and rivers by marauding Vikings. Attacks by Danish warriors had begun in the eighth and ninth centuries, resulting in the destruction of monasteries and their manuscripts. The scholar-king Alfred the Great, king of Wessexin England, defeated the Danes in London in 886 and at Edington in 878. Had he been defeated, the Danes would have controlled England's main kingdoms in the ninth century. In addition to his heroics as a leader and contributions to the development of English law, Alfred was known for his championing of Old English literature and the translation of Latin classical writings into English.

Alfred's contributions to learning made him a heroic figure of that era. In other areas, pandemonium was the rule. Ireland and Scotland were infiltrated by Norse warriors, who also sacked some monasteries in a quest for the abundant loot within. Alfred was the first ruler in a succession of rulers of Wessex who gained power for themselves, even as they drove out the powerful Scandinavians. The defeated Danes were assimilated and adopted Christianity. Rather than peace reigning, the kingdoms of Wessex and the West Saxons vied for power; Scotland was also invaded. In the end, Eadred emerged as the one supreme ruler of England. His successor, Eadgar, was crowned king, and his reign (957-975) brought stability to the country and an alliance with England's large, widespread Danish population.

Ireland and Scotland experienced upheaval at the hands of invaders and men that vied for supreme rule. Battles for power were common between the ninth and twelfth centuries. The politics of Wales between the ninth and twelfth century were marked by almost constant intrigue, assassinations, battles, truces, and treaties.

Danish & Norman Rule: The persistent Danes continued to pour into England in their quest to subjugate England. At last, Denmark's King Swein prevailed early in the eleventh century, driving England's Aethelred the Unready into exile in Normandy. King Swein died, but his successor-son Cnut finished the fight against England, reigning as king of England from 1016 to 1035, as well as the kingdom of Demark from 1019 until his death. Like Alfred the Great, Cnut was a champion of the preservation of learning in the monasteries. His children were less wise and squabbled for power.

The English regained control of the kingdom of Wessex between 1042 and 1066 under King Edward the Confessor, a son of Aethelred. Edward's death brought conflict between two men, William, the Duke of Normandy, and Harold, who claimed that the dead king had promised them the throne. Harold was given the crown and was occupied with an invasion by the Norwegians in the north. Although Harold's army prevailed, they were weakened and fell to a crushing attack in the south of England led by William, and Harold fell in battle. On Christmas Day, William the Conqueror was proclaimed King of England, and though he kept alive the English laws and customs, the French language and other customs led to immense cultural changes during this Norman occupation.

The Middle Ages: The history of England from 1066 through the end of the fifteenth century is usually told through the accomplishments and failures of whatever monarch ruled at a particular time. Throughout this period, England experienced unity and prosperity to a greater degree than did Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. A system known as feudalism that was rampant in other parts of Europe became the norm in England as lords of manors extracted work and rents from their serfs, and knights served their lords, the supreme king, and the Church, marching on Crusades to try to wrest the Holy Lands from the Muslims.

Royal power was, for a time, at its height during the reign of King Henry II (1154-1189), who elevated the power of royal courts of law and put down attempts of feudal barons who challenged his unlimited powers.

Perhaps Britain's best-known constitutional document directly linked to feudalism was the Magna Carta of 1215. Signed by King John, known for his political inveigling and battles with the Pope, this "Great Charter," signed as a sign of appeasement by the embattled monarch, offered protections to the feudal lords that not even royalty could usurp, but it also guaranteed certain rights and privileges for the Church and even some rights for royal subjects.

Throughout the Middle Ages, an uneasy relationship existed between English kings and barons. The various Crusades continued until 1291, and wars against France and other kingdoms were commonplace, costly, and counterproductiveseemingly designed to satisfy the vanity or rulers or their desire for the acquisition of lands. The long reign of Henry III (son of King John) from 1216 to 1272 was marked by the waste of human lives in war and by great expenditures to satisfy Henry's lust for lands in France and Sicily. His successor, King Henry IV, achieved the throne by force and established the Lancaster dynasty, but during his reign (1399-1413), he constantly needed to dispatch the royal troops to put down rebellions by the Scots and Welsh. Far more popular (and later immortalized by playwright William Shakespeare), King Henry V also engaged in great wars during his reign from 1413 to 1422, but he mainly kept the allegiance of his people because of his personal magnetism and the number of his great, yet costly, victories against the French.

Like Alfred the Saxon, King Henry VI was a proponent of literature and learning, a patron of artists, and the founder of Eton College in 1440. However, he was a king unfit for governing, ruling at a time (1422-1461 and 1470-1471) of great unrest in England. He was murdered by Edward. Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, contributed significantly to the support of universities, according to scholar Michael Van Cleave Alexander.

A later ruler, Henry VIII, who reigned from 1509 to 1547, was a ruthless husband notorious for putting two of his six wives (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard) to death. However, learning and great universities flourished under him. Henry VIII tried, unsuccessfully, to end fighting with Scotland by uniting the two nations. Warring with Scotland continued under his reign, but one of his successes was to bring Wales into the kingdom in 1536, although Wales retained its culture and the Welsh language. Scotland's destiny changed from that of a separate kingdom to part of the United Kingdom under King James I of England, whose other title was Scotland's James VI as the son of Mary Queen of Scots, who was forced to abdicate and later executed.

The Victorian Era: Queen Victoria ascended the throne at a time of unrest and unhappiness with royalty, particularly during the reign of the dissolute King William IV who ruled from 1830 to 1837. Nonetheless, during his era was the start of important changes in England, including recognition for the strengthening of human rights. The Factory Act was passed in 1833, which eliminated, on paper if not in fact, the practice of child labor. In addition, slavery was abolished in the United Kingdom and its possessions by another historically important act. Although William IV gave some words of support to such reforms, he was befuddled by them and distressed by a growing clamor for political and social change in the United Kingdom.

Strong nationalistic feelings and greater national unity occurred during the reign of William IV's niece, Victoria, who ascended the throne in 1837 and ruled as queen of the United Kingdom until 1901. Influenced greatly by her husband, Prince Albert, whom she wed in 1840, Queen Victoria set a town for moral reform and a toning down of the more scandalous conduct of the nobles that had been commonplace before her reign. In education, her reign produced strong attempts to introduce literacy to all of the United Kingdom because of an 1870 act of Parliament establishing compulsory elementary education.

The Modern Era: From Victoria's death in 1901 through the twenty-first century, the United Kingdom has seen periods of calm and prosperity as well as unstable times caused by two world wars, strong nationalism on the part of English colonies, and the assimilation, particularly in England, of immigrants with diverse backgrounds.

A national system of education was adopted for England and Wales in 1902. By 1944, the system had developed strong local governing bodies for the schools, and yet there was a central administration as well. In 1922, Northern Ireland received a separate Parliament, while the Parliament in London governed England, Scotland and Wales.

As of 1998, the United Kingdom's population tallies at 58.8 million. The largest nation, England, has a population of 49.1 million. Scotland's population is 5.1 million. Wales has a population of 2.9 million, and Northern Ireland's population is 1.7 million people.

Scotland does not control the universities, but it does govern primary and secondary education. In 2001, the term "United" in United Kingdom is nearly a misnomer; all four UK countries have separate educational systems. Northern Ireland and Wales Assemblies, as well as the Scottish Parliament, are empowered to keep existing laws regarding education and governance, or they can repeal or amend existing legislation.

As this volume goes to press, the climate in the United Kingdom can be characterized as one of uncertainty, but also one of great nationalistic excitement and an opportunity for positive changes that reflect each individual nation's needs. Illiteracy rates in Wales are high and troubling. English schools need to solve the challenges of a diverse population with many immigrants. While Scotland remains stable with its own educational curriculum and a stable higher education system, Northern Ireland continues to adjust as it carries on with an uneasy political alliance with Ireland. The needs of England's urban, heavily populated island contrast sharply with those of less-populated, mixed urban and rural cultures of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Traditionally, in England the Labor Party has advocated regulation, reform, or abolishment of elite schools in spite of their historical traditions. The Conservative Party favors the status quo and protection of these institutions. Without question, the most significant proposals for reform after 1900 have occurred between 1992 and 1991 as English reformers have attempted to alter the makeup of the House of Lords to reflect the changing democratic society in England. Loud cries for the abolition of the House of Lords arose from numerous critics in 1974 with the election of the Labor Party that considered the House of Lords to be an anachronism and a remnant of an earlier England. The Conservative Party reacted with attacks on the Labor Party. In 1999, the government moved ahead to make major changes in the composition of the House of Lords, and most observers of social conditions in England anticipated additional party bickering and legislation regarding the ongoing House of Lords controversy in the twenty-first century.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Between the late 1990s and 2001, education in the United Kingdom moved into a state of anticipation and uncertainty with regard to laws affecting education. As noted elsewhere in this essay, the realities of devolved governments in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are prompting each nation to conduct self-studies and to contemplate possible repeals or rewriting of some educational laws passed by the English Parliament. In general, each nation's local governments are kept in check by the system of educational appropriations and grants, the main source of funding for these schools.

Local governments that administer and carry out the directives of the national education system are called LEAs, an abbreviation of local education authorities. These were put in place when Parliament passed the important 1902 education act, also known as The Balfour Act. In 1984, an education act passed by Parliament took some control away from LEAs, giving the national government more power in deciding how some assigned block grant moneys were spent for educational purposes.

An important law affecting Scotland was the 1980 Education Act, giving the Secretary of State for Scotland the power to regulate local education matters and to give directives to local authorities. This was followed by a 1981 Education Act, allowing parents the right to choose the school best-suited to the needs of their children, In 1986, another education act was passed that affected LEAs, for it gave parents a greater right to be heard on educational matters. A controversial education act passed in 1988 enjoined LEAs from allowing any schools "to promote teaching. . .the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship." The law was widely criticized as being unclear and possibly prejudicial to a minority.

Between 1986 and 1998 were passed an unusually high number of education acts, and some of these were subsequently repealed or replaced by other education acts. The most important education acts served to empower the UK nations of Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland to take responsibility for the shaping and governing of their educational systems during the process of devolving.

Educational SystemOverview

The credit for the establishment of an educational system in England usually goes to Saint Augustine, the first archbishop of Canterbury, and an Italian clergyman who worked for the conversion of the English between 597 and (circa) 605. An important part of his ministry was teaching. He trained priests and worked to increase the knowledge of converts.

Saint Augustine's belief in education was strong, and other monks inhabiting monasteries shared his passion for learning and for writings, both religious and secular, for many hundreds of years. This was long before schools were a reality in England, and so the place of learning might be a church bench or a cleared space of ground in a monastery. Priests and educators were often one and the same then. Eventually, teachings of Latin language, writings, and scholarship were thought of as an elevated form of learning to be taught in grammar schools. Unfortunately, the Romans since the first century had downplayed the need to understand Greek, and these first schools would have produced students better versed in science and imaginative literature had they learned the language. In the twelfth century, it is true that certain scholars expressed enthusiasm for Greek writings, but the established Church tended to look with suspicion on such works, lest scholars be drawn to heresy. It was not until the fourteenth century that the great Italian thinker, poet and humanist Petrarch and other Renaissance scholars saw the true importance of widespread study in the universities of Platonic thought and the work of Greek writers such as Aristotle.

Nonetheless, in the twelfth century, a great surge in the copying of manuscripts and zealousness for learning emerged from the explosion in the number of monasteriessome lavish and some bare and plainestablished in England. By 1154, there were some 300 monasteries from various religious orders established in England. At the time of William the Conqueror's invasion, there had been but 48, according to author Sir Roy Strong, who notes that nearly all these new monasteries were places for learned men to study. At first, becoming a scholar was the accepted path to become a priest or monk; quite rapidly, professionals in other serious endeavors saw the need for advanced training and study. Royal kings and nobles were often the last to seek an education, seeing it as beneath them and employing royal secretaries for such chores, according to Strong. However, reading and writing in the language of England next became essential for students who sought knowledge, as did rhetoric and, occasionally, training in theology. Some twenty-first century grammar schools, such as the King's School and Canterbury, had their roots planted even in Saxon times. Nonetheless, as medieval scholars such as Joseph Strayer and Dana C. Munro have pointed out, the native tongue was so undeveloped that scholars and thinkers alike had to do crystallize their thoughts in Latin. In addition, they needed existing models of clear thinking from established authors, and for this they had to turn to the great Roman writers such as Vergil and Cicero.

Lesser subjects were taught in the equivalent of vocational classes. Song classes, for example, were taught in Song Schools in the seventh century until shortly before the Middle Ages; these classes trained those with excellent voices who sang as an accompaniment to church services. At some indefinite point in the Middle Ages, an early version of primary schools began. They preceded the twelfth-century founding of universities, creating a small number of literate citizens. The building of universities coincided with great developments in architecture by certain monks and other geniuses with stone. As the great cathedrals went up, it became only natural that education and the Church, being so inter-related, should result eventually in the building of great universities whose buildings were nearly as grand as places of worship.

Just as the only clergy at that time were males, so too was a university education kept out of the reach of women during the Middle Ages. Nonetheless, believing that a university education was the way to assure the greater glory of God, many women, and higher-status clergy as well, became benefactors of early universities in England, according to historian Michael Van Cleave Alexander. By the early 1600s, at a time when economic conditions in England were such that a wide gap separated the poor and wealthy, many young males saw the clergy as a worthwhile and satisfying profession to enter, particularly since celibacy was not an issue as it had been in the Catholic Church since the eleventh century. For families with comfortable means and some money, grammar schools were in easy reach for their children, and the rise of a merchant class gave rise to the popularity in bookkeeping classes. For the very wealthy, tutors continued to be popular well into the eighteenth century.

Schools took much longer to gain acceptance in Wales. The first main thrust for nationwide education occurred in that nation in 1650 as some five dozen schools were established, according to H.C. Dent.

The nineteenth century saw a proliferation in public schools, a label in the United Kingdom that refers to what U.S. citizens know as private schools. Many of the elite public schools charged considerable tuition fees that only the privileged and the wealthy can afford. These public schools included Eton, Harrow, and Westminster, and though independent, they were required to submit to government inspections. Their curriculum was steeped in the classics, and the ancient languages of Greek and Latin were taught. Religion and rhetoric were also an important part of classroom teachings, and athletic prowess afforded a student considerable status. Clothing styles at these schools for men were either military style uniforms or classic, elegant dress. Much earlier, in the 1770s, the clothing was the ostentatious look of the times, according to Sir Roy Strong.

Males were expected to bond and to form lifelong close associations with other young males expected to become persons of consequence in the United Kingdom. In this male-oriented society, the finer English schools accepted a hazing practice called fagging. Older lads required a new boy to perform acts of servitude in the residence hall and on the athletic field. Any new boy who refused could expect a beating or ostracizing, losing the very respect of his peers he had come to the public school to form. The system, although harsh, unfair, and even savage, carried into the twentieth century before public pressure led to its cessation.

According to a book on hazing, Wrongs of Passage, "fagging flourished in public schools because right-minded educators placed obedience and discipline first among all the virtues a schoolboy should display." In addition, the practice began in an era when the upper class fervently believed that every person should know his place. Only after the education system had evolved and expanded was education considered an opportunity to move upward in society; heretofore, a lower-class male might know his Greek and Latin as well as anyone, but without a prestigious public-school degree, he was socially handicapped.

A nineteenth-century English periodical proclaimed the virtues of fagging and trumpeted its rules. "There must be no nonsense about it, no evasionthe obedience must be complete and it must be instantaneous. The sanction is very near at hand, in the shape of the boot, the fist, or the wicket; there is no cumbersome process of court-martial or summons in the country court to compel it. It must follow on the command as the flash is followed by the thunder."

England's geographical separation from the rest of the European continent perhaps is symbolic of its pride in being independent of its neighbors. That fierce pride, independence, and geographical distance may have contributed to England's reluctance to be a part of sweeping, wide reforms that countries such as Prussia and France had instituted during the nineteenth century. While the United States, Prussia, and France purposely set out to reform its education system from the lower grades through higher education in the decades immediately before 1850, England had a hands-off, laissez-faire attitude toward education. The result was to keep education as a privilege of the wealthier classes who attended fine private institutions, the exceptions being those fortunate children of the working poor who were educated in hundreds of church schools in place during the 1800s. Even when the Parliament moved to send matching-funds stipends to church societies for the education of the poor in 1833, the amounts were so small as to draw criticism from educators, social activists, and members of church societies. Nonetheless, the 1833 action set a precedent for greater reforms to come. By 1840, the government stipends sent to church groups for the establishment of schools was 30,000 pounds.

The elite gentlemen's schools were the models that the church public schools looked to when developing their own curriculums. To be sure, a sort-of caste system was the rule, not the exception, in England. English schools were condemned by American educators who saw the huge numbers of ill-educated waifs quite rightly to be victims of human rights injustice. Some of the reasons provided as reasons that the poor should not be educated were illogical and fear-based, including assumptions that an educated poor might unite in uprisings and revolution. By 1861, famed English educators such as Matthew Arnold, an inspector of schools, poet, and Oxford University professor, penned social criticism urging educational reforms that benefited the children of working-class British toiling in the mines, factories, and shops. His criticisms included a claim that only the very elite schools of Britain compared favorably to many schools in France in quality. His attacks came nearly 30 years after French historian and social philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville studied American society, noting how the children of shopkeepers and the wealthy alike possessed a type of social equality in the quality of their educations, an occurrence unheard of in the aristocratic environs of the United Kingdom.

Social activists belonging to various religious denominations formed important organizations providing the greatest, if not sole, opportunity for the children of the poor and working class to obtain an education. Among these important groups of volunteers were the British and Foreign Schools Society (originally the Royal Lancasterian Association) established by the Protestant Nonconformists in 1810 and the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, established in 1817. The latter group stressed education of the children of Anglicans and children of members of other denominations willing to allow their children to receive religious instruction. These groups became quite sophisticated, powerful, and large. The National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church founded or oversaw 3,500 schools a little more than aa decade after its formation. The National Society became by far the most influential religious group possessing the power to build and run schools, a fact that began to draw criticism from many quarters since it put religious leaders effectively in charge of educational institutions partially aided by public funding.

In 1839, Parliament grants to education began to be regulated by a Committee of the Privy Council on Education, and by 1847, this group had started attempts to reduce the managerial powers of the National Society, a decision that was highly unpopular among Church of England clergy. In particular, the Anglicans fought against attempts to stifle their efforts for the conversion of pupils to the Anglican Church. The controversy and criticisms from the public led the government to conclude by the early 1850s that educational reform was crucial to take some of the wholesale power away from the church societies. The church societies, in turn, maintained that they found it unfair for their authority to be yanked after hard work and planning on the part of society members who had been responsible for the education of so many working-class citizens.

This committee was headed by a lord president of the Council and filled out by a vice-president and ministers. At first, the committee regulated educational policy for England, Wales, and Scotland, but in 1872, Scotland formed its independent Committee on Education with similar powers to the Privy Council. In addition, in England and Wales, the 1870 Education Act permitted the founding of school boards to be operated with public money if local schools run by the voluntary church-related organizations were deemed inadequate. The 1870 Act also established schools in rural and poverty-stricken area where schools were absent. In time, the publicly funded schools, carefully regulated with inspections, generally were regarded as providing a better education for children than the church schools could provide. Education became a priority, and by the end of the nineteenth century, it was the government's largest budget line item for spending, according to historian Roy Strong.

The responsibility for carrying out the directives of the Privy Council was given to an Education Department under the supervision of a Privy Council secretary until 1856. In 1856, a revamped Education Department had its everyday affairs run by a vice-president operating as the equivalent of a superintendent and chief operating officer. There was a board in name only with responsibilities for overseeing the superintendent's duties carried out, although the board's powers increased substantially between 1902 and 1921 as perceived needs arose. The Committee of the Privy Council on Education supervised educational matters for 60 years, supplanted by a Board of Education similar to those in other industrial nations in 1899. The 1899 reformed Board of Education also encompassed oversight of art, Design, and technical schools in the United Kingdom.

During the nineteenth century, the task of keeping schools operating efficiently was assigned to local school boards. This proved unsatisfactory, and a decision was made by Parliament to pass the 1902 Act that put the schools under professional educators as overseers working collaboratively with these county and city education councils. These oversaw both primary and secondary schools at the local level. Another important aspect of the 1902 Act is that responsibility was taken away from more than 2,500 school boards and given to Local Education Authorities (LEAS) with power to appoint an education committee. Public schools were now called "provided" schools, contrasting with the "unprovided" church schools. In an effort to take some of the power away from the powerful church schools, the LEA was given the authority to appoint two of six church school board members. The compromise measure benefited the church schools, nonetheless, because the appointments enabled them to keep eligible for school funds financed by local taxes. It also gave parents who wanted a secular education more options because the number of secondary schools in the United Kingdom rapidly began to increase. During the twentieth century, the once-mighty church schools began to decline in number and influence.

Another influence of the LEAs was a growing reliance on examinations for school placement. As a result, many teachers complained that they were teaching to get their pupils through examinations, not teaching them to absorb knowledge and prepare for life's intellectual challenges.

The state bureaucracy evolved over time to oversee the schools, and a Board of Education kept control until 1944. That year an education act eliminated the Board and established the Ministry of Education under the supervision of a minister of education; the Ministry continued until 1964. In 1964, the Secretary of State for Education and Science Order combined the Minister of Education and Minister of Science into a single Department of Education and Science. The revamped Department of Education and Science was responsible for the promotion of education and higher education in England and Wales. National concern about educating the children of lower socioeconomic classes was spurred by research in 1963-1964 that determined that the offspring of professional persons were 20 times more likely to attend a school of higher education. In 1970, the overseeing of primary and secondary education in Wales and Monmouthshire fell to the Welsh Office by the Transfer of Functions Order, with additional responsibilities assigned in 1978.

Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland has school systems under a separate Department of Education from the schools of the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland, educational funding comes through the Northern Ireland Higher Education Council (NIHEC). The two Departments of Education use different accounting systems, different financial years, different currencies, and different rates of inflation.

Northern Ireland officially has been in existence with a constitution since 1920, created by the British under Lloyd George with the Government of Ireland Act to head off a civil war. This political division of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland specifically applies to six counties in the Ulster region with the port city of Belfast as Northern Ireland's capital. Protestants are the dominant religious group. The 1998 Northern Ireland Act acknowledged the powers and responsibilities of the Northern Ireland Assembly, recognizing its power to enact and repeal existing statutes.

Scotland: Unlike other European nations, Scotland lacks a statutory curriculum. Nonetheless, the curriculum is close to standardized with schools following standards and instructions recommended by the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum. Recommendations include directives on the subjects of English, Gaelic, Latin, modern languages, mathematics and the sciences, religious, and character-building education.

Because Scotland has one examination board, not several, teachers tend to follow a similar curriculum for the standard and higher grade examinations.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Preprimary: Children in England, Wales, and Scotland may attend, at the parents' choice, various pre-compulsory schools until the age of five. In Ireland, pre-compulsory education is offered through age four. Variously, these schools are known as nursery schools or, in England and Wales, reception classes, which are held in primary schools.

With many families having both parents working or a single parent working, the government increasingly has gotten involved in attempts to improve the quantity and quality of pre-compulsory schools. Many pre-compulsory schools are run with no charge in England and Wales. Attendance is almost universal in England, with 94 percent of all students attending in 1995, according to government data.

On the average, children in Northern Ireland tend to begin primary education about one year later than do the children of the other United Kingdom countries, but this could change to a younger starting age as Northern Ireland examines and revamps its educational system.

Primary Education: England's government through much of the first half of the nineteenth century was reluctant to mix members of all classes in single primary schools. For better and worse, church schools run by the Dissenter and Anglican churches filled the void, raising funds for the poor and needy for education, and often for their meals as well. However, the church schools, even after accepting government stipends, put a heavy focus on Christian religious training in the schools that led to an outcry from those who wanted their children taught in secular schools.

The year 1862 is sometimes listed as a breakthrough year for reform in English schools as government contributions topped 840,000 pounds. Another important event was the passage of the Forster Education Act of 1870, providing educational opportunities to all elementary school children, seeing that many rural children and children of lower socioeconomic classes were missing out on an opportunity for an education. This was a systematic approach that, through this act of Parliament, created school districts to be staffed with elected school boards. In 1891, the government ruled that elementary education should be provided free to all children at public expense. In 1906, Parliament moved to pay for the meals of children not receiving adequate nutrition at home.

In 1918, attempting to remedy a situation in which children were slipping through the cracks of the system, Parliament passed the Education Act of 1918, also known as the Fisher Act, removing special circumstances that allowed many children between the ages of 5 and 14 to become dropouts. In addition, the LEAs were required, upon request, to show their development plans as a means of checking to make sure that a uniform national system of schools was in operation or in the process of being established.

While the government paid the costs of education, in the 1940s it also instituted a comprehensive examination given to all primary pupils at the age of 11. Those with the top test scores were allowed to attend academically challenging grammar schools that prepared students for eventual attendance at a university. Those with scores that were below passing were sent to secondary schools with technical and vocational emphases. The public schools paid for by tuition were unaffected by such legislation. Historian Roy Strong called the new system a "meritocracy dependent on talent." He also noted that education forever hence was put on the agenda of political parties as a key issue in election years.

By 2002, a government statute is to be enforced that primary school classes for children aged 5 to 7 contain no more than 30 pupils. No other age range has such limits, and complaints of overcrowding in the classrooms frequently are voiced by parents. In the primary grades, students are not segregated by abilities but rather are put collectively in classes regardless of aptitude test scores.

England and Wales have adopted a rigorous, prescribed curriculum for compulsory education with the 1998 Education Reform Act and earlier education acts. Northern Ireland also has a compulsory curriculum of its own. In the primary grades, students are broken into age group categories from ages 5 through 7 (4 through 8 in Northern Ireland) and from ages 7 through 11 in England (8 through 11 in Northern Ireland).

Although the curriculum is mandatory, teachers or local school committees choose school textbooks. Among the compulsory subjects in the English lower grades are history, geography, mathematics, science, design and technology, information technology, religious education, physical education, history, geography, art, and music. A foreign language is required for older students.

Wales, in addition to these subjects, requires the teaching of Welsh. Northern Ireland requires compliance from schools in the teaching of English, science and technology, environment and society, mathematics, and creative and expressive studies. Irish is compulsory.

Wales: In April 2001, the recently formed National Assembly of Wales identified a disturbing trend in illiteracy and ignorance of mathematics to be a top priority that the government and education officials must address. In 2001, approximately 27 million pounds was appropriated by the Assembly for a public relations effort and other campaigns.

In addition, tough testing standards have been required as of 2001 for all higher education institutions to evaluate entering students' levels of competence in reading, writing, and numeracy skills. More than a quarter of all adults (28 percent) is illiterate or has substandard literacy skills. Nearly one-third (32 percent) has subpar mathematical skills.

As a result, the Assembly has earmarked two priorities for education. It wants to reach older adults to begin enrolling them in comprehensive remedial programs. It also wants to establish a more efficient system of identifying and assisting children with reading, writing, and math deficiencies to systematically provide remediation to prevent them from dropping out, ill-prepared and frustrated.

In Wales, classes are taught in the English and Welsh languages as a mandatory part of the national curriculum. Welsh-medium schools are located in nearly all locales. In Northern Ireland, Irish-medium schools also are increasingly found. The learning of each country's language is tied to efforts to restore national pride.

Northern Ireland: Perhaps the greatest dissatisfaction with post-primary education in the United Kingdom expressed by parents and lawmakers alike is in Northern Ireland. In 2000 and 2001, the government established a Review Body on Post Primary Education under the supervision of the Minister for Education, following the publication on September 28, 2000, of a research report that was critical of the selective system of secondary education in Northern Ireland. The Review Body has 10 members with a support staff of 5 education advisers from Scotland, England, and the Republic of Ireland.

The following were identified as some of the key issues facing the review body: 1) reforming the postprimary and primary systems; 2) improving academic standards; 3) restoring and cherishing the ethos, culture, and identity of Northern Ireland schools; 4) dealing with identity problems of the young who do poorly on national testing or are placed in other than the schools of their first choice; 5) recognizing that there are different types of intelligences and refraining from pigeonholing those children who do not test well or experience test anxiety; 6) a need to identify and institute curricula and schools that produce the best citizens with character, strong personal standards, and maximized abilities; and 7) the need to deal with socioeconomic classes whose backgrounds leave them at a testing disadvantage.

One of the great concerns in Northern Ireland was the categorization of students in eleventh grade that made students not selected for a college-bound track feel that they were less worthy than fellow students. The Review Board said reports indicated that students who were passed over demonstrated low self-esteem.

Grammar Schools: As United Kingdom countries advanced during the Middle Ages, but before universities found their place, the English grammar school provided a means for potential scholars to master rhetoric, grammar, and occasionally other subjects if the teachers were prepared, willing, and educated themselves. As the universities at Oxford and Cambridge prospered in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, respectively, the grammar schools increasingly became the preparatory institutions that pupils relied upon for a solid learning foundation before going to a university in England or abroad. Most, if not all these schools were connected with a parish, cathedral, or other religious institution. Perhaps the first school to claim independence and self-governance, according to scholar A.F. Leach, was "Seint Marie College of Wynchester in Oxenford," founded by a local bishop in 1382. The school was a boarding school and accepted pupils from distant outposts in England; it was considered exemplary as an educational institution and was imitated by Eton College's founder, Henry VI, in 1440. Nonetheless, it attracted more sons of the poor and those climbing for status in the Middle Ages in England than those already wealthy who could hire traveling tutors or send their sons to established craftsmen as apprentices.

Education for females then was also done for a few women at home, if their fathers were wealthy and liberal-minded, or at a lesser school known as a "pettie" school and in some convents.

Whether girls or boys, through the twelfth century it was the Catholic Church, out of a sense of duty, that mainly provided whatever educational opportunities existed for younger boys and girls. After the reformation, the greatest surge in the foundation of grammar schools was in the first half of the seventeenth century. W.K. Johnson estimated that the number of schools in the seventeenth century served more citizens percentage-wise in England until the explosion of schools in the twentieth century.

As of 1995, some 158 grammar schools remained in operation in England, and their supporters and detractors were vocal. Admission to English grammar schools is based on ability.

Secondary Education

The beginning of a surge in the number of secondary schools in the United Kingdom often is linked to a scheme to provide secondary education to all children, including children of the poor and the working class, in 1902 after the passage of an education act known as the Balfour Act. A statute required the LEAs to provide and pay for places in secondary school for deserving students, and the funding came from tax revenues. The passing of a competitive examination was required for placement in a secondary school. Nonetheless, in spite of fears by middle-class parents that the presence of the poor would weaken the quality of education for their own children, it took until World War I and beyond for many working-class parents to send their children to secondary schoolseven though they were tuition free.

At the age of 11, nearly all students in the United Kingdom move up from primary to secondary state schools. The state schools require no testing, but independent secondary schools require a Common Entrance Examination that is taken at age 11 or slightly older. Contemporary secondary schools adhere to the state mandate of a National Curriculum requiring pupils in England and Wales to take examinations called the Standard Assessment Tasks (SATs). This form of testing ranks and assesses students against a national scale of measured abilities at ages 7, 11, and 14. As of 2001, Northern Ireland was also planning similar nationwide assessment tests.

In 1988, a General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) was introduced, replacing other types of assessment tests. This is the assessment test taken by secondary school students aged 16 or older in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Pupils at 18 or older take the GCE A-level and AS-level exams.

In 1998, the Education Reform Act was passed, standardizing the curriculum in England and Wales with six main areas of study (English, environment and society, creative and expressive studies, languages, mathematics, and science and technology). In addition, there are six cross-curricular areas.

In Scotland, the Scottish Certificate of Education (SCE) at Standard Grade is taken at the age of 16 or older, while the Higher Grade is taken at the age of 17 or 18. For those who have completed the Higher Grade, there is the Certificate of Sixth Year Studies. Vocational education in Scotland is served by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which is the national body with responsibility for developing, awarding, and accrediting academic and vocational qualifications.

In Northern Ireland, examinations are conducted by the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations, and Assessment (CCEA) to ensure that its standards are comparable with those of the other examining groups in the United Kingdom.

Secondary schools frequently segregate students. This is done in two ways. One way is through streamingputting students of similar abilities into all classes. Another practice is to merely limit certain classes, often mathematics and science, to pupils of similar aptitude.

Technology in the Schools: The Department for Education and Skills conducted a 1998 survey on the availability of computers used in the primary and secondary classrooms of England. It also tabulated expenditures for computers, measured Internet usage, and surveyed teachers on their use of computers in the classroom. Based upon a representative sample of 1,211 primary, 1,452 secondary, and 594 English special schools (with responses from 938 primary, 977 secondary and 453 special schools), the survey response rates corresponded to 77 percent, 69 percent, and 76 percent reporting use of computers in the classroom.

In England, the main impetus by the Government for getting computers into all schools was its 1998 "Open for Learning, Open for Business" public relations campaign. The goal is to get computers into all schools in sufficient numbers to promote learning and to provide skills needed to prosper in the twenty-first century. To that end, in Britain, the "National Grid for Learning in the Twenty-first Century" is a gateway for computer excellence by teachers and students.

Compulsory Education: England lagged behind other industrialized countries in the passage of laws to protect children from being thrust at a young age into factories and mines. Reforms took decades to be implemented. Any reader familiar with the works of Charles Dickens (1812-1870) has an acquaintance with the plight of child exploitation in England. The distinguished author himself was born in poverty and made to work as a child in a blacking warehouse. Scholar Leon Litvack cites examples from Dickens' speeches and works to show the writer's support of "universal, non-sectarian education" and reformations in Victorian England schools.

Not until an 1876 education act was a school leaving policy formed. The act put the responsibility for compliance on the shoulders of parents. Much emphasis was put on regular attendance. A child could be compelled by law to remain in school if school attendance committees decreed the pupil's attendance had been spotty.

The age of compulsory attendance was set at 10 in 1880 by another education act passed by Parliament. Children could leave school at 10, but they could also be required to stay if their attendance had been unsatisfactory.

In 1893, a compulsory education law lifted the age bar slightly by making the school-leaving age 11-years-old. In 1899, the school-leaving age was elevated to 12 years, and in 1918, to 14 years. An education act passed by Parliament in 1939 pushed up the school-leaving age to 15 years, but when Germany began bombing England and World War II was declared, the law was suspended for the duration of the emergency.

In 1944, an education act once again restored the school-leaving age to 15. In 1947, the age was raised a final time to 16. In 2001, compulsory education ranges from the ages of 5 to 16 in the United Kingdom, with the exception of the 4 to 16 ranges in Northern Ireland. The school year in the United Kingdom begins in August or September and runs to June or July, as school officials decree. Schools stay open at least 190 days during the academic year and keep a Monday-through-Friday schedule. Schools operate five days a week, and there are recommended numbers of hours per week, which vary depending upon a child's age.

Higher Education

The universities that arose in Europe in the middle ages bore little resemblance to those in ancient Athens and Carthage. The culture of the medieval periodcharacterized by its guilds, rituals, and traveling scholarsmade the first European schools of higher learning, the "studium generale," unique institutions in every way. England's contribution to the great universities that dotted the landscape of Europe in the twelfth century was Oxford University in Oxford, a southcentral English town.

Many of Oxford's first students and scholars were disaffected University of Paris members. In particular, these students and scholars abandoned Paris during times of crisis in 1167 and 1229, streaming into Oxford, according to scholars Joseph R. Strayer and Elisabeth Leedham-Green. Enough students enrolled thatt Oxford expanded to establish residential lodgings in the thirteenth century. These first residential colleges were called University, Balliol, and Merton. The first English secular colleges were designed for senior scholars, the equivalent of graduate scholars today. The admittance of undergraduates or lesser scholars was a late phenomenon in England, usually associated by scholars with the chartering of the royal College of the King's Hall, Cambridge, in 1337, although its origins predate the charter by some two decades. King's Hall soon offered studies to a range of scholars ranging from the neophyte undergraduate to the scholar with numerous years of study to his credit.

At Oxford, as at the first schools of higher learning in other nations of Europe, these poor scholars were basically in the employ of students, and students exercised power over their teachers until the faculty eventually gained the upper hand over their students. The power balance shifted suddenly when students allowed scholars to select which of their peers were worthy of receiving teaching licenses; the scholars then formed their own guilds, much as workers in other established professions had done.

These early students were no more mature than the students of the present day wereless so more likely. According to Wrongs of Passage, they hazed newcomers viciously, rubbing their noses into grindstones or making them drink unspeakable concoctions, and they, in their gowns, fought against local towns people. A 1354 riot at Oxford began over a disagreement about a vintage of wine and resulted in students dying and suffering grim injuries. Until late in the nineteenth century, the successful public school graduate then advanced to Cambridge or Oxford, or in some cases sought an education abroad. Three prestigious Scottish universities, St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, came into being during the fifteenth century.

During the nineteenth century, for a time, Cambridge or Oxford developed a reputation for being less serious about studies than the universities in Scotland, and some dons failed to meet their teaching obligations. Cambridge and Oxford found the label of expensive social clubs they were branded with to be as hard to shake as it was offensive to serious students and scholars at these institutions.

Potential university students received other options late in the nineteenth century when schools of higher education were established in London, Leeds, Durham, and Manchester. Finally, women achieved a significant breakthrough in 1869, as Girton College in Cambridge announced the acceptance of female applicants.

In England, all the early universities were put into being by a Royal Charter or government statute. The Privy Council, an advisory body that counsels the Queen with permission from the Orders in Council, grants royal charters and permits the incorporation of universities.

Perhaps the liveliest era in the development of higher education opportunities for the greatest number of citizens took place in England's major cities during the early years of the twentieth century. From that start, with just 10 universities in 1910, there was growing enthusiasm for additional colleges and universities in other industrial cities.

The last 30 years of the twentieth century have seen a massive explosion in the number of UK residents choosing to go on to college. The nature of higher education in the United Kingdom has changed significantly over the past 30 years. The number of students studying at universities and colleges has increased dramatically. In the 1960s, there were around 200,000 full-time students. This has risen to more than 1 million students in 2001, as older students increasingly attend college for the first time or return to college to complete degree studies begun many years earlier.

Including part-time students, there are 1.7 million undergraduate and postgraduate students in UK universities and colleges as of 2001. Close to 30 percent of full-time undergraduate students are aged 21 or older when they take their first classes, representing a far older student body from just 1970. Approximately one-third of all 21-year-old adults have attended some college or obtained a college degree, with Scotland demonstrating the highest percentage among all UK nations.

In the United Kingdom, there are 111 institutions with university status and 60 institutions categorized as higher education colleges. These include Ireland, with 2 universities and 2 higher education colleges; Scotland, with 13 universities and 7 higher education colleges; Wales, with 9 universities and 4 higher education colleges; and England, with 87 universities and 47 colleges. United Kingdom institutions of higher education are estimated to employ around 100,000 full-time staff and more than 14,000 part-time academic adjuncts.

Funding bodies of each UK nation work directly with other educational bureaucracies such as the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of the UK universities, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals, Higher Education Wales, Standing Conference of Principals, and the Higher Education Statistics Agency, according to the Higher Education Funding Agency for England. UK universities also operate with widely differing missions, serving the needs of the United Kingdom's very diverse peoples and providing degrees from accredited institutions. One change under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 was the conversion of polytechnic schools of higher learning to the higher status title of universities. These former polytechnics, therefore, were linked in association with previously existing "older" universities founded in the mid-twentieth century, as well as the ancient schools at Cambridge and Oxford, plus the civic universities chartered in major English cities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Enrollments at the universities in England vary dramatically from institution to institution. The University of Abertay Dundee, a smaller institution, enrolls 4,000 students. Manchester Metropolitan University, a large school, enrolls 28,000 students. The University of London's 16 schools enroll around 100,000 students.

A single university operates as a purely private institution sustained by private funds. This is the University of Buckingham, offering courses in business, industry, and management, on its multiple campuses.

The United Kingdom's higher education colleges are extremely hard to characterize, so greatly differing as they are in enrollment, mission, and curriculum offerings that include some 30,000 undergraduate courses. Their sizes range from a few hundred students to the massive Southampton Institute with 13,000 students in 2001. Their offerings are as diverse as agriculture, art and design, modern dance, theater, and nursing.

Students pursuing their first-degree course usually attend classes full time for three years in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. So-called Sandwich or work-study courses, which include real-world internships or job assignments, take four years to complete, as do certain specialist courses. Professional degrees in medicine, dentistry, and veterinary studies generally require five years of study. In Scotland undergraduates may earn a three-year general degree or a four-year honors degree. Some of the first degrees awarded by higher education institutions include the Bachelor of Arts or BA, the Bachelor of Science or BSc, or the Bachelor of Education or BEd.

Many higher education colleges trace their respective founding back to the nineteenth century and a good deal of them were started as church-related colleges. Since 1988, with the passage of an Education Reform Act, all colleges became independent; previously all had been under the governance of a central bureaucracy, the Local Education Authorities (LEA). All colleges are now self-governing and independent. Some colleges were founded up to 150 years ago, and a significant number were established as Church Colleges. Some higher education colleges award degrees, and some offer degrees validated by a university or national accrediting body.

Since 1970, Parliament and the respective funding bodies have made the education of minorities and peoples from lower socioeconomic groups a priority. Universities UK has identified several missions of higher education. These are, "to enable people to develop their capabilities and fulfill their potential, both personally and at work," and "to contribute to an economically successful and culturally diverse nation to advance knowledge and understanding through scholarship and research."

Distance Learning: The Open University (OU) in 1997 served some 164,000 students with an extensive number of course offerings from which to choose. OU commenced operations as a correspondence school in 1969, also offering some courses that were televised. Unlike other institutions of higher education, OU has no specific entrance requirements and classes are open to all unless filled. The school offers undergraduate and graduate courses. In 1997, the average student's age was 37.

Other distance learning opportunities are expected to proliferate in the twenty-first century as more universities see the financial benefits of offering programs. The University of the West of England, Bristol, for example, offers what it terms a "Virtual Campus."

Northern Ireland: The Protestants of Ulster of Presbyterian background, with certain notable exceptions, preferred to pursue their higher education in Scotland, rather than accept the dominion of the established faith.

Presbyterians opened a state school in Belfast, Ireland, called the Belfast Academical Institution in 1814. The state contributed funding for a time but halted to display disapproval when Presbyterians refused or were reluctant to send Presbyterian ministers to study in other British schools outside Ireland as the government wished. The institution, known for a time as the Royal Belfast Academical College, closed after some 40 years in operation, unable to compete with a newly established royal school in Belfast. The Belfast Academical Institution was taken over as a grammar school and is affectionately referred to as "the Inst," for short.

Scotland: While the Scottish people in the nineteenth century put a high premium on higher education, their own history was ignored in the schools until professors of Scottish history were established at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, according to T.M. Devine. Nonetheless, the quality of the five Scottish universities was a source of national pride, and students from England and Northern Ireland frequently enrolled in these schools. Some of the luster has dropped off the schools by 2000, however, notes Devine, and educators began looking at Scots universities with a more critical eye.

A close inspection of higher education in Scotland was provided by the Garrick Report of 1997. It pointed to some major differences between Scottish universities and other UK institutions. For example, it noted that students are accepted to the school in a broader category than are students in England who apply to departments. Consequently, they find it easier to change majors. At older universities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow, the first degree is an "M.A." and not a "B.A." There is an ordinary three-year degree or a four-year honors degree option available to students. There is a strong consensus that the M.A. degree, or at least the three-year degree program, should be renamed the B.A. degree to avoid confusion.

Wales: Like Northern Ireland and Scotland, the principality of Wales is the latest United Kingdom nation to independently establish an education council to oversee post-16 (higher) education and teacher training, plus serve as the higher education funding council. As a concession to Wales' bilingual (English and Welsh) status, the new National Council for Education and Training in Wales functions under the catchall title of ELWa; its English meaning is Education and Learning Wales, and its Welsh meaning is "to gain benefit from."

The new funding council relies heavily on an agency called Higher Education Wales (HEW), founded in 1996; its predecessor was the Heads of Higher Education in Wales. The members are the individual heads of all universities and higher education colleges in Wales. Serving them, as of May 2000 was an office located in Cardiff, Wales, with a full-time professional staff serving as an expert resource team. The office attempts to assist citizens of Wales from media to assembly to students and faculty. It retains a strong working relationship as a member of Universities UK, and it, therefore, attempts to deal with educational matters of concern to all United Kingdom nations.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Evaluations & Inspections: In 1993, a decision was reached by the government to engage outside agencies to rate the quality of courses in higher education institutions. Schools are held accountable for the aims and objectives they have stated in a self-assessment and goals statement. After 1997, institutions in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are assessed by representatives engaged by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). The results are published for the public record.

Funding & Resources: The Higher Education Funding Council For England, a council that promotes and funds teaching and research in universities and colleges, reports that funding in excess of 11 billion pounds was distributed during the 1996-1997 academic year. Moneys came from four UK funding bodiesthe Higher Education Funding Council for England; the National Council for Education and Training in Wales; the Department of Education, Northern Ireland; and the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council provide the lion's share of funding in a formula based upon faculty research and teaching. These four funding organizations receive their funding from Parliament but look only for standards and guidance to Parliament, being fully self-determining with funding priorities reflecting their respective educational needs and missions. In addition to providing funds for teaching and research, these bodies advise Parliament on status of education and changing needs such as technology. The remaining funding obtained by universities and colleges for operation come from private sources, including tuitions, conferences, gifts, and other services. Income from non-UK students for tuition amounted to approximately 563 million pounds in 1996-1997, according to the Higher Education Funding Council for England. As of 1996-1997, some 200,000 overseas students reside in the United Kingdom, hailing from more than 180 countries. European Union countries made up 44 percent of overseas representation.


Northern Ireland: Moneys appropriated in the education budget for Northern Ireland in 1993-1994 (latest figures available) came to approximately 1.23 billion pounds (US$1.8 billion), according to the DENI Compendium of Northern Ireland Statistics. The moneys are for preschool, primary, secondary, and university schools.

School finances are overseen by the Education and Library Boards. Additional financial responsibility for budgetary matters goes to the Boards of Governors of individual schools through a Local Management of Schools (LMS) orderly plan.

Preprimary, primary, and secondary schools receive moneys based on a formula that primarily is figured through enrollment numbers and the cost of infrastructure and other operational considerations. As in the Republic of Ireland, spending per pupil is most deficient at the primary level and is highest at the university level.

Nonformal Education

In the United Kingdom, strong emphasis is placed upon lifelong learning, extending beyond compulsory school and outside the province of higher education. Further education enhances the personal and career satisfactions of adults who work at home or elsewhere; it also provides greater satisfactions in life for adults who have retired from working.

Vocational Training: Vocational training in England became an important part of the nation's resolve to train useful citizens, following the publication of the Robbins Committee report of 1963. In 1968, Parliament passed an education act that provided for the formation of boards of governors for the polytechnics and similar colleges. Among other considerations, the Robbins Committee recommended sweeping changes in higher education that better would enable the children of unskilled or semiskilled citizens to achieve an education to help them cope with a fast-changing world. These changes included offering "further" secondary education to pupils aged 16 years and older who were willing to pay the required tuition. Many of the schools prepared students for a trade in which specific skills are required. Many students combined work with school.

In 1992, the term polytechnics was abandoned, and the institutions were termed universities. Vocational qualifications are widespread in schools and colleges. In 1997, the work of ensuring quality education in vocational schools was taken over by the newly formed Qualifications and Curriculum Agency (QCA), replacing the former administrative unit, the National Council for Vocational Qualifications. The QCA oversees all the various accrediting and monitoring agencies, including those that supervise in-the-workplace training. In Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Agency is the equivalent of the QCA.

Teaching Profession

As with the founding of public schools for England's masses, so too did the country lag behind other progressive nations in the training of teachers for these schools. Not until the mid-nineteenth century did teacher colleges begin to spring up to meet the needs of schools. Reforms regarding the teaching profession in the United Kingdom stepped up in the 1990s. Most significantly, the 1998 Teaching and Higher Education Act approved the founding of a General Teaching Council for England and Wales. (The law took into account the devolving of Wales and allowed for a relatively smooth change if so desired by the Welsh Assembly). In essence, the General Teaching Council requires registration by the Council and there are agreements as to certain restrictions such as the ban on employment of felons. There also were stipulations and clarifications regarding the inspection of teacher training by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED). OFSTED came into being in England with passage of the 1992 Education Act and is an agency separate and independent; it established reforms in the training of school inspectors.

In 2001, teaching vacancies have caused the 20,000 maintained schools in England and Wales to step up recruiting to keep the two nations' nearly 500,000 teaching positions filled.

The government relies on the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) to provide accreditation and grant funding to institutions providing "Initial Teacher Training" (ITT). The requirements for institutions overseen by the TTA are mandated by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED), TTA is also responsible for the collection of test scores and other educational data that contribute to assessment of various educational providers. The TTA also conducts on-site inspections of teacher training facilities, consults with teacher-training institution administrators, and generally ensures that standards are met for the training of teachers and the re-entrance of former teachers who wish to again find employment in English schools.

In England and Wales, the first year of teaching is called the "induction" year of teaching. Each inductee receives a specially assigned induction tutor, usually a veteran teacher or administrator, to help him or her through a rigorous monitoring and review process. In England, the process is mandatory by government law. In 2001, the National Assembly for Wales has a proposal under consideration for a similar statutory process for the induction year.

Several UK colleges provide teacher training. Unlike Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales where such courses receive educational money grants from higher education funding bodies, England teacher-training programs are funded by the Teacher Training Agency (TTA).


Strong nationalistic feelings by the peoples in Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, coupled with the political changes caused by recent and (in 2001) current government devolving, make it certain that the United Kingdom in the twenty-first century will see social, political, and education system changes of a dramatic nature. From a political perspective, the Assemblies of Wales and Ireland and the Scottish Parliament now have the ability to make new laws concerning education or to repeal those passed by the English Parliament.

While the four educational systems of the United Kingdom nations have a common educational history, they now have separate and independent educational systems.


Alexander, Michael Van Cleave. The Growth of English Education: 1348-1648. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990).

Black, Jeremy. A History of the British Isles. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.

Cobban, Alan B. The Medieval English Universities: Oxford and Cambridge to c. 1500. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.

Connolly, S.J. The Oxford Companion to Irish History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Dent, H.C. Education in England and Wales. Hamden, CN: 1977.

Devine, T.M. The Scottish Nation: A History, 1700-2000. New York: Viking, 1999.

"Education." Census 2000, Ireland. Available from http://www.irlgov.ie/justice/Press%20Releases.

Fry, Peter, and Fiona Somerset. A History of Ireland. London: Routledge, 1988.

Hachey, Thomas E., Joseph M. Hernon, Jr., and Lawrence J. McCaffrey. The Irish Experience. Englewood Cliifs, NJ: 1989.

"Inside DFES." The Department for Education and Skills Website, 2001. Available from http://www.dfes.gov.uk/.

Levey, Judith S., and Agnes Greenhall. The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia. New York: Avon, 1983.

Mackinnon, Donald, and June Statham. Education in the UK: Facts & Figures. Hodder & Stoughton, 1999.

McMahon, Sean. A Short History of Ireland. Chester Springs, PA: 1996.

Moody, T.W., and F.X. Martin, eds. The Course of Irish History. Lanham, MD: Rinehart, 1995.

Moody, T.W., and W. E. Vaughn, eds. A New History of Ireland: Ireland Under the Union: 1801-1870. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.

Nuwer, Hank. Wrongs of Passage, revised edition. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2001.

Strayer, Joseph R., and Dana C. Munro. The Middle Ages: 395-1500. New York: Appleton-Crofts, 1959.

Strong, Roy. The Story of Britain. New York: Fromm, 1996.

Vaughn, W.E. A New History of Ireland: Eighteenth-Century Ireland, IV. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.

Hank Nuwer

Great Britain

views updated Jun 11 2018

Great Britain


THE 1960s AND 1970s

Any consideration of the cinema of Great Britain raises two key problems. First is the dominance of Hollywood cinema. English is the primary language of British cinema and, of course, of Hollywood. Britain's decline in the twentieth century has been matched by the rise of the United States as an economic power. As a key American export, Hollywood film served as a considerable influence on and a hindrance to the development of cinema in Great Britain. The absence of any language barrier made the British market an attractive one for Hollywood. Throughout most of its history, British cinema has struggled to compete against the Hollywood monolith.

The second problem is the very notion of Great Britain itself, which is hardly a unified whole, but rather is composed of other nations, prominently England but also Scotland and Wales. Additionally, Northern Ireland—which together with Great Britain constitutes the United Kingdom (UK)—must compete with other UK films as well as with the burgeoning film industry in the Republic of Ireland. In both a critical and popular sense, it is England that has been equated with Britain, and it is the English film industry, with its economic base in London, that has dominated British cinema. A further complication is the United Kingdom's ties to the European Union, which has led to an increase in co-productions where aspects of national identity tend to become subsumed.

Presently, the United Kingdom averages about one hundred feature films per year, but this number includes co-productions in which British interests may comprise only a minority stake. In the 1980s the average number of features produced was only forty-three, so current numbers represent a substantial rise. Changes in funding practices, as well as increased emphasis on co-productions, are leading causes of this apparent production boom. Funding was previously much more closely tied to exhibition, or at least to the possibilities of exhibition, either theatrically or on television. Current funding is primarily through the National Lottery, the monies from which are doled out by various regional film bodies, which are able to encourage production but rarely provide exhibition outlets. Anxiety over the state of the British film industry has been a recurring issue throughout the industry's history. In reality, Great Britain shares fears of Hollywood dominance with numerous other nations and yet, despite an ongoing inferiority complex, has a cinema history that is rich, varied, and reasonably successful.


Great Britain was a key early adopter of emerging cinema technology. In fact, it could be argued that British cinema history predates even the arrival of the Lumière Brothers in 1895. Augustin Le Prince (1842–1890), who disappeared in 1890 while returning from a visit to his brother in his native France, was reputed to have successfully experimented with motion pictures. Patents for which Le Prince applied, as well as remnants of his work, suggest that his experiments were successful, yet his work seems to have had no real influence, and he remains a curious cinematic footnote. Instead, it is the first Lumière show, in London in February 1896, that may be said to have inaugurated cinema exhibition in Great Britain.

It was not long after this that homegrown British films began to emerge. There were three main centers of production for these early films: London, Yorkshire, and Brighton and Hove. The period between 1895 and 1905 can be seen as one of great productivity and influence, with the early British films being as innovative and prolific as their counterparts in France and the United States. Perhaps it was the influence of music hall traditions that enabled British film to emerge quickly as a world leader. Certainly, a great deal of the content of the films was derived from existing music hall acts, and undoubtedly the two popular forms shared audiences, particularly in more provincial towns and cities. Robert W. Paul (1869–1943) constructed a makeshift studio on the rooftop of the Alhambra theater in Leicester Square, making frequent use of music hall performers within his films. Another London-based company, the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, constructed its film studio at the rear of the Tivoli Music Hall. In addition to the music hall, magic lanternists and other late-nineteenth-century showmen quickly adopted film as a new form of entertainment.

One of Great Britain's most significant film pioneers was Cecil Hepworth (1874–1953), the son of a renowned magic lantern showman. Hepworth began his film career assisting another key pioneer, the inventor and sometime filmmaker Birt Acres (1854–1918), who had collaborated with R. W. Paul (before the two bitterly fell out). After working for transplanted American producer Charles Urban at Maguire and Baucus, Hepworth founded his own company, along with his cousin, Monty Wicks, in 1899, under the name Hepworth and Company, building a studio in the back garden of a house in Walton-on-Thames, a suburb of London. In 1904 the company became the Hepworth Manufacturing Company, and Hepworth turned his attention away from directing and worked exclusively as a producer. His company was responsible for a number of key early films, the most notable of which was Rescued by Rover (1905), directed by Lewis Fitzhamon (1869–1961). This film, with its narrative of a "gypsy" kidnapping of a baby followed by its rescue, seems to have been the inspiration for D.W. Griffith's first film, The Adventures of Dollie (1908). In technical terms, Rescued by Rover was a major innovation, and it was also a tremendous audience pleaser. Despite its groundbreaking elements, the film arrived near the end of the early period of British innovation; so rather than heralding a move forward, it seems more the peak of a primitive mode of filmmaking that would soon be eclipsed by technological and economic developments in other countries.

Other early British filmmakers also influenced developments elsewhere. A key figure in Brighton and Hove was James Williamson (1855–1933), a pharmacist and photographer who began making films in 1897 under the Williamson Kinematograph Company name. Williamson's Fire! (1901) was a tableaux film that employed the local Hove fire service in constructing a rescue narrative that included shots from both outside and within a burning building. The film was an obvious influence on Edwin S. Porter's later American film, Life of an American Fireman (1903). Williamson enjoyed success with his comedies as well as increasingly complex dramas until 1910, when changes in the economic models of international cinema led him to place his focus on the manufacture of camera equipment. George Albert Smith (1864–1959) of Brighton had enjoyed earlier success as an innovative operator of magic lantern shows, and he brought this same flair for innovation to the cinema. His films seem to have been less influential than those of some of his counterparts; rather, it is his technical developments that had the most lasting effect. Smith made innovative use of close-ups in such early films as the rather self-explanatory As Seen through a Telescope (1900) and Grandma's Reading Glass (1900); he also successfully incorporated trick elements such as reverse motion in The House That Jack Built (1900). His later career was devoted to the development of color in film through a two-color additive process known as Kinemacolor that he promoted along with Charles Urban.

This first decade of British film saw other noteworthy pioneers emerge, including the aforementioned R. W. Paul, whose Paul's Animatograph Works produced films by a number of other key figures. These included the magician W. R. Booth (1869–1938), whose films, including The "?" Motorist (1906), employed trick photography in the mode of Georges Méliès. Additionally, Frank Mottershaw's A Daring Daylight Burglary (1903), made for his Sheffield photo company, is a fast-paced action film that is said to have influenced Porter's The Great Train Robbery later that same year.

Still, despite its early influence, British cinema seemed to wane as other cinemas became more progressive and technically innovative. A reliance on adaptations of noted British novels and stage plays, while appeasing nationalist sentiments, left the British cinema stagy and wooden, with proscenium arch framing and side-to-side, stage-style movement dominating the structures of films. As the market for cinema changed, British companies were either reluctant or ill-prepared to meet the needs of the industry. Even before World War I, American companies were establishing offices in Britain, and exhibitors soon had an abundance of well-made titles at their disposal. Most of the early British pioneers had ceased making films, while those who continued, such as Hepworth, struggled. His one-hour version of Hamlet in 1913 was indicative of the reliance on stage adaptations. In 1923 he adapted Helen Mathers's 1875 novel, Comin' Thro the Rye, his second adaptation of the novel, and his company, renamed Hepworth Picture Plays, was unable to survive its critical and commercial failure. While it was an intrinsically British film in terms of subject matter, Comin' Thro' the Rye was made in a style that was outmoded, and it was no competition for the much slicker products arriving from Hollywood and elsewhere.


Responding to growing concerns over the increasing American dominance of the domestic market for films in Britain, Parliament in 1927 passed the Cinematograph Films Act, the first government intervention aimed at protecting the British film industry. The passage of this legislation was linked to the development of a growing cinema culture in Great Britain, which was also expressed through the founding of The Film Society in London in 1925 and the growing critical attention paid to film in the print media, including the specialist film magazine Close Up, which first appeared in 1927. The Act introduced a quota mandating a minimum allotment of screen time to British films that began at 5 percent in 1927 and was to rise to 20 percent by 1936.

The immediate effect of the legislation was a sharp rise in the number of British production companies, including British International Pictures, founded by John Maxwell as part of the vertically integrated Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC) and the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation (GBPC), which merged a number of distribution, production, and exhibition companies under the auspices of Isidore Ostrer. The majority of the new companies floundered because their output was largely of inferior quality. The arrival of sound further hastened their demise. British International succeeded, as its Elstree studio was an early adopter of sound recording equipment. The larger company (ABPC) also controlled ABC Cinemas, a major British chain, guaranteeing itself an exhibition outlet for its productions. Gaumont-British survived because it too held extensive exhibition interests, and also because of a deal that Ostrer had struck with American producer William Fox, although the company remained under British control. This retention of control was not always the case in the industry. Significantly, the quota applied to films that were produced by a company constituted in the British Empire rather than specifically British-controlled companies. This led to the development of "quota quickies," films that satisfied the basic requirements of the quota system but that did not require large investment; these were frequently made by subsidiaries of the existing American majors, either within Britain or in some cases in Canada. While many critics have dismissed the bulk of these quota quickies, there is no doubt that they resulted in a boom in British cinema production. In fact, exhibitors regularly exceeded the quota requirements that had been established.

The era saw the development of a viable and sustainable film culture in Britain. Numerous key figures emerged at this time, figures who would continue to be influential in British cinema in the ensuing decades. Gaumont-British had joined forces with Gainsborough Studios in 1927 and Gainsborough co-founder Michael Balcon (1896–1977) became head of production for both companies. Gaumont-British focused on the "quality" films, while Gainsborough was to create works with more popular appeal. Among the directors who had worked under Balcon at Gainsborough was Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980). Hitchcock had his start in the film industry working on design and creating titles for the London office of the American firm Famous PlayersLasky (later Paramount). When the firm left London, Hitchcock moved to Gainsborough, where he was exposed to its German-based productions through the company's ties to Ufa. As part of his work for Gainsborough, Hitchcock was on the set of F. W. Murnau's The Last Laugh (1924), and the influence of German expressionism is evident in his early British work, including The Lodger (1927).

Hitchcock directed Britain's first feature-length sound film, Blackmail (1929). He actually shot two simultaneous versions of the film—one with sound, the other silent, as many theaters were not yet equipped with sound technology. The film was made for British International Pictures, which had lured Hitchcock away from Gainsborough with a large contract, expecting that Hitchcock would shoot only a portion in sound, but the director instead shot most of the film in sound. The film was a huge critical and commercial success, with even Close Up, whose critics were so often harshly critical of British film, willing to offer praise. Following his association with British International Pictures, Hitchcock returned to his working relationship with Balcon, making, among other films, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and The 39 Steps (1935) for Gaumont-British. After Balcon left to become head of production at MGM-British, Hitchcock made The Lady Vanishes (1938) for Gainsborough, though the film was commissioned by MGM. The latter film was the third screenplay written by Frank Launder (1906–1997) and Sidney Gilliat (1908–1994), who would continue to be significant contributors to British cinema in writing, directing, and producing well into the 1970s.

Gaumont-British and Gainsborough aided the careers of other significant figures within British cinema. Among these were the directors Anthony Asquith (1902–1968) and Victor Saville (1895–1979). As a founding member of The Film Society, Asquith was able to incorporate his firsthand knowledge of Hollywood with his knowledge of European cinema. Asquith's early career indicated promise but was not met with much critical acclaim. In 1932 he joined Gainsborough, where he was involved in a range of projects and duties. Later in the decade he co-directed Pygmalion (1938), an adaptation of the George Bernard Shaw play, with the film's star, Leslie Howard. With this film Asquith finally received the break that would help propel him to greater recognition

b. Sándor Lászlo Kellner, Pusztatúrpásztó, Austria-Hungary (now Hungary),
16 September 1893, d. 23 January 1956

Hungarian-born, Korda became a naturalized British subject in 1936 and was the first film industry figure to be knighted, in 1942. Yet the issue of nationality and his relationship to the British film industry has always been a thorny one. Undoubtedly Korda played a central role in the development of the industry in Great Britain. His The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) represented a major breakthrough for British cinema, paving the way for successes in the American market. At the same time, Korda's devotion to "prestige" pictures, ambitious costume films that most frequently chronicled key historical figures and that made use of theatrical traditions, encouraged the industry to strive for production standards it could not sustain, contributing to the industry's economic collapse in 1937.

By the time Korda came to Britain he had already established his filmmaking credentials in Hungary. After World War I, the unstable political situation and the rise of anti-Semitism in Hungary led Korda first to Vienna and then to Berlin, where his films enjoyed success. Then, after three dismal years in Hollywood, Korda moved to Britain in 1931.

His first British film was the quota quickie Service for Ladies (1932), soon followed by his first film for his own company, London Pictures, Wedding Rehearsal (1933), a film that established Korda's use of cherished national symbols in its opening shots of the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, as well as his use of familiar national sterotypes amongst his characters. Following the success of The Private Life of Henry VIII, Korda continued to make lavishly produced biopics, such as The Private Life of Don Juan (1934) and Rembrandt (1936). Neither film came close to matching the commercial success of Henry VIII, although Rembrandt, featuring another memorable performance from Charles Laughton, who had won an Acdemy Award for his portrayal of Henry VIII, is considered by many critics to be Korda's finest directorial effort.

After the commercial failure of the latter two biopics, Korda turned his attentions to producing, running London Films as well as the large studio he had built at Denham. At the outbreak of World War II, Korda was back in the United States (some commentators have suggested he was there covertly on behalf of the British government). He returned to directing with That Hamilton Woman (also known as Lady Hamilton, 1941), a period piece about the affair between Admiral Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton that actually served as a propaganda film, with Napoleon established as an obvious parallel to Hitler. Korda's final two directorial efforts came after the war, with Perfect Strangers (1945) and the Oscar Wilde adaptation An Ideal Husband (1947). He died of a heart attack in London.


As Director and Producer: Wedding Rehearsal (1933), The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), Rembrandt (1936), The Lion Has Wings (1939), That Hamilton Woman (1941), An Ideal Husband (1947); As Producer: The Ghost Goes West (1935), The Drum (1938), The Four Feathers (1939)


Drazin, Charles. Korda: Britain's Only Movie Mogul. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 2002.

Korda, Michael. Charmed Lives: A Family Romance. New York: Random House, 1979.

Kulik, Karol. Alexander Korda: The Man Who Could Work Miracles. London: W. H. Allen, 1975.

Stockham, Martin. Alexander Korda Film Classics. London: Boxtree, 2002.

Scott Henderson

through films such as Fanny By Gaslight (1944), made for Gainsborough, and The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), which starred Michael Redgrave (1908–1985), as well as a number of collaborations with playwright Terence Rattigan, including The Winslow Boy (1948) and The Browning Version (1951).

Gainsborough and Gaumont-British were more significantly involved in the early career of Victor Saville. Saville had first entered film as a producer, along with Michael Balcon, in 1923 with Woman to Woman (directed by Graham Cutts). When Balcon became head of production at Gaumont-British, Saville became the studio's most prolific director with films such as Hindle Wakes (1931) and Evergreen (1934). After a brief time as an independent producer, Saville found himself producing films for MGM, including The Citadel (1938), a very successful adaptation directed by the American, King Vidor, followed by an even more successful Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939), directed by Sam Wood. The start of World War II found Saville in Hollywood, where he remained producing and then directing films for MGM—except for a brief stay as a director at Columbia—until his return to Britain, briefly, to shoot films in 1949 and 1952, and then permanently in 1960.

The success enjoyed by the likes of Saville, and by studios such as Gaumont-British and British International, was overshadowed by the breakthrough success of a film made by an independent company affiliated with United Artists. Alexander Korda's The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) was produced by Korda's own London Films. United Artists was willing to take a chance on a British film being acceptable for the American market and had a true success on its hands when the film became the biggest international British hit to that point. Despite the fact that Korda was Hungarian and had previously failed in his attempt to make it in Hollywood, the film's subject matter was resolutely British. The success of the film led to renewed enthusiasm within the British film industry and indicated that it was possible for British film to compete with Hollywood. Korda's film has the distinction of being the first British film to win an Academy Award®, with Charles Laughton taking the Oscar® for Best Actor. Unfortunately, Korda's subsequent films could not match the success of The Private Life of Henry VIII, and the industry's optimism quickly waned as the creation of lavish "prestige" pictures could not be sustained and further success in the American market did not seem to be forthcoming. Ironically, it was more frequently in the quota quickies where the next generation of British film talent cut its teeth. Directors such as Michael Powell (1905–1990) as well as actors including Laurence Olivier (1907–1989), Vivien Leigh (1913–1967), John Mills (1908–2005), and James Mason (1909–1984) all found opportunity in the low-budget sector.

While American-affiliated companies continued to churn out the low-budget quickies, the British companies invested more heavily in expensive films aimed at cracking the American market. Asquith moved to London Films to shoot Moscow Nights (1935), while Saville's Victor Saville Productions was among those who made films for Korda in this era. In 1937 the bubble burst, and by 1938 the boom was definitely over. Denham Studios, which Korda had constructed for the production of "prestige" pictures, was losing money and eventually was merged with J. Arthur Rank's Pinewood Studios. The second Cinematograph Films Act was passed in July 1938, and among its regulations was an attempt to end the practice of quota quickies by instituting a minimum cost of £7,500 and permitting films that cost three times the minimum to count for double quota assessment. The onset of World War II, following a severe decline in production after the bust of 1937, meant that the effects of the 1938 act were never really felt.


Parallel to the developments in feature filmmaking, another influential response to American dominance of British cinema emerged. The British documentary movement, led by the Scot, John Grierson (1898–1972), offered a distinctive riposte to Hollywood by focusing on fact and public information. While studying in the United States under a Rockefeller fellowship from 1923 to 1927, Grierson developed his interest in mass communication, in which he perceived the potential to educate the public and influence opinion. By making films that were not dependent upon box-office receipts, Grierson saw an opportunity to address social and political issues that were unlikely to be covered by the commercial film industry. At the same time, however, his reliance on government and industrial sponsors created restrictions on subject matter, and most of the films made under Grierson's auspices seem like public-relations exercises rather than cinema providing any sustained social or political analysis. Nonetheless, many critics see Grierson's influence as crucial in the development of British cinema. His approach to documentary filmmaking has positioned a "realist" orientation as one of the fundamental tenets of what is often identified as British cinema. This is in sharp contrast to some of the more escapist tendencies seen in many of the "prestige" productions of commercial cinema in Britain during the 1930s.

Grierson was the director of only one film, Drifters (1929), a documentary about herring fishing in the North Sea. In 1929 he helped set up the documentary film unit of the Empire Marketing Board under the direction of the board's secretary, Stephen Tallents. The development of such official and public-sector film units is a key component of Great Britain's cinema history and has served as a model for subsequent developments in both the public and private spheres. In 1933 the Empire Marketing Board was dismantled and the film unit was moved to the General Post Office. Following the outbreak of World War II, the unit was taken over by the Ministry of Information and became the Crown Film Unit. By 1940 Grierson was in Canada, where he helped found the National Film Board.

Despite its ties to the "real," the documentary film movement in Great Britain was in many ways an innovative form, concerned with aesthetics and a vital contributor to the development of an identifiable national cinema. With films such as Industrial Britain (1933), Grierson introduced a top-down, voice-of-god narration style whose purpose seemed to be public education. Industrial Britain was initially directed by Robert Flaherty, and Grierson had persuaded Gaumont-British to distribute the film. Unsatisfied with Flaherty's methods, however, particularly the American's tendencies toward lyrical images, Grierson took control of the film, shot additional material, and added the authoritative voice-over that is characteristic of his work. Two GPO films, Coal Face (1935), directed by Alberto Cavalcanti (1897–1982), and Night Mail (1936), directed by Harry Watt (1906–1987) and Basil Wright (1907–1987), make use of the poetry of W. H. Auden and the music of Benjamin Britten in an attempt to combine more formal aesthetic concerns in addition to addressing a sense of "Britishness." Two of the figures to emerge within the movement were Cavalcanti, who succeeded Grierson as director of the GPO unit in 1937, and Humphrey Jennings (1907–1950), whose early collaborations with Cavalcanti at the GPO were often criticized as too experimental. The Brazilian-born Cavalcanti had been involved with the French avant-garde cinema of the 1920s, while Jennings was a leading modernist and sur-realist with concurrent interests in painting, poetry, and theater, among other pursuits.

It was in his wartime documentaries that Jennings truly shone. His contributions to the Crown Film Unit's efforts are among the most memorable and critically discussed of the era. These include Listen to Britain (1942, with co-director Stewart McAllister), a film without commentary that instead relies upon associative montage to connect varied images through sounds, helping to create a sense of social cohesion through mass observation. Fires Were Started (1943) stretches the definition of documentary by presenting a fictional narrative shot in a documentary style so that it seems to capture the reality of London during the blitz. A Diary for Timothy (1945) comes after the end of the war but is without doubt a wartime documentary. The film uses the fictional diary of a baby, Timothy, who was born in 1944 and whose first year of life has been connected to the end of the war, to "observe" the nation while also addressing the future and reinforcing sense of community, the heart of all of Jennings's films.


In 1940 Cavalcanti left the Crown Film Unit to become an associate producer and director at Ealing Studios. That such a key figure of the British documentary movement could operate within one of the country's emerging commercial production companies reinforces the influence that documentary realism was to have on the future of British cinema. After taking over as head of Ealing in 1938, Balcon had brought in a number of documentary filmmakers as part of his attempt to have the studio make films that would more accurately reflect the national character than had been the case before. Ealing was one of only three pre-war British studios to continue operating during the war, along with Korda's London Studios and Gainsborough. All three studios made films supporting the war effort and reinforcing a sense of community, largely through representing the lives of ordinary Britons in wartime. The film that perhaps best embodied this approach is the aptly titled Gainsborough production Millions Like Us (1943), scripted and directed by Launder and Gilliat. The film focuses primarily on a group of ordinary women who take wartime work in an airplane factory. The film employs numerous conventions drawn from documentary traditions and points to the increasing significance of social realism as a hallmark of British film. The importance of community and the everyday is also evident in Cavalcanti's Ealing film, Went the Day Well? (1942), in which a small Oxfordshire village is infiltrated by Nazis before the villagers realize it and strike back. The film's incorporation of idealized aspects of everyday village life, alongside moments of action and violence, reinforces the manner in which national character was being reflected.

While the turn toward realism is a significant aspect of British cinema in this period, it was not the only option pursued by producers or favored by audiences. It has been argued that critics championed realism, and hence it was films that corresponded to realist ideals that received the most critical acclaim, particularly in discussions related to a national cinema, both at the time and among the subsequent generation of scholars and critics. For filmgoers, though, the consensus was not so clear: Gainsborough made numerous popular escapist melodramas in this period. The theatricality favored by Korda in the 1930s had not entirely disappeared following the slump of the late 1930s. While the Gainsborough melodramas were frequently derided as too far-fetched, with settings either in exotic locales or a "fantasy" past, they did have a particular appeal for audiences, especially the female audience for which the war had brought a new economic and sexual independence. Stars such as James Mason (1909–1984) and Margaret Lockwood (1916–1990) came to embody aspects of sexual desire that were not being found elsewhere on British screens. The escapist, melodramatic nature of the wartime Gainsborough films was perhaps most evident in Madonna of the Seven Moons (Arthur Crabtree, 1945), which is set in what is meant to be 1930s Florence but seems more an exotic admixture of southern European stereotypes and English mannerisms and accents. Despite its many contrivances, Madonna of the Seven Moons was a commercial success, indicating that British audiences were more than happy to indulge in artifice and escapism.

Key purveyors of such artifice were Michael Powell (1905–1990) and his collaborator Emeric Pressburger (1902–1988). Powell had already directed a number of quota quickies and low-budget features before first collaborating with Pressburger in 1939. While their early wartime propaganda features, such as 49th Parallel (1941), set in Canada and starring Laurence Olivier, helped establish their reputation, it was the more lavish spectacles they created for their own production company, The Archers, that truly made the pair vital figures in British cinema. The mysterious and spiritual A Canterbury Tale (1944), in which a group of modern-day pilgrims makes its way to Canterbury cathedral against the backdrop of World War II, demonstrated the pair's willingness to push boundaries both narratively and visually. In Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948), Powell and Pressburger operated even more concretely within an expressionist mode of cinema; the former film was a sensual melodrama set in the Himalayas, while the latter was set in the world of ballet, where an ambitious young ballerina is torn between love and ambition.

Other "quality" films of the era reflected this dynamic between realist and expressionist modes of cinema. For example, a film that seems, at first glance, to be a "heritage" costume drama is Laurence Olivier's Henry V (1944), which uses the Shakespearean play to create a propaganda film. Henry's leadership of an English army defeating a European foe after crossing the English Channel had obvious parallels to events of the day, particularly the Normandy campaign. The film itself is dedicated "To the Commandos and Airborne Troops of Great Britain," making the ties even more explicit. Yet this Technicolor extravaganza also works well as a form of popular entertainment and taps quite effectively into the aspects of heritage Britain mined by Korda a decade earlier.

Henry V was produced by Two Cities films, a company that had come into being in 1937 and was guided by an Italian, Filippo Del Giudice. Not unlike the Hungarian-born Korda, Del Giudice was a non-Briton spearheading a company that primarily focused on making quintessentially British films. In order to secure adequate financing for the ambitious Henry V, Del Giudice allowed the Rank Organisation to obtain a controlling interest in Two Cities. It was one of numerous acquisitions made by the ever-expanding Rank company. The Rank Organisation, under the leadership of its founder J. Arthur Rank, was the dominant British film company throughout much of the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and into the 1960s. By 1946 Rank's holdings included five studios, a number of production companies, a distribution arm, and more than 650 cinemas. Rank's vertical integration gave it a position of prominence in Britain comparable to the Hollywood majors in the US. Among the production companies that Rank acquired was Gainsborough in 1936. For the first decade Gainsborough was run relatively autonomously, but starting in 1946 Rank intervened more directly in the operations at the studio, and it slowly lost its autonomy as the Rank Organisation's consolidation began to point to an era where making films with wide appeal, rather than innovative films, would become an increasingly dominant trend.


The successes of the wartime cinema suggested that the cinema of Great Britain had reached a new level of maturity and was poised to flourish and possibly escape from the shadow of Hollywood. There were some notable successes, including two films adapted from Graham Greene (1904–1991) novellas. One, Brighton Rock (John Boulting, 1947), starred a young Richard Attenborough (b. 1923) as Pinky Brown, the teenaged leader of a gang of Brighton thugs. The second, The Third Man (1949), directed by Carol Reed (1906–1976), was a thriller set in divided postwar Vienna and starred Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles; some have claimed it as the greatest British film of all time. Yet while the immediate postwar years held a great deal of promise, the cinema of that era did not necessarily live up to the expectations for it. By the 1950s the British market was effectively controlled by two firms, Rank and Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC). Additionally, cinema attendance declined from the peak of the war years. As indicated by Rank's increased intervention in Gainsborough, consolidation meant that costs could be reined in, so that while money was still lavished on quality films being made by bigger-name directors, the bulk of the company's output was material that would fill out programs in Rank-owned theaters. Rank also hoped to make greater inroads into the American market and saw the bigger-budgeted epics as a means of achieving this. A number of Britain's key directors in effect became independent contractors to Rank, and producing such films as Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes and David Lean's (1908–1991) Brief Encounter along with his subsequent success, Great Expectations (1946).

Most key personnel left Gainsborough after Rank began his interference in 1946. Rank named Sydney Box the new head of Gainsborough, hoping that Box could continue the studio's commercially successful tradition of melodrama. Box, however, was more interested in social realism, and the period of Box's leadership, in which he was hampered by a myriad of organizational problems, saw a dramatic decline in the studio's box-office appeal until Rank closed Gainsborough in 1950. One key personnel move made by Box during his short tenure was the appointment of his sister, Betty Box (1915–1999), to head of production at Gainsborough's Islington studio. While she struggled under difficult conditions, Box established herself as a significant producer, and once Gainsborough closed, she continued to work for Rank at Pinewood Studios. Her biggest success was with Doctor in the House (1954), the first film in a long-running series. Doctor in the House starred Dirk Bogarde (1921–1999), whose success in the title role helped establish him as the "Idol of the Odeons." Bogarde dominated the British box office and popularity polls through much of the 1950s, reprising his Doctor role in three sequels as well as starring in another Betty Box–produced film, A Tale of Two Cities (1958), an adaptation of Dickens's novel. Bogarde's later career was marked by more serious roles, beginning with Victim (1961), the first British film to deal explicitly with homosexuality, and including Joseph Losey's (1909–1984) The Servant (1963) and Accident (1967).

Bogarde's popularity in the 1950s was tied to his involvement in genre films, which had become a commercial staple of the British market. Ealing Studios under Michael Balcon had emerged from the war with a continued focus on representing national character. The studio had a highly favorable financing and distribution deal with the Rank Organisation that afforded it a great deal of autonomy, so it was Balcon's personal vision that largely drove the studio. It was in the genre of comedy, and specifically the emergence of what came to be known as the "Ealing Comedy," where the studio truly flourished.

Michael Powell, b. Bekesbourne, Kent, England, 30 September 1905, d. 19 February 1990
Emeric Pressburger, b. Miskolc, Austria-Hungary, 5 December 1902, d. 5 February 1988

As Britain's most famous producing-directing team, Powell and Pressburger divided critical opinion between those who demanded social realism within cinema and those who supported an auteurist vision. With the rise of auteur theory in journals such as the UK-based Movie, the work of Powell and Pressburger received a more positive critical reevaluation. At the box office, the duo's fantastical, mystical tales enjoyed great success.

A pair of propaganda films, 49th Parallel (1941) and One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942), early in World War II won them admiration. In 1943 they established their own production company called the Archers, for which they made a succession of popular and significant films. The first was another propaganda film, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), but as it was critical of the British military leadership, it was frowned upon by the War Office as well as by Winston Churchill.

A tale of modern-day pilgrims, A Canterbury Tale (1944) opens with a shot that suggests a Chaucerian past but then pans up to an airplane flying overhead. The film combines the duo's trademark stylistic flair with mysticism. That mysticism returned in "I Know Where I'm Going!" (1945), a romance shot in the Scottish islands with the war kept in the distant background. After the war the team continued to explore the exotic and fantastic with two classic melodramas, Black Narcissus (1947), about nuns establishing a religious community in the Himalayas, and The Red Shoes (1948), based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale about a ballerina torn between the composer she falls in love with and her tyrannical balletmaster. Both films enjoyed international success and were a key part of the brief postwar boom in British cinema. After 1949 the pair began making films for Alexander Korda, and the Archers name disappeared. Although they had some moderate successes as they tried to help Korda crack the international market, their success was nowhere near that of the previous decade. The pair went their separate ways after Ill Met by Moonlight flopped in 1957.

Before teaming with Pressburger, Powell had directed the thriller Two Crowded Hours (1931), followed by numerous quota quickies. The producer Joe Rock then allowed Powell to make a film of his own choosing, The Edge of the World (1937), shot in the Scottish Hebrides, the locale to which he would return for "I Know Where I'm Going!". Following the end of his collaboration with Pressburger, Powell made the notorious Peeping Tom (1960). The negative reaction to his somewhat sympathetic portrayal of a sadistic killer all but ended Powell's career, though some critics later hailed the film as a masterpiece.


Powell: The Edge of the World (1937), Peeping Tom (1960); Powell and Pressburger: 49th Parallel (1941), One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), A Canterbury Tale (1944), "I Know Where I'm Going!" (1945), Black Narcissus (1947), The Red Shoes (1948), The Tales of Hoffman (1951)


Christie, Ian. Arrows of Desire: The Films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. London: Waterstone, 1985.

——, ed. Powell, Pressburger and Others. London: British Film Institute, 1978.

Gough-Yates, Kevin, ed. Michael Powell in Collaboration with Emeric Pressburger. London: British Film Institute, 1971.

Powell, Michael. A Life in Movies. London: Heinemann, 1986.

Scott Henderson

When Ealing Studios was sold to the BBC in 1955, Balcon unveiled a plaque that read: "Here during a quarter of a century were made many films projecting Britain and the British character." This sensibility is what

drove the Ealing Comedies and made them unique. They captured an almost quaint sense of Britishness, employing national stereotypes and placing realistic characters in unexpected situations, usually representing everyman's struggle against authority. Ealing had produced earlier comedies, but it was in 1949, with the successive release of Passport to Pimlico (directed by Henry Cornelius), Whisky Galore! (directed by Alexander Mackendrick), and Kind Hearts and Coronets (directed by Robert Hamer), that the Ealing Comedy tradition became firmly established. A number of successes followed, including Mackendrick's The Man in the White Suit (1951), The Maggie (1954), and The Ladykillers (1955) and Charles Crichton's The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). While the Ealing Comedies enjoyed success in both the American and Continental European markets, Balcon had hoped to produce films that would help to export his particular vision of British character. Charles Frend's biopic, Scott of the Antarctic (1948), and Basil Dearden's The Blue Lamp (1950), a crime thriller that had been a British success, failed to have the impact for which Balcon had hoped. As the British market declined in the 1950s, overseas markets became more important for the economic health of British studios. Balcon's inability to adequately gauge those markets is what inevitably led to the closing of Ealing Studios in 1955.

Another particularly British comic success has been the Carry On films, created by the team of producer Peter Rogers and director Gerald Thomas, which began with Carry On Sergeant (1958). This first film introduced the series's tendencies to poke fun at familiar British institutions, in this case National Service (which is somewhat akin to the American National Guard). As the series progressed, the humor became bawdier and the targets for satire extended beyond institutions and into other facets of British life, including familiar film and television genres in films such as Carry on Screaming! (1966) and Carry on Spying (1964). In many ways, once one gets beyond the sexual double entendres and other outlandish humor, the Carry On films seem to further Balcon's notions of "projecting Britain and the British character."

Carry on Screaming! and Carry on Spying spoof two other key genres to emerge in the 1950s and into the 1960s, the Hammer horror film and the James Bond spy thrillers, respectively. Hammer Films was established in 1948 when a company called Exclusive Films wound down. The managing director of Hammer was James Carreras (1909–1990), the son of one of Exclusive's co-founders. Carreras's attitude was that films were commercial products and thus needed to be profitable. He sought ways to cut costs while retaining quality, and the genre film was the answer. Horror was not the initial focus; rather, the company concentrated on producing films with characters already known to the audience, presuming that there would be a ready-made market. Characters were drawn from familiar radio shows and from well-known myths and legends, including figures such as Robin Hood and Dick Turpin. Later, using the familiar characters of Count Dracula and Baron Frankenstein, the studio established the genre for which it is best known. Following the success of a science-fiction-horror film, The Quatermass Xperiment (1955, directed by Val Guest), Carreras decided that Hammer should focus on another horror subject, leading to The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), directed by Terence Fisher. This was soon followed by another Fisher film, Dracula (1958), starring Christopher Lee. The company's continued willingness to adapt to the changing whims of the horror market, exploiting each subsequent trend, has kept it in business up to the present day, although it suffered through some lean times.

Another enduring British genre has been the cycle of James Bond films. While changing key actors over the years, including the lead on a number of occasions, and making changes that reflect shifting social and cultural norms, the series has remained relatively stable in terms of structure. James Bond, secret agent 007, represents a sophisticated, cynical, sexy, and stylish British masculine ideal. Starting with Dr. No (1962), directed by Terence Young, the series—based on the novels of Ian Fleming

(1908–1964)—has seen twenty official Bond films made as of 2002. The first actor to play Bond was a Scot, Sean Connery (b. 1930), who has remained a fan favorite. The ongoing significance of the Bond character, not only within Britain but also worldwide, was evident in popular debate in 2005 over the choice to play the next Bond; there was much dismay when producers opted for the Englishman Daniel Craig (b. 1968) for the role. The franchise started by producers Albert "Cubby" Broccoli (1909–1996) and Canadian Harry Saltzman (1915–1994) has created an enduring legacy within British cinema and around the world.

Saltzman came to the Bond franchise after having been a significant player in the emergence of a British New Wave in the 1950s. He had been a co-founder of Woodfall Films along with theater and television director Tony Richardson (1928–1991) and playwright John Osborne (1929–1994). The initial aim of Woodfall was to adapt the stage plays of Richardson and Osborne. Richardson's association with cinema involved friendships with some of the young writers from the influential critical journal Sequence, including the journal's co-founder, Lindsay Anderson (1923–1994), and Karel Reisz (1926–2002). It was with Reisz that Richardson co-directed his first film, Momma Don't Allow (1956), a Free Cinema documentary capturing the youthful energy of the Wood Green Jazz Club in North London. Free Cinema gained its name because it operated outside of the constraints of the commercial cinema. The name was originally appended to a showing of short films programmed by Anderson, Reisz, and Richardson, including their own work. The name soon came to apply to the work itself of Anderson and his cohorts. Significant to the success of Free Cinema was the funding the films received from the British Film Institute's (BFI) Experimental Film Fund. The BFI was involved in film production in Great Britain from 1952 until the closing of its Production Board in 1999. The fund was initially aimed at promoting technological development in film and supporting new filmmakers for whom other support would be hard to come by. By the end of the 1950s it was this latter initiative that became the primary focus of the Fund. The key figures of the Free Cinema movement were among the first to benefit from this initiative, which helped launch the careers of many notable British directors, including Ridley Scott (b. 1937), his brother Tony (b. 1944), Peter Watkins (b. 1935), Ken Russell (b. 1927), and numerous other figures who would make their mark on British and world cinema in the ensuing decades.

The approaches to drama of Osborne and Richardson closely matched the concerns of the Free Cinema filmmakers, and Richardson's films became a key part of the social realism movement. He adapted two of Osborne's plays, Look Back in Anger (1958) (a play that contributed to the coining of the term "angry young men" to describe the key players of the era) and The Entertainer (1960), before turning more resolutely to a realist aesthetic in A Taste of Honey (1961) and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962). These latter two films were part of the New Wave cinema referred to as "kitchen sink films," in reference to the frequency in which drab locations such as working-class kitchens appeared in the films as markers of class and place. These films tended to focus on the plight of working-class males as they came to terms with a shifting economy, moving away from heavy industry and toward consumerism. This was certainly the focus of Reisz's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), set (and shot) in Nottingham, whose main character, Albert Finney's Arthur Seaton, came to embody the epitome of the genre's Northern working-class male.

A key issue here was voice. While earlier films had represented the working class, the workers were—much as in Griersonian documentaries—spoken for or represented on screen by others, who spoke with theatrical pronunciations (often called Received Pronunciation [RP] English, or more colloquially, BBC English). In the British New Wave, real working-class lives and concerns were placed on screen. The relaxation of censorship toward the end of the 1950s, and the fact that these initial films were not as constrained as others by commercial interests, meant that authentic issues could be brought to the screen and authentic voices and dialects could be heard. This was a key era for the development of social realism in British cinema, helping to cement the importance of social realism as part of a national cinema in Britain.

THE 1960s AND 1970s

The year 1960 saw the release of Michael Powell's Peeping Tom, a film in which serial killer Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) films his female victims, hoping to capture the expression of fear at the moment of their deaths. The film's addressing of issues such as voyeurism and sexuality, and its somewhat sympathetic portrayal of the killer, led to a harsh critical backlash against it; quite abruptly, the film all but ended Powell's career. Revisionist critics have hailed Peeping Tom as a disturbing masterpiece that cleverly addresses the voyeuristic impulses that drive cinema itself. Critical response aside, the film indicates that British cinema was not devoted solely to social realism. Boehm's Mark Lewis was one of a number of cinematic anti-heroes found in 1960s British cinema. Michael Caine's title character in Alfie (1966), a carefree womanizer, was another, earning him an Academy Award® nomination.

The more positive response to Alfie may also have been part of a more open discussion of sexuality that was part of the dramatic social upheaval of the 1960s and points to the "swinging London" image that appeared in the latter half of the decade. A crucial musical influence on this era were The Beatles, and the overt adoration of them by their female fans has been considered by some commentators as one of the aspects of the sexual revolution. The Beatles were the focus of two films, A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965), both directed by Richard Lester (b. 1932), and an animated feature, Yellow Submarine (1968), directed by George Dunning. The Lester films became a cultural phenomenon, particularly A Hard Day's Night, which combined the kinetic filming style and rapid-fire humor of the Carry On films with location shooting and other aspects of social realism.

While British popular cinema incorporated a range of styles throughout the 1960s, social realism was still significant during the entire decade as some of the young filmmakers to emerge in the late 1950s continued to mature in their work. Lindsay Anderson followed up on his 1950s Free Cinema documentaries with two key 1960s features. This Sporting Life (1963) starred Richard Harris (1930–2002) as a troubled rugby player. The film was shot in the area around Wakefield, Yorkshire, and Anderson's use of location and the authenticity in his evocation of working-class life makes this one of the most significant of the New Wave films. With If. … (1968), Anderson seemed to capture the zeitgeist. The figure of Malcolm McDowell (b. 1943) as a well-armed schoolboy atop the roof of the Cheltenham school (Anderson's own alma mater) offered a memorable image in a year rocked by student uprisings in the Western world. The impact of social realism was also evident in Ken Loach's (b. 1936) critically and commercially successful Kes (1969), the story of a working-class boy whose grim future prospects are alleviated as he gains personal satisfaction in learning to train and fly a kestrel. This was only Loach's second feature film, the first being Poor Cow (1967), but he had honed his skills working in television, making a number of films for BBC's The Wednesday Play. Loach's television success indicated the important role television was to have in nurturing British filmmakers. Numerous British films that were made for television saw theatrical release in other countries, even when they received no, or very limited, theatrical release in Britain. This has remained the case even with more recent Loach films such as The Navigators (2001), a drama focused on the plight of laborers within Britain's privatized railway system.

The 1970s have been viewed critically as yet another period of crisis within British cinema. Attendances continued to drop, Hollywood influence was significant, and the innovation and promise of the New Wave was becoming an increasingly distant memory. Yet there was still innovation and controversy too as censorship restrictions were further relaxed, opening up debates around the influence of cinema on society. One director who was clearly caught in this crossfire was Stanley Kubrick (1928–1999). Although American-born, Kubrick had taken up residence in the UK in order to make his films far from the reach of meddling studio heads. A Clockwork Orange (1971), Kubrick's adaptation of Anthony Burgess's novel, became a controversial touchstone for debates over cinema censorship and regulation. When a number of local authorities opted to ban the film after alleged "copycat attacks" mimicking the film's ultraviolent youth, Kubrick withdrew it from the British market. A unique quirk in the British regulatory system allows films that have approval from the British Board of Film Classification to be rejected by local authorities, as was the case with A Clockwork Orange and more recently, Canadian David Cronenberg's Crash (1996). An earlier controversy had erupted around The Devils (1971), directed by Ken Russell. Russell had already made cuts to appease the censorship board, but the film was still banned by a number of local authorities. Russell's tendency toward graphic cinematic displays made him one of the most notorious and interesting figures of the era. The reputation he had garnered for films such as Women in Love (1969), his adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's novel, and The Music Lovers (1970), which focused on the sex life of the composer Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky and his wife, was cemented with the release of The Devils. This seemed to inspire Russell to pursue extravagance, such that his later films like Lisztomania (1975) and Valentino (1977) seem almost to be parodies of his earlier works, courting further controversy.

Another controversial figure was Nicolas Roeg (b. 1928), whose work was notably graphic at times but also, in structure, decidedly anticommercial and confrontational. Roeg first made a splash with Performance (1970), co-directed with Donald Cammell. The film follows a gangster on the run from the mob who takes refuge in the home of a reclusive rock star, played by Mick Jagger. Increasingly, the identities of the two men become blurred, both narratively and visually, as the film works constantly to disorient the spectator. Roeg's first solo film as director was Walkabout (1971), which follows three children lost in the Australian outback. This was followed by the taut psychological horror, Don't Look Now (1973), perhaps best remembered for its graphic conclusion. Roeg's later films have been somewhat uneven, and as is the case with Russell, he has had difficulty recapturing the level of critical acclaim he had enjoyed earlier in his career.

The ensemble crew of Monty Python also courted trouble with censorship bodies, particularly for parodying

the story of Christ in Life of Brian (1979). The film used the story of Brian, whose life parallels that of Christ, to provide typical "Monty Python" humor as it had been developed in their sketch television show, Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969–1974). The troupe's first cinematic effort, And Now for Something Completely Different (1971), directed by Ian McNaughton, is a compilation of their television work. With Terry Jones as director, the troupe became more ambitious and cinematic by tying its unique brand of comedy to narrative, first in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974), which was co-directed by Terry Gilliam; then Life of Brian; and finally Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983). The troupe employed absurdist humor, which at times could be quite graphic, as part of a broader satire of contemporary British society and mass culture more generally.

b. Birkenhead, England, 9 May 1936

Glenda Jackson received her training at the Royal Academy for Dramatic Art and commenced a stage career in 1957. Her first major stage success was her performance as Charlotte Corday in Marat/Sade, a 1964 production by Peter Brook's Theatre of Cruelty; she recreated the role in the 1967 film version of the play. Jackson's intensity in her roles in the films of Ken Russell, which at the time pushed boundaries in popular cinema, brought her attention and admiration. She won her first Academy Award® for Best Actress for her portrayal of Gudrun Brangwen in Russell's controversial adaptation of the D. H. Lawrence novel Women in Love (1969). She later portrayed Brangwen's mother, Anna, in Russell's adaptation of Lawrence's The Rainbow (1989).

Jackson gave a memorable performance, displaying intense physicality and sexuality, as Tchaikovsky's nymphomaniac wife in Russell's The Music Lovers (1970), yet she was also adept at comedy, winning her second Oscar® for her performance in Melvin Frank's A Touch of Class (1973) alongside George Segal. In a memorable television role, Jackson cut a stunning figure by shaving her head to play Queen Elizabeth I in the BBC television miniseries Elizabeth R (1971), for which she won two Emmy Awards.

It is Jackson's repeated portrayals of strong women that helped make her stand out from among her contemporaries. Her theatrical training is evident in her willingness to devote herself wholly to each role she plays. In addition to her Emmy and Academy Award® honors, Jackson has been nominated for Broadway's Tony Awards on four separate occasions. Other honors include being named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1978 and having a theatre named in her honor in Birkenhead. Jackson's film career was preempted by her move into politics in 1992, when she became a member of Parliament for Hampstead and Highgate in London. She ran unsuccessfully for the position of mayor of London in 2000 but remains active in Labour Party politics. In May 2005 she was reelected MP for the fourth time.


Marat/Sade (1967), Women in Love (1969), The Music Lovers (1970), A Bequest to the Nation (also known as The Nelson Affair, 1973), Hedda (1975), Turtle Diary (1985), The Rainbow (1989)


Woodward, Ian. Glenda Jackson: A Study in Fire and Ice. London: St. Martin's Press, 1985.

Scott Henderson

The 1970s also witnessed a rise in art cinema with directors such as Derek Jarman (1942–1994) and Sally Potter (b. 1949) emerging. Jarman had been a set designer on Russell's The Devils. His first series of features were all low-budget affairs shot on Super 8mm. Sebastiane (1976), co-directed with Paul Humfress, was notable for its portrayal of homosexual desire as it traced the martyrdom of St. Sebastian. Jarman's work was known for its anachronistic flourishes, evident in Jubilee (1977), which captures the punk ethos in its exploration of Queen Elizabeth II's jubilee year as seen through the eyes of Queen Elizabeth I and her astrologer magician, John Dee. Jarman followed this with The Tempest (1979), adapted from Shakespeare, although Jarman's most noted work is likely the beautifully shot Caravaggio (1986). Jarman's eye for the beautiful is also evident in The Last of England (1988), which saw him return to the Super 8mm format in an effort to visually depict the rot he perceived to be at the core of Thatcher's England.

Potter's Thriller (1979) was a short film written, directed, edited, and produced by Potter herself with funding from the Arts Council of Great Britain. Potter consistently challenges viewers and has been a particular favorite of feminist critics for her willingness to deconstruct the masculine values of cinema. The success of Thriller permitted Potter the opportunity to make her first feature, The Gold Diggers (1983). She did work for television through much of the 1980s before returning to the screen with the ambitious Orlando (1992), starring Tilda Swinton (b. 1960). Orlando adapts the Virginia Woolf novel and updates it to the 1990s as it follows its lead character through four hundred years of history (including a sex change) in its episodic exploration of social and gender roles. Potter has continued to work within mainstream art cinema with The Tango Lesson (1997); The Man Who Cried (2000), which featured Johnny Depp; and Yes (2004).


If the 1970s saw the critical estimation of British cinema at a low ebb, then the tide rose very quickly at the beginning of the 1980s. The breakthrough commercial success for British cinema was Hugh Hudson's Chariots of Fire (1981), which follows the stories of two British athletes, Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) and Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), at the Paris Olympics in 1924. The film's Academy Award® for Best Picture, followed by a win for Richard Attenborough's Gandhi (1982), suggested a resurgence for British cinema on the international stage. These two award-winning films were both epic period pieces that recalled the Korda era. Their success helped revitalize the industry, but the significant changes were occurring on a much smaller scale.

The most significant development was a shift in funding. It was the funding provided by Channel Four that seemed to bring new vitality to British cinema. It also brought an increased regional sensibility as funding was no longer concentrated in the hands of London-based producers. It was not only different regions but different underrepresented groups whose voices were finally becoming part of British cinema. As its name implies, Channel Four was the fourth terrestrial television channel launched in Britain, first appearing in 1982. In an effort to maintain its arts-focused mandate and to provide quality material for the channel, a separate films arm, Film on Four, was established. During the years of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative governments, which were not at all kind toward the arts, the money, support, and exhibition provided by Channel Four were vital to the British film community.

A number of key films, and key figures, in British cinema of the 1980s and 1990s emerged as a result of the Films on Four funding. Among the first successes of the program were Peter Greenaway's The Draughtsman's Contract (1982); Neil Jordan's Angel (1982); and Stephen Frears's My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), written by Hanif Kureishi. My Beautiful Laundrette suggested the potential of the Channel Four films to uncover new voices within British cinema. Kureishi's script, which explores the burgeoning gay relationship between two men, one white and one Pakistani, opens up many questions around identity in Britain and highlighted some of the difficulties that second-generation immigrants had in negotiating between cultural traditions and a British way of life. A number of key films emerged in the following two decades that explored the South Asian diasporic experience. Among these were Gurinder Chadha's Bhaji on the Beach (1993), which uses an outing to a typical British seaside resort to focus on the experiences of Asian women of different generations; the comedic, yet touching East Is East (1999), directed by Damien O'Donnell and based on the semiautobiographical play by Ayub Khan-Din; and Bend it Like Beckham (2002), which continues Chadha's exploration of gender issues in its focus on an Asian girl who would rather play soccer than learn traditional Indian cooking methods.

Other cultural groups in Britain have also found filmic means of making their voices heard. In 1983 a

group of black independent filmmakers established the production collective Sankofa. With funding from the Greater London Council (a progressive political body disbanded by Margaret Thatcher in 1986) and Channel Four, the members of Sankofa sought ways of telling stories employing their own cultural voices. The most notable member of the collective has been Isaac Julien (b. 1960), whose early films for the group included Who Killed Colin Roach? (1983); Territories (1985); and his meditation on the gay, black American poet Langston Hughes, Looking for Langston (1988). With funding from the BFI, Julien was able to make his debut feature, Young Soul Rebels (1991), a thriller that offers a rather idealistic portrait of racial togetherness among London's various music subcultures in the late 1970s.

Funding through bodies such as Channel Four and the BFI kept British filmmakers independent of Thatcherism and more recently of the New Labour ideals of Tony Blair. The filmmakers' response was films that were largely critical of the dominant vision of Britain. These films began to break the hegemonic representation of Britishness that had dominated the national cinema by opening up issues of gender, sexuality, race, and class. This is not to say that there have not been investments made in more commercial cinema. FilmFour, as Film on Four came to be called in the 1990s, invested in international hits such as Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994, directed by Mike Newell). The "heritage" film also became a major staple of British popular cinema and a successful international export. A number of Ismail Merchant (1936–2005) and James Ivory (b. 1928) coproductions were staple fare for this genre. The Ivory-directed A Room with a View (1985) followed on the heels of Chariots of Fire and Gandhi and helped to establish the key stylistic parameters for the genre. Later successful heritage films such as Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth (1998) and John Madden's Shakespeare in Love (1998), another Oscar® winner for Best Picture, helped to cement the reputation of this area of British cinema.

In contrast to these versions of heritage Britain, the trend toward social realism has remained strong in many of the smaller British films that have been made in recent decades. Among the filmmakers who have consistently

employed this strategy has been Mike Leigh (b. 1943). Leigh's first feature was Bleak Moments (1971), but subsequently he turned to television, where his improvisational methods were more readily funded. He worked there until making his second feature, High Hopes, in 1988. Yet another film supported by Channel Four, as well as British Screen, the film is a family drama that is used as a poignant rejoinder to the consumerism spawned by Thatcherism. Leigh's focus on the working class continued in a series of social realist films, including Life is Sweet (1990), Naked (1993), Secrets and Lies (1996), and Career Girls (1997). All of these films focused on contemporary Britain, but Leigh demonstrated his ability to explore similar themes around class and British society employing historical subjects, as in Topsy-Turvy (1999), which examines the world of Gilbert and Sullivan, and Vera Drake (2004), which examines abortionist Drake's clash with British society in the 1950s.

While the films of the 1960s New Wave had focused on Britain's working class, more recent films have traced the lives of the underclass, former members of the working class who have been left behind in the new, technological economy during the reigns of Thatcher and Blair. Films such as Peter Cattaneo's The Full Monty (1997), Mark Herman's Brassed Off (1996) and Little Voice (1998), and Carine Adler's Under the Skin (1997), along with the continued work of Ken Loach, explore the desperate attempts at survival for those who have been cut off from Britain's economic boom. While such films offer positive moments, their use of location shooting and devout attention to detail do much to reveal the dark underbelly of Britain's current success.

Since the winding down of Channel Four's funding of films in 2002, the funding model in Great Britain has continued to evolve. The UK Film Council was set up in 2000 by the Labour government. The role of the council is to dispense money raised via the National Lottery to nine different regional screen agencies in England as well as the Welsh Development Agency, Scottish Enterprise, and the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, each of which administers its own film-funding initiatives. The result is an increased regional diversification within British cinema.


While earlier efforts such as those of the New Wave in the 1960s had moved their focus beyond London and the Home Counties, the regionalism on offer extended north to cities such as Nottingham but still remained predominantly English in nature. With the emergence of alternative funding bodies such as Channel Four, and more recently the National Lottery, a greater awareness of regionalism has become necessary for any understanding of British cinema. It is nearly impossible today to conceive of one single cinema of Great Britain.

Scotland as a setting has been employed in numerous British films, notably Ealing films such as The Maggie and Whisky Galore!. It has of course also featured in the telling of Scottish legends, such as those of Shakespeare's Macbeth or Rob Roy. Additionally, Scotland provided a number of key figures to the British industry, among them John Grierson. An indigenous Scottish film industry, however, took far longer to develop. While much of the UK and Ireland prospered from the shifting economy of the 1980s and 1990s, former industrialized areas in Britain's north—particularly in Scotland—and in parts of Wales, where heavy industry and mining had been dominant industries, struggled immensely. Using cinema to voice the concerns of underrepresented contemporary Scots was a significant breakthrough. One director who managed to do so successfully was Bill Forsyth (b. 1946). After having made short documentaries, Forsyth directed his first feature, That Sinking Feeling (1980), about a group of unemployed Glasgow youth involved in a robbery of stainless steel sinks. This was followed by Gregory's Girl (1981), which used a social realist aesthetic and a tale of adolescent love to explore life in Scotland's postwar "new towns." Perhaps Forsyth's most successful film was the low-key comedy, Local Hero (1983), produced by David Puttnam. The film evoked the humor of the Ealing comedies as it explored the clash between contemporary consumerism, represented by an American oil company, and traditional Scottish values, represented by a local fishing village. Forsyth later spent time working in the United States before returning to Scotland to make Gregory's Two Girls (1999), a sequel to Gregory's Girl.

Restless Natives (1985), produced by Channel Four and directed by an American, Michael Hoffman, is a film that essentially modernizes the myth of Rob Roy. It follows two Edinburgh youth who, cut off from the new economy, turn to robbing the tour buses that seem now to dominate their landscape, only to find that their exploits become a bigger tourist draw than any scenery the Highlands has to offer. The main characters of Restless Natives are possibly the comedic predecessors of the youth of Danny Boyle's Trainspotting (1996), a film adapted from a stage play that itself was adapted from a novel by Irvine Welsh. The film's dry wit, its harrowing portrayal of heroin abuse among the disenfranchised youth of Edinburgh, its contemporary soundtrack, and Boyle's slick shooting style resulted in Trainspotting becoming one of the main exports of mid-1990s "Cool Brittania"—this despite the fact that its extensive use of working-class Scottish slang and authentic dialect meant that it had to be offered with subtitles in many other English-speaking markets (particularly the United

States). Another film that required subtitles was Ratcatcher (1999), directed by the photographer-turned film maker Lynne Ramsay (b. 1969). Set during a garbage strike in Glasgow of the 1970s, the film's use of local dialect, along with its attempts to make use of costume and other authentic historic elements, make the film an ironic sort of heritage film, uncovering a heritage that official Britain may prefer be left forgotten.

Perhaps Wales's biggest claim to film culture has been in the figures that it has exported to Hollywood, including the likes of Richard Burton (1925–1984), Anthony Hopkins, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The Welsh industry has been small and itself is split between English-language films made in Wales and Welsh-language films that have, understandably, a very limited audience. Likely the most popular Welsh-language film of all time is Hedd Wyn (1992), directed by Paul Turner, which was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language film. Endaf Emlyn (b. 1944) directed the Welsh-language feature Gadael Lenin (Leaving Lenin, 1993), a film that explored relationships among a group of Welsh youth on a school trip to Russia. Justin Kerrigan's Human Traffic (1999) captures the youthful vibrancy of contemporary Cardiff. Only one of the film's main characters possesses a Welsh accent; the rest are from various other parts of the UK. In this way, Kerrigan is able to address the changing nature of the Welsh capital as it has become a key center of technological development and has undergone a boom that has transformed it from a Welsh city to a UK city. Other films have focused on the Welsh underclass. Twin Town (1997), directed by Kevin Allen, is in the British underclass film tradition in its representation of a dysfunctional working-class family in Swansea.

Given an increased focus on regional filmmaking, a migratory and multicultural population, the ever-increasing economic significance of the European Union, and the growth of co-productions as part of the global cinema market, any secure definitions of what constitutes a British cinema can no longer exist. Instead, Great Britain can now be seen as a significant cinema center where a multitude of voices can be found.

SEE ALSO Class;Documentary;Early Cinema;Heritage Films;National Cinema;New Wave;Realism


Ashby, Justine, and Andrew Higson, eds. British Cinema, Past and Present. London and New York: Routledge, 2000.

Barr, Charles, ed. All Our Yesterdays: 90 Years of British Cinema. London: British Film Institute, 1986.

Curran, James, and Vincent Porter, eds. British Cinema History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1983.

Dickinson, Margaret, and Sarah Street. Cinema and State: The Film Industry and the British Government, 1927–84. London: British Film Institute, 1985.

Friedman, Lester, ed. Fires We Started: British Cinema and Thatcherism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. Revised ed., London: Wallflower Press, 2006.

Higson, Andrew. Waving the Flag: Constructing a National Cinema in Britain. Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press, 1995.

——, ed. Dissolving Views: Key Writings on British Cinema. London and New York: Cassell, 1996.

——, ed. Young and Innocent?: The Cinema in Britain, 1896–1930. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press, 2002.

Hill, John. British Cinema in the 1980s: Issues and Themes. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Leach, Jim. British Film. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Murphy, Robert, ed. The British Cinema Book. London: British Film Institute, 1997.

——, ed. British Cinema of the 90s. London: British Film Institute, 2000.

Petrie, Duncan. Screening Scotland. London: British Film Institute, 2000.

Street, Sarah. British National Cinema. London and New York: Routledge, 1997.

Scott Henderson

Great Britain

views updated May 14 2018


eighteenth century
william pitt

The United Kingdom was formally created with the 1800 Act of Union, which merged the Irish Parliament (1690–1800) with the Parliament of Great Britain. The latter had already incorporated the Scottish Parliament with the 1707 Union (Wales had been under the English crown since 1536). In both cases the relevant legislation had to be approved by each of the two Parliaments, and, although there were well-supported claims that the Scottish Parliament in 1707 and its Irish counterpart in 1800 were bribed and coerced into accepting the union, there is also plenty of evidence that in each case there was genuine support for the move. By 1800 it was clear that the Scottish Union was a success, which had enhanced both stability in domestic affairs and security against foreign invasion. A further important result had been the creation of a "common market"—with the abolition of tariffs and trade barriers between England and Scotland—that provided the context for spectacular economic growth throughout the century. By the same token, the Scots were able to participate in the exploitation of the overseas empire that British colonists and trading companies were creating in America and India.

eighteenth century

In 1800 it was hoped that the Irish Act of Union would have similar beneficial results for both parties. In particular, the British, who had been fighting revolutionary France since 1793, were eager to consolidate their control over Ireland. The latter was then a populous and unstable country. With about eight million inhabitants, it accounted for nearly one third of the entire population of the British Isles—a much larger proportion than ever since. The country's instability was largely due to the economic and political crisis that accompanied the loss of the American colonies in the period from 1776 to 1789. While Irish trade was slow to recover from the shock, republican ideas spread among both the Protestant and the Catholic middle classes, especially in Belfast and Dublin. These ideas were sponsored by the Society of the United Irishmen and were given a sharper edge by the French Revolution. Once France started to invade the rest of Europe, the possibility that Ireland too could be "liberated" by sans-culottes armies electrified patriot opinion and encouraged revolutionary plots. However, many of the leaders of the United Irishmen were arrested before the rebellion started in May 1798. The main areas of revolutionary activity were the Presbyterian northeast, the counties around Dublin, and County Wexford in the southeast, where the rebellion acquired a violent sectarian dimension.

The rebellion has been celebrated by some historians as "the year of liberty" and was unquestionably widely supported by both Protestants and Catholics. It could have succeeded only with adequate and timely French help, which, however, failed to materialize. Had the rising succeeded, the course of Irish history would have been different, especially in view of the virulent anti-Christian agenda of the French government (which had fiercely persecuted the church in various parts of Europe and had imprisoned the pope himself). So here is a paradox: although the Catholic peasantry and some of the parish clergy supported the rebellion, the church hierarchy feared the prospect of a Jacobin republic in Dublin. Over the eighteenth century, despite the Penal Laws, the Catholic Church had quietly enjoyed effective toleration under the Hanoverian monarchy, whose government sponsored the establishment of the Maynooth seminary in 1795, after the Jacobin Revolution made it impossible for Irish priests to continue to be educated in France. In this context, many Catholics regarded the proposal of a Union as the lesser of two evils, especially if accompanied by full political rights ("emancipation").

Although nineteenth-century Irish nationalists celebrated the old Dublin Parliament as the last bulwark of Irish freedom, in the eighteenth century the perception had been different. For one thing, for most of the century this exclusively Protestant assembly had lacked power—its deliberations requiring London's sanctions to become effective. It was only in 1782 that the parliamentary leader Henry Grattan (1746–1820) secured a degree of independence under the British crown. "Grattan Parliament" became a milestone in Irish constitutional history, but did not solve Ireland's problems. It was only in 1793 that Catholics were granted the vote, but not the right to stand for Parliament. By then Britain and Ireland were already at war against revolutionary France, whose radical democracy and secularism added a further ideological edge to the conflict.

william pitt

In proposing a parliamentary union with Ireland, the British prime minister William Pitt the Younger (1759–1806) had hoped that the two countries could stand together against godless Jacobinism on a Christian liberal platform. Moreover, the union, he hoped, would help to modernize the Irish economy and at the same time resolve insular sectarian conflicts through Catholic emancipation. However, George III (r. 1760–1820) vetoed emancipation, believing that it would be inconsistent with his coronation oath to defend the confessional, Anglican constitution of the kingdom. The situation was very delicate: the king's mental health was unstable; the country faced Napoleonic France; but also, among the artisans and lower-middle classes in Britain, Thomas Paine's Rights of Man (1791) had become a best-seller and had been followed by the publication of other important radical works, including Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) and William Godwin's Enquiry Concerning Political Injustice (1793). Rather than face a constitutional conflict with the king, Pitt, who was also in poor

health, preferred to resign. A new and more docile prime minister implemented a union without Catholic emancipation. It was a fatal mistake that would have disastrous consequences for both countries.

Meanwhile the questions that inflamed both Europe and America—liberty, the rights of man, representative government and its relationship with the sovereign—had long been discussed also within the British Parliament. In the 1780s the American War of Independence and the stubborn behavior of the British government had generated a wide debate as to the extent to which the king's influence on the outcome of parliamentary elections was compatible with national interest. The advocates of constitutional reform found their most energetic spokesman in Charles James Fox (1749–1806), who demanded electoral reform and effective parliamentary control over the executive. The last twenty years of the century were dominated by Fox's relentless critique of both the king and of Pitt, his faithful servant. However, it must be remembered that Pitt too wanted moderate reform, but was determined to work with the king, rather than against him. With the king's help, he was able to check Fox's radical agenda from 1783. Although both Pitt and Fox belonged to the Whig tradition—which had triumphed in the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 to 1690—the two men differed in temperament, outlook, and ultimate goals. In the nineteenth century the Conservative Party regarded Pitt as one of their founding fathers, while Fox became the great hero of the Liberals. However, the two eighteenth-century statesmen operated in a context within which "parties" were at best temporary alliances between gentlemen "sharing the same prejudice about the common good," to paraphrase the British political philosopher Edmund Burke's famous definition. At worst, they were rather corrupt networks of clients and friends hoping to benefit from government or private patronage and bidding for power in a context in which commercial growth and imperial expansion created enormous opportunities for enterprising individuals.

During his tenure as prime minister (1783–1801, 1804–1806), Pitt set new standards of ministerial professionalism. After the beginning of the French wars he displayed unparalleled energy in the pursuit of military victory. His greatest achievement was to consolidate the political and economic situation at home through a mixture of repression and reform. While civil liberties were drastically restricted from 1794, he mobilized the country's financial resources as no other minister had ever done before. The efficiency of the British "fiscal-military" state was perfected in 1799, when the newly introduced income tax increased the revenue to the extent that the previously spiraling national debt was brought under control. Simultaneously, because the fiscal burden was now more broadly spread across all social classes, the income tax helped to assuage popular discontent about taxation, and further strengthened national unity.

Military victory in a series of naval battles culminated with the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758–1805) destroyed the joint French-Spanish fleet together with Napoleon's dream of invading the United Kingdom. From then on, Britain was able to sustain a more aggressive strategy, particularly by sending an army to fight the French in the Iberian Peninsula under the command of Arthur Wellesley (later duke of Wellington, 1769–1852). However, it was only in June 1815 that Wellington was able to inflict the final blow on Napoleon and his army when he faced them on the Belgian battlefield of Waterloo.


Britain played a leading role in the postwar European settlement, defined by the Vienna Treaty in 1815. In central Europe, Russia, Austria, and Prussia became the pillars of the conservative Holy Alliance system, which aimed at preventing the repetition of the wars and related blood bath of the period from 1792 to 1815. In diplomatic terms, the system relied on the idea of the Concert of Europe, which depended on the plenipotentiaries of the Great Powers meeting at periodical congresses and conferences in order to debate and peacefully resolve their differences before the latter degenerated into open conflict. Britain supported the Concert, but remained skeptical about the Holy Alliance. Instead, London sponsored liberal nationalism whenever the latter was consistent with British interests: thus the rebellions of the Spanish colonies in Latin America, the Greek patriots struggling against the Ottoman Empire, and the Belgian insurgents in 1830 were all directly or indirectly supported by the British government.

Meanwhile the country began to recover from the Napoleonic wars under the skilled leadership of Lord Liverpool (Robert Banks; 1770–1828), who developed the Pittite tradition of government in a distinctly Tory direction. In the years 1812 to 1827 he became one of the longest-serving prime ministers in British history. His policy was to support economic growth through commercial liberalism and a stable currency based on gold, but to resist demands for constitutional change. The latter focused on two issues: Catholic emancipation and the extension of the parliamentary franchise. In Parliament, reform was advocated by Fox's disciples, led by the Earl Grey (Charles Grey; 1764–1845) and Lord John Russell (1792–1878), who belonged to two of the most illustrious Whig families. In the country, the alliance between the radical artisans and predominantly middle-class Nonconformists provided the cause of reform with an important constituency.

The Nonconformists, or Dissenters, comprised all the Protestant groups who had refused to accept the Act of Uniformity of 1862, which restored the Episcopalian nature of the Church of England. In the early nineteenth century they included Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers, and Unitarians. The Presbyterians were regarded as Nonconformists in England, Wales, and Ireland, but were the established church in Scotland. Moreover, during the eighteenth century a new and important dissenting body had emerged from the revivalist preaching of John (1708–1791) and Charles (1707–1788) Wesley: the Methodists. Their work was increasingly effective among the working poor, especially in industrializing England and Wales. It was an age of general religious revival that transformed the spiritual landscape of the United Kingdom, with profound political implications on the country's traditional constitution.

The cause of Catholic emancipation was mainly an Irish cause and found a powerful champion in Daniel O'Connell (1775–1847). He was in many ways unusual: he had a native fluency in Gaelic, and yet he was steeped in the cosmopolitan, liberal culture of France. His aim was to stimulate a national (nonsectarian) revival, but he relied increasingly on the support of the Catholic Association and the parish priests. As a Catholic he was debarred from taking a seat in Parliament, but he could stand for election: he did so and won a seat in County Clare in 1828. By then Lord Liverpool had been replaced by the Duke of Wellington. Faced with the difficult choice between enforcing the law (at the cost of widespread unrest in Ireland) or changing it, Wellington opted for the latter option. After all, Pitt himself had damned religious disqualifications as early as 1800, and there was much to be said for incorporating the Catholics into the kingdom's constitutional framework. However, the government did not survive such a concession, which staunch Tory traditionalists regarded as anathema. At the election of 1830, occasioned by the death of the king George IV (r. 1820–1830), the Tories lost control of the House of Commons, and the new sovereign William IV (r. 1830–1837) called for the leader of the opposition, Earl Grey, to form a government. The new prime minister pressed for a full-scale reform bill. The "Great" Reform Bill was passed in 1832 and included new electoral franchises to empower the urban middle class and the better-off farmers, replacing ancient, capricious, and often corrupt hereditary franchises with a system consistently based on residence, property, and achievement of what contemporaries called "independence." Moreover, the Reform Act enacted a drastic redistribution of seats: many "rotten boroughs"—where, on the basis of medieval charters, few individuals enjoyed the privilege of the vote—were abolished. Seats were reallocated to both the counties and to the hitherto unrepresented industrial towns (including Manchester). Scotland and Wales, whose prereform electorates had been miniscule, were effectively enfranchised for the first time. Grateful, Scotland responded by electing a majority of Reform (later Liberal) members of Parliament (MPs).

The reform zeal of the new ministry was further displayed in a series of important measures over the next few years. In 1833 slavery was abolished in the British Empire (although the full implementation of the measure was effectively delayed until 1838): planters were paid a compensation and the slaves were gradually turned into tenant farmers. In 1834 the Poor Law Amendment Act reformed the system of rate-supported poor relief and established local representative bodies to administer it. In 1835 the Municipal Corporations Act created elective municipalities with wide-ranging powers. Meanwhile a good system of rate-supported primary schools was organized in Ireland. Finally, the government introduced more effective regulations of the conditions of work in the factories.

The latter was in partial response to the workers' agitation. This took two main forms. On the one hand, the new trade unions (legalized in 1824–1825) and radical groups demanded a shortening of working hours, the introduction of restrictions on child labor, and a more humane implementation of the notoriously punitive Poor Law. On the other, from 1839 a large number of artisan and working men and women joined a movement that proposed a comprehensive program of political democracy, summarized in the six points of their Charter: universal (male) suffrage, vote by secret ballot, payment of MPs, the abolition of property qualifications for parliamentary candidates, annual Parliaments, and equal electoral districts. At its peak Chartism involved millions of people under the leadership of fiery demagogues such as the barrister Feargus Edward O'Connor (c. 1796–1855). This was unprecedented for a democratic movement in Europe. On the other hand, support for Chartism was not exclusive of popular participation in the existing electoral process. Although the electorate was small and deference to one's "betters" was the rule, riots, bribery, and drunken celebrations were commonplace and involved both electors and nonelectors. Moreover, support for the Charter was not constant over the years 1839 to 1848: instead it followed the ups and downs of the economy to the extent that the movement was sometimes described as embodying "the politics of hunger."

There is no doubt that there was hunger. In Britain, trade fluctuations periodically resulted in phases of acute unemployment, which in turn affected local taxation (the Poor Law rates went up) and the government's central revenue (the income from duties on items of popular consumption

declined). This produced not only discontent, but also budget deficits, which the Whigs were unable to deal with. At the election of 1841 they were defeated by the reinvigorated Tories, or (as they now preferred to call themselves) Conservatives. Their new leader, Sir Robert Peel (1788–1850), refined Liverpool's fiscal and financial policies and emulated Pitt when he decided to reintroduce the income tax in 1842. The income tax had previously been regarded as a "war tax." After Waterloo, Liverpool had wanted to keep it on to pay off the national debt, but Parliament had forced him to drop it. The resulting fiscal system was perceived as grossly inequitable, not only because it relied on highly regressive indirect taxes on popular consumption, but also because it preserved the Corn Laws, which protected British farming against international competition, and were supposed to keep the price of bread artificially high.

Thus Peel faced a difficult situation. Consistent with the Liverpool tradition, he tried to reform the economy without touching the constitution. Thus, while the Chartists were ruthlessly put down, new Mines and Factory Acts improved working conditions, conveying the impression that social amelioration would be possible without a democratic revolution. The additional revenue from the income tax helped to balance the budget. Moreover, it allowed Peel to relieve working-class consumers of some of the most bitterly resented taxes on the necessities of life.

Peel and his cabinet, including William Ewart Gladstone (1809–1898), had by now become converts to the idea that only complete free trade would relieve the British economy from its periodical crises. This involved repealing the Corn Laws, which the Conservative Party regarded as sacrosanct and indeed a part of the "constitution" that the Peel government had been elected to defend. The position of the government was not improved by the vigorous campaign of the Anti–Corn Law League. Under the leadership of the radical free trader Richard Cobden (1804–1865), the League argued that free trade would bring about global prosperity through interdependence between Britain's manufacturing economy and the economies of the other countries, which were eager to export raw materials in exchange for industrial products. By 1846 the League had won the economic argument. In an act of almost suicidal self-denial, Peel and his cabinet pushed the repeal of the Corn Laws through the Commons, where the measure was supported by the Whigs (now calling themselves Liberals) and opposed by the Conservatives. In the Lords the duke of Wellington loyally supported Peel, again with the help of the Liberal peers. The Conservative Party split with the protectionist majority, now led by Lord George Bentinck (1802–1848) and Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881), rejecting Peel and his supporters, who formed a third party between the Tories and the Liberals.

In insisting on the immediate repeal of the Corn Laws, Peel had been motivated—among other things—by the impending collapse of the Irish economy. In the western counties, a large and growing population depended almost exclusively on potato crops for food. In 1845 an unprecedented combination of bad weather and a particularly devastating fungus destroyed the crops. This would have been enough to cause famine and emigration, but the recurrence of the potato blight in 1846 and 1848 brought about a demographic catastrophe. Although Ireland would not directly benefit from the repeal of the Corn Laws, Peel and his cabinet took the view that the famine was something like a warning from the Almighty that legislation should not interfere with the free circulation of food. However, they did not limit themselves to this negative and (as far as Ireland was concerned) symbolic measure. They staged a major relief operation, buying and importing Indian meal to feed the starving peasants in Ireland. Given the lack of railways and navigable rivers, it is questionable whether the limited amount of food that the government could actually distribute would have been adequate to avoid the catastrophe. However, for as long as Peel was prime minister the government was at least perceived to be doing something serious about the famine. When Peel was replaced by Lord John Russell in 1846, the partial (and short-lived) recovery of Irish farming in 1847, "donor fatigue," and dogmatic free-market advisers persuaded the Liberal government to discontinue the relief operation and rely instead on the Irish Poor Law. It was a disastrous decision. Irish landowners, already in debt, were unable to shoulder the additional fiscal burden of the greatly increased poor rates. Many went bankrupt. Worse, a million peasants died and another million emigrated, especially to the United States. By the same token, many, predominantly Catholic, farmers who managed to escape disaster actually profited from the tragedy when they were able to buy the lands that bankrupt Protestant landowners were forced to sell.

The potato blight also devastated other parts of northern Europe, including Finland and the Netherlands, and crop failures and bad harvests contributed to the Europe-wide revolutions of 1848. But in no other part of Europe was the famine as devastating as in Ireland, because nowhere else was there the same combination of a large population, a single-crop subsistence economy, and lack of alternative forms of employment. The Scottish Highlands are a good example of how the situation was dealt with elsewhere. In the first instance, Scottish overpopulation had already been partly reduced by means of the enclosures and related evictions, which forced a large number of crofters to emigrate. The industrial belt in central Scotland and in the Glasgow area attracted many of them, while others shipped across to Canada. By the time the potato blight struck, the population at risk was much smaller than in Ireland, and could be more easily relieved by private and public charity before donor fatigue and liberal economics set in. Moreover, the geography of the Highlands facilitated the relief operations: unlike Ireland, which forms a solid mass of land without navigable rivers, the tormented coastline of the Scottish Highlands, with its deep bays linked to long lochs, facilitated the distribution of relief by food ships. The different outcomes of the famine in Ireland and Scotland may perhaps be reflected in the fact that, while the large Irish American community in the United States has traditionally been pronationalist and deeply resentful of the British connection, the equally large Scottish community in Canada has always been strongly loyalist. Even in the twenty-first century, Canada is a monarchy, nominally under the British crown.

While the economy of the Highlands was devastated by the famine, the country's religious landscape was transformed by the so-called Great Disruption of the Church of Scotland (1843). The established Presbyterian Church enjoyed unparalleled influence and prestige in Scotland. Its General Assembly—consisting of ecclesiastical and lay representatives—operated as a sort of unofficial parliament for the country as a whole. The church managed the Scottish Poor Law system and the parish primary schools. Its theological seminaries were the four ancient universities (Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Aberdeen, and Glasgow). Under the 1707 Act of Union the church enjoyed greater autonomy than the Church of England, and the Evangelical Party within the Assembly was particularly jealous about preserving such autonomy. In particular, the Evangelicals, who by 1843 represented a majority of the delegates to the General Assembly, resented the practice of lay patronage in the appointment of parish ministers, according to which the local squire could impose his choice on the congregation, despite the fact that the latter had the right to elect its minister. The Evangelicals voted to discontinue the practice, but the decision of the Assembly needed the endorsement of the British government—who retained ultimate control on matters pertaining to the established churches. Peel, then the prime minister, refused to act not because of his views of the specific question under discussion, but because he was afraid of setting a precedent that the Tractarians in the Church of England could then appeal to in the attempt to "Romanize" Episcopalianism. Thus, ironically, the Evangelical Party in Scotland was snubbed because the government opposed the Anglo-Catholic Party in England. The Evangelicals did not like it: they claimed that the government had actually breached the Act of Union and—refusing to accept Peel's decision—moved out of the established church under the guidance of the leading theologian of the age, Thomas Chalmers (1780–1847). Nearly one half of the ministers and their congregations nationwide left the Auld Kirk to establish the Free Church of Scotland. The latter—which accounted for the overwhelming majority of the worshippers in the Highlands and the Isles—embodied Scottish opposition to Anglocentric parliamentary rule to such an extent that it became what historians have described as a form of "surrogate nationalism." In theological terms it was strictly Calvinistic. In political terms it was close to the Liberal Party, as the latter was generally sympathetic to the claims of religious freedom and even separation between state and church (a cause that was enthusiastically supported by radicals and Nonconformists in both England and Wales).

Not only was Evangelicalism strong in Scotland. It was also transforming the religious landscape of the rest of the British Isles. A series of revivals resulted in a dramatic increase of the total number of members of Nonconformist denominations in England and Wales: as early as 1851, census returns indicated that about 50 percent of churchgoers were Dissenters. The latter dominated religious life in Northern Ireland, the industrial North of England, the Midlands, and Wales, where a remarkable national awakening began around the politically powerful Welsh-speaking Dissenting chapels.


The first thirteen years of Queen Victoria's reign (r. 1837–1901) had thus been characterized by political unrest, social conflict, and economic tragedy. However, from 1851 the situation improved considerably. Indeed, the 1850s were a decade of great economic expansion—with Britain as "the workshop of the world"—and social consolidation. As Chartism petered out, friendly societies, cooperatives, and trade unions absorbed the energy and attention of a growing proportion of the working classes. Despite the prophecies of Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895), far from challenging capitalism, the working men and their associations were eager to adapt to market expectations. Their ideological inspiration came from Samuel Smiles's best-seller Self-Help (1859), which honored the genius and enterprise of the self-made man, and from the writings of liberal economists and political thinkers such as John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), the author of the Principles of Political Economy (1848) and On Liberty (1859). The Crystal Palace international exhibition of 1851 was a celebration of British achievement in the fields of industrial production, manufacturing, and design. It set standards for the rest of the world—which was quick to catch up. In these boom years, even Ireland started to recover from the famine: as farmers were

eager to make the most of the new economic climate, nationalism faded into insignificance or American exile and the traditional two-party system appeared adequate to represent the wishes and the needs of the Irish electors.

In domestic politics the leading figures were the Liberals Lord Palmerston (Henry John Temple; 1784–1865) and Lord John Russell and the Peelite Gladstone, who became chancellor of the exchequer in the 1853–1855 coalition government under the earl of Aberdeen (George Hamilton-Gordon; 1784–1860). As chancellor, Gladstone proceeded to implement free trade, reducing import duties and aiming at balancing direct and indirect taxation. His policies appealed to consumer pressure groups (such as the cooperatives) as well as to middle-class reformers and radicals, such as Cobden and the great Quaker leader John Bright (1811–1889). From then until 1929 free trade remained a sort of secular religion in popular politics, the creed on which the success of the Liberal Party was secured and retained.

The major challenges to mid-Victorian self-confidence came from abroad. In 1853 the country joined France in a war to prevent Russia from undermining the Ottoman Empire in eastern Europe. London was worried about Russian colonial expansion in central Asia and felt that the Ottoman Empire was the best barrier against such designs. The war (1853–1856) was fought in Crimea, on the Black Sea, where Sevastopol was the main naval base of the Russian fleet. Although Britain and France, and their junior ally the Italian Kingdom of Sardinia, managed to defeat the Russians, the war highlighted the inefficiency of the British army (especially the medical and supply services) and the civil service—both of which underwent substantial modernization over the next twenty years. In 1857 Britain faced a major rebellion in India, where the sepoys (Indian troops) of the East India Company massacred their officers and seized a number of cities. Britain's response was facilitated by the fact that the country had been sending troops to China, which Palmerston was successfully trying to force to accept Anglo-Indian imports (primarily opium, hence the name of the conflict). These troops were rapidly redeployed in India and managed to crush the numerically stronger insurgents. The Indian Mutiny prompted the Palmerston government to transfer the powers hitherto exercised by the East India Company to a secretary of state directly accountable to Parliament.

The Palmerston era came to an end only with the prime minister's death in 1865. His successors Lord John Russell (now elevated to the House of Lords as the earl Russell) and Gladstone were determined to satisfy the popular demand for franchise reform. They agreed with John Bright that the time had come when it was safer to enfranchise the working man than to keep him out of the constitution. Mill would have wanted to see the vote extended to women as well, and his campaign elicited substantial support in Parliament, but not enough to bring about the desired amendment to the Reform Bill. Later he further elaborated his case in The Subjection of Women (1869), which became immediately a classic of feminist thought. Even the vote for the working men was quite contentious and split the Liberals. Eventually Lord Derby (Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley; 1799–1869) and Disraeli persuaded a minority Conservative government to support an alternative Reform Bill, which—drastically amended by the pro-reform Liberals—was passed in 1867. This Second Reform Act conferred the vote on borough householders on a residential qualification, but did not extend the same provision to county constituencies or to Ireland, and avoided any drastic redistribution of seats. The result was, however, much more radical than Disraeli would have wanted. The working men were now a majority in many borough constituencies, and were rabidly Liberal in politics.

The first election under the reformed system resulted in a landslide Liberal victory. Gladstone, the new prime minister, had a precise reform agenda, which he immediately proceeded to implement. The disestablishment of the Protestant Church of Ireland created religious equality before the law between all denominations in Ireland. The 1870 Irish Land Act tried (unsuccessfully) to satisfy the tenant farmers' aspirations to stability of tenure. The 1870 Education Act created a system of rate-supported primary schools under elected school boards, inspired by the Massachusetts school system. For the first time women could both vote and stand for election for local authorities. The Married Women's Property Act (1870) was an important move toward equality in property rights (it was further strengthened by the second Gladstone government in 1882). In 1871 trade unions received full legal protection for their funds, and a separate law defined the conditions under which peaceful strikes could be conducted. Both laws had been prepared in consultation with the newly organized Trades Union Congress (TUC), which from 1868 met annually to define the labor movement's policy aims.

One guiding principle of Gladstonian liberalism was meritocracy, irrespective of differences of creed or social standing: thus the ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge ceased to be the preserve of members of the Church of England, while the army was reformed and professionalized with the abolition of the system under which commissions could be purchased rather than earned through proven competence, merit, and military valor. In foreign affairs Gladstone pursued British aims through multilateral negotiations and the Concert of Europe, and advocated international arbitration wherever possible, as in the Anglo-American dispute over the losses inflicted on U.S. shipping by British-built confederate cruisers during the American civil war. This was the famous Alabama case, named after one of these privateering warships. Eventually a specially convened international court ruled that the British government owed reparations to Washington, and Gladstone promptly agreed to pay. The government ran out of steam in 1873, when a bill to reform Irish university education was rejected in the Commons, and in 1874 Gladstone lost the general election.

Disraeli was then able to form a Conservative government with a working majority—the first since 1846. Although his victory came as a surprise, he presided over a series of important reforms that rivaled Gladstone's achievements. Between 1875 and 1878 trade union laws were further reformed to the full satisfaction of the labor movement, city councils were empowered to clear slums, the school system was expanded, and factory legislation was consolidated. Important laws were passed to improve public health and reduce river pollution. Yet Disraeli, who became the earl of Beaconsfield in 1876, found foreign affairs much more interesting than domestic reform. His unilateralist approach to the eastern question (the Ottoman Empire and the Russians were again at war with one another, this time over Bulgaria) generated both support and opposition at home. Gladstone led a Liberal campaign over the Bulgarian Atrocities in 1876, after press revelations about the massacre of some twelve thousand Christian peasants by Ottoman troops. On the other hand, Tory nationalist fervor reached a peak in 1878, when Britain seemed ready to go to war on behalf of the Ottomans to stop the Russians. Eventually, Beaconsfield and his foreign secretary, Lord Salisbury (Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil; 1830–1903), managed to find a peaceful and satisfactory way out of the eastern crisis with the 1878 Berlin Congress. However, the Conservative eagerness to wave the flag resulted in two embarrassing colonial wars in Afghanistan and Zululand in 1879, in both of which the British were initially defeated.

In the election of 1880 Gladstone exploited popular disappointment about these defeats, as well as the general concern about trade depression and budget deficits. The outcome was another Liberal victory, which returned him to 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the prime minister. Despite his earlier criticism of Tory imperialism, the Liberal prime minister found himself pursuing similar policies, especially in Egypt. Britain decided to invade that country in 1882 in order to secure the control of the Suez Canal Zone when it was felt that a nationalist military government was threatening western interests.

Although Gladstone's second government has often been unfavorably compared with his first administration, its achievements were substantial: in particular, the system of parliamentary representation was drastically reformed. In 1883 a Corrupt Practices Act dealt effectively with the question of electoral expenses and corruption. In 1884 the Third Reform Act adopted a uniform residential household franchise for both counties and boroughs throughout the United Kingdom, including Ireland. As a result, a majority of the electorate (about 70 percent of the total) consisted of working men. Finally, in 1885 a radical redistribution of seats brought about the Chartist dream of "equal electoral districts." One of the first results of the act was the return of a larger number of working-class representatives to Parliament, where they sat as members of the Liberal Party (the so-called Lib-Labs).

The other major area of government reform was Ireland. From 1874 the decline in agricultural prices had severely affected the Irish farmers and landowners. Unable to pay the old rents, tenants were evicted. The problem became political when Michael Davitt (1846–1906) organized the farmers in the Irish Land League, with the aim to resist eviction and enforce lower rents. In Parliament the League was supported by Charles Stewart Parnell (1846–1891), an Irish Protestant landowner who had adopted the cause of Irish nationalism and demanded Home Rule (Parliamentary self-government) for his country. Parnell's nationalist rhetoric was calculated to attract the support of the Irish Republican Brotherhood or Fenians, a militant society particularly strong in the United States. The Fenians advocated violent insurrections and resorted to terrorism to achieve Irish independence. However, Parnell's actual program was neither republican nor independentist. Ireland had too much to gain from the British Empire—which was also an Irish empire, as scholarship at the turn of the twenty-first century has demonstrated—for Parnell to consider full separation. What he wanted was the restoration of something like the old "Grattan Parliament," which, he hoped, would enable the Irish to look after their own domestic affairs more effectively than they were able to do through Westminster. This program was supported by the Catholic hierarchy (who abhorred republicanism) and by many parish priests. Thus Parnell squared the circle of establishing a movement that was comprehensive of all shades of nationalism and truly popular, and yet conservative enough to obtain the blessings and support of the church and, potentially, even of the British government. Where he failed was in Ulster, whose Protestant

majority was appalled by the prospect of "Rome Rule" in a predominantly Catholic Ireland. At first, the British government's response was to try to make the Union work better for Ireland: the Second Land Act of 1881 granted the tenant farmers what they had been demanding for years—fair rents, fixity of tenure, and free sale ("the Three F's"). Under this law specially appointed land courts were empowered to set rents below the market rate, and the law protected tenants from eviction for as long as they paid the rent. However, as the worldwide crisis of agricultural prices worsened, within a few years even the judicially settled rents proved too high to be payable. The Irish responded by voting for Parnell, whose party secured most seats outside northeast Ulster in 1885. Gladstone interpreted the outcome of this election as a referendum for Home Rule, and decided to act accordingly.

He then proposed a bill granting Ireland a status similar to that of Canada. This came with a third land bill, which proposed to use treasury loans to enable Irish tenants to purchase their farms (the loans would then be repayable in terminable annuities through the Irish government). The two bills were very controversial and caused the Liberal Party to split between Unionists and Home Rulers. The Liberal Unionists were led by the Whig Lord Hartington (Spencer Compton; 1833–1908) and the radical Joseph Chamberlain (1836–1914). At the ensuing election (June 1886) Gladstone and Parnell were defeated by the coalition between Liberal Unionists and Conservatives, who formed the next government under Lord Salisbury.

Salisbury's government (1886–1892) sought consolidation at home and abroad. The creation of county councils (1888) proved an important step in the reform of local government in Britain, and in 1891 primary education became free. In Ireland they introduced sweeping land acts—de facto moving toward Gladstone's idea of using treasury money for land purchase—and created a Congested Districts Board with wide-ranging powers and generous resources to develop the economy of the west of Ireland. Salisbury and his nephew Arthur James Balfour (1848–1930; Irish chief secretary, 1887–1891) hoped that these reforms would "kill Home Rule by kindness." However, as nationalism continued to inflame rural unrest, the government curtailed civil liberty through special police powers.

Meanwhile unemployment and recurrent trade crises generated social unrest in England as well. In 1887 the police clashed with a demonstration in London. In 1889–1891 a series of strikes mobilized previously unorganized sectors of the working classes, including the dockers, the matchmakers, and the gas workers. These strikes saw socialist agitators involved for the first time in the organization of the unskilled workers. Socialism had been surprisingly weak in British politics until then. The labor movement had been politically divided between Conservatives and Liberals, with a majority of the trade union members solidly aligned with Gladstone's party. The situation did not change at the end of the century, and the few socialist societies that had been established from 1882 remained small and marginal, despite the demonstrations and strikes in the years from 1887 to 1891. The principal of them were the Social Democratic Federation (Marxist), the Fabian Society (pursuing the socialist "permeation" of existing political parties), and the Independent Labour Party (ILP) founded in Bradford in 1893. Three ILP candidates were in Parliament until 1895, when they lost their seats in the general Conservative reaction.

The election of 1892 brought Gladstone back to power, but with a comparatively small majority that proved inadequate to the task of forcing Home Rule through the predominantly Unionist House of Lords. The Liberal–Irish Nationalist alliance had been weakened by the Parnell divorce scandal in 1890, and the resulting loss of credibility proved fatal to the Second Home Rule Bill (1893), after whose rejection Gladstone resigned and retired from Parliament. His ideas remained very influential in the party, which, however, was defeated at the election of 1895.

Salisbury was then back in government with Joseph Chamberlain as his colonial secretary. Despite the government's ambitious program of social reforms, an unwillingness to increase the income tax, and the increased demands of the military services prevented serious progress in the field of welfare legislation. In particular the Boer War (1899–1902) proved long and expensive. It resulted in the British annexation of the former Boer republics and the creation of modern South Africa, but the scandals associated with the importation of Chinese indentured laborers and the use of concentration camps for Boer civilians created considerable embarrassment for the government. In 1902 Salisbury was replaced by Balfour, whose government effectively solved the land problem in Ireland by completing the transfer of property from the old landowners to the farmers (1903 Wyndham Act). However, Balfour was unable to stop the disintegration of the coalition's electoral support, now threatened by Chamberlain's revived radicalism. Chamberlain proposed the adoption of import tariffs to sustain employment and pay for social reforms without increasing the income tax. While his proposal divided both Conservatives and Unionists, it gave new unity and enthusiasm to the Liberals, who fought a vigorous campaign to retain free trade, which was popularly regarded as the cause of "the big loaf " (i.e., cheap bread and foodstuff in general). This resulted in the Liberal electoral victory of 1906, when Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836–1908) formed a government. The new government was supported by the Labour Representation Committee (or LRC, which changed its name to Labour Party in 1906), and by the Irish Nationalist Party, which continued to demand Home Rule.


It was the beginning of a new era. The change had already been prepared by the passing of Queen Victoria, who had died in 1901. The new sovereign, Edward VII, reigned for only nine years, but, like his mother, he too defined an age, which was one of emancipation, liberalism, social and scientific innovation, and confidence in the future. He was succeeded in 1910 by his son George V (r. 1910–1936).

Social reform was sponsored both by Labour and, especially, by the radical "New Liberalism" that dominated post-1908 government policy. The Labour Party had been established as the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) in

1900. Originally it was created by the TUC in response to changes in trade union legislation that threatened the very right to strike in the years 1899 to 1902, when the Liberal opposition was weak and unable to help. Thus the LRC was set up primarily to advocate trade union interests. Although socialist societies were affiliated to it, neither the LRC nor the early Labour Party had a socialist program or ideology, and most of their members were essentially liberal in their ideological outlook. In 1903 the chairman of the LRC, James Ramsey MacDonald (1866–1937), struck a secret electoral pact with the Liberal Party in order to coordinate the strategies of the two anti-Conservative parties at the forthcoming election. Although the pact worked well, in terms of results the 1906 election was a resounding Liberal success, and, as the socialist playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) remarked at the time, Labour seemed little more than "a cork" floating on the Gladstonian tide.

In some respects, the governments of Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1905–1908) and Herbert Henry Asquith (1908–1916) were indeed "Gladstonian." In particular, their opposition to the women's suffrage campaign—opposition that was stiffened by their revulsion at the militant methods adopted by the suffragettes—was indeed consistent with Gladstone's old Liberalism. On the other hand, there was also a "New Liberalism" that went well beyond mere Gladstonianism. The Liberal politicians who came to the forefront of party politics from the 1890s argued that the state should accept responsibility for the creation of conditions under which citizens would enjoy a degree of liberty from the anxieties of old age, unemployment, and sickness. Pensions and national insurance would sustain domestic demand and indirectly stimulate economic growth and living standards. Radical economists such as John Atkinson Hobson (1858–1940) insisted that the benefits of Gladstonian free trade should be shored up by decisive government action to secure "positive liberty." Ministers such as Asquith (1852–1928), David Lloyd George (1863–1945, prime minister 1916–1922), and Winston Churchill (1874–1965)—who had recently abandoned Conservatism for Liberalism over the issue of free trade—proceeded to legislate along these lines from 1908. By 1910 the new reforms required the government to increase taxation, which Lloyd George proposed to do by raising the income tax. Outraged at what they regarded as an attack on private property, the House of Lords broke constitutional convention by rejecting a money bill. In response, Asquith dissolved Parliament twice in 1910: the first election (in January) was about forcing the Lords to accept "the People's Budget"; the second election (December) was about reducing the power of the Lords. The Liberals won both elections, and in 1911 the Parliament Act reduced the Lords to the status of a revising chamber with suspensory veto of two years, after which a bill that they opposed would become law automatically. This paved the way for further reforms, including the disestablishment of the Episcopalian Church in Wales and the Irish Home Rule Act. Both were passed in 1912, both were suspended by the Lords for two years, and were due to be enacted in 1914. Then, however, the outbreak of World War I caused the government to suspend all controversial legislation (and both acts were very controversial) for the duration of the war, in order to maximize national unity.

The Asquith government's inability to avoid the war could be seen as its greatest failure. However, it is unlikely that the government could have done much to either prevent the war or avoid Britain's involvement in it. In the 1890s under Salisbury, Britain had cultivated Germany as a potential ally against France, whose colonial expansionism in Africa London regarded with alarm. Later, Germany's ambitious program of naval rearmament and her unpredictable kaiser brought about a complete change of mind in London. By 1904 France was Britain's informal ally. Moreover, Britain now regarded Russia—another old enemy—as a barrier against German expansionism. This Anglo-German rivalry was a disaster for both countries, but no amount of good will on either side was able to compensate for the combined effects of Germany's erratic foreign policy and the perverse operation of the system of countervailing alliances, which involved countries going to war on behalf of their friends irrespective of any threats to their own national interests. The year 1914 marked the end of an era not only for the United Kingdom, but also for the rest of Europe.

See alsoAlliance System; Boer War; Chartism; Concert of Europe; Conservatism; Corn Laws, Repeal of; Crimean War; Crystal Palace; East India Company; Emigration; French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars; Imperialism; India; Ireland; Labour Party; Scotland; Sepoy Mutiny; Tories; Waterloo; Whigs.


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Eugenio Biagini

United Kingdom

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United Kingdom

Culture Name


Alternative Name

Formally known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland


Identification. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the formal name of the sovereign state governed by Parliament in London. The term "United Kingdom" normally is understood to include Northern Ireland; the term "Great Britain" refers to the island of Britain and its constituent nations of England, Wales, and Scotland but does not include Northern Ireland. Any citizen of Great Britain may be referred to as a Briton.

Location and Geography. The land area of Great Britain is 89,000 square miles (230,500 square kilometers), with an additional 5,400 square miles (13,986 square kilometers) in Northern Ireland, giving it one of the highest population densities in the Western world. Although the country lies mostly at the latitude of Labrador in the western Atlantic, the climate is tempered by the Gulf Stream and does not have extremes of summer heat or winter cold. Except for some areas of barren upland and bog, most of the land is suitable for agriculture and has been grazed or cultivated since the Bronze Age. The natural vegetation is mixed oak woodland, but most of the terrain has been cleared for agriculture or for shipbuilding and charcoal for smelting. The earliest evidence of human settlement is at Boxgrove, Sussex, and the island may have been continuously occupied for 500,000 years.

Demography. The population is approximately 55 million: 46 million in England, 5 million in Scotland, 2.5 million in Wales, and 1.5 million in Northern Ireland.

The nation's cultural diversity has been increased by migration within the British Isles and by immigration from Europe and overseas. Until 1920, Ireland was incorporated within the United Kingdom. Movement across the Irish Sea had existed since the eighteenth century, even among Ireland's poorest people. In the nineteenth century, there was a regular pattern of seasonal migration of farm workers from Ireland to Britain. Irishmen volunteered for the Royal Navy and British Army regiments in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and saw service in all parts of the empire. A wide variety of other Irish people spent periods in Britain, which had a more highly developed economy than Ireland. From 1841 onward, the censuses of Scotland, England, and Wales have enumerated Irish-born people in every part of the country. Similarly, Scottish and Welsh people have settled in England. Most British people have ancestries that are mixtures of the four nationalities of the British Isles.

Before and after World War II, political and religious refugees and displaced persons from the Baltic countries, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary were offered shelter in Britain and remained, along with some prisoners of war. Other immigrants of European ancestry who were born in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and South and East Africa, along with Greek and Turkish Cypriots, also settled in Britain. After the late 1940s, many of non-European overseas immigrants arrived, predominantly from the colonies, including people of Indian and African ancestry from the West Indies and Guyana; people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; and Chinese from Hong Kong and Singapore. The 1991 census, the first to include ethnic background, enumerated three million Britons of non-European birth or ancestry.

Linguistic Affiliation. Regional and cultural relationships are expressed in marked linguistic differences. Although the language has been modified by a gradual convergence toward "estuary English" a less formal variety of southeastern speech, and educational and socioeconomic factors, it is possible to determine people's geographical origins by the way they speak. In some areas, there are significant differences in speech patterns from one city or county to its neighbor. These differences are associated with loyalties to one's place of birth or residence and for many people are important aspects of self-identity; non-English native languages are little spoken but in recent years have gained significance as cultural and political symbols. These languages include Scots Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, and Irish (commonly referred to as the Celtic languages); there is also the Old Norse language of the Northern Isles (Orkney and especially Shetland) and the Norman French patois of the Channel Islands. In Wales, 80 percent of the people speak English as their first or only language and those who speak Welsh as their first language are bilingual. In Scotland, Gaelic is not a national symbol because it was never spoken in some parts of that country. People in the Northern Isles are bilingual in English and an unwritten creolized form of Old Norse; in the Channel Islands, the Norman French patois is nearly extinct; and in Cornwall, there are no natural speakers of Cornish, although the language has been reconstructed. In Northern Ireland, the Irish language has been reintroduced as a means of revitalizing Celtic pride among Belfast Catholics.

Symbolism. Symbolic attachment may reinforce localism or take the form of personal commitments that extend across socioeconomic strata. Support for soccer and rugby teams became significant during the twentieth century, and teams now command fierce local loyalties as sport has come to symbolize male pride and self-image in a society where mining and manufacturing have declined. Forms of personal commitment that transcend locality include vegetarianism and environmentalism: the first is predominantly middle class and female, and the second is identified less with gender and socioeconomic status. On the fringes of society, especially among the young, there has been a significant growth in new religious movements, which include radical environmentalist cults, New Age paganism, anarchism, anticapitalist and antinuclear groups, and adopted Far Eastern and South Asian religions and belief systems, including martial arts cults. Cults based on popular music and performers engender personal commitment in culturally patterned ways.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The United Kingdom was formed by Acts of Union between England and Wales (1536) and England, Wales, and Scotland (1707), uniting the three nations under a single monarchy and legislative council (Parliament in London). After 1169, the island of Ireland came under British influence, and it became a colonial dependency in 1690. The British and Irish parliaments were united in 1801. A separatist movement led to the dissolution of the Union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1920; twenty-six of Ireland's thirty-two counties became the independent Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland), with six of the nine counties of Ulster remaining within the United Kingdom. The present-day nation also includes the Channel Islands off the coast of France and the Isle of Man between Britain and Ireland, which are substantially self-governing. Northern Ireland and Scotland have separate legal and educational systems and issue their own currency; Wales is fully incorporated within the English legal, educational, and banking systems. Recent referendums in Scotland and Wales have resulted in the establishment of a Scottish Parliament which is still under the general jurisdiction of London but has limited local taxraising powers, and the Welsh Assembly, which does not have tax-raising powers.

The native tribes in the central and eastern parts of England were conquered by the Romans in 55 b.c.e., and permanent Roman settlements were established in 43 b.c.e. and continued for four hundred years. The numbers of Romans were never great, but the indigenous upper classes became Romanized and spoke Latin. The principal Roman towns had baths, temples, amphitheaters, and forums and some of the roads designed to connect Roman towns are still in use. With the departure of the Romans, the British Isles were invaded by a succession of warlike peoples from the European mainland, including the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes; there were also persistent Danish raids. All migrations influenced the native Britons, as can be seen in the English language, which is an amalgam of the languages spoken by the waves of colonists. This turbulence ended with the Norman Conquest in 1066. A new line of kings attempted to extend control into the farthest reaches of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and struggles for supremacy between rival chieftains and princes culminated in the Magna Carta of 1215, which eventually led to the establishment of Parliament and representative democracy. A period of consensus and stability followed the accession to the throne of the Tudor king Henry VII in 1495. His successor, Henry VIII, broke with the Catholic church in Rome and declared himself the head of the Church of England. The dissolution of the monasteries and the confiscation of the property of the Roman Catholic church occurred during the Reformation, leading to challenges to the monarchy by rivals who supported Catholicism. Instability, civil unrest, and competition with other European powers over claims to overseas territory continued for much of the seventeenth century.

Commerce and manufacturing (principally the domestic woolen and Newfoundland and Boston salt-fish trades) developed rapidly, and the authority of Parliament over the monarchy was consolidated by the beginning of the eighteenth century. Capitalism existed before the Industrial Revolution, but its development was hampered by technologies limited to water power and a lack of surplus labor. During the period of the Enclosures (17401789), landlords cleared the peasantry from the rural landscape to create fields enclosed by hedgerows and fences and began to derive profit from new, scientific methods of intensive agricultural production rather than relying the meager tithes and rents paid by peasant smallholders. This displaced large numbers of rural people, who were forced to emigrate to the overseas colonies or migrate to the new sites of industrial production.

The impetus for the Industrial Revolution came from trade with the expanding colonies by a growing middle class of entrepreneurs and investors whose wealth was not derived from land but from commerce; those entrepreneurs reinvested their wealth in new forms of manufacturing and trade rather than in ways that imitated the consumption patterns of the landed gentry. The Industrial Revolution began at the end of the seventeenth century, specifically in the machine-driven manufacturing processes made possible by the steam engine, which was first used in 1698 to draw water from an underground tin mine, and then was adapted to drive power looms in textile mills. Overseas colonization and wars with other European powers stimulated the further development of mining and metallurgy, precision machine tools, navigational instruments, cartography, and managerial and logistical organization, which were exploited for commercial gain by private entrepreneurs. By 1815, Britain had the world's largest and most powerful navy, and within twenty years steam railways and steam-powered ships designed by British engineers were carrying passengers and cargo for profit, allowing British shipping companies to dominate world trade. By midcentury, the country was the world's leading power in business and finance, engineering, science, and medicine.

The Industrial Revolution created a new social order as entrepreneurship and factory production resulted in new forms of wealth and work that were added to the agrarian social order dominated by aristocratic landowners. The 1832 Reform Act ended the political privileges of landed wealth by extending the vote to middle-class male heads of household. The country would be governed by the beliefs, values, and aspirations of the middle class rather than by those of the landed aristocracy. One dimension of this new social order was urbanization: as dispersed cottage industries such as weaving were replaced by mills in central locations, nearby housing was needed for the workers; that housing frequently was built by the mill owner and rented to the workers. The populations of Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham doubled or tripled between 1801 and 1841, and many major towns and cities grew up around mines, mills, smelting works, ports and railway junctions.

Work in the "dark, satanic mills" brought new levels of exploitation and hardship. Rapid industrialization caused overcrowding and disease; cholera epidemics between the 1830s and 1860s provoked public unrest and forced the government to improve public health. Another consequence of Victorian working conditions was the rise of trade unionism. A socially stratified and politically divided society, that was preoccupied with distinctions of social class and the rival ideologies of laissez-faire capitalism and state socialism soon crystallized.

Until the middle of the twentieth century, the United Kingdom was one of the world's wealthiest and most influential nations. Machine tools, locomotives, and steamships built in Scotland and the industrial Midlands were exported worldwide; textile products from Lancashire, Staffordshire china and pottery, Welsh anthracite coal, and finished steel products from Sheffield, dominated world markets for a century. British mining, manufacturing, transportation technology; legal, banking and parliamentary systems; and scientific discoveries and advances were exported worldwide. The nation's wealth was further underwritten by its position as the chief European colonial power, with captive markets and extensive sources of cheap labor and raw materials in Australasia, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The country's position as a world power was reduced in the second half of the twentieth century by two world wars and the gradual decline of its advantages in manufacturing and business, the loss of the empire, and expensive experiments with state socialism. By the late 1970s, the nation was in debt to the International Monetary Fund. The discovery of oil in the North Sea in the 1970s saved the country from bankruptcy and stimulated economic recovery. Tax revenues from the oil industry provided the means to restructure the economy away from an obsolescent manufacturing base and toward a base dominated by service and knowledge-based industries.

National Identity. The United Kingdom is made up of four interdependent nations with many common institutions. While differences in everyday modes of sociality and consumer behavior are not great from one part of the nation to another, some aspects of culture are symbolic of national or local difference on the level of everyday practice or on special occasions. Support for the monarchy, political parties, and soccer teams are the most obvious expressions of contemporary localism; religious adherence and ethnic differentiation are also significant. Support for the monarchy and the Conservative Party is highest in England, especially in the south, while in Scotland and Wales it is substantially lower. In Scotland and Wales, there are minority nationalist parties. The Scottish National Party's political program is dominated by economic issues, particularly tax revenues from North Sea oil. The political agenda of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party, is mainly concerned with linguistic and cultural matters. In both Scotland and Wales, the Labour Party is dominant, drawing strength from its critique of the class privilege traditionally associated with London and southeastern England. The dominance of the Labour Party in much of Wales and Scotland provides conditions for patronage-style politics.

Ethnic Relations. A high degree of spatial integration is generally held to be indicative of social integration, assimilation, and acculturation, while spatial segregation is indicative of social pluralism. Non-European immigration in Britain has not moved toward a pattern of sharply-defined urban ethnic ghettoes. Nevertheless, many non-European immigrants continue to be subject to discriminatory practices in employment and in other spheres, even if systematic marginalization cannot be inferred from their spatial distribution within the towns and cities of the nation.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Rights to land development were in effect nationalized in 1947 by an act of Parliament that removed the right of the owner of a piece of property to change its use and transferred that power to the state. By the end of the twentieth century, 80 percent of the land area was reserved for agricultural use but was responsible for less than 5 percent of the gross national product and less than 2 percent of employment, yet the land-use planning system has continued to grow in size and power. Speculating in land is big business, and the amount of land available for housing is so restricted that any house within commuting range of a job will command a high price.

The countryside is increasingly seen as an aesthetic and recreational resource for people who live in the towns and cities. However, this image of the countryside is very expensive to maintain. The population is crowded together in towns on tiny plots of land, while much of the open land is underpopulated and underused. Many people in small urban houses have high mortgages because of the cost of land.

Food and Economy

Basic Economy. The United Kingdom has one of the largest economies in the world, with a Gross National Product estimate in 1999 at $1.29 trillion (U.S.). Finance, manufacturing, and trade form the base of the economy. The pound sterling is the currency, and it is still being debated whether the nation will join with the its European Union partners and adopt the Euro.

Commercial Activities. Banking and finance, including insurance, are mainstays of the economy.

Major Industries. The United Kingdom is one of the most industrialized nations on earth and has a strong manufacturing base. Major products include machine tools, aircraft and ships, motor vehicles, electronics, chemicals, coal, petroleum, textiles, and food processing.

Trade. One of the leading trading powers in the world, the United Kingdom exported $271 billion (U.S.) and imported $306 billion (U.S.) worth of goods in 1998. Chief exports include manufactured goods, food, chemicals, and fuels. Manufactured goods, machinery, fuel, and food products are imported. Primary trading partners are the European Union and the United States.

Division of Labor. Although the nation produces almost two-thirds of its food needs, in 1998, agriculture accounted for less than 2 percent of the workforce sector. Services account for 73 percent, and industry another 25.3 percent.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The idea of social class is much more powerful than that of ethnicity. People frequently characterize themselves as working class or middle class. Although few admit to being upper class, in principle there are three classes, with the highest one reserved for the aristocratic inheritors of old, landed wealth. The term "social class" has complex meanings with social, economic, and political dimensions. People who describe themselves as working class perceive themselves to have respectable but unprivileged origins, and typically are born into a family supported by wages from industrial or agricultural labor paid in cash at the end of the week. In these families neither parent has a college degree and the housing that the family occupies is rented. There is a strong association between the idea of being working class and supportive of the trade union movement and the Labour Party; the identification thus is with a set of corporate or collective economic, social, and political interests and aspirations. A self-described middle-class person has a social background and political attitudes that suggest parents with white-collar jobs whose salaries are paid monthly by check and who are likely to have professional or advanced education, to live in an owner-occupied suburban house, and to have made strategic choices about their children's education. They are likely to use their education and social skills for upward economic mobility and to support the Conservative Party, which stresses self-sufficiency and individualism. These differences have never been as clear-cut as the rhetoric of the main political parties and professional critics of the social order have asserted. The concept of class has recently fallen out of favor with politicians and sociologists as the nation's social and economic structure has changed dramatically with deindustrialization and the growth of social mobility and the knowledge economy.

Political Life

Government. The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy. The monarch is chief of state and the prime minister is head of government. The Cabinet of Ministers is appointed by the prime minister and are responsible to Parliament. Parliament is composed of the House of Lords (hereditary), the House of Commons (elected), and the sovereign.

Leadership and Political Officials. The monarch reigns, but does not rule the nation per se, acting only with the approval of Parliament. The prime minister holds the executive power and is traditionally the leader of the majority party in Parliament. The primary parties are the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, and the Liberal Democrats.

Social Problems and Control. Each of the countries within the United Kingdom has its own judicial system and courts.

Military Activity. The United Kingdom has a strong military, with an army, the Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force. The nation is an active participant in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The National Insurance, in operation since 1948, provides medical, unemployment, maternity, and retirement benefits, among others. Employers and employees contribute to this fund. The National Assistance Board provides financial assistance to the poor.

Gender Roles and Statuses

The Relative Status of Women and Men. In the 1970s, there were national debates on the changing role of women in society and their women's employment prospects. By the 1980s, the debate had shifted to the implications of the increasing participation of women as the economy was restructured and the balance changed from manufacturing to service occupations. In the 1990s, national debates concentrated on the relationship between work, family life, consumption levels, and the socialization and education of the next generation. Approximately half of British women work; of these, half are part-time workers. Nevertheless, a significant gender divide persists in regard to suitable occupations for men and women, access to occupations by women and men, pay levels for similar kinds of work, and the allocation of domestic tasks. Although the ideal of gender equality is widely shared, social behavior lags behind the ideal. For example, 75 percent of couples say that the preparation of the evening meal should be shared equally, but only one-third of these couples live up to that ideal.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Premarital sex and unmarried cohabitation are widely accepted even if they are not liked by defenders of traditional family values. Single motherhood caused by unstable cohabiting relationships or marital breakdown is perceived as a major problem because of its impact on the welfare budget rather than as a moral question. Nonetheless, family relationships remain close. Roughly 70 percent of adults live within an hour's journey of their parents or grown-up children, and nearly half see their mothers, fathers, adult children, and best friends at least once a week. While newspaper and television reports claim that the nuclear family is in decline because of increased rates of unmarried cohabitation and divorce, personal commitment to kinship ties has not changed much. Seventy percent of adults think that people should keep in touch with close family members; 55 percent think that they should keep in touch with relatives such as uncles, aunts, and cousins; 60 percent say that they would rather spend time with relatives than with friends; and nearly 80 percent think relatives are more important than friends. These attitudes vary with age and genderpeople over age forty-five tend to be more family-centered than are younger people.

Kin Groups. Family life is changing, and there are tensions between kinship ties and some contemporary social values. However, the great majority of people perceive themselves to be part of multigenerational families and regard these relationships as very important.


The United Kingdom is a crowded country. People cope with this situation by being reserved and diffident in public, politely ignoring strangers, quietly minding their own business, and marking out and defending their private spaces, homes, and gardens. They expect others to do the same.


Religious Beliefs. Since the 1950s, church adherence has fallen dramatically, and the British are generally uninterested in formal religious practice. Sixty percent of adults do not believe in God, and one-third have no religious affiliation. Thirty-six percent of the population identifies with the official, state-sanctioned Church of England; 10 percent with the Roman Catholic Church; 4 percent with Presbyterianism; 4 percent with Baptism and Methodism; 3 percent with other Protestant denominations, and 3 percent with other religions. Four percent describe themselves as Christians, and 35 percent say that they have no religion. Geographically, the Church of England is represented as the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Church of Ireland, and the Church in Wales, but Anglicanism is the predominant church mainly in England. In Wales, there was a strong nonconformist presence of Methodist and Baptist chapels whose importance in local life has declined considerably since 1950; in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Presbyterianism is strongly represented; and Roman Catholicism is significant in Northern Ireland, the Western Isles of Scotland, parts of Lancashire and Sussex, and cities where large numbers of nineteenth century Irish Catholic immigrants settled. Only in Northern Ireland is religion strongly identified with political aspirations.

Medicine and Health Care

The National Health Service, which was set up by an act of Parliament in 1947, gave every resident access to free medical care. A system was created that operated local public hospitals throughout the country and directly employed doctors, nurses, and other health workers. Family doctors, specialists, and dentists also received payment from the government for treating patients, although any doctor or patient can practice privately or pay for private medical care. There have been continuing debates on the level of care the service should provide and how it should be funded. The system was intended to provide unlimited medical care to any patient, and the government undertook to pay the full cost. In some ways, the service has been a victim of its own success. Free medical care and successful efforts to promote better health, diet, and working conditions have meant that people live much longer. The care of the frail elderly has consumed an increasing amount of resources; as have advances in treating diseases. Governments' attempts to control the costs of health care inevitably result in the covert rationing of resources, which conflicts with the principle of the citizen's right to high-quality free care when it is needed.

Secular Celebrations

The Celebration of the Birthday of the Queen is held on the second Saturday in June. Other legal holidays include New Year's Day, Good Friday, Late Summer Holiday (the last Monday in August or the first in September), Christmas Day, and Boxing Day (26 December). Scotland and Northern Ireland, celebrate several of their own holidays.


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Bell, Colin. Middle-Class Families, 1969.

Boyce, D. George. The Irish Question and British Politics, 18681996, 2nd ed., 1996.

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Byron, Reginald. Irish America, 1999.

Chapman, Malcolm. The Gaelic Vision in Scottish Culture 1978.

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Charsley, Simon. Rites of Marrying: A Scottish Study, 1991.

Clancy, Patrick, Sheelagh Drudy, Kathleen Lynch, and Liam O'Dowd, eds. Ireland: A Sociological Profile 1986.

Cohen, Anthony, ed. Belonging: Identity and Social Organisation in British Rural Cultures, 1982.

Colls, Robert, and Philip Dodd, eds. Englishness: Politics and Culture, 18801920, 1986.

Davies, Charlotte. Welsh Nationalism in the Twentieth Century, 1989.

Davis, Graham. The Irish in Britain, 18151914, 1991.

Dennis, Norman, Fernando Henriques, and Clifford Slaughter. Coal is Our Life: An Analysis of a Yorkshire Mining Community, 2nd ed., 1969.

Fenton, Alexander. The Northern Isles: Orkney and Shetland, 1978.

. Country Life in Scotland: Our Rural Past, 1987.

Finnegan, Ruth. The Hidden Musicians: Music-Making in an English Town, 1989.

Firth, Raymond, Jane Hubert, and Anthony Forge. Families and their Relatives, 1969.

Frankenberg, Ronald. Village on the Border: A Study of Religion, Politics and Football in a North Wales Community, 1990.

Goldthorpe, John. Social Mobility and Class Structure in Modern Britain, 2nd ed., 1987.

. Family Life in Western Societies: A Historical Sociology of the Family in Britain and North America, 1987.

Gmelch, George. Double Passage: The Lives of Caribbean Migrants at Home and Abroad, 1992.

Harris, C. C. Redundancy and Recession in South Wales, 1987.

. Family, Economy and Community, 1990.

Jenkins, Richard, ed. Northern Ireland: Studies in Social and Economic Life, 1989.

Macdonald, Sharon. Reimagining Culture: Histories, Identities, and the Gaelic Renaissance, 1997.

Macfarlane, Alan. The Origins of English Individualism, 1978.

. The Culture of Capitalism, 1987.

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Reginald F. Byron

See Also: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales

Great Britain

views updated May 23 2018


At the end of the nineteenth century, British psychiatry was more neurological than psychological. Neurology (John Hughlings Jackson) taught that disorders of brain led to mental disorders; psychiatry accepted this position (Henry Maudsley). Psychiatric treatments showed the influence of the French schoolsPierre Janet, Jules Déjerine, Hippolyte Bernheim. In 1913 the Brunswick Square Clinic, the first to offer psychotherapy, based its treatments on the theories of Janet.

Interest in and research on depth psychology centered in the Society for Psychical Research. Many leading scholars and intellectuals supported attempts to identify whether there was psychic survival after death, an agnostic effort to fill the fearful gap left by the loss of religious belief through the rise of scientific materialism and positivism. The first contacts with Freud's writings were through articles by Frederick W.H. Myers on hysteria in 1893. Myers proposed his own theory of a "subliminal" subconscious derived from his observations of cases of multiple personality and hysteria. The ground for receiving psychoanalytic ideas was prepared by Havelock Ellis through his encyclopedic writings of the psychology of sex (Hinshel-wood, 1991).

As Victorian ideas gave way to those of the Edwardian era, there was an upsurge of liberal agnostic writings that can be seen in novels, essays, and philosophical writings of the time, in particular from the Cambridge group of intellectuals who formed the nucleus of the Bloomsbury Group (Pines, 1991a). Leonard Woolf, the future husband of Virginia Woolf, was a very early reviewer of Freud's writings and a short story by Lytton Strachey was titled "According to Freud." From the members of the Bloomsbury Group came the analysts James and Alix Strachey (the future translators of Freud); the younger brother of Virginia Woolf, Adrian Stephen: and his wife Karen. In contrast to the Viennese analysts the great majority of the early British analysts were middle-class Christian professionals.

Within psychiatry, Ernest Jones takes pride of place in introducing psychoanalysis to Britain. Jones turned from neurology to psychiatry and his encounter with Freud's writings led to meeting first with Carl Gustav Jung in 1907 and with Sigmund Freud in 1908. Jones devoted his life to developing and protecting psychoanalysis in Britain. Initially regarded by Freud with some suspicion, the Welshman Jones gradually found acceptance. He founded the London Psycho-Analytic Society in 1913, attracting a mixed group of interested physicians, but dissolved it in 1919 because several members, especially David Eder, declared their adherence to Jung. For some years, having failed to obtain recognition in London, Jones had worked in Toronto and was one of the founders of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Though Jones must be regarded as an outstanding figure in the development of the psychoanalytic movement, he was not alone. David Eder gave the first paper on psychoanalysis to a medical audience in 1911 at a Congress of the British Medical Association; the audience left in disgust before he had finished speaking. Henry Butter Stoddart, a distinguished psychiatrist who became a convert to psychoanalysis, was better received. He gave a series of lectures titled "The New Psychiatry" in Edinburgh in 1915. There he found converts as well as opponents, the most significant of the former being George Robertson, Professor of Psychiatry at Edinburgh, who thereafter declared himself a Freudian. Stoddart, a stout, good-humored man, played a quiet yet important role in establishing psychoanalysis within psychiatry, through his well respected textbook "Mind and its Disorders."

In these early days psychoanalytic ideas were supported and propagated by important psychiatrists and psychologists who nevertheless maintained a critical attitude and did not become members of Jones's reformed British Psycho-Analytical Society (1919). Eder was accepted as, after some analysis with Sándor Ferenczi, he left Jung. Bernard Hart was significant both because of the respected position he held and as author of a textbook, "The Psychology of Insanity" (1912), which ran through many editions and was the principal textbook in support of psychoanalysis. The influential psychologist William McDougall, the research psychologist Sir Cyril Burt, the well-known clinician William Browne, all made Freud's ideas accessible to their professions. Perhaps the most brilliant figure was William Halse Rivers, psychiatrist, research psychologist, and anthropologist, who died prematurely in 1922. Rivers, along with other dynamically-minded psychiatrists, treated psychiatric casualties during World War One with a psychotherapy that was strongly influenced by psychoanalysis. Rivers's work and personality became well known through the autobiography of the poet Siegfried Sassoon who had been Rivers' patient during the war. The novelist Pat Barker used Rivers as a central character in her three novels about psychiatry and the First World War: Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road (London, Viking).

Psychoanalysis made great strides through the treatment of psychiatric cases during World War One, and there were many chronic cases of these war casualties who had to be treated after the war. The Ministry of Pensions set up clinics to deal with these patients and their senior psychiatrist was the analyst David Forsyth. Attacks upon psychoanalysis came from many psychiatrists, notably a disciple of Hughlings Jackson, Charles Mercier. He attacked psychoanalysis as a German importation that would corrupt the minds both of doctors and of children. In his attacks he was supported by many other psychiatrists, amongst whom was the first Professor of Psychiatry in England, Shaw-Bolton. In a critical article, "The Myth of the Unconscious Mind" (1926), Shaw-Bolton stated that it had been a repugnant task to write but that psychoanalysis was an insidious poison being inserted into the minds of the young.

Jones reformed his Society more carefully and retained a strong control over its development for over two decades. Its outstanding supporters included the brothers James and Edward Glover. James, who died early, had been to Karl Abraham in Berlin for analysis and on his return dissolved the Brunswick Square Clinic which had been an important training institution for psychotherapy that was not psychoanalytic (Boll, 1962). Amongst its students who later became analysts were Mary Chadwick, Ella Freeman Sharpe, Nina Searl (a pioneer in child analysis), Iseult Grant-Duff and Marjorie Brierley, the last of whom was to become a very influential psychoanalytic theoretician.

In the 1920s psychoanalysis increased both in popularity and notoriety. The British Medical Association set up a committee to investigate and report on the subject of psychoanalysis following public disquiet over breakdowns and suicides said to be the result of psychoanalysis. This committee sat for three years and took evidence from both supporters and opponents of psychoanalysis. Ernest Jones represented psychoanalysis, and his impressive performance carried the day for the cause. The result was that the British Medical Association acknowledged psychoanalysis as an authentic form of treatment and determined that the term psychoanalysis should not be used for any other technique or theory than that of Freud. However, the committee did not record its support of psychoanalysis, solely its recognition.

In the 1920s and early 1930s the Psychoanalytic Society remained quite small and London remained the only training center. Some British analysts went to Vienna for analysis (the Stracheys, Money-Kyrle, Riviere), some to Berlin (James and Edward Glover, Ella Sharpe), some to Budapest (David Eder). Interest grew in child analysis and Nina Searle began to write on this topic before Melanie Klein's arrival in 1926 at Jones's invitation. Klein was introduced through Alix Strachey who had gone to Berlin for further analysis with Abraham, being dissatisfied with her experience in Vienna with Freud. The correspondence between James and Alix Strachey gives a vivid picture of the two cities, Berlin and London, and their psychoanalytic communities.

It should be recognized that a distinct "English" school of psychoanalysis had begun to emerge. The distance from Vienna led to independent thinking: consideration was being given to the psychic consequences of bereavement and mourning following from the great number of casualties and bereaved families left by the war. This led to a consideration of object relations in addition to libidinal forces. John Carl Flugel, who held an academic position at London University, wrote the influential "Psychoanalysis of the Family," and John Bowlby researched the psychological and socially deprived backgrounds of juvenile delinquents. Donald Winnicott applied his extensive experience as a pediatrician to child analysis.

Melanie Klein made a powerful impact in Britain through her writings on early psychic development. She was supported by Susan Isaacs, Joan Riviere, Ernest Jones and others, although many analysts considered her ideas to be unsystematic and overly speculative. Among them, her clearest critic was Marjorie Brierley. Ronald Fairbairn, working in isolation in Edinburgh, was considerably influenced by Klein, and in turn Melanie Klein recognized that she also learned from him; impressed by his work on the schizoid personality she added "schizoid" to her "paranoid" early infantile stage, hence "paranoid-schizoid." Fairbairn was the strongest revisionist of psychoanalytic theories, establishing a full object relationship theory.

Jones continued to be the dominant figure in British psychoanalysis, as a result both of his writing and his personality. Influenced by Melanie Klein's exploration of early psychic development, he wrote on female sexuality in a way that Freud perceived as a challenge both to himself and to his daughter Anna. Jones tried to achieve a balance between the innovative British work and the more conservative Viennese mode, instituting a series of exchange lectures in an attempt to build bridges.

Edward Glover was Jones's close collaborator and for many years the presumptive next president of the Society. He produced the first enquiry into the theories and practices of psychoanalysis by issuing a questionnaire to members of the British Society which later he elaborated into his authoritative textbook on the technique of psychoanalysis. Though Glover had supported Melanie Klein for some years, later he strongly opposed her, and for this reason found himself against strong opposition when preparing to succeed Jones as president.

British psychoanalysis was dramatically changed by the flight of Sigmund and Anna Freud and their supporters to London in 1938. It is not pleasant to find it on record that Melanie Klein thought it unfortunate that the Freuds had come to London as it would prejudice her intellectual hold on the Psycho-Analytic Society. Indeed, conflict soon broke out between the Viennese and the supporters of Melanie Klein which in wartime led to the famous "Controversial Discussions" that set the scene for the tripartite division of training in the British Psycho-Analytical Society after the war, the three groups of Kleinians, Freudians and the Middle, later Independent Group. This group consisted of those who did not wish to be identified with either of the warring camps. Influential teachers during this period included: for the Klein Group, Susan Isaacs, Joan Riviere, Paula Heimann, Roger Money-Kyrle; for the "Middle Group"; Ella Freeman Sharpe, James Strachey, Sylvia Payne, Donald Winnicot, William Gillespie, Marjorie Brierley, and later Michael Balint; for the Anna Freud Group were Kate Friedlander, Ilse Hellman, and Willie Hoffer. Anna Freud virtually retired from the British Psycho-Analytical Society to build her own training center in child analysis at the Hampstead Child Therapy Clinic, though on the international scene she retained her pre-eminence in psychoanalytic theory.

British psychoanalysis has been regarded as leading the way in child analysis. This is due to several factors. The Hampstead Child Psychotherapy Clinic provided thorough training in child and adolescent analysis, as systematically organized by Anna Freud and her close collaborators. Research initiated by Joseph Sandler on the Hampstead Index (representing the Clinic's collection and collation of clinical experience) has lead to several important publications. Anna Freud's concept of "developmental lines" has been a significant clarification in the study of child development. Melanie Klein's theories have had a major impact and many child analysts have adopted her theories. The training in infant observation and child analysis at the Tavistock Clinic is largely Klein-oriented. Some of her ideas have eventually been partly accepted by those who previously opposed them, including Anna Freud's followers. Klein retained a stronghold on the writings of her followers, which eventually led Paula Heimann to leave her group. In contrast to Anna Freud, Klein did not develop a systematic training in child analysis, though her influence on the Tavistock training is noticeable. Donald Winnicott's writings represent a distinct and different viewpoint. His vast experience as a pediatrician and his acute observational powers led him to the concepts of transitional space and transitional object, tracing the infant's move away from total dependence on the maternal environment. His original concepts such as holding, the use of an object, and the object's survival of the infant's destructiveness, have been influential internationally. Originally a supporter of Melanie Klein, he became a strong critic of what he saw becoming a proselytizing movement within the British Society. Khan, an analysand of Winnicott, was a blazing comet who burnt himself out. His sparkling, erudite papers, which also bridged British and French psychoanalysis, were notable contributions though his polemical debating style demonstrated an equally noticeable self-inflation. In his later years he became isolated, somewhat paranoid and was asked to resign from the Society because many members were outraged by the anti-Semitic tone of his last book, written during his final illness.

The balance between the size and influence of the three groups varies: the "Group of Independent Analysts" is the largest in number, followed by the Klein group and then the "Contemporary Freudian" as the former "B" (Anna Freud) group was called. There is a "gentleman's agreement" that each group should be represented on committees and take turns in the significant roles of President, Scientific Secretary and Chairs of important committees. Total membership as of 2005 was 443 Members and Associate Members, many of whom live abroad. On qualification the student is elected to associate membership. Candidates for full membership are obliged to take part in a membership course with seminars and advanced supervision.

The Institute is responsible for the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, founded by Jones in 1920; the New Library of Psycho-Analysis, which is the successor to the original library which Jones founded in 1921 and which was published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press; and also for the Standard Edition of Freud's work, which was undergoing a new revision as of 2004. Riccardo Steiner has demonstrated the political aim that Jones and his translators held in "standardizing"' the language of psychoanalysis in the English version. In recent years there has been more activity devoted to making psychoanalysis better known to the general public through systematic courses of lectures and daylong and weekend meetings, which are more directed to interested professionals.

It is obligatory of psychotherapy training institutions to submit to regulation and registration which has brought psychoanalysts into closer collaboration but also into conflict with other psychotherapeutic training institutions. The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy was formed to represent and regulate psychotherapy trainings. The British Psycho-Analytical Society, together with the Society of Analytical Psychology (Jungians), the Tavistock Clinic and some other broadly psychoanalytic organizations have broken away from UKCP to form the British Confederation of Psychotherapists, so as to affirm their group identities as "psychoanalytic."

University College of the University of London has a privately funded Chair of Psychoanalysis which must be occupied by a psychoanalyst. Students can gain PhDs for research in the field of psychoanalysis and these students do not have to be members of the Psycho-Analytic Society. The Tavistock four-year training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy can lead to a PhD as well. For several years it has been possible to achieve psychoanalytic training in Scotland through a joint venture of the Scottish Institute of Human Relations and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis in London. Training is also possible in Northern Ireland and may become possible in other regions of the British Isles.

The British Psycho-Analytical Society has coped with great dissention without splitting into conflicting units and is likely to remain one body. Psychoanalysis is still regarded as a prestigious qualification and attracts good candidates, although the number of medically-qualified applicants has diminished. The Institute has always accepted women and non-medically-qualified applicants and has recently declared itself to operate a non-discriminatory admissions policy regarding sexual orientation and ethnicity.

A full account of this movement, principally associated with Ronald D. Laing and David Cooper, has been provided by Digby Tantum (1991). Laing wrote his most famous and influential book, The Divided Self, when he was a senior registrar at the Tavistock Clinic and in training analysis with Dr. Charles Rycroft. Although he was accepted as an associate member of the British Psycho-Analytical Society, he rapidly distanced himself from it and he and Cooper founded their own Philadelphia Association. Together they ran a community named Kingsley Hall on "anti-psychiatric" lines. The basic tenets of anti-psychiatry are as follows: Schizophrenia is not an illness, but a label arbitrarily fixed by society and confirmed by psychiatrists; the symptoms of madness are understandable as communications; what psychiatrists call schizophrenia is either a reaction to a disturbed family or a healing voyage which would be of benefit if it could be completed without interference; and, lastly, psychiatrists and psychiatric hospitals degrade people and cause mad behavior.

Laing and Arnold Esterson carried out research on families in 1958 and 1967, partly at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and at Villa 21, Shenley Hospital, which was directed by Cooper and which treated young schizophrenics. From their researches they concluded that schizophrenia was a reaction to familial or social pathology and that symptoms were cause by disturbed family communications. Their findings were published as "The Politics of Experience" (1967) and by Cooper as Psychiatry and Anti-Psychiatry (1967). As Tantum described it, "Many readers agreed with Laing that a plausible account of symptoms in terms of disturbed family communication was tantamount to proving that disturbed family communications caused symptoms. 'The Politics of Experience' was written at the height of the 1960's rebellion by young people against their parents generation. It was the apogee of flower power and a year before the Paris Evenements. Drug induced mysticism was fashionable and was presented as a voyage of self-discovery. It was tempting to pretend that schizophrenia was not only intelligible but intelligent" (1991).

Laing's legacy survives in the Philadelphia Association and in the Arbours Association, which is led by his former associate Joseph Berke. Both these organizations have training programs and the Arbours Association provides shelter and treatment for psychotic patients in residential homes, thus avoiding hospitalization. The other legacy of the anti-psychiatry movement is found in the refinement of psychiatric diagnosis and in a more psychodynamic approach to both the schizoid character and to schizophrenia. The movement has also increased the momentum away from psychiatric treatment and toward self-help circles for persons who have suffered psychotic breakdowns and who try to avoid further psychiatric involvement. Laing had relatively little direct influence within the British Psycho-Analytical Society and his theories and practices were marginalized by lack of attention.

The Tavistock Clinic has a reputation for psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Founded after World War I by Hugh Crichton-Miller, it began as an eclectic center for psychotherapy where Freudians, Jungians, and Adlerians, among others, provided psychotherapeutic services. During the Second World War the director of the Tavistock Clinic, John Rawlings Rees, who was not himself a psychoanalyst, was appointed director of British Army Psychiatry. Through his influence, several future leaders of psychoanalysis, including Wilfred Bion, John Rickman, and Thomas F. Main, were given posts of high responsibility. When they returned to civilian life at the end of the war they succeeded in making the Tavistock Clinic a psychoanalytic clinic, no longer eclectic. John D. Sutherland, who succeeded Rees as director, held an early enthusiasm for group psychotherapy under the leadership of Bion (and later of Henry Ezriel). This movement eventually faded and was replaced by individual psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Over the years the Kleinian Movement became predominant and those who did not follow this school were to some extent marginalized. The most conspicuous example is that of John Bowlby, whose research into the links between ethology and psychodynamic theory was regarded as extraneous. Bowlby had created the Department of Family and Children and introduced a systems approach to the pathology of the family and because of his "contamination" by such ideas he was also marginalized in the British Psycho-Analytical Society, of which he had been a prominent member since the 1930s. Before his death, however, the importance of his contribution was recognized internationally and thereby he regained recognition within Britain.

Michael Balint did a great deal to make the name of the Tavistock Clinic known internationally through his work with family doctors. Together with his wife Enid, he carried out extensive research into psychodynamic aspects of general practice, and "Balint Groups" spread worldwide. Balint had succeeded Ferenczi as the Director of the Hungarian Psychoanalytic Institute but came to Britain in the 1930s as a refugee. He quickly established a strong position for himself as a representative of the Hungarian school of psychoanalysis and was recognized as one of the leaders of the "Independent" group, in time becoming President of the Society. He also stimulated research into brief psychotherapy, which was carried out by a group of psychoanalysts drawn from the Tavistock Clinic and the Cassel Hospital.

The Cassel Hospital, too, was founded following World War I, to provide inpatient psychotherapy, and between the wars it became more psychodynamic in its approach. Following World War II, Thomas Main became its director, and the hospital became a center for psychoanalytic inpatient psychotherapy. Many psychoanalysts in training were employed there. The hospital gained a worldwide reputation for its innovations in psychodynamic nursing and for its contributions to the therapeutic community movement. The Cassel can be contrasted to the Henderson Hospital which under Maxwell Jones took an approach to inpatient psychotherapy that was socio-psychological rather than psychoanalytic.

Malcolm Pines


Cooper, David. (1967). Psychiatry and anti-psychiatry. London: Tavistock

Hinshelwood, Robert D. (1991). Psychodynamic psychiatry before World War I. In Berrios and Freeman, (Eds.), 150 years of British psychiatry. London: Gaskell.

Miller, P.; Rose, N.; and Pines, Malcolm.(1994). On therapeutic authority: psychoanalytic expertise under advanced liberalism. History of the Human Science, 7 (3), 9-64.

Pines, Malcolm. (1991a). The development of the psychodynamic movement. In Berrios and Freeman, (Eds.), 150 years of British psychiatry. London: Gaskell.

. (1991b). A history of psychodynamic psychiatry in Britain. In J. Holmes (Ed.): Textbook of psychotherapy in psychiatric practice. Livingstone, England: Churchill.

Tantum, Digby. (1991). The anti-psychiatry movement. In Berrios and Freeman, (Eds.), 150 years of British psychiatry. London: Gaskell.

United Kingdom

views updated Jun 08 2018

United Kingdom


Salmon Kedgeree (British-Indian Salmon).................... 66
Lemon Curd................................................................ 68
Haggis ........................................................................ 68
Welsh Rarebit.............................................................. 69
Cornish Pasties............................................................ 69
Toad-in-the-Hole......................................................... 70
Cucumber Sandwiches................................................ 71
Scones ........................................................................ 71
Tatties n' Neeps .......................................................... 72
Individual Mincemeat Pies........................................... 73
Wassail........................................................................ 74
Sunday Lunch Cauliflower Cheese............................... 74
Tea with Milk .............................................................. 75


The United Kingdom (UK) is located just west of the mainland of Europe. It is made up of several islands, the largest of which is Great Britain. Great Britain is made up of Scotland in the north, England in the southeast and Wales in the southwest. Northern Ireland is the northwestern part of Ireland, a separate island nation just west of Great Britain, but it is also part of the UK. There has been violence in Northern Ireland for centuries because of religious and political conflict there. Because ocean waters surround the UK, it has a mild, rainy climate. The country's farmers produce about 60 percent of the food the UK needs. From 198090 the farming became more mechanized, with farmers using machinery to plant and harvest crops. The productivity of UK farms increased during that period by about 10 percent. More farmers raise livestock than crops, and some of the world's best beef and lamb is raised in the UK.


The United Kingdom (UK) has also been called the British Isles or Great Britain at different times in history. The UK consists of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Each region has its own special cuisine. At various times the English have ruled over the entire region, including all of Ireland. The English style of cooking does not use many seasonings and is sometimes criticized for its bland taste. During the 1700s and 1800s, English explorers and colonists were trading and developing settlements in the Caribbean region, Asia, Africa, and North America. Their colonial interests around the world became known as the British Empire. The English were influenced by the cultures of their colonies, so English cooking began to use new spices and cooking techniques acquired in such places as India.

Salmon Kedgeree (British-Indian Salmon)


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1¾ cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz.
  • can of salmon
  • ¾ cup white rice
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges as garnish, if desired


  1. Prepare hardboiled eggs: Place eggs in a saucepan and cover them with cold water.
  2. Put the saucepan on a burner over medium-high heat and wait until the water just begins to simmer. (Tiny bubbles will form and move slowly to the surface of the water.) Lower the heat, and simmer the eggs for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and run cold water into the pan to stop the cooking. Allow the eggs to cool, and then remove the shells carefully. Cut the eggs lengthwise into quarters.
  4. Cook the rice: Prepare rice according to instructions on the package to yield about 2 cups of cooked rice.
  5. Next chop the onion.
  6. Heat butter in a large skillet until melted and add chopped onion. Cook onion, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until softened. Stir rice into the onion.
  7. Drain canned salmon and add to rice mixture, breaking up the salmon with the wooden spoon. Add parsley, and lemon juice. Cook together until heated through.
  8. Serve, garnished with slices of egg and lemon wedges.

Serves 6 to 8.


In Scotland the national dish is haggis. Haggis is comprised of sheep innards boiled in a sheep stomach. In Wales leeks, a relative of the onion, are used in many dishes. Welsh rarebit, comprised of a cheesy sauce over toast, is popular as an appetizer or a light meal. Throughout the United Kingdom, pasties or meat pies are popular. These combine ground meat, vegetables, and potatoes inside a pastry crust. Other favorite meals are fish and chips. Both fish and chips and curry (a dish introduced by immigrants from India) are popular take-out foods. At around 4 p.m., people in the UK traditionally took a break for tea. Traditional "high tea" included formal preparation of tea, accompanied by an array of finger foods, such as cucumber sandwiches, cheese and chutney (a type of pickle relish) sandwiches, scones, and small, delicate teacakes. To spread on the scones, clotted cream, marmalade, or strawberry jam might be served. People's schedules in the modern UK are sometimes too busy to allow a break for traditional high tea, but most people stop their work activities for an abbreviated tea break at around 4 p.m. For the more casual tea break, tea and biscuits (nicknamed "bikkies") is the common fare. Biscuits are small, crisp cookies, and all English kitchens have a "biscuit tin." Other beverages that the English enjoy include ribena (blackcurrant juice) and squash (sweet fruity beverage similar to Kool-aid).

Lemon Curd

Prepared lemon curd may be purchased at many supermarkets. It is usually found near the jams and jellies.


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice, strained through a sieve
  • ½ sugar
  • 3 egg yolks


  1. In a double boiler (one pot set inside a larger pot that contains about 2 inches of boiling water), melt the butter with the lemon juice and sugar, stirring until all the sugar dissolves.
  2. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, stirring constantly.
  3. Keep stirring until the mixture is as thick as yogurt (about 15 minutes).
  4. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a bowl.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap touches the surface of the lemon curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool.
  6. Serve on toast or fill purchased miniature tart shells with it.

Serves 12 to 15. Serve with tea.

Clotted cream and lemon curd?

Clotted creamthe name sounds like something that's been in the refrigerator past the expiration date, but clotted cream is truly a rich treat. It is thicker than whipped cream and is sold in containers, like sour cream or margarine, in the dairy section. Lemon curd is almost like a thick pudding. English people enjoy it for breakfast, or as a filling for little tarts.



  • 1 sheep's stomach
  • 1 sheep heart
  • 1 sheep liver
  • ½ pound suet, fresh (kidney fat is preferred)
  • ¾ cup oatmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¾ cup stock


  1. Wash stomach; rub with salt and rinse.
  2. Remove membranes and excess fat.
  3. Soak in cold salted water.
  4. Turn stomach inside out.
  5. Boil the heart and liver in water, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. Chop the heart and grate the liver.
  7. Toast the oatmeal until golden brown.
  8. Combine all ingredients and pack into the stomach, leaving enough room for the oatmeal to expand.
  9. Press excess air out of the stomach and sew it up.
  10. Simmer for three hours in a pot of water, pricking small holes in the stomach so that it doesn't explode.

Serve on a hot platter.

Welsh Rarebit


  • ½ pound cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • ¼ cup milk (or beer)
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 slices thick bread, toasted
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Tomatoes, sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Put grated cheese, butter, milk, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper in a saucepan.
  3. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  4. Toast bread, cut each piece into two triangles, and arrange in a casserole.
  5. Ladle cheese sauce over toast, and bake in the oven until crusty (about 15 minutes).
  6. Carefully remove two triangles of toast to a plate for each person, top with a slice of tomato, and serve.

Cornish Pasties

Pastry ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup butter
  • Cold water
  • 1 egg, broken into a small bowl and beaten

Filling ingredients

  • ½ pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 potato, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and grease a cookie sheet.
  2. Make pastry (or purchase commercial piecrust mix or refrigerated piecrust): Combine flour and butter in a bowl, using two knives or a large fork to cut the butter into small pieces.
  3. Continue mixing until all the butter has been broken up and is thoroughly mixed with flour.
  4. Add cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until a soft dough is formed (2 to 4 tablespoons of water).
  5. Make filling: In a bowl, mix the ground meat, onion, potato, salt, and pepper.
  6. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
  7. Assemble pasties: Dust the counter or a large wooden cutting board with flour and roll out the pastry, using a rolling pin.
  8. Using a saucer as a template, cut dough into 5-inch rounds.
  9. Place about ¼ cup of the meat mixture in the center of each round.
  10. Pinch up the edges of the dough, almost covering the filling.
  11. Using a pastry brush, brush the pastry with the beaten egg.
  12. Place the pastie carefully on a greased baking sheet.
  13. Repeat to make 3 more pasties.
  14. Bake at 375°F for 50 to 55 minutes.
  15. Pastry should be golden brown, and filling should look bubbly and hot.


No one really knows the history behind the name of this traditional light supper dish.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 pounds pork sausage links
  • Applesauce as accompaniment


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prick sausages all over with a fork.
  3. Place in lightly greased 13x9-inch baking dish.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes at 350°F.
  5. While sausages are baking, measure flour and salt into a medium bowl.
  6. In another bowl, combine milk with eggs, and beat lightly with a wire whisk or fork.
  7. Gradually stir milk and eggs into flour mixture, stirring to make a smooth batter.
  8. Let stand for 30 minutes.
  9. When the sausages have baked for about 15 minutes, turn them and return pan to oven for 15 minutes more.
  10. Remove sausages to paper towels, and drain fat from pan.
  11. Return sausages to pan.
  12. Increase oven temperature to 425°F.
  13. Stir batter and pour over baked sausages.
  14. Bake the combination for 25 to 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.
  15. Serve immediately.

Cucumber Sandwiches


  • 1 seedless cucumber
  • 8 slices very thin-sliced white bread
  • Salt, to taste
  • Unsalted butter, at room temperature


  1. Peel cucumber and slice crosswise very thin.
  2. Spread unsalted butter on one side of each slice of bread.
  3. Arrange cucumber slices in a single layer on 4 slices of bread.
  4. Salt lightly.
  5. Top with second slice of bread.
  6. Carefully trim crusts from sandwiches and discard.
  7. Cut each sandwich into triangles and arrange on a china plate.

Serve with tea. Serves 4.



  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1½ Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten with enough milk to make ½ cup)
  • Handful of currants or raisins (optional)


  1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the butter, and rub it into the flour mixture, using very clean fingertips. Add the sugar.
  3. Add enough of the egg mixture to form a soft dough (not all the liquid will be needed).
  4. Add the currants or raisins (optional).
  5. Preheat over to 425°F.
  6. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to ¾-inch thickness.
  7. Use a 1½-inch round glass or pastry cutter to cut out the dough.
  8. Place the scones on a greased baking sheet and brush the tops with some of the egg mixture.
  9. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve with fresh butter and jam at teatime.


On January 25 the Scots celebrate "Burns Night" for the birth of their favorite poet, Robert Burns (175996). The typical "Burns Night" meal includes a haggis, cock-a-leekie (chicken with leeks), tatties n' neeps (potatoes and turnips or rutabagas), roast beef, tipsy laird (a cream cake made with whiskey), and Dunlop cheese (resembles a soft cheddar). The Scots drink Scotch whiskey at celebrations.

Tatties n' Neeps


  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped chives
  • 2 turnips or rutabagas, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Peel and quarter potatoes, place in a large saucepan, and cover with water.
  2. Heat the water until it boils, and cook potatoes until they are soft (about 15 minutes).
  3. Drain, return potatoes to the saucepan, and mash.
  4. Place the peeled and cut-up turnips or rutabagas into a saucepan, cover with water, and heat the water to boiling.
  5. Cook until the vegetable is soft, about 15 minutes.
  6. Drain, return to pan and mash.
  7. Combine the two mashed vegetables, add the butter and chives, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to combine.

Serves 8 to 12.

The British also celebrate Christmas, New Year's Day, Easter, and Guy Fawke's Day (November 5). A goose or turkey, mincemeat pies, wassail (spiced warm beverage), and plum pudding are served at Christmas, and crackers filled with candy and little toys are broken open by children.

Individual Mincemeat Pies


  • 1 cup flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 egg yolk (separate the egg and discard the white)
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 can mincemeat
  • Several Tablespoons of milk
  • Several Tablespoons of powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Make pastry (may use commercial piecrust instead, and skip steps 2 through 6).
  3. Measure flour and salt into a bowl.
  4. Add butter, and rub the flour and butter together with very clean fingertips or a large fork until crumbly.
  5. Mix egg yolk with water and add to flour mixture, and combine well.
  6. Wrap the dough in wax paper and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or for up to 24 hours.
  7. Dust the counter or cutting board lightly with flour, and roll out dough, using a floured rolling pin.
  8. Cut into rounds about 3 inches in diameter.
  9. Fit a round of dough into each cup of a 12-cup muffin pan.
  10. Gather up the dough scraps and cut out a second set of rounds for the top crusts. (These can be slightly smaller).
  11. Put 1 tablespoon of canned mincemeat into each cup.
  12. Dampen the edges of the pastry with a little water or milk, place the second round on the top, pinching the edges together to seal.
  13. Using the tip of a sharp knife, make a small hole in the pastry top of each pie.
  14. Using a pastry brush, brush the pastry with milk and dust with a little powdered sugar.
  15. Bake for about 25 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool before serving.

Serves 12.


The British traditionally eat four meals a day, including breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. The traditional English breakfast is fairly large, with eggs, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, and fried bread. However, many English people, with schedules too busy to allow for a cooked breakfast, eat a wheat cereal similar to shredded wheat called Wheatabix with milk. Orange marmalade on toast is also popular. Tea with milk and sugar is the preferred beverage.

The Scots eat oatmeal for breakfast. Lunch and dinner can be interchanged, consisting of meat-and-potato dishes and small salads. Tea is taken around 4 p.m. with sandwiches, cakes, chocolate, or fruit. The biggest meal of the week, Sunday lunch, is served in the afternoon, and features roast beef, lamb, or pork; vegetables, often in a casserole or with sauce, such as Cauliflower Cheese; potatoes, and other side dishes. In casual conversation, the British use the term "pudding" in a general way to refer to dessert, even if the dessert being served is not actually pudding.



  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 1 large can pineapple juice (unsweetened)
  • ¾ cup strong tea
  • 1 Tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon whole allspice
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • Cheesecloth


  1. Make a mug of tea, using 2 teabags.
  2. Place the spices in a square of cheesecloth, and tie securely with clean kitchen string. (If cheesecloth is not available, spices may be added directly to the mixture and strained out before serving.)
  3. Pour juices and tea into a large kettle, and place over low heat. Add cheesecloth bag filled with spices.
  4. Simmer for at least one hour (up to 6 hours).

Serves up to 20 people.

Sunday Lunch Cauliflower Cheese


  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard (Dijon-style preferred)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1½ to 2 cups grated cheddar cheese


  1. Cook cauliflower: Cut cauliflower into bite-sized flowerets, and place in a saucepan.
  2. Add 2 cups of water (or less) to cover the bottom of the pan to about 1 inch. Cover the pot, and heat until the water boils.
  3. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender but not soft.
  4. Remove from heat, remove cauliflower from pot, and place it in a serving dish.
  5. Cover with foil and keep warm.
  6. Make sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan.
  7. Stir in flour gradually, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or wire whisk.
  8. Lower heat and cook for about 5 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly.
  9. Stir in milk slowly, stirring constantly. Heat until the mixture just begins to boil.
  10. Lower heat, add mustard, and continue stirring and simmering the mixture for about 8 minutes.
  11. Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the grated cheese gradually.
  12. Pour hot sauce over warm cauliflower, and serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 10.

Tea with Milk


  • Teabags of English tea, such as English Breakfast Tea or Earl Grey Tea
  • ½ pint whole milk
  • Sugar cubes
  • Water


  1. Fill a teakettle with water. Heat the water to boiling.
  2. Run hot water from the tap into the teapot to warm it.
  3. Place teabags, one for each cup desired, into the pot.
  4. (If the teabags have strings attached, wind the strings around the teapot handle to keep them from falling into the pot.) Carefully pour the boiling water over the teabags in the teapot.
  5. Allow to steep for three minutes.
  6. To serve, pour a small amount of milk into each teacup and pour in the tea..
  7. Add one or two sugar cubes (or more), if desired. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
  8. Sip tea and nibble on bikkies (biscuits, the English name for cookies).


The UK depends on its farmers to grow good crops and raise healthy livestock. There is a law requiring all bulls be licensed by the government to help keep the cattle herds healthy and to guarantee that good breeding practices are observed. In the 1980s and 1990s, British livestock farmers struggled to combat diseases such as Mad Cow Disease (BSEbovine spongiform encephalopathy) in cattle. After the first case was discovered in 1986, beef consumption in the UK dropped dramatically. Many countries also stopped buying beef raised in the UK, as a precaution against spread of the disease. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, an outbreak of "hoof and mouth disease" posed another serious threat against the livestock of the UK. Government agencies in the UK and elsewhere sought ways to combat and control these diseases, both of which could have devastating effects on the UK economy.

The children in the UK receive adequate nutrition generally, and there are few incidents of severe malnutrition in the country.



Classic British: Authentic and Delicious Regional Dishes. New York: Smithmark, 1996.

Curran, William. The Best of Robert Burns. Edinburgh: The Book Guild, Ltd., 1999.

Denny, Roz. A Taste of Britain. New York: Thomson Learning, 1994.

Macdonald of Macdonald, Lady. Lady Macdonald's Scotland: The Best of Scottish Food and Drink. Boston: Little, Brown, 1990.

Passmore, Marian. Fit For Kings: A Book of Recipes. Bruton, England: King's School, 1994.

Paterson, Jennifer and Clarissa Dickson Wright. Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies. New York: Clarkson Potter, 1998.

Web Sites

BBC OnlineFood. [Online] Available http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/ (accessed August 7, 2001).

Epicurious Food. [Online] Available http://food.epicurious.com (accessed January 15, 2001).

A Taste of Scotland. [Online] Available http://www.taste-of-scotland.com/ (accessed August 7, 2001).

A Taste of UK. [Online] Available http://web.ukonline.co.uk/tuk/index.html (accessed August 7, 2001).

United Kingdom

views updated May 14 2018

United Kingdom

Official name: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Area: 244,820 square kilometers (94,526 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Ben Nevis (1,343 meters/4,406 feet); on South Georgia Island, Mount Paget (2,934 meters/9,626 feet)

Lowest point on land: Fenland (4 meters/13 feet below sea level)

Hemispheres: Northern Hemisphere; divided between Eastern and Western Hemispheres

Time zone: Noon = noon GMT

Longest distances: 965 kilometers (600 miles) from north to south; 485 kilometers (300 miles) from east to west (Great Britain only)

Land boundaries: 360 kilometers (224 miles), all with Ireland

Coastline: 12,429 kilometers (7,723 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


The United Kingdom (U.K.) is located on the British Isles, an archipelago off the northwestern coast of Europe. The major islands in the British Isles are Great Britain (often simply called Britain) and Ireland; numerous smaller islands are found nearby. Only the northern part of Ireland belongs to the United Kingdom, with the rest of the island comprising the Republic of Ireland. At 244,820 square kilometers (94,526 square miles), the United Kingdom occupies a slightly smaller area than the state of Oregon.


The United Kingdom has numerous overseas territories and dependencies scattered around the world. Dependencies in the Caribbean Sea include the British Virgin Islands (the eastern half of the Virgin Islands), Anguilla, Montserrat, and the Cayman Islands. The Turks and Caicos Islands, which also belong to the U.K., are located in the Atlantic Ocean at the southeastern end of the Bahamas. Other territories situated in the Atlantic are the archipelagos of Bermuda and Saint Helena. Further south in the Atlantic are the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), the largest of the United Kingdom's dependencies, as well as South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Other dependencies include the Chagos Archipelago in the northern Indian Ocean; the Pitcairn Islands in the south central Pacific Ocean; and Gibraltar, south of Spain's Mediterranean coastline.

Several islands near Great Britain are crown dependencies; they belong to the country's royal family but are not technically part of the United Kingdom. They include the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea and the Channel Islands in the English Channel.


Warmed by the North Atlantic Drift, the United Kingdom enjoys a temperate climate, with the temperature rarely exceeding 32°C (90°F) in the summer months or dropping below -10°C (14°F) in the winter. During the winter, mean monthly temperatures range from 3°C (37°F) to 5°C (41°F). Mean summertime temperatures range from 12°C to 16°C (54°F to 61°F). Rainfall is lightest along the eastern and southeastern coasts, and heaviest on the western and northern heights, where annual precipitation can exceed 380 centimeters (150 inches). Average annual rainfall across the country is just over 100 centimeters (40 inches), with rain distributed evenly throughout the year.


The United Kingdom has four primary regions: England (130,373 square kilometers/ 50,337 square miles), Wales (20,767 square kilometers/8,018 square miles), and Scotland (78,775 square kilometers/30,415 square miles), all on the island of Great Britain; and Northern Ireland (14,120 square kilometers/ 5,452 square miles), on the island of Ireland. Each has a distinctive topography.

England and Wales occupy the southern half of Great Britain. England is composed mostly of rolling hills. The highest elevations are found in the north. In the northwest, a region known as the Lake District includes a number of small lakes, and the terrain reaches higher elevations in a range known as the Cumbrian Mountains. In the north-central region, there are limestone hills known as the Pennine Chain. In the southwest, a peninsula with low plateaus and granite outcroppings makes up the region known as the West Country.

Wales is a rugged region with extensive tracts of high plateau. The Cambrian Mountains cover almost the entire area and include Wales's highest point, Mount Snowdon (1,085 meters/3,560 feet). There are also narrow coastal plains in the south and west and small lowland areas in the north.

Scotland, which occupies the northern half of Great Britain, is primarily mountainous. Its Highlands contain the highest peaks in the United Kingdom. South of the Highlands are the Central Lowlands, containing the valleys of the Tay, Forth, and Clyde Rivers. Beyond this are the Southern Uplands, with moorland cut by many valleys and rivers.

Northern Ireland consists mostly of low-lying plateaus and hills.


The United Kingdom is surrounded by water. The British Isles are bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the north and northwest and the North Sea on the east. The Irish Sea lies between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland. South of Ireland and west of the southernmost tip of Great Britain is the Celtic Sea. Northwest of Great Britain is the Sea of the Hebrides. Beyond that sea and its islands are the open waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

About 200 kilometers (125 miles) off the coast of Dundee, Scotland, lies the Devil's Hole, a series of deep trenches in the North Sea that reach depths of 230 meters (760 feet). Britain has coldwater coral reefs at ocean depths of 200 to 1,000 meters (656 to 3,281 feet).

Sea Inlets and Straits

The English Channel lies along the southern coast of Great Britain, separating it from the European mainland. The narrowest point in the channel, known as the Strait of Dover, is 34 kilometers (21 miles) wide. The northern part of the Irish Sea, which separates Great Britain from Ireland, is known as the North Channel, while the southern part is called St. George's Channel. The narrow channel between the main island and the Isle of Wight is called the Solent. The Bristol Channel separates Cornwall in southeastern England from Wales.

Islands and Archipelagos

By far the largest of the British Isles is the island of Great Britain (228,300 square kilometers/88,150 square miles), the largest island in Europe. Ireland is the second-largest isle. Several smaller archipelagos near Great Britain are part of the United Kingdom. The most extensive are the Hebrides, off the northwest coast of Scotland. The Orkney Islands are a smaller archipelago, located just north of Scotland. Much further north, in the North Sea, are the Shetland Islands. The Isles of Scilly lie at the other end of the country, off the southwest tip of England in the Celtic Sea. Besides these archipelagos, there are also many isolated islands, large and small, near Great Britain. These include the Isle of Wight in the English Channel, the Isle of Anglesey in the Irish Sea, and Arran, off the western coast of Scotland.


Dug between 1988 and 1991, the Channel Tunnel opened for use in 1994, at a final cost of $21 billion. At 50 kilometers (31 miles) long, it is among the longest tunnels on Earth; 38 kilometers (24 miles) of the tunnel are submerged beneath the English Channel.

Coastal Features

The coasts of both Great Britain and Northern Ireland are very irregular, with many long peninsulas and deep bays, firths (estuaries), and inlets. The most even part of the nation's coastline is the eastern coast of England. Along the southeast coast, white chalk cliffs that rise to 250 meters (825 feet) border the Strait of Dover. Several short promontories, including Dungeness and Beachy Head, mark England's southern coast. The whole of southwestern England is a peninsula called Cornwall, which extends 120 kilometers (75 miles) west into the Atlantic.

The western coast of Wales curves around Cardigan Bay, at the east edge of St. George's Channel, with the Lleyn Peninsula at its northern end. The coastline features rugged cliffs, coves, and sandy beaches. Further east are Liverpool Bay and Morecambe Bay on England's northwestern coast. As the coast approaches Scotland, both in the west and the east, it becomes even more irregular than in the rest of the country. The broad Solway Firth marks the end of England's northwestern coast and the beginning of Scotland. It is separated from the North Channel by a long, narrow peninsula, ending in the Mull of Galloway. Further north are two more great firths, the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Lorn, with another long peninsula, Kintyre, between them. Further north on the western coast there are numerous narrower but still lengthy inlets. Cape Wrath marks the northwestern end of Great Britain.

The eastern coast of Scotland has two deep, broad, indentations, with a headland between them. Further south is the Firth of Forth. Along the eastern coast of Northern Ireland is a large sea inlet known as the Strangford Lough.


The largest lake in the United Kingdom is Lough Neagh (396 square kilometers/153 square miles), in the center of Northern Ireland. Southwest of Lough Neagh are the Upper and Lower Lough Erne, which extend across the country and into Ireland. Scotland is a region of many lakes; here they are called Lochs. Loch Lomond (70 square kilometers/ 27 square miles) is the largest lake in Great Britain. Loch Ness is famous for its legendary Loch Ness monster. There are no large lakes in England or Wales. On the northwest coast of England, however, near the border with Scotland, there is a region called the Lake District containing many small, picturesque lakes.


Rivers are plentiful throughout the United Kingdom, but most are short, as the sea is always nearby. The longest rivers are found in England and Wales. The Severn River is the longest in the nation (352 kilometers/220 miles). The Thames (322 kilometers/200 miles) is England's best-known river and the second-longest in the U.K., with more than forty locks. Other English and Welsh rivers include the Humber, Tees, Tyne, and Great Ouse in the east, and the Avon, Wye, Dee, and the Exe in the west. Scotland's river system is largely separate from that of England. The two major rivers of Scotland's central lowland are the River Clyde and the River Forth. Scotland's longest river, the River Tay (188 kilometers/ 117 miles), is farther north. Northern Ireland's major rivers are the Erne and the Foyle, which marks part of the border with Ireland.


There are no deserts in Great Britain.


Most of England consists of low plains and rolling downs (uplands), particularly in the south and the southeast, where the land does not rise higher than 305 meters (1,000 feet) at any point. Running from east to west on the Scottish border are a series of sandstone ridges known as the Cheviot Hills, and from north to south from the Scottish border to central England are the Pennines. South of the Pennines lie the Central Midlands, a plains region with low, rolling hills and fertile valleys. Southern England is the site of three ranges of low hills, the Cotswolds in the west and the North and South Downs in the east. The Rannock moor lies in the center of Scotland, at an elevation of 303 meters (1,000 feet). Foothills surround the mountains of Scotland and Wales. The majority of Northern Ireland consists of low plateaus and hills. In the east, small hills called drumlins surround the area of Strangford Lough.


The United Kingdom has no tall mountains by world standards, but there are many lower, rugged ranges. The Highlands of Scotland are dominated by the Grampian Mountains and their subsidiary mountain ranges. Ben Nevis (1,343 meters/4,406 feet), the highest peak in the United Kingdom, is in this region, and there are more than forty peaks that rise higher than 900 meters (3,000 feet). At the southern end of Scotland are the Southern Uplands, with summits of 838 meters (2,750 feet).

The Cumbrian Mountains are the highest mountains in England. They are located in the northwestern Lake District. Scafell Pike (978 meters /3,210 feet) is the highest peak in the range. Farther south, the Cambrian Mountains occupy most of Wales and house its highest peak, Mount Snowdon. The Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons are located in southern Wales.


Numerous caves of all sorts are distributed throughout Great Britain. Many are in limestone karst terrain in England and Wales. Sea caves are abundant in Scotland, including Fingal's Cave, which inspired a composition of the same name by the nineteenth-century German composer Felix Mendelssohn.


The West Country of England, located on the southwestern Cornwall Peninsula, is the site of Exmoor and Dartmoor, low plateaus with granite projections. The Cairngorm Plateau in Scotland, located adjacent to the mountains of the same name, is a broad, barren desert-like region with an elevation of more than 1,220 meters (4,000 feet).


The Channel Tunnel is a set of tunnels underneath the Strait of Dover that connects southeastern England to northeastern France. An extensive series of canals in England links many of its southern rivers and cities. A canal runs across Scotland to connect the Clyde and the Forth, while the Caledonian Canal cuts across northwestern Scotland. There is also a canal connecting Lough Neagh with the Irish Sea. Great Britain's major bridges include the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol; the Humber Bridge in Yorkshire; the Forth rail bridge in Scotland; and London Bridge, the Tower Bridge, and the Millennium Bridge, all in London.



Botting, Douglas. Wild Britain: A Traveller's Guide. New York: Interlink Books, 2000.

Norwich, John Julius. England & Wales. New York: Knopf, 2000.

Scotland. New York: Knopf, 2001.

UK 2002: The Official Yearbook of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Norwich, U.K.: Stationery Office, 2001.

Web Sites

Lake District National Park Authority Online. http://www.lake-district.gov.uk/ (accessed April 24, 2003).

Visit Britain. http://www.visitbritain.com/ (accessed April 24, 2003).

Welcome to Scotland. http://www.geo.ed.ac.uk/home/scotland/scotland.html (accessed April 24, 2003).