Portal:United Kingdom


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The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country in north-western Europe, off the north-­western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-­eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands within the British Isles. Northern Ireland shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland. Otherwise, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The total area of the United Kingdom is 93,628 square miles (242,500 km2).

The United Kingdom is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 1952. The capital is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. The United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, respectively. Other than England, the constituent countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers.

The United Kingdom has evolved from a series of annexations, unions and separations of constituent countries over several hundred years. The Treaty of Union between the Kingdom of England (which included Wales, annexed in 1542) and the Kingdom of Scotland in 1707 formed the Kingdom of Great Britain. Its union in 1801 with the Kingdom of Ireland created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Most of Ireland seceded from the UK in 1922, leaving the present United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which formally adopted that name in 1927.

The nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Jersey are not part of the UK, being Crown Dependencies with the British Government responsible for defence and international representation. There are also 14 British Overseas Territories, the last remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's landmass and a third of the world's population, and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language, culture and the legal and political systems of many of its former colonies.

The United Kingdom has the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal gross domestic product (GDP), and the tenth-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). It has a high-income economy and a very high human development index rating, ranking 13th in the world. The UK became the world's first industrialised country and was the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today the UK remains one of the world's great powers, with considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific, technological and political influence internationally. It is a recognised nuclear state and is ranked sixth globally in military expenditure. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946.

The United Kingdom is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the Group of Ten, the G20, the United Nations, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Interpol, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). It was a member state of the European Economic Community (EEC) and its successor, the European Union (EU), from 1973 to its withdrawal in 2020. (Full article...)

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Creatures of Impulse is a short story by English dramatist W. S. Gilbert, which he later adapted for the stage with music by composer-conductor Alberto Randegger. Both the short story and the play concern an unwanted and ill-tempered old fairy who enchants people to behave in a manner opposite to their natures, with farcical results. The short story was written for The Graphic's Christmas number of 1870, and the play was first produced at the Court Theatre on 2 April 1871. It originally included six songs, but three were eventually cut, and some productions dispensed with the music entirely. While the lyrics survive, the music was never published and is lost. Reviews of the play were mostly positive, though it was criticised for the lack of a significant plot or superstructure to support its comic premise. Nonetheless, reviewers found it enjoyable, and it was a modest success, running for 91 performances and enjoying revivals into the early part of the 20th century. Gilbert had already written a considerable body of stories, plays, poems, criticism and other works before writing Creatures of Impulse and would go on to write the libretti to the famous Savoy operas (composed by Arthur Sullivan) between 1871 and 1896. (Full article...)

Cædmon is the earliest English poet whose name is known. An Anglo-Saxon herdsman attached to the double monastery of Streonæshalch (Whitby Abbey) during the abbacy of St. Hilda, it is said that he was originally ignorant of the art of song until he learned to compose one night in the course of a dream. He later became a zealous monk and an accomplished and inspirational religious poet. Cædmon is one of twelve Anglo-Saxon poets identified in medieval sources, and one of only three for whom both roughly contemporary biographical information and examples of literary output have survived. His story is told to us in the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum by St. Bede. Cædmon's only known surviving work is Cædmon's Hymn, the nine-line alliterative vernacular praise poem in honour of God he supposedly learned to sing in his initial dream. The poem is one of the earliest attested examples of Old English and is, with the runic Ruthwell Cross and Franks Casket inscriptions, one of three candidates for the earliest attested example of Old English poetry. (Full article...)

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In the news

4 August 2021 – Persian Gulf crisis
Oman says that the hijacking of the Asphalt Princess, a Panama-flagged ship, is over. The United Kingdom also confirms this report. The vessel had been hijacked yesterday in the Arabian Sea in yet unknown circumstances amid rising tensions between some nations and Iran. (Reuters)
3 August 2021 – COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom reports 138 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, which is the highest single-day death toll since March 17. (ITV News)
2 August 2021 – COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom, Travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic
The United Kingdom eases its quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers from the United States and European Union countries other than France where most of them are in the "amber list" category in order to reunite family and friends whose loved ones live abroad. Travellers will still need to take either a lateral flow or PCR test before their departure, and a PCR test on the second day after their arrival. (BBC)
1 August 2021 – 2019–2021 Persian Gulf crisis
The United Kingdom and the United States join Israel in blaming Iran for the strike. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says that the UK and its allies are planning a coordinated response. However, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson says that the allegation is "baseless". (Associated Press)

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