United Kingdom

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United Kingdom, constitutional monarchy in northwestern Europe, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain

and Northern Ireland. Great Britain is the largest island in the cluster of islands, or archipelago, known as the

British Isles. England is the largest and most populous division of the island of Great Britain, making up the

south and east. Wales is on the west and Scotland is to the north. Northern Ireland is located in the northeast

corner of Ireland, the second largest island in the British Isles. The capital of the United Kingdom is the city of

London, situated near the southeastern tip of England.

People often confuse the names for this country, and frequently make mistakes in using them. United Kingdom,

UK, and Britain are all proper terms for the entire nation, although the term Britain is also often used when

talking about the island of Great Britain. The use of the term Great Britain to refer to the entire nation is now

outdated; the term Great Britain, properly used, refers only to the island of Great Britain, which does not

include Northern Ireland. The term England should never be used to describe Britain, because England is only

one part of the island. It is always correct to call people from England, Scotland, or Wales British, although

people from England may also properly be called English, people from Scotland Scottish, and people from Wales


The United Kingdom is a small nation in physical size. At 244,110 sq km (94,251 sq mi), the United Kingdom is

roughly the size of Oregon or Colorado, or twice the size of New York State. It is located as far north in latitude

as Labrador in North America, but, like the rest of northern Europe, it is warmed by the Gulf Stream flowing out

of the North Atlantic Ocean. The climate, in general, is mild, chilly, and often wet. Rain or overcast skies can be

expected for up to 300 days per year. These conditions make Britain lush and green, with rolling plains in the

south and east and rough hills and mountains to the west and north.

Despite its relatively small size, Britain is highly populated, with an estimated population density of 244 persons

per sq km (633 per sq mi) in 2001. It is highly developed economically, preeminent in the arts and sciences,

sophisticated in technology, and highly prosperous and peaceful. In general, British subjects belong to one of

the more affluent states of Europe and enjoy a high standard of living compared to the rest of the world.

Many nations around the world have been influenced by British history and culture. With each passing year,

English comes closer to being a world language for all educated people, as Latin once was. The prominence of

English can be traced to the spread of the British Empire during the last three centuries. In the early 20th

century, a quarter of the world's people and a quarter of the world's land surface were controlled in some way

by Britain. Some parts of the world received substantial numbers of British emigrants and developed into what

were called daughter nations. These colonies eventually became self-governing areas called dominions. Canada,

Australia, and New Zealand fit this pattern. For a long time India was the most important colony in the British

Empire, but after a long anticolonial struggle with Britain, independent India today is the world's most populous

democracy. The British Empire once included substantial portions of southern, western, and eastern Africa;

important areas in Asia, such as Hong Kong; a few holdings in the Americas; and a large number of islands in

the Pacific. Today most of these are independent nations, but many retain some British law, institutions, and



Even parts of the world never included in the British Empire have adopted the British system of parliamentary

government, often referred to as the Westminster model. Originally a vehicle for royal authority, this system

gradually evolved into a representative government and finally became a means through which democracy could

be exercised. Today legislative power comes from the lower house of Parliament, known as the House of

Commons. The freely elected members of the House of Commons select the nation's chief executive, the prime

minister. He or she in turn appoints members of the House of Commons to the Cabinet, a body of advisers.

Because the executive is not separated from the legislature, the government is efficient as well as responsive to

the electorate.

Britain was a pioneer in economic matters. The first industrial revolution occurred in Britain in the 18th and

early 19th centuries and led to the development of the world's first society dominated by a middle class. Britain

was the first nation to have more than half of its population living in urban areas. Rapid economic development

and worldwide trade made Britain the richest nation in the world during the reign of Queen Victoria in the 19th

century. For a long time before and after the Industrial Revolution, London was the center of world capitalism,

and today is still one of the world's most important business and financial centers.

Britain has been important in the arts throughout modern times. Plays, novels, stories and, most recently,

screenplays from Britain have been admired throughout the world. The output of English-language literature

from Britain has far surpassed its output in art and music, fields dominated by other European nations.

Nevertheless, Britain can claim several 20th-century artists and composers of note, including painter David

Hockney and composer Sir Edward Elgar.


A Geographical Components and Borders

The United Kingdom is bordered on the south by the English Channel, which separates it from the continent of

Europe. It is bordered on the east by the North Sea, and on the west by the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

The United Kingdom's only land border with another nation is between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

England is the largest, most populous, and wealthiest division of the United Kingdom. It makes up 130,410 sq

km (50,352 sq mi) of the United Kingdom's total 244,110 sq km (94,251 sq mi). The area of Scotland is 78,790

sq km (30,420 sq mi), the area of Wales is 20,760 sq km (8,020 sq mi), and the area of Northern Ireland is

14,160 sq km (5,470 sq mi). This means that England makes up 53.4 percent of the area of the United

Kingdom, Scotland 32.3 percent, Wales 8.5 percent, and Northern Ireland 5.8 percent.

The United Kingdom contains a number of small islands. These include the Isle of Wight, which lies off of

England's southern coast; Anglesey, off the northwest coast of Wales; the Isles of Scilly in the English Channel;

the Hebrides archipelago to the west of Scotland, consisting of the Inner and the Outer Hebrides; the Orkney

Islands to the northeast of Scotland; and the Shetland Islands farther out into the North Sea from Scotland.

Several dependencies and dependent territories are associated with the United Kingdom. The dependencies,

located close to Britain, are the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea and the Channel Islands off the northern coast of

France. These dependencies, while not technically part of the United Kingdom, maintain a special relationship

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