The 1707 Acts of Union declared that the kingdoms of England and Scotland were "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain", though the new state is also referred to in the Acts as the "Kingdom of Great Britain", "United Kingdom of Great Britain" and "United Kingdom".[nb 8] However, the term "United Kingdom" is only found in informal use during the 18th century and the country was only occasionally referred to as the "United Kingdom of Great Britain"—its full official name, from 1707 to 1800, being merely Great Britain, without a "long form". The Acts of Union 1800 united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland in 1801, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The name "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" was adopted following the independence of the Irish Free State, and the partition of Ireland, in 1922, which left Northern Ireland as the only part of the island of Ireland within the UK.
Although the United Kingdom, as a sovereign state, is a country, England, Scotland, Wales, and to a lesser degree, Northern Ireland, are also regarded as countries, though they are not sovereign states. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have devolved self-government. The British Prime Minister's website has used the phrase "countries within a country" to describe the United Kingdom. Some statistical summaries, such as those for the twelve NUTS 1 regions of the UK, also refer to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as "regions". Northern Ireland is also referred to as a "province". With regard to Northern Ireland, the descriptive name used "can be controversial, with the choice often revealing one's political preferences."
The term Britain is often used as synonym for the United Kingdom. The term Great Britain, by contrast, refers conventionally to the island of Great Britain, or politically to England, Scotland and Wales in combination. However, it is sometimes used as a loose synonym for the United Kingdom as a whole. GB and GBR are the standard country codes for the United Kingdom (see ISO 3166-2 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-3) and are consequently used by international organisations to refer to the United Kingdom. Additionally, the United Kingdom's Olympic team competes under the name "Great Britain" or "Team GB".
The adjective British is commonly used to refer to matters relating to the United Kingdom. The term has no definite legal connotation, but is used in law to refer to UK citizenship and matters to do with nationality.People of the United Kingdom use a number of different terms to describe their national identity and may identify themselves as being British; or as being English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish, or Irish; or as being both.
In 2006, a new design of British passport was introduced. Its first page shows the long form name of the state in English, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic. In Welsh, the long form name of the state is "Teyrnas Unedig Prydain Fawr a Gogledd Iwerddon" with "Teyrnas Unedig" being used as a short form name on government websites.(However it is usually abbreviated to "DU" for the mutated form "Y Deyrnas Unedig".) In Scottish Gaelic, the long form is "Rìoghachd Aonaichte Bhreatainn is Èireann a Tuath" and the short form "Rìoghachd Aonaichte".
In 1603, the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland were united in a personal union when James VI, King of Scots, inherited the crowns of England and Ireland and moved his court from Edinburgh to London; each country nevertheless remained a separate political entity and retained its separate political, legal, and religious institutions.
During the 18th century, Britain was involved in the Atlantic slave trade. British ships transported an estimated 2 million slaves from Africa to the West Indies before banning the trade in 1807, banning slavery in 1833, and taking a leading role in the movement to abolish slavery worldwide by pressing other nations to end their trade with a series of treaties, and then formed the world's oldest international human rights organisation, Anti-Slavery International, in London in 1839. The term "United Kingdom" became official in 1801 when the parliaments of Britain and Ireland each passed an Act of Union, uniting the two kingdoms and creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
In the early 19th century, the British-led Industrial Revolution began to transform the country. It slowly led to a shift in political power away from the oldTory and Whig landowning classes towards the new industrialists. An alliance of merchants and industrialists with the Whigs would lead to a new party, theLiberals, with an ideology of free trade and laissez-faire. In 1832 Parliament passed the Great Reform Act, which began the transfer of political power from the aristocracy to the middle classes. In the countryside, enclosure of the land was driving small farmers out. Towns and cities began to swell with a new urban working class. Few ordinary workers had the vote, and they created their own organisations in the form of trade unions.
After the defeat of France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), the UK emerged as the principal naval and imperial power of the 19th century (with London the largest city in the world from about 1830). Unchallenged at sea, British dominance was later described as Pax Britannica ("British Peace"), a period of relative peace in Europe and the world (1815–1914). By the time of the Great Exhibition of 1851, Britain was described as the "workshop of the world". The British Empire was expanded to include India, large parts of Africa and many other territories throughout the world. Alongside the formal control it exerted over its own colonies, British dominance of much of world trade meant that it effectively controlled the economies of many countries, such as China, Argentina and Siam.Domestically, political attitudes favoured free trade and laissez-faire policies and a gradual widening of the voting franchise. During the century, the population increased at a dramatic rate, accompanied by rapid urbanisation, causing significant social and economic stresses. After 1875, the UK's industrial monopoly was challenged by Germany and the United States. To seek new markets and sources of raw materials, the Conservative Party under Disraeli launched a period of imperialist expansion in Egypt, South Africa, and elsewhere. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand became self-governing dominions.
Social reform and home rule for Ireland were important domestic issues after 1900. The Labour Party emerged from an alliance of trade unions and small Socialist groups in 1900, and suffragettes campaigned for women's right to vote before 1914.
The UK fought with France, Russia and (after 1917) the US, against Germany and its allies in World War I(1914–18). The UK armed forces were engaged across much of the British Empire and in several regions of Europe, particularly on the Western front. The high fatalities of trench warfare caused the loss of much of a generation of men, with lasting social effects in the nation and a great disruption in the social order.
After the war, the UK received the League of Nations mandate over a number of former German andOttoman colonies. The British Empire reached its greatest extent, covering a fifth of the world's land surface and a quarter of its population. However, the UK had suffered 2.5 million casualties and finished the war with a huge national debt. The rise of Irish Nationalism and disputes within Ireland over the terms of Irish Home Rule led eventually to the partition of the island in 1921, and the Irish Free Statebecame independent with Dominion status in 1922. Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom. A wave of strikes in the mid-1920s culminated in the UK General Strike of 1926. The UK had still not recovered from the effects of the war when the Great Depression (1929–32) occurred. This led to considerable unemployment and hardship in the old industrial areas, as well as political and social unrest in the 1930s. A coalition government was formed in 1931.
In the immediate post-war years, the Labour government initiated a radical programme of reforms, which had a significant effect on British society in the following decades. Major industries and public utilities were nationalised, a Welfare State was established, and a comprehensive, publicly funded healthcare system, the National Health Service, was created. The rise of nationalism in the colonies coincided with Britain's now much-diminished economic position, so that a policy of decolonisation was unavoidable. Independence was granted to India and Pakistan in 1947. Over the next three decades, most colonies of the British Empire gained their independence. Many became members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Although the UK was the third country to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal (with its first atomic bomb test in 1952), the new post-war limits of Britain's international role were illustrated by the Suez Crisis of 1956. The international spread of the English language ensured the continuing international influence of itsliterature and culture. As a result of a shortage of workers in the 1950s, the UK government encouraged immigration from Commonwealth countries. In the following decades, the UK became a multi-ethnic society. Despite rising living standards in the late 1950s and 1960s, the UK's economic performance was not as successful as many of its competitors, such as West Germany and Japan. In 1973, the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC), and when the EEC became the European Union (EU) in 1992, it was one of the 12 founding members.
Following a period of widespread economic slowdown and industrial strife in the 1970s, the Conservative Government of the 1980s initiated a radical policy of monetarism, deregulation, particularly of the financial sector (for example, Big Bang in 1986) and labour markets, the sale of state-owned companies (privatisation), and the withdrawal of subsidies to others. This resulted in high unemployment and social unrest, but ultimately also economic growth, particularly in the services sector. From 1984, the economy was helped by the inflow of substantial North Sea oil revenues.
The total area of the United Kingdom is approximately 243,610 square kilometres (94,060 sq mi). The country occupies the major part of the British Isles archipelago and includes the island of Great Britain, the northeastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland and some smaller surrounding islands. It lies between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea with the south-east coast coming within 22 miles (35 km) of the coast of northern France, from which it is separated by the English Channel. In 1993 10% of the UK was forested, 46% used for pastures and 25% cultivated for agriculture. The Royal Greenwich Observatory in London is the defining point of the Prime Meridian.
The United Kingdom lies between latitudes 49° to 61° N, and longitudes 9° W to 2° E. Northern Ireland shares a 224-mile (360 km) land boundary with the Republic of Ireland. The coastline of Great Britain is 11,073 miles (17,820 km) long. It is connected to continental Europe by the Channel Tunnel, which at 31 miles (50 km) (24 miles (38 km) underwater) is the longest underwater tunnel in the world.
Wales accounts for less than a tenth of the total area of the UK, covering 20,779 square kilometres (8,020 sq mi). Wales is mostly mountainous, though South Wales is less mountainous than North and mid Wales. The main population and industrial areas are in South Wales, consisting of the coastal cities ofCardiff, Swansea and Newport, and the South Wales Valleys to their north. The highest mountains in Wales are in Snowdonia and include Snowdon (Welsh: Yr Wyddfa) which, at 1,085 metres (3,560 ft), is the highest peak in Wales. The 14, or possibly 15, Welsh mountains over 3,000 feet (914 m) high are known collectively as the Welsh 3000s. Wales has over 2,704 kilometres (1,680 miles) of coastline. Several islands lie off the Welsh mainland, the largest of which is Anglesey (Ynys Môn) in the northwest.
The United Kingdom has a temperate climate, with plentiful rainfall all year round. The temperature varies with the seasons seldom dropping below −11 °C(12 °F) or rising above 35 °C (95 °F). The prevailing wind is from the south-west and bears frequent spells of mild and wet weather from the Atlantic Ocean, although the eastern parts are mostly sheltered from this wind since the majority of the rain falls over the western regions the eastern parts are therefore the driest. Atlantic currents, warmed by the Gulf Stream, bring mild winters; especially in the west where winters are wet and even more so over high ground. Summers are warmest in the south-east of England, being closest to the European mainland, and coolest in the north. Heavy snowfall can occur in winter and early spring on high ground, and occasionally settles to great depth away from the hills.
Each country of the United Kingdom has its own system of administrative and geographic demarcation, whose origins often pre-date the formation of the United Kingdom. Thus there is "no common stratum of administrative unit encompassing the United Kingdom". Until the 19th century there was little change to those arrangements, but there has since been a constant evolution of role and function. Change did not occur in a uniform manner and the devolution of power over local government to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland means that future changes are also unlikely to be uniform.
Local government in Northern Ireland has since 1973 been organised into 26 district councils, each elected by single transferable vote. Their powers are limited to services such as collecting waste, controlling dogs and maintaining parks and cemeteries. On 13 March 2008 the executive agreed on proposals to create 11 new councils and replace the present system. The next local elections were postponed until 2016 to facilitate this.
The Crown dependencies are possessions of the Crown, as opposed to overseas territories of the UK.They comprise three independently administered jurisdictions: the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernseyin the English Channel, and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. By mutual agreement, the British Government manages the islands' foreign affairs and defence and the UK Parliament has the authority to legislate on their behalf. However, internationally, they are regarded as "territories for which the United Kingdom is responsible". The power to pass legislation affecting the islands ultimately rests with their own respective legislative assemblies, with the assent of the Crown (Privy Council or, in the case of the Isle of Man, in certain circumstances the Lieutenant-Governor). Since 2005 each Crown dependency has had a Chief Minister as its head of government.
The position of prime minister,[nb 9] the UK's head of government, belongs to the person most likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons; this individual is typically the leader of the political party or coalition of parties that holds the largest number of seats in that chamber. The prime minister chooses a cabinet and its members are formally appointed by the monarch to form Her Majesty's Government. By convention, the Queen respects the prime minister's decisions of government.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have their own government or executive, led by a First Minister(or, in the case of Northern Ireland, a diarchalFirst Minister and deputy First Minister), and a devolvedunicameral legislature. England, the largest country of the United Kingdom, has no such devolved executive or legislature and is administered and legislated for directly by the UK government and parliament on all issues. This situation has given rise to the so-called West Lothian question which concerns the fact that members of parliament from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can vote, sometimes decisively, on matters that only affect England. The McKay Commission reported on this matter in March 2013 recommending that laws affecting only England should need support from a majority of English members of parliament.
The UK does not have a codified constitution and constitutional matters are not among the powers devolved to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Under the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, the UK Parliament could, in theory, therefore, abolish the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly. Indeed, in 1972, the UK Parliament unilaterally prorogued the Parliament of Northern Ireland, setting a precedent relevant to contemporary devolved institutions. In practice, it would be politically difficult for the UK Parliament to abolish devolution to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, given the political entrenchment created by referendum decisions. The political constraints placed upon the UK Parliament's power to interfere with devolution in Northern Ireland are even greater than in relation to Scotland and Wales, given that devolution in Northern Ireland rests upon an international agreement with the Government of Ireland.
Scots law is a hybrid system based on both common-law and civil-law principles. The chief courts are theCourt of Session, for civil cases, and the High Court of Justiciary, for criminal cases. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom serves as the highest court of appeal for civil cases under Scots law. Sheriff courts deal with most civil and criminal cases including conducting criminal trials with a jury, known as sheriff solemn court, or with a sheriff and no jury, known as sheriff summary Court. The Scots legal system is unique in having three possible verdicts for a criminal trial: "guilty", "not guilty" and "not proven". Both "not guilty" and "not proven" result in an acquittal.
The UK service sector makes up around 73% of GDP. London is one of the three "command centres" ofthe global economy (alongside New York City and Tokyo), it is the world's largest financial centre alongside New York, and it has the largest city GDP in Europe. Edinburgh is also one of the largest financial centres in Europe. Tourism is very important to the British economy and, with over 27 million tourists arriving in 2004, the United Kingdom is ranked as the sixth major tourist destination in the world and London has the most international visitors of any city in the world. The creative industries accounted for 7% GVA in 2005 and grew at an average of 6% per annum between 1997 and 2005.
The Airbus A350 has its wings and engines manufactured in the UK.
The Industrial Revolution started in the UK with an initial concentration on the textile industry, followed by other heavy industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining and steelmaking. British merchants, shippers and bankers developed overwhelming advantage over those of other nations allowing the UK to dominate international trade in the 19th century. As other nations industrialised, coupled with economic decline after two world wars, the United Kingdom began to lose its competitive advantage and heavy industry declined, by degrees, throughout the 20th century. Manufacturing remains a significant part of the economy but accounted for only 16.7% of national output in 2003.
The automotive industry is a significant part of the UK manufacturing sector and employs over 800,000 people, with a turnover of some £52 billion, generating £26.6 billion of exports.
The aerospace industry of the UK is the second- or third-largest national aerospace industry in the world depending upon the method of measurement and has an annual turnover of around £20 billion. The wings for the Airbus A380 and the A350 XWB are designed and manufactured at Airbus UK's world-leading Broughton facility, whilst over a quarter of the value of the Boeing 787 comes from UK manufacturers including Eaton (fuel subsystem pumps), Messier-Bugatti-Dowty (the landing gear) and Rolls-Royce (the engines). Other key names include GKN Aerospace—an expert in metallic and composite aerostructures that's involved in almost every civil and military fixed and rotary wing aircraft in production and development today.
BAE Systems plays a critical role in some of the world's biggest defence aerospace projects. The company makes large sections of the Typhoon Eurofighterat its sub-assembly plant in Salmesbury and assembles the aircraft for the RAF at its Warton Plant, near Preston. It is also a principal subcontractor on theF35 Joint Strike Fighter—the world's largest single defence project—for which it designs and manufactures a range of components including the aft fuselage, vertical and horizontal tail and wing tips and fuel system. As well as this it manufactures the Hawk, the world's most successful jet training aircraft. Airbus UK also manufactures the wings for the A400 m military transporter. Rolls-Royce, is the world's second-largest aero-engine manufacturer. Its engines power more than 30 types of commercial aircraft and it has more than 30,000 engines currently in service across both the civil and defence sectors. Rolls-Royce is forecast to have more than 50% of the widebody market share by 2016, ahead of General Electric. Agusta Westland designs and manufactures complete helicopters in the UK.
The UK space industry is growing very fast. Worth £9.1bn in 2011 and employing 29,000 people, it is growing at a rate of some 7.5% annually, according to its umbrella organisation, the UK Space Agency. Government strategy is for the space industry to be a £40bn business for the UK by 2030, capturing a 10% share of the $250bn world market for commercial space technology. On 16 July 2013, the British government pledged £60 m to the Skylon project: this investment will provide support at a "crucial stage" to allow a full-scale prototype of the SABRE engine to be built.
The pharmaceutical industry plays an important role in the UK economy and the country has the third-highest share of global pharmaceutical R&D expenditures (after the United States and Japan).
Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanised and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with less than 1.6% of the labour force (535,000 workers). Around two-thirds of production is devoted to livestock, one-third to arable crops. Farmers are subsidised by the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. The UK retains a significant, though much reduced fishing industry. It is also rich in a number of natural resources including coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica and an abundance of arable land.
In the final quarter of 2008, as a result of the Great Recession, the UK economy officially entered recessionfor the first time since 1991. Unemployment increased from 5.2% in May 2008 to 7.6% in May 2009 and by January 2012 the unemployment rate among 18 to 24-year-olds had risen from 11.9% to 22.5%, the highest since current records began in 1992. Total UK government debt rose from 44.4% of GDP in 2007 to 82.9% of GDP in 2011. Following the likes of the United States, France and many major economies, in February 2013, the UK lost its top AAA credit rating for the first time since 1978 with Moodysand Fitchcredit agency while, unlike the other major economies retained their triple A rating with the largest agency Standard & Poor's.
However, by the end of 2014, UK growth was the fastest in the G7, the fastest in Europe.
As a direct result of the Great Recession between 2010 and the third quarter of 2012 wages in the UK fell by 3.2% but by 2014, real wages had grown by 2%, moving out and above inflation for the first time since 2007. Since the 1980s, UK economic inequality, like Canada, Australia and the United States has grown faster than in other developed countries.
The poverty line in the UK is commonly defined as being 60% of the median household income.[nb 11] In 2007–2008 13.5 million people, or 22% of the population, lived below this line. This is a higher level of relative poverty than all but four other EU members. In the same year 4.0 million children, 31% of the total, lived in households below the poverty line after housing costs were taken into account. This is a decrease of 400,000 children since 1998–1999.The UK imports 40% of its food supplies. The Office for National Statistics has estimated that in 2011, 14 million people were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, and that one person in 20 (5.1%) was now experiencing "severe material depression", up from 3 million people in 1977.
Scientific research and development remains important in British universities, with many establishingscience parks to facilitate production and co-operation with industry. Between 2004 and 2008 the UK produced 7% of the world's scientific research papers and had an 8% share of scientific citations, the third and second highest in the world (after the United States and China, respectively). Scientific journals produced in the UK include Nature, the British Medical Journal and The Lancet.
A radial road network totals 29,145 miles (46,904 km) of main roads, 2,173 miles (3,497 km) of motorways and 213,750 miles (344,000 km) of paved roads. The M25, encircling London, is the largest and busiest bypass in the world. In 2009 there were a total of 34 million licensed vehicles in Great Britain.
The UK has a railway network of 10,072 miles (16,209 km) in Great Britain and 189 miles (304 km) inNorthern Ireland. Railways in Northern Ireland are operated by NI Railways, a subsidiary of state-ownedTranslink. In Great Britain, the British Rail network was privatised between 1994 and 1997. Network Railowns and manages most of the fixed assets (tracks, signals etc.). About 20 privately owned (and foreign state-owned railways including: Deutsche Bahn; SNCF and Nederlandse Spoorwegen) Train Operating Companies operate passenger trains and carry over 18,000 passenger trains daily. There are also some 1,000 freight trains in daily operation. The UK government is to spend £30 billion on a new high-speed railway line, HS2, to be operational by 2025. Crossrail, under construction in London, Is Europe's largest construction project with a £15 billion projected cost.
In 2006, the UK was the world's ninth-largest consumer of energy and the 15th-largest producer. The UK is home to a number of large energy companies, including two of the six oil and gas "supermajors"—BPand Royal Dutch Shell—and BG Group. In 2011, 40% of the UK's electricity was produced by gas, 30% by coal, 19% by nuclear power and 4.2% by wind, hydro, biofuels and wastes.
In 2009, the UK produced 1.5 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of oil and consumed 1.7 million bbl/d.Production is now in decline and the UK has been a net importer of oil since 2005. In 2010 the UK had around 3.1 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves, the largest of any EU member state. In 2009, 66.5% of the UK's oil supply was imported.
In 2009, the UK was the 13th-largest producer of natural gas in the world and the largest producer in the EU. Production is now in decline and the UK has been a net importer of natural gas since 2004. In 2009, half of British gas was supplied from imports as domestic reserves are depleted.
Coal production played a key role in the UK economy in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the mid-1970s, 130 million tonnes of coal was being produced annually, not falling below 100 million tonnes until the early 1980s. During the 1980s and 1990s the industry was scaled back considerably. In 2011, the UK produced 18.3 million tonnes of coal. In 2005 it had proven recoverable coal reserves of 171 million tons. The UK Coal Authority has stated there is a potential to produce between 7 billion tonnes and 16 billion tonnes of coal through underground coal gasification (UCG) or 'fracking', and that, based on current UK coal consumption, such reserves could last between 200 and 400 years. However, environmental and social concerns have been raised over chemicals getting into the water table and minor earthquakes damaging homes.
In the late 1990s, nuclear power plants contributed around 25% of total annual electricity generation in the UK, but this has gradually declined as old plants have been shut down and ageing-related problems affect plant availability. In 2012, the UK had 16 reactors normally generating about 19% of its electricity. All but one of the reactors will be retired by 2023. Unlike Germany and Japan, the UK intends to build a new generation of nuclear plants from about 2018.
Map of population density in the UK as at the 2011 census.
A census is taken simultaneously in all parts of the UK every ten years. The Office for National Statisticsis responsible for collecting data for England and Wales, the General Register Office for Scotland and theNorthern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency each being responsible for censuses in their respective countries. In the 2011 census the total population of the United Kingdom was 63,181,775. It is the third-largest in the European Union, the fifth-largest in the Commonwealth and the 21st-largest in the world. In mid-2014 net long-term international migration contributed more to population growth, for the first time since mid-2011. In mid-2012 and mid-2013 natural change contributed the most to population growth.Between 2001 and 2011 the population increased by an average annual rate of approximately 0.7%. This compares to 0.3% per year in the period 1991 to 2001 and 0.2% in the decade 1981 to 1991. The 2011 census also confirmed that the proportion of the population aged 0–14 has nearly halved (31% in 1911 compared to 18 in 2011) and the proportion of older people aged 65 and over has more than tripled (from 5 to 16%). It has been estimated that the number of people aged 100 or over will rise steeply to reach over 626,000 by 2080.
England's population in 2011 was found to be 53 million. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with 417 people resident per square kilometre in mid-2014. with a particular concentration in London and the south-east. The 2011 census put Scotland's population at 5.3 million, Wales at 3.06 million and Northern Ireland at 1.81 million. In percentage terms England has had the fastest growing population of any country of the UK in the period from 2001 to 2011, with an increase of 7.9%.
In 2012 the average total fertility rate (TFR) across the UK was 1.92 children per woman. While a rising birth rate is contributing to current population growth, it remains considerably below the 'baby boom' peak of 2.95 children per woman in 1964, below the replacement rate of 2.1, but higher than the 2001 record low of 1.63. In 2012, Scotland had the lowest TFR at only 1.67, followed by Wales at 1.88, England at 1.94, and Northern Ireland at 2.03. In 2011, 47.3% of births in the UK were to unmarried women. A government figure estimated that there are 3.6 million homosexual people in Britain comprising 6% of the population.
Map showing the percentage of the population who are not white according to the 2011 census.
Historically, indigenous British people were thought to be descended from the various ethnic groups that settled there before the 11th century: the Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse and the Normans. Welsh people could be the oldest ethnic group in the UK. A 2006 genetic study shows that more than 50% of England's gene pool contains Germanic Y chromosomes. Another 2005 genetic analysis indicates that "about 75% of the traceable ancestors of the modern British population had arrived in the British isles by about 6,200 years ago, at the start of the British Neolithic or Stone Age", and that the British broadly share a common ancestry with the Basque people.
The UK has a history of small-scale non-white immigration, with Liverpool having the oldest Black population in the country dating back to at least the 1730s during the period of the African slave trade,and the oldest Chinese community in Europe, dating to the arrival of Chinese seamen in the 19th century. In 1950 there were probably fewer than 20,000 non-white residents in Britain, almost all born overseas.
Since 1948 substantial immigration from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia has been a legacy of ties forged by the British Empire. Migration from new EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe since 2004 has resulted in growth in these population groups, although some of this migration has been temporary. Since the 1990s, there has been substantial diversification of the immigrant population, with migrants to the UK coming from a much wider range of countries than previous waves, which tended to involve larger numbers of migrants coming from a relatively small number of countries.
Academics have argued that the ethnicity categories employed in British national statistics, which were first introduced in the 1991 census, involve confusion between the concepts of ethnicity and race. In2011, 87.2% of the UK population identified themselves as white, meaning 12.8% of the UK population identify themselves as of one of number of ethnic minority groups. In the 2001 census, this figure was 7.9% of the UK population.
Because of differences in the wording of the census forms used in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, data on the Other White group is not available for the UK as a whole, but in England and Wales this was the fastest growing group between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, increasing by 1.1 million (1.8 percentage points). Amongst groups for which comparable data is available for all parts of the UK level, there was considerable growth in the size of the Other Asian category, which increased from 0.4 to 1.4% of the population between 2001 and 2011. There was also considerable growth in the Mixed category. In 2001, people in this category accounted for 1.2% of the UK population; by 2011, the proportion was 2%.
Ethnic diversity varies significantly across the UK. 30.4% of London's population and 37.4% of Leicester's was estimated to be non-white in 2005,whereas less than 5% of the populations of North East England, Wales and the South West were from ethnic minorities, according to the 2001 census. In 2011, 26.5% of primary and 22.2% of secondary pupils at state schools in England were members of an ethnic minority.
The UK's de facto official language is English. It is estimated that 95% of the UK's population aremonolingual English speakers. 5.5% of the population are estimated to speak languages brought to the UK as a result of relatively recent immigration. South Asian languages, including Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi,Bengali, Tamil and Gujarati, are the largest grouping and are spoken by 2.7% of the UK population.According to the 2011 census, Polish has become the second-largest language spoken in England and has 546,000 speakers.
It is compulsory for pupils to study a second language up to the age of 14 in England, and up to age 16 in Scotland. French and German are the two most commonly taught second languages in England and Scotland. All pupils in Wales are taught Welsh as a second language up to age 16, or are taught in Welsh.
Forms of Christianity have dominated religious life in what is now the United Kingdom for over 1,400 years. Although a majority of citizens still identify with Christianity in many surveys, regular church attendance has fallen dramatically since the middle of the 20th century, while immigration and demographic change have contributed to the growth of other faiths, most notably Islam. This has led some commentators to variously describe the UK as a multi-faith, secularised, or post-Christiansociety.
In the 2001 census 71.6% of all respondents indicated that they were Christians, with the next largest faiths (by number of adherents) being Islam (2.8%), Hinduism (1.0%), Sikhism (0.6%), Judaism (0.5%), Buddhism(0.3%) and all other religions (0.3%). 15% of respondents stated that they had no religion, with a further 7% not stating a religious preference. A Tearfund survey in 2007 showed only one in ten Britons actually attend church weekly. Between the 2001 and 2011 census there was a decrease in the amount of people who identified as Christian by 12%, whilst the percentage of those reporting no religious affiliation doubled. This contrasted with growth in the other main religious group categories, with the number of Muslims increasing by the most substantial margin to a total of about 5%. The Muslim population has increased from 1.6 million in 2001 to 2.7 million in 2011, making it the second-largest religion group in the United Kingdom.
Estimated foreign-born population by country of birth, April 2007 – March 2008
The United Kingdom has experienced successive waves of migration. The Great Famine in Ireland, then part of the United Kingdom, resulted in perhaps a million people migrating to Great Britain. Unable to return to Poland at the end of World War II, over 120,000 Polish veterans remained in the UK permanently. After World War II, there was significant immigration from the colonies and newly independent former colonies, partly as a legacy of empire and partly driven by labour shortages. Many of these migrants came from the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent. In 1841, 0.25% of the population of England and Waleswas born in a foreign country. By 1931, this figure had risen to 2.6%, and by 1951 it was 4.4%.
In 2014 the net increase was 318,000: immigration was 641,000, up from 526,000 in 2013, while the number of people emigrating (for more than 12 months) was 323,000. One of the more recent trends in migration has been the arrival of workers from the new EU member states in Eastern Europe, known as the A8 countries. In 2010, there were 7.0 million foreign-born residents in the UK, corresponding to 11.3% of the total population. Of these, 4.76 million (7.7%) were born outside the EU and 2.24 million (3.6%) were born in another EU Member State. The proportion of foreign-born people in the UK remains slightly below that of many other European countries.However, immigration is now contributing to a rising population with arrivals and UK-born children of migrants accounting for about half of the population increase between 1991 and 2001. Analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows that a net total of 2.3 million migrants moved to the UK in the 15 years from 1991 to 2006. In 2008 it was predicted that migration would add 7 million to the UK population by 2031, though these figures are disputed. The ONS reported that net migration rose from 2009 to 2010 by 21% to 239,000.
In 2013, approximately 208,000 foreign citizens were naturalised as British citizens, the highest number since records began in 1962. This figure fell to around 125,800 in 2014. Between 2009 and 2013, the average number of people granted British citizenship per year was 195,800. The main countries of previous nationality of those naturalised in 2014 were India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Nepal, China, South Africa, Poland and Somalia.The total number of grants of settlement, which confers permanent residence in the UK without granting British citizenship, was approximately 154,700 in 2013, compared to 241,200 in 2010 and 129,800 in 2012.
Over a quarter (27.0%) of live births in 2014 were to mothers born outside the UK, according to official statistics released in 2015.
Citizens of the European Union, including those of the UK, have the right to live and work in any EU member state. The UK applied temporary restrictions to citizens of Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU in January 2007. Research conducted by the Migration Policy Institute for the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that, between May 2004 and September 2009, 1.5 million workers migrated from the new EU member states to the UK, two-thirds of them Polish, but that many subsequently returned home, resulting in a net increase in the number of nationals of the new member states in the UK of some 700,000 over that period. The late-2000s recession in the UK reduced the economic incentive for Poles to migrate to the UK, the migration becoming temporary and circular. In 2009, for the first time since enlargement, more nationals of the eight central and eastern European states that had joined the EU in 2004 left the UK than arrived. In 2011, citizens of the new EU member states made up 13% of the immigrants entering the country.
Estimated number of British citizens living overseas by country, 2006
The UK government has introduced a points-based immigration system for immigration from outside theEuropean Economic Area to replace former schemes, including the Scottish Government's Fresh Talent Initiative. In June 2010 the UK government introduced a temporary limit of 24,000 on immigration from outside the EU, aiming to discourage applications before a permanent cap was imposed in April 2011. The cap has caused tension within the coalition: business secretary Vince Cable has argued that it is harming British businesses.
Emigration was an important feature of British society in the 19th century. Between 1815 and 1930 around 11.4 million people emigrated from Britain and 7.3 million from Ireland. Estimates show that by the end of the 20th century some 300 million people of British and Irish descent were permanently settled around the globe. Today, at least 5.5 million UK-born people live abroad, mainly in Australia, Spain, the United States and Canada.
Education in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter, with each country having a separate education system.
Whilst education in England is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Education, the day-to-day administration and funding of state schools is the responsibility of local authorities. Universally free of charge state education was introduced piecemeal between 1870 and 1944. Education is now mandatory from ages five to sixteen (15 if born in late July or August). In 2011, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) rated 13–14-year-old pupils in England and Wales 10th in the world for maths and 9th for science. The majority of children are educated in state-sector schools, a small proportion of which select on the grounds of academic ability. Two of the top ten performing schools in terms of GCSE results in 2006 were state-run grammar schools. Over half of students at the leading universities of Cambridge and Oxford had attended state schools. Despite a fall in actual numbers the proportion of children in England attending private schools has risen to over 7%. In 2010, more than 45% of places at the University of Oxford and 40% at the University of Cambridge were taken by students from private schools, even though they educate just 7% of the population. England has the two oldest universities in English-speaking world, Universities ofOxford and Cambridge (jointly known as "Oxbridge") with history of over eight centuries. The United Kingdom has 9 universities featured in the Times Higher Education top 100 rankings, making it second to the United States in terms of representation.
The Welsh Government has responsibility for education in Wales. A significant number of Welsh students are taught either wholly or largely in the Welsh language; lessons in Welsh are compulsory for all until the age of 16. There are plans to increase the provision of Welsh-medium schools as part of the policy of creating a fully bilingual Wales.
A government commission's report in 2014 found that privately educated people comprise 7% of the general population of the UK but much larger percentages of the top professions, the most extreme case quoted being 71% of senior judges.
Since 1979 expenditure on healthcare has been increased significantly to bring it closer to the European Union average. The UK spends around 8.4% of its gross domestic product on healthcare, which is 0.5 percentage points below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average and about one percentage point below the average of the European Union.
The culture of the United Kingdom has been influenced by many factors including: the nation's island status; its history as a western liberal democracy and a major power; as well as being a political union of four countries with each preserving elements of distinctive traditions, customs and symbolism. As a result of the British Empire, British influence can be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former colonies including Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and the United States. The substantial cultural influence of the United Kingdom has led it to be described as a "cultural superpower".
'British literature' refers to literature associated with the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Most British literature is in the English language. In 2005, some 206,000 books were published in the United Kingdom and in 2006 it was the largest publisher of books in the world.
A number of UK cities are known for their music. Acts from Liverpool have had more UK chart number one hit singles per capita (54) than any other city worldwide. Glasgow's contribution to music was recognised in 2008 when it was named a UNESCOCity of Music, one of only three cities in the world to have this honour.
Despite a history of important and successful productions, the industry has often been characterised by a debate about its identity and the level of American and European influence. British producers are active ininternational co-productions and British actors, directors and crew feature regularly in American films. Many successful Hollywood films have been based on British people, stories or events, including Titanic,The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean.
The BBC, founded in 1922, is the UK's publicly funded radio, television and Internet broadcasting corporation, and is the oldest and largest broadcaster in the world. It operates numerous television and radio stations in the UK and abroad and its domestic services are funded by the television licence.Other major players in the UK media include ITV plc, which operates 11 of the 15 regional television broadcasters that make up the ITV Network, and News Corporation, which owns a number of national newspapers through News International such as the most popular tabloidThe Sun and the longest-established daily "broadsheet" The Times, as well as holding a large stake in satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting. London dominates the media sector in the UK: national newspapers and television and radio are largely based there, although Manchester is also a significant national media centre. Edinburgh and Glasgow, and Cardiff, are important centres of newspaper and broadcasting production in Scotland and Wales respectively. The UK publishing sector, including books, directories and databases, journals, magazines and business media, newspapers and news agencies, has a combined turnover of around £20 billion and employs around 167,000 people.
In 2009, it was estimated that individuals viewed a mean of 3.75 hours of television per day and 2.81 hours of radio. In that year the main BBC public service broadcasting channels accounted for an estimated 28.4% of all television viewing; the three main independent channels accounted for 29.5% and the increasingly important other satellite and digital channels for the remaining 42.1%. Sales of newspapers have fallen since the 1970s and in 2010 41% of people reported reading a daily national newspaper. In 2010, 82.5% of the UK population were Internet users, the highest proportion amongst the 20 countries with the largest total number of users in that year.
Major sports, including association football, tennis, rugby union, rugby league, golf, boxing, rowing andcricket, originated or were substantially developed in the UK and the states that preceded it. With the rules and codes of many modern sports invented and codified in late 19th century Victorian Britain, in 2012, the President of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, stated; "This great, sports-loving country is widely recognized as the birthplace of modern sport. It was here that the concepts of sportsmanship and fair play were first codified into clear rules and regulations. It was here that sport was included as an educational tool in the school curriculum".
In most international competitions, separate teams represent England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland usually field a single team representing all of Ireland, with notable exceptions being association football and the Commonwealth Games. In sporting contexts, the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish / Northern Irish teams are often referred to collectively as the Home Nations. There are some sports in which a single team represents the whole of United Kingdom, including the Olympics, where the UK is represented by the Great Britain team. The 1908, 1948 and 2012 Summer Olympics were held in London, making it the first city to host the games three times. Britain has participated in every modern Olympic Games to date and is third in the medal count.
The modern game of tennis originated in Birmingham, England in the 1860s, before spreading around the world. The world's oldest tennis tournament, the Wimbledon championships, first occurred in 1877, and today the event takes place over two weeks in late June and early July.
St Andrews, Scotland, the home of golf. The standard 18 hole golf course was created at St Andrews in 1764.
Golf is the sixth-most popular sport, by participation, in the UK. Although The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in Scotland is the sport's home course, the world's oldest golf course is actually Musselburgh Links' Old Golf Course. In 1764, the standard 18 hole golf course was created at St Andrews when members modified the course from 22 to 18 holes. The oldest golf tournament in the world, and the first major championship in golf, The Open Championship, is played annually on the weekend of the third Friday in July.
Rugby league originated in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire in 1895 and is generally played in Northern England. A single 'Great Britain Lions' team had competed in the Rugby League World Cup and Test match games, but this changed in 2008 when England, Scotland and Ireland competed as separate nations. Great Britain is still retained as the full national team. Super League is the highest level of professional rugby league in the UK and Europe. It consists of 11 teams from Northern England, 1 from London, 1 from Wales and 1 from France.
The flag of the United Kingdom is the Union Flag (also referred to as the Union Jack). It was created in 1606 by the superimposition of the Flag of England on the Flag of Scotland and updated in 1801 with the addition of Saint Patrick's Flag. Wales is not represented in the Union Flag, as Wales had been conquered and annexed to England prior to the formation of the United Kingdom. The possibility of redesigning the Union Flag to include representation of Wales has not been completely ruled out. The national anthem of the United Kingdom is "God Save the King", with "King" replaced with "Queen" in the lyrics whenever the monarch is a woman.
Britannia is a national personification of the United Kingdom, originating from Roman Britain. Britannia is symbolised as a young woman with brown or golden hair, wearing a Corinthian helmet and white robes. She holds Poseidon's three-pronged trident and a shield, bearing the Union Flag. Sometimes she is depicted as riding on the back of a lion. Since the height of the British Empire in the late 19th century, Britannia has often been associated with British maritime dominance, as in the patriotic song "Rule, Britannia!". Up until 2008, the lion symbol was depicted behind Britannia on the British fifty pence coin and on the back of the British ten pence coin. It is also used as a symbol on the non-ceremonial flag of the British Army. The bulldog is sometimes used as a symbol of the United Kingdom and has been associated with Winston Churchill's defiance of Nazi Germany.