United Kingdom

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United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Northern Ireland
United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Union Jack
United Kingdom coat of arms
flag coat of arms
Motto : Dieu et mon droit
( French for "God and my law")
Official language English (de facto)

officially regional: Cornish , Irish , Scottish Gaelic , Scots , Ulster Scots and Welsh

Capital London
State and form of government parliamentary monarchy ( Westminster system )
Head of state Queen Elizabeth II
Head of government Prime Minister Boris Johnson
surface (79th) 243,610 km²
(78th) 248,528 km²
population 66.8 million ( 22nd ) (2019)
Population density 275 inhabitants per km²
Population development + 0.6% (estimate for 2019)
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nom.)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 2.8 trillion ( 6. )
  • $ 3.3 trillion ( 8. )
  • 42,379 USD ( 22. )
  • 48,727 USD ( 27. )
Human Development Index 0.932 ( 13th ) (2019)
currency Pound sterling (GBP)
National anthem God Save the Queen
Time zone UTC ± 0 GMT
UTC + 1 Wesz
License Plate GB
ISO 3166 GB , GBR, 826
Internet TLD .uk , .gb (unused)
Phone code +44
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Major cities in the UK

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ( English United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ? / I ), short UK (English United Kingdom ? / I [ juːˌnaɪ̯.tʰɪd kʰɪŋ.dəm ], international abbreviation: UK or GB ), a European state located on the British Isles off the northwest coast of continental Europe and forms the largest island state in Europe. Audio file / audio sample Audio file / audio sample

The United Kingdom is a union of four parts: England , Wales , Scotland and Northern Ireland . In everyday parlance it is also simply referred to as Great Britain or England . However, England actually represents only the largest part of the country, while Great Britain refers to the main island of the British Isles (on which the parts of England, Scotland and Wales are located).

With over 67 million inhabitants, the United Kingdom ranks third among the most populous countries in Europe after Russia and Germany. It is a founding member of NATO and the United Nations . It is a nuclear power , a permanent member of the UN Security Council and one of the G7 countries. From 1973 to 2020 it was a member of the EEC and later the European Union . Due to a referendum on June 23, 2016 , the exit from the European Union was completed on January 31, 2020 .

State name in German

The official long form of the state name in Germany and Austria is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland , in Switzerland and Liechtenstein the variant United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (without ß and with "von") is used.

In non-official usage, the term Great Britain is an alternative abbreviation of the long form - also used by politicians, the media , educational institutions and the British embassies themselves. The vehicle nationality symbol is also GB , which is derived from Great Britain . The British themselves refer to their country in everyday language as UK or Britain for short , while Great Britain is less common. The Latin name Britannia comes from the Celtic word brith and means brightly colored or spotted .

However, Great Britain is actually just the name for the largest of the British Isles - or for the former Kingdom of Great Britain (until 1801), which comprised the kingdoms of Scotland and England including Wales. On the second largest island - Ireland  - are Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland .

In spite of everything, only the form “British” is available as an adjective for the state name.

The Synekdochian term England for the United Kingdom is found mainly on the European mainland and is due to the centuries-old dominance of England and the English official language within the United Kingdom.

Territories associated with the United Kingdom

A number of territories are closely related to the United Kingdom, but must be delimited from it under international law. This concerns on the one hand the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands , which as crown possessions of the British Crown are not part of the state association “United Kingdom”. On the other hand, there are 14 overseas territories that are under British sovereignty but are also not part of the United Kingdom.

By the British Monarchy the United Kingdom is also in a loose relationship to 15 Commonwealth realm , the head of state is in each case also the British Monarch; however, these are not only independent states, but also each form independent monarchies.


The United Kingdom consists of the main island of Great Britain and about one sixth of the island of Ireland. Around the main island are about 800 smaller islands; the most important archipelagos are Shetland and Orkney in the North Sea north of Scotland, the Outer Hebrides and the Inner Hebrides in the Atlantic Ocean west of Scotland, Anglesey in the Irish Sea north of Wales, the Isles of Scilly in the Celtic Sea south-west of England and the Isle of Wight in the English Channel off the English south coast. The only land border is on the island of Ireland with the Republic of Ireland; this is 360 kilometers long.

Parts of the country

Parts of the United Kingdom
Part of the country flag Area
Share of
total area
Share of total
England EnglandEngland 130.395 53.5% 55,619,400 84.2% London
Scotland ScotlandScotland 78,772 32.3% 5,424,200 8.2% Edinburgh
Wales WalesFlag of Wales (1959 – present) .svg 20,779 8.5% 3,125,200 4.7% Cardiff
Northern Ireland Northern IrelandNorthern Ireland* 13,843 5.7% 1,870,800 2.8% Belfast
United Kingdom (total) United KingdomUnited Kingdom 243,789 100.0% 66.040.220 100.0% London
*Northern Ireland does not have an official flag, see the article " Flag of Northern Ireland ".


View of the Swaledale at Muker in North Yorkshire

The largest part of the country is England with an area of ​​130,395 square kilometers and around 54.3 million inhabitants. England covers around 59 percent of the island of Great Britain and consists for the most part of lowlands that are criss-crossed by chains of hills. The Tees-Exe Line , an imaginary line drawn between the rivers Tees in Yorkshire and Exe in Devon , divides England into two distinct regions.

The northwest and the north are characterized by low mountain ranges made of metamorphic and igneous rocks. These include the Cumbrian Mountains and the Pennines . The Peak District in Central England , which adjoins the Pennines to the south, consists of older sedimentary rocks . Other low mountain ranges are Dartmoor and Exmoor in the extreme southwest.

In the south and along the east coast there are significantly flatter hills of younger sedimentary rocks. These include on the one hand the limestone hills of the Yorkshire Wolds , the Lincolnshire Wolds , the Cotswolds and the Isle of Purbeck , on the other hand the southern English chalk formation , consisting of Salisbury Plain , Chiltern Hills , North Downs and South Downs . The highest mountain in England is Scafell Pike in the Cumbrian Mountains at 978 meters .

The main rivers are Thames , Severn , Trent , Great Ouse, and Humber . The biggest cities are London , Birmingham , Manchester , Sheffield , Liverpool , Leeds , Bristol and Newcastle upon Tyne .


The summit of Crib Goch in Snowdonia in Gwynedd

To the west of England borders Wales ( Welsh Cymru ), which is 20,779 square kilometers and has more than three million inhabitants. The country consists almost entirely of metamorphic low mountain ranges, with the elevations generally getting lower from north to south. The highest mountain is Snowdon ( Yr Wyddfa ) with 1085 meters. Snowdonia , the northernmost of the three Welsh mountains, is named after him. The Cambrian Mountains are located in the central part of the country , followed by the Brecon Beacons in South Wales .

The UK's longest river, the Severn, has its source in central Wales in the Cambrian Mountains. Most of the population is concentrated on a narrow coastal strip along the Bristol Channel in the south with the cities of Cardiff , Newport and Swansea, as well as on the South Wales valleys that branch off from the coastal strip.


Landscape on the Isle of Skye

Scotland ( Scottish Gaelic Alba ) is 78,772 square kilometers, has a population of around 5.3 million and comprises the northern part of Great Britain. The country consists of three parts; the Highlands in the north and west, the Central Belt in the center and the Southern Uplands in the south.

The geology of Scotland is largely metamorphic and sediments are relatively rare. Igneous rock, on the other hand, is found mainly in the southern Highlands and in the Inner Hebrides in numerous areas. Also the result of primeval volcanic activity is Ben Nevis in the Grampian Mountains , at 1,345 meters the highest mountain in Scotland and the entire British Isles . The northern, slightly flatter Highlands are divided from the rest of the country by the Great Glen , a tectonic fault.

Most of the population is concentrated in the Central Belt, in the metropolitan areas of Glasgow , Edinburgh and Dundee . The only major city outside of this region is Aberdeen on the northeast coast. At the southernmost point are the sparsely populated Southern Uplands; they extend along the English border from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. The Central Belt and Southern Uplands are collectively referred to as the Lowlands .

The west coast of Scotland is very fragmented, due to the many offshore islands and numerous fjords reaching deep into the interior of the country (which are known as Firths in Scotland ). The most famous of these inlets are the Firth of Clyde and the Solway Firth . On the other hand, the east coast is not very divided, with the exception of the Firth of Forth , the Firth of Tay and the Moray Firth , which, however, have more of the character of large estuaries .

Northern Ireland

The smallest part of the country is Northern Ireland ( Irish Tuaisceart Éireann ), which is 13,843 square kilometers, has around 1.8 million inhabitants and comprises the northeastern part of the island of Ireland. The terrain is mostly wavy. The only low mountain range are the Morne Mountains in the southeast , the highest mountain is the Slieve Donard at 849 meters. Approximately in the middle of Northern Ireland is Lough Neagh , with an area of ​​388 square kilometers the largest inland lake in the British Isles. The biggest cities are Belfast and Derry (Londonderry).


Satellite image of London

The UK urbanization rate was 82.8% in 2016, making it one of the most urbanized countries in the world. The largest city in the United Kingdom is the capital London with over 10 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area. The country is heavily concentrated in its capital, which is home to a sixth of the population and which generates almost a quarter of its economic output. London is the undisputed economic, cultural and political center of the United Kingdom and is considered one of the most influential cities in the world. Other large metropolitan areas are Manchester (2.6 million inhabitants), Birmingham (2.5 million), Leeds (1.8 million) and Glasgow (0.9 million). Most of the metropolitan areas are in the densely populated part of England.

Top 10 cities Top 10 urban spaces
rank city population rank Urban space population
1 London 8,537,673 1 London 10,356,139
2 Birmingham 1,126,927 3 Birmingham 2,509,741
3 Glasgow 603.080 5 Glasgow 990,900
4th Liverpool 565.161 7th Liverpool 878.052
5 Bristol 560,982 11 Bristol 648.816
6th Manchester 537,862 2 Manchester 2,626,139
7th Sheffield 535.782 10 Sheffield 703.920
8th Leeds 493,623 4th Leeds 1,824,753
9 Edinburgh 480,250 14th Edinburgh 504,390
10 Leicester 458.175 13 Leicester 526.018
19th Southampton 266.391 6th Southampton 885.693
17th Newcastle upon Tyne 279,534 8th Newcastle upon Tyne 788.782
15th Nottingham 302.029 9 Nottingham 753.777

(As of 2015)


UK satellite photo

The United Kingdom is entirely in the temperate climate zone . The climate is humid and warmer than other areas at the same latitude due to the influence of the Gulf Stream . Due to the country's location in the zone of convergence of cold polar and warm tropical air, the weather is very volatile. In general, the climate in the south and east is warmer and drier than in the north and west. The average rainfall is 1000 mm per year in the north and 700 mm in the south. It is wettest in the western highlands with over 3000 mm annually, the driest in Essex with 600 mm (in particularly dry years even only 450 mm).

During two thirds of the year the sky is cloudy, so the average annual sunshine duration is relatively low. On the south coast of England this is 1750 and 2100 hours, in the western part of Scotland it is often less than 1000 hours. The country is relatively rarely affected by natural disasters, but strong storms (up to hurricane force ) and floods can occur , especially in winter . Fog occurs mainly in winter in mountainous or hilly regions as well as on the coast.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the UK is 38.5 ° C on August 10, 2003 near Faversham , Kent , during the 2003 heat wave . It was coldest on December 30, 1995 near Altnaharra in Sutherland with a temperature of −27.2 ° C. Since the average temperature is usually above freezing, even in winter, there is little snow. Exceptions are the Scottish Highlands, where the snow cover is thick enough for a few weeks to be able to practice winter sports.

Effects of climate change

In the UK there is a trend towards warmer winters and hotter summers as a result of climate change , sea levels on the UK coast are rising by about 3mm annually and there are signs of changing patterns of precipitation. Climate scientists expect that heat waves like those in 2003 and in the 2040s as a result of the climate crisis will have become the norm. Model calculations from 2019 show that London would be relocated to another climate zone as soon as the RCP4.5 scenario, which is assessed as optimistic, occurs ; According to this, the climate in London in 2050 would already be more similar to the previous climate in Barcelona, ​​Spain than the previous one in London. Extreme weather events are also becoming more frequent and more intense; For example, it could be shown that the floods in England in 2013–2014 can be traced back to man-made climate change .

Flora and fauna

Red deer in Scotland

Because of the relatively mild climate and different soils, there is a certain variety of plant communities . Originally the British Isles were covered with large forests , especially in the lowlands , mainly oak and other deciduous forests . Exceptions were areas of the marshland , such as the Fens . At higher altitudes, such as Scotland, and on sandy soils, there were large pines - forest communities . Due to ongoing deforestation and increased agricultural use, the forest has declined over the centuries, so that today around 9 percent of the land area is still covered with trees. Attempts have been made to reforest the forests since the 20th century . Today there are larger forests in Scotland and in isolated cases in the south and east of England and in Wales. Occurring tree species are mainly oak species, the common beech , the common ash and elm . Scots pine , spruce and birch are the main species that grow in Scotland . The cultural landscapes between the mountains are covered with numerous moors and various meadows and heaths . There are apple and cherry tree cultures. Different types of herbaceous plants are native to large parts of the country. There are over 1600 species of plants.

The fauna is similar to that in other areas of northwestern Europe, but less diverse. The former native wolf , the wild boar , the bison and the brown bear were exterminated. Large mammals living in the wild are red deer and roe deer . The fallow deer , sika deer and water deer are naturalized . Other common native species are the brown hare , hedgehog , red fox , weasel, and shrew and otter . Common bird species are the two sparrow species , the thrush , carrion crow , pigeon and finch . The native squirrel is increasingly being displaced by the abandoned North American gray squirrel and threatens to disappear completely. Another originally non-native mammal species is the mink , a North American relative of the mink. The harbor seal and gray seal live in the coastal regions . Northern Ireland's flora and fauna are largely similar to those on the main British island.


Population development in the United Kingdom
year Population
(according to census)
year Population
(according to census)
1801 10,500,000 1931 46,038,000
1851 27,368,800 1951 50,225,000
1861 28,917,900 1961 52,807,000
1871 31,484,000 1971 55,928,000
1881 34,934,500 1981 56,357,000
1891 37,802,400 1991 57,439,000
1901 38,237,000 2001 59,113,000
1911 42,082,000 2011 63,182,000
1921 44,027,000 2016 65,648,000 (estimate)
UK population density 2011
United Kingdom population pyramid 2016

The population grew from 10.5 million (the first population census was carried out in 1801) to 65.1 million in 2015. The industrialization of the country triggered rapid population growth in combination with advancing urbanization . London was the largest city in the world from 1825 and remained so until around 1940. Population growth began to slow at the beginning of the 20th century. From 1960 the momentum accelerated again due to migration from the former colonies of the kingdom.

The citizens of the United Kingdom are called British. In the 2011 census, the total population of the United Kingdom was 63,181,775. The population was distributed among the individual regions as follows: England 83.9 percent, Scotland 8.5 percent, Wales 4.8 percent and Northern Ireland 2.8 percent. Between 2001 and 2011, the population grew at an average annual rate of 0.7 percent. In 2019 the United Kingdom had 67 million inhabitants. The country is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with England being significantly more densely populated than Scotland and Wales.

A census is carried out simultaneously in all parts of Great Britain every ten years. The Office for National Statistics collects the data in England and Wales. The National Records of Scotland is responsible for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency for Northern Ireland .

For 2027 predicted the UK Office for National Statistics has a population of 70 million and 73.3 million for the year 2037th


English-speaking world Dark blue = English is the official language, Light blue = English with official status.

The UK does not have a legally established official language , but English is the de facto official language and is used as the national language by 95.5% of the population. The high-level language is the pronunciation variant of Received Pronunciation , which is only spoken by less than 10% of English people, mainly in the south of the country, in the region around London, in everyday life. This English is also taught in most schools in Germany. However, three parts of the country have their own official languages: In Wales, both English and Welsh are official languages. In Scotland, Scottish Gaelic has been recognized as an official language alongside English since 2005 . Irish and Ulster Scots are officially recognized minority languages in Northern Ireland . There are also various local dialects of English in the United Kingdom , but these have no official status and are mostly of a purely oral nature. Up until the very recent past, dialects and dialectically tinged pronunciations were felt to be a social stigma in the class-conscious kingdom.

The minority languages ​​are recognized and protected by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages . In Scotland, in addition to the Scottish Gaelic language , these are also the Scots , in Cornwall the Cornish language , in Northern Ireland the Ulster Scots and the Irish language . Welsh is on an equal footing with English in Wales. In the United Kingdom, British Sign Language is the sign language used by the hearing impaired.

According to the 2001 census, Welsh is spoken by approximately 20 percent of the population in Wales (approximately 600,000 people), Scottish Gaelic by approximately 60,000 people, Irish by approximately 20,000 people (7 percent of the population of Northern Ireland) and Cornish by 3,500 people (approximately 0 , 6 percent of the population of Cornwall).

State names in the regional languages :

  • Scots : Unitit Kinrick o Great Breetain to Northren Ireland
  • Scottish Gaelic : Rìoghachd Aonaichte na Breatainn Mhòr agus Eirinn a Tuath
  • Welsh : Teyrnas Unedig Prydain Fawr a Gogledd Iwerddon

Ethnic groups

Largest population groups by country of birth (2015)
rank Country Population
(UN estimate)
1. IndiaIndia India 780,000
2. PolandPoland Poland 700,000
3. PakistanPakistan Pakistan 540,000
4th IrelandIreland Ireland 500,000
5. GermanyGermany Germany 320,000
6th BangladeshBangladesh Bangladesh 230,000
7th South AfricaSouth Africa South Africa 220,000
8th. NigeriaNigeria Nigeria 220,000
9. United StatesUnited States United States 210,000
10. China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 180,000

The population of the United Kingdom (UK) is, regardless of citizenship, according to ethnic groups ( ethnic groups or races recorded): White ( White's ), so English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish as well as immigrants from other parts of Europe, Black ( Black ) and Asians ( Asian ). This classification is based on a subjective self-attribution. In the 2001 census, the Chinese (were Chinese ) recognized as a separate group.

According to the 2011 census, 87.1 percent of the UK population is white. There are also minorities of 12.9 percent, which consists of several non-white ethnic groups. The largest proportion of non-white people can be explained primarily by immigration movements from former British colonies from the Indian subcontinent , Africa and the Caribbean , particularly in the 1950s and 1960s.

The proportion of foreigners and ethnic minorities in the population varies greatly from region to region. The highest proportions are achieved in London and in the metropolitan areas of England. These include Birmingham , Manchester and West Yorkshire . The rural areas of South West and North East England and the rest of Wales , Northern Ireland and Scotland have relatively few ethnic minorities. Leicester was the city with the highest percentage of ethnic minorities in 2011. That same year, 44 percent of London's population was white and British.

In 2011 there were almost 2 million people in the UK who referred to themselves as either “Black Caribbean” or “Black African” . This corresponds to about 3 percent of the total population. The majority of the immigrant West Indians came as early as the 1950s in the hope of better living conditions; the majority came from Jamaica . Until the end of the 20th century, most of the blacks in the United Kingdom came from the Caribbean, but the trend was reversed with increasing migration from African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana , and today the majority call themselves "Black African".

In 2011 there were over 1.4 million Indians or people of Indian origin in the UK, some estimates put it at 1.7 million. Indians make up the largest group of immigrants from a single country. They make up 2.3 percent of the population. About 44 percent of British Indians are Hindus , the Sikhs follow with 22 percent and in third place the Indian Muslims with 14 percent. Various reasons have led the Indians to emigrate to the United Kingdom. In addition to economic reasons and the desire for a higher standard of living, political persecution also played a role.

Pakistani people are the second largest minority in the country. In 2011, just under 1.2 million British Pakistanis lived in Great Britain, which makes up around 1.8 percent of the population. In parallel with the Indian migrants, most of the Pakistanis came to Great Britain to find work and for a better standard of living as part of the first great wave of immigration in the 1950s. The vast majority of Pakistanis are followers of Islam .

British Asians in London

The Bangladeshis, like the Indians and Pakistanis, belong to the so-called Asian or British Asian . In 2011 the population group made up over 450,000 people. The reasons for their immigration were the civil war and the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971 as well as the search for work and the hope for a higher standard of living. Most of the Bangladeshis are also Muslims .

There are over 430,000 Chinese, or people of Chinese descent, in the UK , 0.7 percent of the total population. Historically, the Chinese are among the oldest migrant group in the UK. There was a large wave of immigration in the 1950s, including many migrants from the Hong Kong region . Immigration from China has increased steadily over the past few decades.

The English names Gypsy or Traveler are understood to mean a large number of ethnic minorities comprising around 63,000 people. The minority that comes closest to the traditional "Gypsies" in their way of life are the Roma , whose origins lie in northern India. The group of " Irish Travelers ", which can be distinguished from the Roma, has its roots in Ireland.

Poles are a large minority in the United Kingdom. During the Second World War there were tens of thousands of Poles in the country; many served on the Allied side . Since the beginning of the 21st century, the number of Polish residents in the UK has increased significantly due to Poland's accession to the EU. In 2011, based on the census data, there were almost 600,000 Poles in the United Kingdom.

In 2017, 13.4% of the population were migrants .


The education system is decentralized and organized differently in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The following information only provides a general overview and is based on the English education system.

In the UK, education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16 . The acquisition of education for the child is therefore not exclusively through attending school (pre-school from 3rd, primary school 5th to 11th and secondary school 12 to 16 or 18 years of age), but also through alternative forms of education such as home schooling possible. However, a School Attendance Order may be issued to children if the local council believes they are not receiving adequate education at home. At the age of 16 the “General Certificate of Secondary Education” (GCSE) is taken. Whether the student can continue to attend school and take A-level exams depends on the results . Good grades in the A-level examination subjects are, in turn, a prerequisite for enrolling in a corresponding course at the university. The International Baccalaureate is also offered as a degree. An annual ranking ("League Tables") provides an overview of the performance of the individual schools

In addition to the state schools, there are fee-based private schools , which about 7 percent of the students attend. For some years now, “academies” and “free schools” have been established on a large scale as state-financed school types, which have considerably more autonomy in the design of the national curriculum and the selection of their teaching staff. A vocational training offer (dual system) comparable to Germany does not exist or is currently being set up by the British government according to its own principle (“apprenticeship”). Companies train according to their own needs, apprenticeship training in craft companies is largely unknown.

The top 24 of approximately 180 higher education institutions, including the world's leading research-intensive top universities such as the University of Oxford , University of Cambridge , London School of Economics (LSE), Imperial College and University College London have organized themselves into the renowned Russell Group. At English universities, domestic and EU students pay tuition fees of up to £ 9,000 per year for their first degree (Bachelor), which can be pre-financed through a full state loan. In Scotland there are no undergraduate fees for Scottish and EU students, while Wales and Northern Ireland have special regulations. The costs for a master’s course are not regulated by law and vary greatly depending on the subject and university.

Foreign language tuition in state English schools is compulsory between the ages of 11 and 14. This also applies to learning a foreign language in primary school (Key Stage 2). Since September 2015, secondary school students (from Year 7) have had to take a foreign language for their GCSE exams as part of the so-called “English Baccalaureate”. The number of German learners in English schools has halved over the past 10 years (2016: 50,271 GCSE exams, 3,842 A-level exams).

In the 2015 PISA ranking , British students ranked 27th out of 72 countries in math, 15th in science, and 21st in reading comprehension.


Development of life expectancy
Period Life expectancy in
Period Life expectancy in
1950-1955 69.4 1985-1990 75.1
1955-1960 70.6 1990-1995 76.3
1960-1965 71.0 1995-2000 77.2
1965-1970 71.7 2000-2005 78.4
1970-1975 72.2 2005-2010 79.7
1975-1980 73.0 2010-2015 81.0
1980-1985 74.2

In international comparison, the British health system has long been regarded as the ideal type of public health service (a so-called “Beveridge system”). However, this integrated system of state financial planning and largely state provision of services has been in transition to a system of regulated supply markets for some time.

The four national health systems in the UK are largely publicly funded, particularly general taxes, assigned taxes and, albeit to a lesser extent, social security revenues. Since the National Insurance (NI) rate is set by the state, social security contributions are considered to be taxes. The distribution of funds among the service providers in the UK National Health Service (NHS) follows a multi-level system of central planning, decentralized allocation and competition. First, the health budget for three years is negotiated between the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Health (DoH). This is then distributed to local or regional institutions of the national health service on the basis of a complicated formula. The calculation formula is based on various criteria that are intended to ensure the distribution of financial resources according to local needs. In 2010, £ 102 billion was spent on national health care in England. Around 50 percent of this expenditure was accounted for by treatment in acute hospitals and around 10 percent for primary care. The per capita expenditure on health is significantly lower in Great Britain than in Germany. In 2011, the OECD statistics show per capita expenditure for Great Britain of 3,406 US dollars and for Germany 4,495 US dollars (both in purchasing power parities).

The life expectancy in the UK was in the period 2010-2015 81.0 years (women 82.8 years, men: 79.0)


Westminster Abbey is a church in London. Traditionally, the kings of England (later British monarchs ) are crowned and buried here.
Bait ul Futuh Mosque in London, Western Europe's second largest mosque
The largest Hindu temple in Great Britain is the Neasden Temple in London.

The majority of the UK population (approximately 59 percent) consider themselves Christian . In the last census in 2001, 92 percent of the population answered the question about religion that was left open in the answer . As in other countries, church membership is not to be equated with religious affiliation. Accurate statistics on church membership are difficult to come by because the only way to officially join a church in the UK is usually to get involved in the life of the congregation beyond attending services. In 1995 only 14 percent of the population were members of churches in this sense. According to surveys from 1995, around 27 million (45 percent) belong to the Anglican Church , 11 million (19 percent) to other Protestant churches in the broadest sense and just under 6 million (10 percent) to the Roman Catholic Church .

The large churches (roughly classified according to size and influence) include

Number of members of a religion according to the 2011 census
religion Share
Christians 33.243.175 59.3%
Muslims 2,706,066 4.8%
Hindus 816,633 1.5%
Sikhs 423.158 0.8%
Jews 263,346 0.5%
Buddhists 247.743 0.4%
other 240,530 0.4%

Over 14 million inhabitants (25.1 percent) do not belong to any religion.


Antiquity and the Middle Ages

Part of
Hadrian's Wall built by the Romans

It is believed that at the end of prehistory, large parts of the island of Great Britain were settled by Celtic tribes. These kept close ties with Gaul . In 55 BC The first campaign by the Roman provincial governor Gaius Julius Caesar began . The conquest of Britain, with the exception of Scotland , took place in AD 43 and led to Roman rule that lasted about 400 years. When the Romans withdrew, Angles , Saxons and Jutes came to the island and pushed the Celts back into what is now Wales and Scotland. This is how the Kingdom of Strathclyde came into being in the south of Scotland . Most of the areas that were ruled by the Anglo-Saxons united from the 10th century. to the Kingdom of England . Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Scotland emerged from the union of the Picts and Celtic Scots from the small kingdom of Dalriada .

The Norman conquest of England began in 1066 with the invasion by Duke William II , which led to Norman rule over England after the Battle of Hastings . The conquest had a lasting impact on the island's culture and language, and feudalism found its way into England. The Anglo-Normans had great influence on the country, but ultimately assimilated with the local cultures and society. Finally, the English kings of the French ruling dynasty completed the conquest of most of the island with the complete annexation of Wales , but failed in their attempt to capture Scotland . Following the Arbroath Declaration , Scotland retained its independence, but there was a constant rivalry with England . Due to inheritances and claims to the French crown, English monarchs were involved in conflicts with France, the most prominent being the Hundred Years War . Meanwhile, Scottish kings entered into a strategic alliance with France.

Modern times

In the early modern period there were religious conflicts resulting from the Reformation and the introduction of a Protestant state church. Under the control of England since 1284, Wales became part of the Kingdom of England with the Act of Union in 1536 . Ireland was integrated into a personal union from 1541 and formed the Kingdom of Ireland . Territories of what is now Northern Ireland owned by the Catholic Gaelic nobility were confiscated and given to Protestant settlers from England and Scotland. In the middle of the 17th century, all three kingdoms were involved in a series of armed conflicts that led to the temporary abolition of the monarchy and the formation of the transnational Commonwealth of England , Scotland and Ireland.

Although the monarchy was reinstated in 1660, absolutism did not gain dominance. The British constitution evolved on the basis of a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system of government . With the Act of Union 1707 , the kingdoms of Scotland and England were united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain; both countries had the same monarch since 1603 through personal union.

With the establishment of the Royal Society , the turn to science was advanced. In the following time the country developed into a global sea power, which led to numerous discoveries and the establishment of overseas colonies , especially in North America, later also in Africa and Asia. The Act of Union 1800 united the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland , which came under increasing English control from 1169 to 1603. This merger created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801 .

Painting of a bloody battle.  Horses and infantry fight or lie on grass.
The Battle of Waterloo in 1815 marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the beginning of the Pax Britannica .

On November 21, 1806, the French Emperor Napoleon imposed a continental lock on the British Isles. It remained in force until 1814. It was supposed to bring Great Britain to its knees by means of economic war and protect the French economy against European and transatlantic competition. Great Britain opened up new sales markets, particularly in North America.

The United Kingdom, the dominant industrial and maritime nation in the 19th century, played an important role in the development of modern democracy , literature and science. Great Britain advocated a balance of power on the European continent ( Pax Britannica ) and concluded changing alliances for this. At its height, the British Empire comprised two-fifths of the earth's land area, which had been conquered in many wars.

World map from 1910, which the British Empire shows

The entry into the First World War in 1914 was approved by all parties with the exception of a Labor Party group around Ramsay MacDonald . The British fought with France , Russia and (from 1917) with the USA against Germany and its allied Central Powers until the victory in 1918.

Infantry unit of the Royal Irish Rifles during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916

In 1922, 26 Irish counties formed the Irish Free State (from 1937 Éire , from 1949 Republic of Ireland). The remaining 6 counties in Ulster Province remained with the United Kingdom despite Irish opposition. The current state name "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" has been used since 1927.

Following the German invasion of Poland , the United Kingdom and France declared war on the German Reich in 1939. In May 1940, Winston Churchill , who had been a cabinet member since 1939 and had long warned against the policy of appeasement , became Prime Minister. After the fall of France, Churchill mobilized all the forces in the country for the war, so that a German invasion of Great Britain could be prevented by a successful air war . German rocket and bomber attacks destroyed Coventry , parts of London and parts of other cities and killed over 32,000 civilians. Military successes for Great Britain did not emerge until the end of 1942: on the one hand in the Tunisian campaign led by General Bernard Montgomery , on the other hand in the invasion of Sicily and Italy in 1943 , and finally in the landing in France in 1944 and the final defeat of Germany in 1945 .

Since the Second World War

Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of Great Britain twice.

During the two world wars, the country lost its world power position, although it was on the winning side both times. In the second half of the 20th century, the British colonial empire was dissolved apart from a few small remnants ( decolonization ): British India became independent in August 1947, the states of India , Bangladesh and Pakistan emerged (see partition of India ). In Africa z. B. on June 26, 1961 British Somaliland and on October 1, 1961 Nigeria independent (see decolonization of Africa ).

In the first post-war elections in Great Britain on July 5, 1945, the Labor Party won, and party leader Clement Attlee became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Churchill's defeat also contributed to his reputation as "brilliant but unsound"; After the war years, voters did not trust him to lead a peace government. 1951–1964, however, the government went back to the Conservatives (Churchill, Eden, Macmillan, Douglas-Home - see British General Elections 1951 ) after the Labor Party had been ravaged in wing battles. The reigns and the problems of the post-war period were briefly outshone by the coronation of Elizabeth II as head of state (queen) in 1952, after George VI. had died.

Although the British economy did not recover after the Second World War to the extent that it did in Germany, Japan or the USA, for example, there was still a labor shortage. As a result, numerous migrants came from the 1950s, primarily from the Commonwealth of Nations , such as India , Pakistan , Bangladesh , as well as Nigeria , Kenya and the Caribbean .

In the Suez Crisis (1956/57) with Egypt, Great Britain suffered a defeat and with it a severe setback in its economic and colonial policy.

From 1969 onwards, conditions similar to civil war prevailed in Northern Ireland , which only came to an official end with a peace agreement ( Good Friday Agreement ) in 1998. The conflict is a religious, identity and power struggle between the two population groups, the English-born unionist Protestants and the Irish-born, predominantly Irish nationalist Catholics .

Margaret Thatcher , Prime Minister 1979–1990

In 1973 Great Britain joined the European Community after domestic political resistance and the veto of France (see Member States of the European Union ). Until then, the EC only had its six founding members; on January 1, 1973 the UK, Ireland and Denmark joined. 1974-1979 ruled again the Labor Party.

Due to economic difficulties and greater de-industrialization in the 1970s and 80s, the conservative government under Margaret Thatcher (1979–1990) implemented reforms and pursued an economic policy of monetarism to fight inflation and reduce national debt. In addition, there were deregulations in the labor market and in the financial sector. State-owned companies have also been privatized and some subsidies abolished. This led to increased unemployment in some cases, but also to economic growth, especially in the service sector. In 1990 there were violent protests against a new poll tax, which was abolished in 1992 and replaced by another tax. The Thatcher era also saw the reconquest of the Falkland Islands, which Argentina occupied in 1982 . The Conservatives were in power until 1997. 1997 New Labor won the general election, the chairman of which Tony Blair became prime minister. In the same year on July 1st, the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong was returned to China.

In the course of a constitutional reform (e.g. Scotland Act 1998 ) Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland received their own parliaments in 1999 . In 1998 the Human Rights Act 1998 was passed, which stipulates that all human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights expressly apply in the United Kingdom.

From 2001, Britain participated with the United States in the war on terror in Afghanistan , and in the Iraq war between 2003 and 2011.

In 2007, Tony Blair resigned from his post as Prime Minister, and was succeeded by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown . Brown lost the British general election in 2010 , and was succeeded by David Cameron ( Tories ).

On September 18, 2014, a referendum was held in Scotland on whether Scotland would remain in the United Kingdom and the majority of voters rejected Scotland's independence from the United Kingdom.

In a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union on June 23, 2016, 51.9 percent of voters voted to leave the European Union, the so-called BREXIT, with a turnout of 72% . David Cameron had fought to remain and therefore announced his resignation, effective October. His party friend Theresa May took over the office of Prime Minister on July 13th . May formally initiated the exit from the EU in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union on March 29, 2017 by means of a written notification to the European Council. The scheduled departure should take effect on March 30, 2019, midnight. At the request of the UK government, the EU agreed to postpone the exit date to October 31, 2019. After the British Parliament had not given its approval to the current exit agreement by this date either, the EU granted a further deadline extension until the end of January 2020. According to resolutions by the British and European Parliaments in January 2020, the United Kingdom will join the European Union on January 31, 2020 at 11 p.m. local time (24 p.m. CET).

See also:


UK Political System.png
The Palace of Westminster is the building in which the
British Parliament , consisting of the House of Commons and the House of Lords , meets

The United Kingdom is a unitary state and formally a constitutional monarchy . The head of state is currently Queen Elizabeth II. She is also the head of state in 15 other independent countries of the Commonwealth . The country's constitution is not codified. Rather, it consists of common law , enacted constitutional laws, and common law , collectively referred to as British constitutional law. Since there is no difference between statutes and so-called constitutional law, the British Parliament can implement “constitutional reforms” by enacting ordinary Acts of Parliament . It has the power to amend any constitutional element, whether written or unwritten, but subsequent governments may also reverse or reverse these changes. However, there are laws with de facto constitutional status, such as the Bill of Rights . In principle, the courts have a great deal of freedom to design laws, as the British legal system is based on the principle of customary law (see “conventions”) and the correct interpretation of precedents by the courts.

Initially, the Magna Carta (1215) formed the first constitutional law, but it only granted certain rights to a small upper class of nobles ( Council of Barons ). Nevertheless, the United Kingdom is considered to be the country in Europe with the oldest democratic tradition, since parliament has steadily gained in importance since the Glorious Revolution (1688/89) and the associated Bill of Rights.

The United Kingdom is centrally governed and administered, however, in the wake of " devolution " (decentralization) since the 1990s, various degrees of powers have been transferred to Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland . England, the fourth and largest nation in the United Kingdom, has no executive and legislative branches of its own. In the aftermath of the failed Scottish independence referendum in 2014, additional powers were transferred to Scotland, which also have an impact on the devolution structure in the other parts of the country. The important elections to the regional parliaments in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh took place in May 2016.

In local elections women had the right to vote from 1869, and in 1907 to vote. According to Martin, this right was restricted to women who paid taxes and only applied in certain parts of the country. On February 2, 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave women limited voting rights: the minimum voting age for women was 30. Women were also only allowed to vote if they were single or their husbands paid at least five pounds sterling per year in taxes, female householders or Were university graduates. The age limit was introduced in order not to create a numerical balance between women and men. For men, on the other hand, from 1921 there was a general right to vote from the age of 21. For men who had been in military service and who met certain requirements for length of stay in the land and property, the limit was 19 years. Full equality with men in terms of the right to vote was achieved on July 2, 1928.


Acting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ( Conservative Party )

The United Kingdom is formally a constitutional monarchy as the British monarch can theoretically remove the government, but in practice does not exercise this right due to centuries of common law. It is therefore de facto a parliamentary system of government in the form of a parliamentary monarchy , based on the Westminster system . The monarch thus usually appoints the leader of the largest party in the lower house to be prime minister. In theory, however, he has the right to appoint any British citizen to be Prime Minister, provided he is not a member of the House of Lords. Nowadays, this freedom of choice is only relevant when there is no clear majority in parliament ( hung parliament ).

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom assumes the role of Prime Minister , although formally he is second only to the Lord Chancellor as Lord High Treasurer among the traditional Great Officers of State . He also takes over the leadership of the party which has the majority in parliament and selects the Minister of the British Cabinet , which are appointed by the monarch and Her Majesty's Government form. Formally, however, the Cabinet is a committee of the Royal Privy Council ( Privy ). Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been Prime Minister since July 2019 (see also Cabinet Boris Johnson I and II ).

houses of Parliament

The British Parliament is a bicameral and consists of the House of Lords ( the upper house ) and the House of Commons ( lower house ). It meets at the Palace of Westminster in London . Most of the members of the House of Lords today are members of the non-hereditary merit nobility, some aristocrats with hereditary titles and 26 Anglican bishops . Members of the House of Commons are elected by majority vote. The democratically legitimized House of Commons is the dominant branch of parliament today, where all laws are introduced and passed. Due to parliamentary sovereignty, there is no constitutional jurisdiction in the UK.

Head of state

Queen Elizabeth II

The monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. , Which is head of state of the United Kingdom as well as in personal union further also of 15 sovereign states in the Commonwealth of Nations and the Kronbesitztümer (English crown dependencies ). He is also head of the Church of England , the state church of the kingdom. Together with parliament, he is the sovereign holder of executive , legislative and judicial power .

Only when the monarch gives the royal assent to a law passed by the other two houses of parliament does it come into force. However, this was last refused in 1708 under the reign of Queen Anne and is therefore actually only a matter of form today. The monarch can continue to enact laws as King / Queen in Council ( Royal Prerogative ) on the recommendation of the Prime Minister or Privy Council , which can, however, be repealed by Parliament. This form of direct royal legislation, however, plays a subordinate role nowadays and is only used as secondary legislation (in the form of administrative regulations ). As part of the Brexit process, however, the royal prerogatives briefly came back into the public eye when Theresa May briefly tried to declare the United Kingdom's exit from the EU in this way (without consulting Parliament).

Other rights, such as dissolution of parliament , pardons , medals or a declaration of war , also fall under the sole sovereignty of the monarch, but are also only exercised in practice on the recommendation of the prime minister. Nowadays the monarch has practically only a ceremonial role. Its power is limited by common law and public opinion, and violating this practice would immediately lead to constitutional crisis. In 1867, the constitutional theorist Walter Bagehot generally assigned three basic rights to constitutional monarchs: "The right to be heard, the right to give advice and the right to warn." The incumbent Prime Minister meets weekly with the monarch for a confidential exchange of ideas current whereabouts.

Political indices

Political indices
Name of the index Index value Worldwide rank Interpretation aid year
Fragile States Index 38.3 out of 120 149 of 178 Stability of the country: very stable
0 = very sustainable / 120 = very alarming
Democracy index 8.54 out of 10 16 of 167 Full democracy
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = full democracy
Freedom in the World Index 94 of 100 - Freedom status: free
0 = not free / 100 = free
Freedom of the press ranking 22.93 out of 100 35 of 180 Satisfactory situation for freedom of the press
0 = good situation / 100 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 77 out of 100 11 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2020


The main building of the UK Department of Defense

The UK has around 150,000 soldiers and had the highest military spending in Western Europe at $ 55.5 billion in 2015 and is considered one of the leading military powers in the world. Traditionally and geographically, the navy and air force have a relatively large weight in the armed forces of the UK compared to the army .
The army has a nominal strength of around 82,000 soldiers (2010 there were 102,000 soldiers). The United Kingdom was ranked 74th out of 155 countries in the Global Militarization Index (GMI) in 2018 . According to the ranking by Global Firepower (2018), the country has the 6th strongest military capacity in the world and the 3rd strongest in Europe.

The UK has had nuclear weapons since 1952 . Their stock has been significantly reduced since the end of the Cold War ; Britain's nuclear deterrent, now stationed exclusively on nuclear submarines , is to be modernized. The army currently has 249 main battle tanks. The Air Force has around 250 combat aircraft and around 600 other aircraft. The Royal Navy is one of the largest navies in the world with 65 warships and 11 submarines. In June 2017, the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) went on a test drive for the first time; it cost about £ 3.5 billion.

The British armed forces maintain a number of military bases abroad. These include several bases in Germany with around 5,200 soldiers (as of 2015) and two British territories on Cyprus with around 7,000 soldiers. Apart from the United States , no country has more soldiers stationed abroad than the United Kingdom.

War on terror

British soldiers of the Royal Marines 42nd Commando during Operation Sond Chara 2008

The United Kingdom is an ally of the United States in the " war on terror ". It participated with air and ground troops in the Iraq war and is involved in the war in Afghanistan . In 2000 an anti-terrorism act (Terrorism Act 2000) was ratified . After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 in the United States , the "Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act" was introduced into parliament in November 2001. It was passed and came into force on December 14, 2001. In response to the terrorist attacks on July 7, 2005 in London , another anti-terrorism law was passed. Britain has been accused of human rights abuses in the fight against terrorism . Twelve terrorist-related suspects have been detained in maximum security prisons in Great Britain for several years without charge due to the capabilities of the Anti-Terrorism Act. According to Amnesty International , prisoners were tortured and ill- treated by British and American soldiers during the Iraq war .

Foreign policy

Foreign policy is not without controversy among the population.

The United Kingdom still has a vast network of connections dating back to the time of the British Empire, when it was the most powerful country in the world.

The UK sees itself as a power of global reach and responsibility. It is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, the North Atlantic Alliance ( NATO ), the G7 , the G20 and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ( OSCE ) and was a member of the European Union (EU) until January 31, 2020. Striving for close relations with the United States, the central importance attached to NATO in terms of security policy and maintaining the ability to act independently are the basis of British foreign policy. In the future, the relationship with the European states will have to be redefined.

Among the European countries, Germany is the most important partner alongside France (bilateral defense agreement of November 2010); In a global context, it is the United States with whom the United Kingdom maintains a “special relationship” based on shared historical and cultural roots, also in order to maintain the special transatlantic connection. It was one of the few countries to support the American invasion of Iraq in 2004 (“ Coalition of the Willing ”). The United Kingdom intends to continue this close relationship with the USA in the future. Among other things, both countries want to negotiate a free trade agreement after the UK leaves the EU.

In the future, the government is aiming, among other things, to deepen economic and political relations with India and the People's Republic of China . She also wants to strengthen the role of the Commonwealth .

Administrative structure

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own regional parliaments and governments with a so-called “First Minister” as head (comparable to a Prime Minister in Germany or a Governor in Austria). Nevertheless, the United Kingdom is a central state - the individual parts of the country are therefore not independent states . England has no state administration. The formation of a Northern Assembly was rejected by a large majority in a referendum on November 4, 2004. The tasks of a head of state of England are carried out by the parliament and government of the United Kingdom. In the meantime, it has become common for MPs from other parts of the country to abstain if a decision only affects England (see also West Lothian Question ).

The lower administrative levels have been restructured several times since the late 19th century, and further changes are to be expected in the future. Traditionally consisted England since the Middle Ages of 39, Scotland from 34 of 13 Wales and Northern Ireland of six counties (English counties ). Today there are 25 counties with administrative functions in England, 57 unitary authorities , six metropolitan counties and Greater London (see also the administrative structure of England ). Wales is divided into 22 and Scotland into 32 Unitary Authorities ( called Council Areas ). There are eleven districts in Northern Ireland that also have the status of a unitary authority. The names of the old counties are often still used in everyday usage in all parts of the country.

Dependent Territories (officially British Overseas Territories ):

Territories that are only subject to the British Crown and not the United Kingdom ( Crown possessions of the British Crown ):

Both have their own legislatures and legal systems , but are represented by the UK government in the field of defense and international relations .

The British monarch is the head of state of the United Kingdom and a large number of other independent Commonwealth countries.


The police force in the UK is not organized in a uniform manner. In rural areas, police forces from the Ministry of Defense or the Ministry of the Interior are responsible for public safety. The uniforms are largely identical. There is also the Metropolitan Police Service ( Scotland Yard ) for Greater London and the Police Service of Scotland for Scotland . The MI5 secret service also operates domestically.


Crime victims in England and Wales from 1982 to 2016. Figures in 1000 cases.

England and Wales is a co-jurisdictional region within the United Kingdom. The national statistics office has been conducting victimization studies here at regular intervals since 1982 . Randomly selected people are asked whether and, if so, in what form they have become victims of crime in the past year. There has been an increase up to 1995 and a decrease in crime since then . This corresponds to the typical course in a country in the western world .

One advantage of victimization studies over police statistics is that the dark field is also considered. When analyzing long-term trends, however, the changing social tolerance level can have a distorting effect. In particular, cases of bodily harm and sexual assault are more likely to be classified as criminal today than it was decades ago.

The trend over time shows a steady increase up to the peak in 1995. After that, the numbers fell almost continuously. Excluding credit card fraud and computer fraud , the number of victims fell by a total of 68% from 1995 to 2019. The decrease in violent crime was 70%, that of robbery was 48% and that of theft was 68%.

The homicide rate is used as an index for comparing the propensity to violence over long periods of time and over large spatial distances. The United Kingdom had 1.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017 (for comparison: the average in Europe was 3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, in Germany 1 case, the global average 6.1; Singapore reached a low with 0.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants).


At the sub-national level, the UK has three legal systems , each from a specific geographic area with different historical backgrounds: English law , Scottish law and Northern Irish law. Since 2007, following the adoption of the Government of Wales Act 2006 by the Parliament of the United Kingdom , purely Welsh law has also existed, but unlike the other three, this is not an independent legal system in itself. It is just the primary and secondary law drawn up by the National Assembly for Wales and interpreted according to the teachings of English law. It has no impact on English common law (unless such a law replaces a common law rule because it is an overarching legal form). There is significant overlap between these three legal systems and the three jurisdictions of the United Kingdom, namely England and Wales , Scotland and Northern Ireland. By default, every legal system is subject to every jurisdiction, and the legal systems of the respective jurisdictions support the relevant legal system through case law. It should be noted, however, that in private law, a person in certain legal systems can avail himself of the law of other legal systems, e.g. B. a company in Edinburgh, Scotland and a company in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which may enter into contracts under English law. This is not applicable in public law (e.g. in criminal law) if a code of procedure is established in every legal system. Parent are laws of the United Kingdom, as they are also (less often) referred to as British law. British law arises when laws apply to the UK and / or its citizens as a whole, most obviously constitutional law, but also other areas such as tax law.

The UK does not have a single legal system because it was created through a political union of previously independent countries. Article 19 of the Union Treaty, which was put into effect by the Act of Union 1707 , created the Kingdom of Great Britain but guaranteed the continued existence of Scotland's separate legal system. The Act of Union of 1800 , which united Great Britain and Ireland in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, did not contain any corresponding provisions, but retained the principle of separate courts in Ireland , of which what is known as Northern Ireland still remains is part of the UK.

The UK Supreme Court is the country's highest court for all criminal and civil litigation in England and Wales and Northern Ireland and for all civil matters under Scottish law. The Supreme Court is also the final court for the interpretation of UK law. Its decisions can be expressly overturned by parliament on the basis of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. The Supreme Court was created in October 2009, replacing the Appeals Committee of the House of Lords . In England and Wales, the judicial system is led by the Supreme Courts of England and Wales, which consist of the Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice (for civil litigation) and the Crown Court (for criminal litigation) . The courts of Northern Ireland follow the same pattern. In Scotland, the Supreme Courts are the Court of Session for civil processes and the High Court of Justiciary for criminal processes. Sheriff Courts have no equivalent outside of Scotland as they handle both criminal and civil matters.

The Privy Council Judiciary Committee is the highest court of appeal for several independent Commonwealth of Nations, the British Overseas Territories and the possessions of the British Crown. There are also immigration courts with jurisdiction in the UK - the Asylum and Immigration Court and the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.


The City of London is the largest financial center in Europe.

The UK is one of the most deregulated and privatized economies in the world. The British economy is the origin of what is known as “Anglo-Saxon capitalism”, which is based on the principles of liberalization , free market , low taxation and low regulation. With a gross domestic product (GDP) of around 2.85 trillion US dollars (2015), the country is the sixth largest economy in the world and has the second largest gross domestic product in Europe after Germany . In terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), it was in eighth place in 2013 . At 28,300 euros, GDP per capita is in the upper European frame of reference. Compared with the gross domestic product of the European Union, expressed in purchasing power standards , the United Kingdom achieved an index of 110 (EU-28 in 2015: 100). The economic growth was 2.2 percent in 2015. In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, the United Kingdom ranks 8th out of 137 countries (as of 2017-2018). In 2017, the country was ranked 12th out of 180 countries in the index for economic freedom . The employment rate reached an all-time high of 73.6 percent in the early summer of 2015. The unemployment rate was 4.1% in April 2018, which is well below the EU average and the lowest level since the 1970s. In 2017, youth unemployment was 11.7%. In 2014, 1.3% of all workers worked in agriculture, 15.2% in industry and 83.5% in the service sector. The total number of employees is estimated at 33.5 million for 2017.

The history of Jaguar Land Rover is an example of the rise and fall of the British automotive industry in the 20th century. In the 30s and 40s, the Jaguar models were formative for cars of the luxury class . From the mid-1970s the manufacturer ran into financial difficulties, was sold several times to international competitors in the following decades and has been part of the Indian Tata Group since 2007 . The Industrial Revolution originated in the United Kingdom. At the beginning there was a concentration on heavy industry with a focus on shipbuilding , the production of steel and mechanical engineering . In addition, for a long time in the 19th century Great Britain was a leader in the industrialization of the manufacture of textiles . Between 1803 and 1857 the number of looms in commercial use rose from around 2,500 to over 250,000. In 1023, the production of textiles in Great Britain was at its peak before capacities were cut in favor of relocation to India.

The colonies and protectorates of the British Empire have long been a receptive market for British products. In the course of the 20th century, the industrial sector gradually lost its importance. The service sector grew. In 2016 it had a share of around 79% of the gross domestic product.

The service sector is dominated by financial service providers such as banks and insurance companies. The City of London with its privileged privileges is the largest financial center in the world. The City is home to the London Stock Exchange , Lloyd's of London , the Bank of England and numerous banks such as HSBC , Citigroup and Barclays . The City of London has the largest concentration of foreign banking branches in the world. The Scottish capital Edinburgh is the fifth largest financial center in Europe and the headquarters of well-known companies such as Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS . The permanent capital import compensates for the strong current account deficit, which reached a record level in 2014. Tourism is also of great importance; With over 29 million tourists, the United Kingdom was the eighth most important tourist destination in the world in 2016. Tourism revenue for the same year was $ 39.7 billion. Per capita wealth in the UK is $ 288,806 per adult , according to Credit Suisse . The country thus has one of the highest per capita wealth in the world and the fourth highest total national wealth of all countries. However, the inequality is considerable and the Gini coefficient for wealth distribution was 73.2, which means high inequality. There were an estimated 961,000 millionaires in the UK in 2016, as well as over 100 billionaires.

Industrial production still has a share of around one sixth of the gross domestic product. The automotive industry is an important branch , even if all companies are now in foreign hands. The aerospace and defense industries are dominated by BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce with a significant share in the global aerospace industry. The chemical and pharmaceutical industry is an important pillar; With GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca , two of the world's ten largest pharmaceutical companies are headquartered in the UK.

Oil refinery near Pembroke

British agriculture is small compared to other European countries, accounting for 0.9 percent of the gross domestic product. In contrast, the country has large reserves of coal , natural gas and oil . The industrial extraction of mineral resources contributes 10 percent to the gross domestic product, which is a high proportion for an industrialized country. This percentage is expected to decrease as coal, natural gas and oil production peaked around 2000. Great Britain has been a net importer of crude oil since 2005 and the production volume in 2010 was only 45.9 percent compared to the maximum level reached in 1999 ( peak oil ). For some years now, natural gas and coal have also had to be imported in ever larger quantities. Major global British companies in this sector include BP and Royal Dutch Shell . The British Isles have a very large potential for renewable energies, especially in the field of wind power and current and tidal power plants , of which only a small part has so far been used. However, the share of renewable energies, including solar energy, in the overall energy supply is increasing. According to estimates, in 2020 [obsolete] around 4 percent of the energy requirement could be met from solar energy alone. The government ( Cabinet Cameron II ) is (as of 2015) on the expansion of nuclear energy and has named eight locations.

The UK has the largest current account deficit of any major industrialized country . In 2014 it was 5.1 percent of total economic output. This has set a record since the end of World War II. The last time a current account surplus was achieved was in the 1980s. The main cause is not the long-standing trade deficit , but rather the declining net income from (falling) British investments and assets abroad with increasing domestic consumption. The current account deficit has long been compensated for by foreign capital inflows, which could, however, decrease sharply in the event of interest rate hikes in the USA (2015/16) or after Brexit and then lead to a devaluation of the British currency.

State budget

The state budget included expenditures in 2015 of the equivalent of 1,134 trillion in US dollars , which were income equivalent to about 1 trillion dollars over. This results in a budget deficit of $ 134 billion or 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). In 2018, the budget deficit was still 1.5 percent of GDP.

The state debt level at the end of 2013 was 87.2% of the gross domestic product. In the course of the banking and financial crisis since 2007 , the national debt rose sharply. Due to the increasing debt and the weak economy in the country, the US rating agency Moody’s downgraded the UK 's creditworthiness from the top rating of “AAA” to “Aa1” in February 2013 .

Public debt and budget deficit (percentages)
year 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
National debt 34.0 34.1 35.7 38.3 39.5 40.3 41.7 49.7 63.7 75.2 80.8 84.1 85.2 87.0 87.9 87.9 87.1 86.8
Budget balance −0.4 −2.5 −3.1 −3.6 −3.0 −2.8 −2.6 −5.2 −10.1 −9.3 −7.5 −8.1 −5.3 −5.3 −4.2 −2.9 −1.9 −1.5

In 2015, the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of gross domestic product) was in the following areas:

Regional differences

GDP per capita by region
Item region GDP / capita, PPS ,
(EU28 = 100) (2015)
GDP / capita in €
(PPS) (2015)
1. London 184 53,200
2. South East England 118 33,900
- United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 108 31,200
3. East of England 101 29,200
4th Scotland 100 28,900
- EuropeEurope EU-28 100 28,900
5. South West England 97 28,100
6th North West England 92 26,600
7th East Midlands 88 25,500
8th. West Midlands 88 25,400
9. Yorkshire and the Humber 86 24,800
10. North East England 80 23,100
11. Northern Ireland 78 22,600
12th Wales 76 21,900

The United Kingdom is strongly shaped by regional differences in prosperity. The former industrial north of England is struggling with structural change and has fallen behind the rest of the country. The level of prosperity in Northern Ireland and Wales is also below the national average. The richest regions in the country are the south-east of England and the capital region of London, which leave the rest of the country far behind. London accounts for a considerable part of the country's financial and industrial resources and is responsible for more than a quarter of the country’s total economic output.

Key figures

Change in gross domestic product (GDP), real World Bank
year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Change in% yoy 2.5 2.6 −0.6 −4.3 1.9 1.5 1.4 2.0 2.9 2.3 1.8 1.8 1.4
Development of GDP (nominal), World Bank
absolute (in billions of US dollars) per inhabitant (in thousands of US dollars)
year 2016 2017 2018 year 2016 2017 2018
GDP in billions of US $ 2,659 2,638 2,825 GDP per inhabitant (in thousands of US $) 40.5 39.9 42.5
Development of foreign trade
in billion euros and its change compared to the previous year in percent
2016 2017 2018
Billion euros % yoy Billion euros % yoy Billion euros % year-on-year
import 636.4 +1.0 641.3 +0.8 669.6 +4.4
export 411.5 −11.4 442.1 +7.4 487.1 +10.2
balance −224.9 −199.3 −182.6
Main products of foreign trade (2017)
Export goods (share in%) Import goods (share in%)
Chemicals 15.8 Chemicals 11.7
machinery 14.0 Motor vehicles and parts 11.3
Motor vehicles and parts 11.7 machinery 9.8
other vehicles 5.0 food 7.9
oil 4.3 electronics 7.6
UK main trading partner (2018)
Export (in percent) to Import (in percent) of
United StatesUnited States United States 13.4 GermanyGermany Germany 13.7
GermanyGermany Germany 9.6 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 9.5
NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 6.8 United StatesUnited States United States 9.4
FranceFrance France 6.5 NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 8.2
IrelandIreland Ireland 5.8 FranceFrance France 5.6
China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 5.7 BelgiumBelgium Belgium 5.2
SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 5.3 ItalyItaly Italy 4.0
European UnionEuropean Union all EU countries 29.2 European UnionEuropean Union all EU countries 65.4
United NationsU.N. other states 46.9 United NationsU.N. other states 44.4


The currency in the United Kingdom is the pound sterling , abbreviated to GBP for Great British Pound . The currency symbol is £ .


The London Heathrow Airport has the largest number of passengers in Europe.

In 2018, the United Kingdom ranked 9th out of 160 countries in the Logistics Performance Index , which is compiled by the World Bank and measures the quality of infrastructure .

Road traffic

The transport network is oriented in a north-south direction and extends mainly radially from London. In the road will drive on the left , in contrast to most other countries. The road network is around 388,000 kilometers long. Around 3500 km of these are motorways that have been built since the 1950s.

In addition to the motorways, there is also a dense network of four-lane, directionally separated highways (A roads) , on which all types of vehicles are permitted and which intersect with other roads. This type of road is also known as a dual carriageway and corresponds to the autobahn-like roads in German-speaking countries. Multi-lane streets have so-called "U-Turns" (German: semicircle turn) or roundabouts (roundabouts) at regular intervals.

For the maintenance of the motorways and trunk roads in England which is Highway Agency in charge, a subordinate to the Ministry of Transport Authority. The local administrations are responsible for the rest of the road network in England. In Scotland the maintenance of the road network to the area of responsibility belongs Transport Scotland , in Wales , the Welsh Parliament and Northern Ireland of Roads Services (Department of the Ministry of Regional Development).

Toll roads are rare in the UK, but there are numerous toll bridges such as B. the Humber Bridge . 2003, the first toll motorway was opened, the Motorway M6 Toll , which in Birmingham the M6 motorway relieved. In some cities, a city ​​center toll is payable (e.g. the London Congestion Charge ).

Scope of the London environmental zone

Since February 4, 2008, is also in the greater area of London low emission zone (Low Emission Zone - LEZ) was established. According to the supervisory authority Transport for London, it is the largest environmental zone in the world. From February 4, 2008 to January 2012, the emission ceilings will be gradually increased. However, no cars are affected, but rather small transport vehicles and buses and even trucks. Before the zone can be entered with one of these vehicles, it must be registered beforehand. If the vehicle does not meet emissions standards, a daily fee is payable. Unregistered vehicles risk a fine.

The maximum speed limit on motorways is 70 mph (113 km / h), up to 60 mph (97 km / h) outside the city and 30 mph (48 km / h) in urban areas. Driving in the UK is left-hand traffic .

In terms of road traffic, the country is one of the safest in the world. In 2013, there were a total of 2.8 road deaths for every 100,000 people in the UK. For comparison: In Germany there were 4.3 deaths in the same year. A total of 1,827 people were killed in traffic. The country has a high rate of motorization by global standards. In 2016 there were 544 vehicles for every 1,000 inhabitants in the country (in Germany there were 610 vehicles).

Rail transport

The rail network in Great Britain is the oldest in the world. The structure is formed by the five main routes running radially from London, the West Coast Main Line , East Coast Main Line , Midland Main Line , Great Western Main Line and Great Eastern Main Line . These are supplemented by numerous regional lines and dense suburban networks in the metropolitan areas. The Channel Tunnel Rail Link is operationally separate from the rest of the rail network and is built to the same specifications as the TGV network in France.

The world's first railway line with passenger traffic was the Stockton and Darlington Railway , opened in 1825, and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway , opened in 1830, was the world's first railway line between two major cities. As a result, hundreds of railway companies were founded, which were consolidated into four companies in 1922 after numerous mergers. In 1948 the railways were nationalized, then the route network was reduced to less than half. In 1994 and 1995 the British Railways were split up into infrastructure, maintenance, rolling stock, passenger and freight companies, which were privatized in 1996 and 1997.

The UK's privatized rail network consists of two separate sub-networks, Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The latter has been connected to mainland Europe by the Eurotunnel since 1994 . The Northern Irish network is linked to that in the Republic of Ireland. The rail network is 16,878 kilometers long, more than half less than in the 1950s. Of this, 4,928 km are electrified and 12,591 km are double or multi-track. The top speed was 125 mph (200 km / h ) on the intercity lines for decades . On the Channel Tunnel Rail Link , which connects London with the Eurotunnel, the Eurostar trains travel at up to 300 km / h.

air traffic

The United Kingdom is one of the most important hubs for world aviation. The total number of passengers is the largest in Europe with around 200 million passengers per year (125 million of them at London airports). The country's largest airport is London Heathrow , followed by London Gatwick and Manchester Airport . The largest British airline is British Airways .

Maritime transport

Due to the island location of the country, the spatial separation of Northern Ireland from the rest of the national territory and the many offshore islands, maritime shipping has traditionally been of great importance. Around 95% of all goods arrive in the UK by ship (equivalent to 75% of the total). The main ports are Felixstowe , Tilbury , Southampton and Teesport .


Two main nodes for the wired Internet ( Apollo ) and telephone connection ( Atlantic Crossing 1 ) between Europe and the USA are located in Great Britain.


Due to the influence of the British Empire, cultural customs from the United Kingdom have spread around the world. Today the country is still one of the largest exporters of cultural products in the world.


Sunday Roast

British cuisine (especially English) has long had the reputation of being bland, monotonous, difficult to digest and not very seasoned, as well as combining unfamiliar flavors (e.g. mint sauce with lamb ). The traditional combination of meat, potatoes and vegetables ( meat and two veg ) finds its most established form in the Sunday roast . Potatoes also play a decisive role in other ways and are prepared in a variety of ways, but mostly in the form of porridge. Pies with meat filling are widespread. The British breakfast is an extensive cooked meal known around the world. Sandwiches cut diagonally play a prominent role among cold dishes . The epitome of British fast food is fish and chips . Cakes are preferred as dessert. England is also known for its cheddar cheese .

The kitchen Scotland has some differences. Above all, the food culture of the upper classes took over numerous characteristics of French cuisine as a result of the Auld Alliance .

The most popular non-alcoholic drink is tea . The British tea culture is part of the British way of life. Coffee , on the other hand, played a rather subordinate role. The beers ale and stout dominate the light alcoholic drinks , as well as the sparkling apple wine cider . Gin and whiskey are widespread among the high-proof . For centuries, the UK market has been the main consumer of sweet wines such as sherry , port and Madeira .


The Broadcasting House in London is the headquarters of the BBC

There is a diverse range of media in the United Kingdom, and the spread of the English language has made it very influential internationally.

The BBC is the country's public broadcaster and the oldest and largest in the world. It is financed by compulsory license fees and partly by advertising and operates several television and radio stations , both in Germany and abroad. BBC World , the BBC's international news channel, is broadcast around the world and the BBC World Service radio station broadcasts programs in 33 different languages. The main competitors of BBC television are ITV , Channel 4 , Channel 5 and Sky .

The radio is dominated by the BBC, which operates ten nationwide and over 40 local stations. The most popular radio station in terms of audience numbers is BBC Radio 2 , followed by BBC Radio 1 . In addition, there are more than 200 commercial radio stations, most of which are locally based. The largest private stations are Absolute Radio (formerly Virgin Radio), Classic FM and talkSPORT . By far the most important local radio station is Capital Radio from London.

Up until a few years ago, British newspapers made a strict distinction between broadsheet newspapers with high quality articles and tabloid newspapers located on the boulevard . Due to the greater readability, numerous “quality newspapers” have switched from broadsheet to tabloid format, so that at least this distinction has been eliminated. The highest circulation of all British newspapers is the tabloid The Sun , which appears Monday through Saturday , while its sister newspaper News of the World dominated the Sunday newspaper market until it was discontinued on July 10, 2011. The highest circulation of the so-called quality newspapers have The Daily Telegraph and The Times , which are right of center in the political spectrum, and The Guardian and Daily Mirror , which are left of center. The leading business newspaper is the Financial Times .

In 2019, 93 percent of the UK's population used the internet .

Der Nutzung sozialer Medien kommt eine immer bedeutendere Rolle zu. Im Januar 2011 betrug die Bruttoreichweite der sozialen Netzwerke 27,2 Millionen der im Vereinigten Königreich lebenden Personen. Wie andernorts geht im Vereinigten Königreich der Trend zu einer verstärkten Nutzung von Online- und Mobil-Medien. Das populärste Onlineangebot ist das Nachrichtenportal der BBC, welches auch international großen Anklang findet. Auch die Internetseiten von Guardian und Daily Mail werden sowohl national als auch international breit gelesen.


The UK has had a significant film industry for over a century. While film production peaked in 1936, it is believed that the "golden age" of British cinema was the 1940s, during which time directors David Lean , Michael Powell (with Emeric Pressburger ) and Carol Reed shot their critically acclaimed works. Many British actors have achieved worldwide fame and recognition, such as Maggie Smith , Michael Caine , Sean Connery , Daniel Day-Lewis , Gary Oldman and Kate Winslet . Some of the largest box office films to date have been shot in the UK, including the third and fourth highest grossing franchises of all time ( Harry Potter and James Bond ), the former being British-American. The identity of the UK film industry, particularly in relation to Hollywood , has often been debated. Its history has often been influenced by attempts to compete with American industry. The career of producer Alexander Korda was marked by this goal, the Rank organization attempted it in the 1940s and Goldcrest in the 1980s. Numerous British-born directors, including Alfred Hitchcock and Ridley Scott and actors such as Charlie Chaplin and Cary Grant , have achieved success primarily through their work in the United States.

In 2009, British films grossed around $ 2 billion worldwide, with around 7% global market share and 17% in the UK. UK cinemas totaled £ 1.1bn in 2012 with 172.5m viewers.

In 1999 the British Film Institute published a list of the 100 best British films of the 20th century.


Illustration by William Shakespeare

The earliest literature on the territory of the modern United Kingdom (aside from works in Latin ) was written in the various Celtic languages ​​of the islands. The tradition of Welsh literature goes back to the 6th century; the early medieval Mabinogion is a collection of tales from the Welsh bards. The tradition of Irish poetry can also be traced back to the 6th century , with the Ulster cycle being particularly important in Northern Ireland . The Old English literature performed works such as Beowulf or Cædmons hymns out, but the educated elite preferred Latin. Well-known authors in this language are Beda Venerabilis and Geoffrey von Monmouth .

After the Norman conquest of England , Anglo- Norman literature brought influences from mainland Europe to the British Isles. The English literature in the real sense developed from the late 14th century with the rise and spread of the London dialect of Middle English . Geoffrey Chaucer , the author of the Canterbury Tales, is considered to be the first author of English-language literature known by name . After William Caxton introduced printing in England in 1476, literature flourished in the Elizabethan era, particularly in the fields of poetry and drama . William Shakespeare in particular stands out from this period .

The age of the English novel began in the 18th century . Famous authors of the time are Daniel Defoe , Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding . After a period of decline, the Scot Robert Burns revived interest in literature in the "language of the people," with the Rhyming Weavers of Ulster being influenced by Scottish literature in Scots . The following two centuries produced an unprecedented variety of literature. In the early 19th century, Romantic poetry was reminiscent of that of the Renaissance , with authors such as William Blake , William Wordsworth , John Keats, and Lord Byron . The Victorian Age was the golden era of the realistic English novel, represented by Jane Austen , the three Brontë sisters , Charles Dickens , William Thackeray , George Eliot and Thomas Hardy . Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson , among others, specialized in historical novels .

The First World War brought forth the British "war poets" such as Wilfred Owen , Siegfried Sassoon , Robert Graves and Rupert Brooke , who wrote (often in a paradoxical style) about their expectations of the war and / or their experiences in the trenches. In the course of the Celtic Revival there was an increased recognition of traditional Irish literature. Since the independence of Ireland in 1922, Irish literature has been seen as a separate direction from British literature. The Scottish Renaissance of the early 20th century modernized English-language Scottish literature and also led to the introduction of new forms in Scots and Gaelic literature .

In the course of the 20th century, the English novel developed a much greater variety, which was further enriched by immigrant writers. The novel has remained the dominant form of literature to this day. Other famous novelists include Arthur Conan Doyle , DH Lawrence , George Orwell , Salman Rushdie , Mary Shelley , JRR Tolkien , Virginia Woolf , Graham Greene , HG Wells, and Joanne K. Rowling . Influential poets include Elizabeth Barrett Browning , Ted Hughes , John Milton , Alfred Tennyson , Alexander Pope and Dylan Thomas .

The following British authors won the Nobel Prize for Literature : Rudyard Kipling (1907), John Galsworthy (1932), TS Eliot (1948), Bertrand Russell (1950), Winston Churchill (1953), William Golding (1983), Harold Pinter (2005) and Doris Lessing (2007).


The earliest witnesses of architecture in the United Kingdom are Neolithic megalithic monuments such as Stonehenge , Avebury and West Kennet Long Barrow . One of the world's best preserved Neolithic settlements is Skara Brae on the Orkney Islands. Stone round houses and towers ( brochs ) from the Iron Age are mainly known from Scotland. The Celts only built buildings out of wood, so nothing of them has survived. The Romans built the first cities, the most important being Aquae Sulis ( Bath ), Camulodunum ( Colchester ), Deva ( Chester ), Eboracum ( York ), Londinium ( London ) and Verulamium ( St Albans ). Many Roman buildings are still standing today, especially the thermal baths in Bath.

The Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic peoples followed the Romans. Their houses usually consisted of wattle reinforced with clay. The stone-built churches, which often give an indication of how old a settlement is, lasted longer. A typical example of Anglo-Saxon architecture is the parish church of Wing in Buckinghamshire .

In the two centuries following the Norman Conquest in 1066, numerous important castles such as the Tower of London , Caernarfon Castle in Wales and Carrickfergus Castle in Northern Ireland were built to keep the population in check. While the crown mainly promoted the construction of defensive structures, the clergy and the nobility paid homage to God by building numerous cathedrals, first in the Norman , later in the Gothic style. The practice of reinforcing virtually all large buildings with fortifications ended with the advent of the Tudor style and the construction of the first prestigious mansions such as Montacute House and Hatfield House, as well as castles such as Hampton Court Palace .

During the English Civil War (1642–1649), buildings survived sieges for the last time in British history. Numerous castles such as Corfe Castle were destroyed in attacks by Oliver Cromwell's army . After the end of this war, buildings were only erected for residential and commercial purposes; The design and appearance pushed the idea of ​​defense completely into the background. Before the war, Inigo Jones became famous as the first British architect of importance and a co-founder of Palladianism . His most important works are the Queen's House and the Banqueting House .

After the reintroduction of the monarchy in 1660 and the Great Fire of London in 1666, an opportunity was missed in London to create a new metropolis using modern architectural styles. Although Christopher Wren , one of the most important British architects of the time, was commissioned to plan and rebuild many of the destroyed churches, his overall plan for the reconstruction of the capital was rejected for reasons of cost. Its most important building is St Paul's Cathedral, built between 1675 and 1708 .

In the early 18th century, the Baroque style, popular in Europe, also reached the British Isles, during which time, for example, Blenheim Palace was built , built by John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor . However, the baroque was soon superseded by Palladianism. A further development of Palladianism in the second half of the 18th century was Georgian architecture , represented by mansions such as Woburn Abbey and Kedleston Hall . The architects of this architectural style and its successors Neoclassicism and Romanticism include Robert Adam , William Chambers and James Wyatt .

The medieval-style neo - Gothic seems almost a setback in relation to the symmetry of Palladianism ; the best-known example of this phase is the new building of the Palace of Westminster , designed by Charles Barry . By the middle of the 19th century, technology had advanced to the point where steel could be used as a building material. In this way Joseph Paxton built the Crystal Palace , the most famous building of the Victorian era. While many new building methods were introduced in British architecture in this era of progress, leading architects like Augustus Pugin ironically insisted on a backward-looking style.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the design of the Arts and Crafts Movement became popular. The architectural form of this style, which developed from the work of 19th century architects such as George Devey , found its culmination in the buildings of Edwin Lutyens . Arts and craft in architecture is symbolized by an informal, non-symmetrical shape; the buildings were often decorated with center post and lattice windows, multiple gables and tall chimneys. This style lasted until World War II . After the war, the reconstruction was shaped by modernism and brutalism , especially from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.

Modern building has remained the driving force of British architecture to this day, even if its influence is much more noticeable in commercial buildings than in residential buildings. The two trend-setting British contemporary architects are Richard Rogers and Norman Foster . Rogers' most famous buildings are arguably the Lloyd's Building and the Millennium Dome , while Foster created, among other things, the skyscraper 30 St Mary Ax (also known as "Gherkin") and the City Hall of London .


Charles Darwin (photo from 1851)

England and Scotland have been leading centers of the scientific revolution since the 17th century. The United Kingdom led the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century and has continued to produce important scientists and engineers. One of the most important theorists of the 17th and 18th centuries is Isaac Newton , who described universal gravitation with his law of gravitation and formulated the laws of motion that laid the foundation for classical mechanics , and Charles Darwin from the 19th century, whose theory of evolution was carried out natural selection was fundamental to the development of modern biology and James Clerk Maxwell , who formulated classical electromagnetic theory; and more recently Stephen Hawking , who advanced important theories in the fields of cosmology, quantum gravity, and the study of black holes.

Major scientific discoveries from the 18th century include hydrogen from Henry Cavendish , penicillins from Alexander Fleming from the 20th century, and the structure of DNA from Francis Crick and others. Well-known British engineers and inventors of the industrial revolution are James Watt , George Stephenson , Richard Arkwright , Robert Stephenson and Isambard Kingdom Brunel . Other significant engineering projects and applications from people from Great Britain include the steam locomotive developed by Richard Trevithick and Andrew Vivian , the 19th century Michael Faraday electric motor , the Joseph Swan lightbulb, and the first practical telephone patented by Alexander Graham Bell and im 20th century the world's first working television system by John Logie Baird , the jet engine by Frank Whittle , the basis of the modern computer by Alan Turing and the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee .

Scientific research and development continues to be important in UK universities as many science parks have been set up to facilitate collaboration with industry. Between 2004 and 2008, the UK produced 7% of the world's scientific research and accounted for 8% of scientific citations, the third and second highest in the world (after the United States and China, respectively). The country had the world's fifth highest output of scientific and technical articles in 2016. Since 1901, 132 Britons have received a Nobel Prize , the second highest number after the United States. Major scientific journals produced in the UK include Nature , the British Medical Journal and The Lancet .

Great Britain was one of the largest recipients of research funding from the European Union. In 2007-2013, the UK received EUR 8.8 billion out of a total of EUR 107 billion for research, development and innovation in the EU Member States, associated countries and third countries. At the time, this was the fourth largest share in the EU. The European Research Council granted 79 projects in the UK in 2017, more than in any other EU country.


Football is one of the most popular sports in the UK.
Rugby , here Toulouse against Gloucester

Sport plays an important role in the UK. In the individual sports, however, clear regional and social differences can be seen in some cases. In large parts of the English and Scottish lower social classes (“ working class ”), football is by far the most popular team sport, whereas in Wales and in the middle and higher social classes (“ upper class ”) England and Scotland's rugby union (fifteen Rugby) is usually the number one team sport. In the traditional industrial cities of Northern England, the rugby league (rugby thirteen) is also very popular. Like rugby union, cricket is a more socially “elitist” sport. These circumstances mostly have historical causes. In the English working-class neighborhoods of the big cities without lawns it was not possible to play rugby, but football only needed a backyard. The upper class high schools all had grass pitches where you could play rugby and cricket. Over time, the respective sport also became a way of identifying with its class . Especially when you look at the stands of a rugby union and a football match, for example of the English national teams, you can see clear differences in the clientele today. Violence among and by fans has long been a huge problem in English football, but has never played a role in rugby .

Important individual sports are athletics , fencing , darts , golf , motor sports and horse racing . The rulebook of many major sports developed in the United Kingdom. For example, England is known as the "motherland of football". In addition, z. B. tennis , squash , golf, boxing , rugby, cricket, snooker , billiards , badminton and curling .

The four parts of the country have separate national teams in most team sports. Joint teams from all four “home nations” are sent to the Olympic Games (but not to the Commonwealth Games ). These start formally under the name "Great Britain and Northern Ireland", which is usually shortened to "Great Britain". Club championships are also held separately in most team sports; "British" championships are therefore rather rare. Winter sports are not widespread because, despite the location in the high northern latitudes, there is only enough snow in a few regions.

The most famous sporting events include the soccer championships, the Wimbledon Championships (tennis), The Ashes (cricket), the Six Nations tournament (rugby union), the London Marathon (athletics), the Open Championship (golf) and the Grand Prix of Great Britain (Formula 1), the Motorcycle Grand Prix , the World Speedway Grand Prix of Great Britain , the Boat Race (rowing) and Royal Ascot (horse racing). In addition, London hosted the Olympic Games three times (1908, 1948 and 2012).

public holidays

In the UK, bank holidays are the days when most businesses and non-essential services are closed, although some bank holidays have seen more and more retail stores (especially the larger ones) open. Trading restrictions apply on Sunday and Christmas Day in England and Wales and on New Year's Day and Christmas Day in Scotland.

The UK does not currently have an official national holiday . As a partial replacement, the monarch's birthday is celebrated as a central national holiday - under Queen Elizabeth II this day is celebrated as Queen's Official Birthday (regardless of her actual birthday on April 21) on an annually newly determined date, usually at the end of May or beginning of June . However, this day is also celebrated in the other Commonwealth Realms whose head of state is Elizabeth II (sometimes with a different date), and is therefore not exclusively British and, due to its annually changing date, it is not a real national fixed day. In recent years in particular, there have been repeated efforts to make Britain Day or UK Day a fixed date as a national holiday.

When it comes to public holidays in the United Kingdom, there are regional differences between the four parts of the country. The following holidays are only valid in different crown possessions of the British Crown: Liberation Day on May 9th in Guernsey and Jersey, Tourist Trophy Senior Race Day on the second Friday in July (Isle of Man), Tynwald Day on July 5th (Isle of Man) and Homecoming Day on December 15th (Alderney).

Public holiday ( German ) Public holiday ( english ) date Valid
England Northern Ireland Scotland Wales
New Year New Year's Day January 1st 1 2 1
January 2nd 1
Saint Patrick's Day Saint Patrick's Day 17. March 1
Good Friday Good Friday Easter Sunday - 2d
Easter Monday Easter Monday Easter Sunday + 1d
Early May Bank Holiday Early May Bank Holiday First Monday in May
Spring Bank Holiday Spring Bank Holiday Last Monday in May
Battle of the Boyne Battle of the Boyne July 12 1
August Bank Holiday August Bank Holiday First Monday in August
Last Monday in August
1st Christmas Holiday Christmas Day 25 December 1 1 1 1
2nd Christmas Day Boxing Day December 26th 2 2 2 2

1 If the public holiday falls on a weekend, it will be made up on the following Monday.

2 If the public holiday falls on a weekend, the following Tuesday will be off work.

See also

Portal: United Kingdom  - Overview of Wikipedia content on United Kingdom


  • Johann N. Schmidt : Great Britain 1945–2010. Culture, politics, society (= Kröner's pocket edition. Volume 305). Kröner, Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-520-30501-5 .
  • Frank Welsh: The Four Nations: A History of the United Kingdom. Yale University, New Haven 2002, ISBN 0-300-09374-8 .
  • Hans Kastendiek, Karl Rohe, Angelika Volle (eds.): Great Britain: history, politics, economy, society. 2nd, updated and expanded edition. Campus, Frankfurt / New York 1999, ISBN 3-593-36193-0 .
  • Jim Bulpitt: Territory and Power in the United Kingdom: An Interpretation. Manchester University, Manchester 1983, ISBN 0-7190-0937-5 .

Web links

Wikimedia Atlas: United Kingdom  - geographical and historical maps
Further content in the
sister projects of Wikipedia:

Commons-logo.svg Commons - Media content (category)
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Wikiquote-logo.svg Wikiquote - Quotes
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Individual evidence

  1. The British Government signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages ​​in 2000 and ratified it in 2001 with regard to Welsh in Wales, Scots and Gaelic in Scotland and Ulster Scots and Irish in Northern Ireland. Manx and Cornish were added subsequently. European Charter for regional or minority languages ( Memento from June 7, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  2. Note: formally a constitutional monarchy .
  3. CIA World Factbook : United Kingdom (land and water surface).
  4. Eurostat : United Kingdom.
  5. population, total. In: World Economic Outlook Database. World Bank , 2020, accessed April 19, 2021 .
  6. Population growth (annual%). In: World Economic Outlook Database. World Bank , 2020, accessed April 19, 2021 .
  7. World Economic Outlook Database October 2020. In: World Economic Outlook Database. International Monetary Fund , 2020, accessed April 19, 2021 .
  8. Table: Human Development Index and its components . In: United Nations Development Program (ed.): Human Development Report 2020 . United Nations Development Program, New York, pp. 343 ( undp.org [PDF]).
  9. a b population, total. In: World Economic Outlook Database. World Bank , 2020, accessed April 19, 2021 .
  10. eda.admin.ch Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
  11. Population estimates for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland: mid-2017. accessed July 26, 2018.
  12. a b United Kingdom: Countries and Major Urban Areas.
  13. Climate and weather statistics ( Memento from December 14, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) of the Met Office (English).
  14. a b UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017.
  15. J.-F. Bastin et al .: Understanding climate change from a global analysis of city analogues. In: PLoS One. No. 14 (7), 2019, e0217592. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217592 .
  16. Nathalie Schaller et al. (2016). Human influence on climate in the 2014 Southern England winter floods and their impacts. Nature Climate Change , 6 (6), 627. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2927 .
  17. UK Population Estimates 1851 to 2014 - Office for National Statistics. Retrieved July 10, 2017 .
  18. ^ What Were the Largest Cities Throughout History? In: ThoughtCo . ( thoughtco.com [accessed July 10, 2017]).
  19. "BBC News - Census shows 'highest' Scottish population ever" , accessed March 17, 2017.
  20. ^ ONS Overview of the UK population: February 2016 , accessed on March 17, 2017.
  21. Geography - Census Geography ( Memento from June 4, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  22. National Population Projections 2012 , accessed May 14, 2015.
  23. ^ "Pew Research Center - Origins and Destinations of the World's Migrants, from 1990–2015" → Source : United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs-Population Division (numbers are rounded).  ( Page no longer available , search in web archives ) Retrieved on March 4, 2017.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.pewglobal.org
  24. ONS-Guidance and Methodology - "Ethnic group" , accessed on March 7, 2017.
  25. a b c d e f g h "ONS 2011 Census: Ethnic group, local authorities in the United Kingdom" , accessed on March 8, 2017.
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Coordinates: 52 °  N , 0 °  W