United Kingdom

United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, usually shortened to the United Kingdom or UK, is a sovereign state in northwest Europe. It is made up of four countries, what used to be the two kingdoms of England and Scotland, the principality of Wales (all three on the island of Great Britain), and the province of Northern Ireland (on the island of Ireland).
About 60 million people live in the UK. Most people in the UK speak English. There are several other native languages, other than English. They are Welsh in Wales, Cornish in Cornwall, Scottish (Gaelic) and Scots in Scotland, Irish in Northern Ireland, French in the Channel Islands and Angloromani. About 270 other languages are spoken. Major languages spoken in the United Kingdom other than English include Eastern Panjabi or Punjabi (471,000 - approximate number of speakers in the UK), Bengali (400,000), Urdu (400,000), Yue Chinese, mainly Cantonese (300,000), Greek (200,000), Southwestern Caribbean Creole English (170,000).
The national anthem is called God Save the Queen
Wales was taken over by England in the 13th century. In 1603, when Queen Elizabeth I of England died, her closest relative was King James VI of Scotland. He became king of England as well as king of Scotland, but the two countries stayed separate. In 1707, the Scottish and English Parliaments agreed the Treaty of Union, which joined the two countries into one country called "The Kingdom of Great Britain".
By the year 1800, England had already had much influence over Ireland for over 600 years. In that year laws were passed in Great Britain and Ireland to merge the two states. This was against the wishes of many of the Irish people, as they had in previous centuries already suffered much English oppression. The new country was called the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland". In 1922 much of Ireland became independent as the Irish Free State (now called the Republic of Ireland) from the United Kingdom. However, six northern counties of Ireland continued to be part of the United Kingdom. The country was renamed "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".
Tony Blair was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007. The Conservative party ruled for 18 years before his Labour party won elections. The current Prime Minister is Gordon Brown.
The capital city of the United Kingdom is London, a large city on the River Thames in south-eastern England. Other large cities in the UK are Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne, Leeds, Sheffield, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Southampton, Leicester, Coventry, Bradford and Nottingham.
The UK is north-west off the coast of mainland Europe. Around the UK are the North Sea, the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean.
The UK is also in charge of a few smaller places around the world, most of them are islands, which are known as "overseas territories".
The weather of the United Kingdom is warm summers, cool winters and lots of rain throughout the year. The reasons include its northerly latitude and the warm water from the Atlantic Ocean's Gulf Stream.
The UK is a constitutional monarchy and a Hereditary monarchy. The people of the United Kingdom vote for a Member of Parliament to speak for them and to help make laws for them. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the queen of the UK and is the head of state (person in charge of the country). Even though she is the head of state, she does not choose what the United Kingdom should do about things like education, healthcare or other choices. The person who chooses for the people in the United Kingdom is the Prime Minister, who is in charge of the government. Today, the Prime Minister is Gordon Brown, who is the leader of the Labour party.
Parliament, where laws are made, has three constituent parts: the House of Commons and the House of Lords and the Queen in Parliament. The House of Commons generally holds primacy. The Members of Parliament serve in the Commons, as has every Prime Minister since the Marquess of Salisbury resigned in 1902. The peers sitting in the House of Lords are not chosen by all of the people of the United Kingdom. They are people who are peers, because their parents were peers (ie. they are hereditary peers), they have been created peers or they are important officials in the established Church of England. The 92 hereditary peers are the only elected members of the House of Lords. There are two other hereditary peers in the House of Lords because they also have jobs to do on state occasions
Scotland has its own devolved Parliament with power to make laws on things like education, health and scots law. Northern Ireland and Wales have their own devolved Assemblies which have some powers but less than the Scottish parliament. The UK Parliament remains sovereign and it could end the devolved administrations at any time.
The UK is a developed country with sixth largest economy in the world. It was a major world power during the 19th and early 20th century. The economic cost of two world wars and the decline of the British Empire in the latter 20th century reduced its leading role in global affairs. The UK retains strong economic, cultural, military and political influence and is a nuclear power. It is a member state of the European Union. The UK holds a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, and is a member of the G8, NATO, World Trade Organization and the Commonwealth of Nations.
William Shakespeare is perhaps the most famous English playwright. He wrote plays in the late 16th century including "Romeo and Juliet" and "Macbeth". In the 19th century, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens were popular novelists. Twentieth century writers include the science fiction novelist H. G. Wells and J. R. R. Tolkien. The children's fantasy "Harry Potter" series is written by J. K. Rowling.
Arthur Conan Doyle from Scotland wrote the Sherlock Holmes detective novels. He was from Edinburgh.
The poet Dylan Thomas has brought Welsh culture to international attention.
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have separate systems of education. They have in common that education is required from ages five to sixteen. The majority of children attend state schools but a small proportion of children attend private schools.
United Kingdom has the leading universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Durham University, Chatham and St Andrews.

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