The official name of the UK is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and it consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It lies on the British Isles which are situated on the north-western coast of Europe. These British Isles consist of two big islands - Great Britain (there is England, Wales and in the north Scotland) and Ireland (there is Northern Ireland and in the south there is separated state Ireland) and about 5,000 smaller ones (e.g. the Isle of Man, Shetlands). On the north and west, the UK is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, and it is separated from the European continent by the North Sea and the English Channel. The UK covers the area of about 245,000 square kilometres.
Great Britain can be roughly divided into two main regions: lowland Britain and highland Britain. Highland Britain comprises all the mountains and uplands lying above 300 meters. The main mountain and the highest peaks are:
- Grampian Highlands in Scotland with Ben Nevis 1,342m (the highest peak)
- Cambrian Mountains in Wales with Snowdon 1,085m
- Caledonian Mountains in Scotland with Skye 1,009m
Lowland Britain is mainly a rich plain.
British rivers are not very long, but they are quite deep. The best known is the river Thames and the longest is Severn. Other rivers are the Avon, the Tyne and the Trent. Britain is rich in waterways. Almost every town stands on its river: Stratford-upon-Avon, Newcastle-upon-Tyne etc.
Lakes can be found in the Lake District of England and in the highlands in Scotland, where they are called lochs. The Lake District in north-west of England is renowned for its scenic beauty and numerous lakes. England's largest lake is Lake Windermere. The largest and most beautiful of Scotland’s lakes are Loch Lomond and Loch Ness, which became world-famous in 1930 by its "Loch Ness Monster“. The largest lake of whole UK is the lake Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland.
Britain has generally temperate oceanic climate. There are mild winters without snow, not very hot summers. For this climate of the UK is typical frequent changes of the weather and it rains a lot (There is saying: Rain in seven, sun at eleven).
Population is over 59 million. In Britain, we can find the following ethnic groups: 81.5% English, 9.6% Scottish, 2.4% Irish, 1.9% Welsh and 1.8% Ulster. They are nearly all English- speaking, but still three Celtic languages have survived: Welsh (spoken by the population of the Wales), Gaelic (spoken in Scotland), and Irish (spoken by Irish). Scottish English is obscure to people from other parts of Britain. Typical Scottish words are lass – girl, lad – boy, kirk – church, bonnie – pretty, loch – lake. Britain has received large numbers of immigrants, especially during WW II. UK is one of the most densely populated countries in the world (249 inhabitants per one square km) and about 80 per cent of its inhabitants live in towns. London is the capital city with a population of 7.2 million. There is one town besides London with population over 1 million - Birmingham. Glasgow, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol, Belfast, Coventry, and Cardiff follow these two - each has population of more than 300,000. The Church of England and the Church of Scotland are the official national churches in their respective countries but there are some Roman Catholic (7%), Muslims, Hindu and Jewish in the UK.
HISTORY AND POLITICS
First original inhabitants who settled down on territory of British Isles were Celts. They came from North Europe before 6th century B.C. In 1st century A.D., the Romans began an invasion, which resulted in the Roman occupation of Britain, which lasted 400 years. They built towns, roads, centralized administration. In 5th century the barbarians brought the Roman Rule to the end. Until 12th century, there were reign of German tribes (Angles, Saxons and Jutes), Danes, and Normans. The first king of the line of Plantagenet’s was Henry II who ruled in 12th century. In 1215, his second son John Lackland was forced by barons to sign the Magna Charta Libertatum -Supremacy of Law over the king (foundation of parliamentary government). The basis of Hundred Years’ War (1338-1453) was in Edward’s III (one of the kings ruling after John I. Lackland) feudal claim to the French crown. It includes victories on both sides, either British or French. In the end, the French led by Joan from Arc won and made English lose their power in France. The Wars of the Roses took place in the 15th century.
There were the wars between the House of York (white) and the House of Lancaster (red). These wars ended when Henry Tudor became King Henry VII and married Elizabeth of York and thus he joined the two houses. He established the Tudor dynasty. Henry VIII is known as a king who had six wives and established the Church of England. Under the reign of one of his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. Britain became world power. Between years 1640-1649, there was civil war between Parliament and Charles I. because of Parliament’s defiance. It was won by parliament and Oliver Cromwell (Lord Protector) ruled England. It became a republic. But after Cromwell’s death the monarchy was renewed by Charles II (1660).The Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) meant a new struggle between the two traditional rivals, Britain and France. Napoleon’s plan to invade England failed when Admiral Nelson defeated the French at Trafalgar. Under the reign of Queen Victoria, Britain dominated the world industry, commerce and military (Industrial Revolution – 1837-1901). It was added large parts of Canada, India, Africa and Asia to the empire. Moreover, by her reign it was formed Commonwealth. Through victorious World War I. (1914-1918), Britain suffered huge economic losses and social problems. The land suffered from major bombing damage in World War II. (1939-1945). Industrial growth went on in post-war period, but Britain lost its leading position to other powers. During the decade after the WW II Britain lost the majority of its colonies. Nevertheless, most members of the Commonwealth remained. Labour governments nationalized some basic industries, free healthcare and education. In 1979 Conservatives came to rein and they reduced welfare…
Today the UK is a democratic constitutional monarchy. The head of state and theoretical ultimate source of power in the UK is the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. In reality, the Queen has an essentially ceremonial role. In practical terms, the political head of the UK is the Prime Minister (Tony Blair). The executive power is in the hands of Government. It consists of Prime Minister and ministers. Legislative power is represented by the Parliament of the UK. It is bicameral consisting of the House of Commons (it consists of 659 Members of Parliament - MPs) and the House of Lords which consists of Lords Spiritual (archbishops and bishops), Lords Temporal-peers (hereditary peers and outstanding people). Judicial power is represented by courts but the UK does not have a single unified judicial system: England, Wales have their own systems system, Scotland another and Northern Ireland also another.
UK is the member of the EU, OECD and the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is a voluntary association of UK and her 49 former colonies (About 1 200 million people). Founding members were Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
UK is made up of the four countries. First, an Act of Union (1536) brought England and Wales together. England and Scotland were also unified (1707) and called Great Britain. Ireland was joined in 1801 and the four countries became the United Kingdom. Since 1921, only Northern Ireland belongs to the UK. The capital city of the UK is London. However, countries have their own capital towns: In Wales it is Cardiff, in Scotland Edinburgh and in Northern Ireland it is Belfast. Scotland has also its own parliament and Wales has the Welsh Assembly. The UK is also divided into regions, which are called counties.
National Anthem is ’’God Save the Queen.’’ The Union Flag or Union Jack is the national flag of the UK combining England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
The United Kingdom has the fourth largest economy in the world. Currency valid in U.K. is 1 L (pound sterling) which has 100 pennies. The main industries are aircraft, banking, business services electronics, metals, shipbuilding, shipping, steel, textiles. UK is abundant in natural resources: it has coal, natural gas, oil, iron and salt reserves. The main agricultural products are fruit, vegetables, wheat, barley, oats and sugar beet.
INTERESTS AND RARITIES
UK probably belongs to the most visited countries worldwide because it has much to offer, especially its tourism. According to my opinion the most famous places in UK are:
London is known as the green capital with many large parks and open spaces and offers a wealth of interest. It is the seat of English Royal family led by Queen Elizabeth II. and her residence is Buckingham Palace. „Two in one packet“could be called the well-known Houses of Parliament together with Big Ben – the huge clock which is a part of Westminster Palace, as this complex is called. In Museum Madame Tussaud’ you have unique opportunity to meet your favorite pop-star or politician. But only in wax form. Furthermore you have a chance to relax a little bit after a long busy day in Hyde Park or on a Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus.
Stonehenge near Salisbury is an awesome monument of the Stone and Bronze ages, which symbolizes mystery, power and endurance. It consists of huge heavy stones arranged into 2 circles.
It is the birthplace of William Shakespeare, which is located on the River Avon. You can find there sights related to this writer like for example the Royal Shakespeare Theatre or the Shakespeare centre which holds books and documents related to this playwright.
Edinburgh is the ancient capital of Scotland. It has become the international centre of music and drama and is famous for its annual festival – the Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama.
I have mentioned that it is raining a lot in UK. And this is a good basis for a wonderful nature which is represented by National parks. To the most famous parks belong Lake District and Yorkshire national park.
OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE
Oxford and Cambridge are the small universities towns with many tourist attractions.
CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS
The most important feast days in Great Britain are: New Year’s day, St. Valentine’s day, Easter, Mother’s day, Father’s day, Halloween, Remembrance day (It is observed on November 11 to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918) and Christmas. Unlike the continentals, the English have no traditional celebration on Christmas Eve. The important day of Christmas is Christmas day - in the morning children enjoy unwrapping presents and at midday Christmas dinner is a great occasion. It consist of roast turkey with chestnut stuffing and roast potatoes and Christmas pudding. On Christmas Day, the monarch addresses the nation and the Commonwealth on radio and television. December 26 is called Boxing Day and for children it marks the beginning of the pantomime season, which ends at Easter. A pantomime is a traditional Christmas-time entertainment with music, dancing, acrobatics and clowning. Many people go visiting on Boxing Day or to parties in the evening. Besides these feast days, in every country is celebrating a patron day: in England, it is St.George day, in Wales St.David’s day, in Ireland St. Patrick’s and in Scotland St.Andrew.
Typical food in the UK are sausages, fries eggs, bacon and chips but many people realized that too much fat may cause disease therefore they drink more milk, eat brown bread and eat less fat food. About 10 % of all young people are now vegetarians.
Sport in Britain is dominated by football, rugby, cricket and fishing. Very popular event in sport is a boat race between Oxford and Cambridge, which is held on the Thames every spring. Another significant sport event is horse race at Cheltenham. The winner wins 300, 000 GBP. To win here is every jockey’s dream.
STEREOTYPES AND PREJUDICIES
The British are said to be conservative. They still use their traditional system of weights and measures, they drive on the left and they still wear traditional school uniforms at some schools.
Everybody knows the English saying, “My house, my castle” which demonstrates their right to privacy. They are proud of their isles, which have given them a feeling of security. British are famous for their politeness, self-discipline and their specific sense of humour. Very famous is their mania for tea in the afternoon. The British are fond of pets and children. The UK is notorious for rainy weather.
UK is unfortunately a country with many conflicts, which follows from various structures of ethnic groups. British people are fond of sports. Beauty of many sports, and namely football, is being constantly spoiled by rising hooliganism. Bad reputation of British fans is known worldwide and they are called rowdies. In overall, black people are discriminated. It is very hard to find a well-paid job for them when they do not have an good education. Northern Ireland is a region of conflicts between Catholics (the Irish) and Protestants (the English) who live there side by side. The Irish Republican Army makes terrorist attacks in which many innocent people died.
After the end of the WW II. Winston Churchill urged to create an organization consisting of European countries, which will help to prevent next destructive wars. Soon it has become reality and six states established ESUO (European Coal and Steel Community). However, UK wasn’t between them. It created EFTA (European Free Trade Association) and the EC (European Community) signed in 1981. Now the UK doesn’t use a EURO currency.
FAMOUS BRITISH PEOPLE
WILIAM SHAKESPEARE (23 April 1564 - May 3, 1616) belongs to the most famous playwright in the world. He wrote such a masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet or Macbeth.
AGATHA CHRISTIE (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976) was a British crime fiction writer.
ALFRED JOSEPH HITCHCOCK (August 13, 1899 – April 29, 1980) was a British movie director whose films are closely associated with the suspense thriller genre.
SHERLOCK HOLMES is a fictional detective created by British author and physician Arthur Conan Doyle. He is famous for his prowess at using logic and careful observation to solve cases.
JAMES BOND is a sophisticated British spy, the character invented by Ian Fleming. Bond has the code name 007.
ISAAC NEWTON (December 25, 1642 – March 20, 1727) was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and alchemist. He described universal gravitation and, via his laws of motion, laid the groundwork for classical mechanics.
ADAM SMITH (1723 – July 17, 1790) was a Scottish economist. Father of modern economics and first classical economist.
JAMES WATT (January 19, 1736 - August 19, 1819) was a Scottish mathematician and engineer whose improvements to the steam engine were a key stage in the Industrial Revolution.
JOHN NASH (born June 13, 1928) is a mathematician who worked in game theory and differential geometry. After a promising start to his mathematical career, Nash began to suffer from schizophrenia when he was 30, an illness from which he recovered some thirty years later. He shared the 1994 Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences.
HORATIO NELSON (September 29, 1758 – October 21, 1805) was a British admiral who won fame as a leading naval commander. He is famous for his participation in the Napoleonic Wars, most notably in the Battle of Trafalgar, where he lost his life.
WINSTON CHURCHILL (November 30, 1874 - January 24, 1965) was a British politician, best known as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II. At various times an author, soldier, journalist, legislator and painter, Churchill is generally regarded as one of the most important leaders in British and world history.
DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES (1 July 1961 – 31 August 1997) was one of the world's most high-profile, most photographed, and most iconic celebrities.
JOHN WINSTON ONO LENNON (October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980) is best known as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist of The Beatles. His creative career also included the roles of solo musician, political activist, artist and author.
ELTON JOHN (born 25 March 1947) is one of the most successful British pop singers, composers and musicians.
DAVID BOWIE (born January 8, 1947) is a profoundly influential British rock and roll musician, actor and artist, from the 1960s to the present.
THE BEATLES were one of the most influential music groups of the rock era. Initially they affected the post-war baby boom generation of Britain and the U.S. during the 1960s, and later the rest of the world. Certainly they were the most successful group, with global sales exceeding 1.3 billion albums.
THE ROLLING STONES is the British rock band which rose to prominence during the mid-1960s.
QUEEN is the British rock band which was popular in the 1970s and 1980s. The group is well known for its sports anthems and classic rock radio staples.
BERNARD CHARLES "BERNIE" ECCLESTONE (born October 28, 1930) is the president of Formula One Management.
DAVID BECKHAM (born May 2, 1975) is an English footballer born in, London. He is a midfielder for Real Madrid and captain of the English national team.