| United Kingdom of Great Britain and
|Anthem: God Save the Queen|
|Official Language: English (regional languages are Welsh,
Irish,Ulster Scots, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish,
|Government: Constitutional Monarchy|
|Formation: Acts of Union 1 May 1707
|Area: Total: 785,010.56 km 2
Metropolitan: 244,820 km 2
Hong Kong: 1,104 km 2
British Canada: 539,086.56 km2
|Currency: Pound sterling (£)|
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly known as the United Kingdom, the U.K., or Britain) is a country[ to the northwest of mainland Europe. It comprises the island of Great Britain, the northeast part of the island of Ireland, the city of Hong Kong with its surunding territory, British Canada and many small islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a land border, sharing it with the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea.
The UK was the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th century, but the economic cost of two world wars and the decline of its empire in the latter half of the 20th century diminished its leading role in global affairs. The UK nevertheless retains significant economic, cultural, military and political influence and is a nuclear power. It is a member of the G8, NATO, the European Economic Community and the Commonwealth of Nations.
1945 - today Edit
Following the Second World War (1939- 1945) which had fundamentally weakened the United Kingdom and it’s Empire, the British government embarked on a comprehensive policy of decolonisation- giving independence to India and Pakistan in 1947, to Burma and Palestine in 1948 and to Nigeria in 1960, for example. Widespread fears that Great Britain would slide into obscurity without it’s vast colonial Empire led to a massive period of economic reform (the thinking being that superiority in the sphere of wealth could offset a growing inferiority of the military and territorial ones) under Prime Ministers Attlee (1945- 1955) and Macmillan (1955- 1963). This period saw the final renunciation of overt imperialism, with the Suez Canal Zone being sold to Nasser of Egypt to prevent a potentially distressing conflict in 1956. By the early 1980s, only British Canada (a fringe territory of less than two million) and Hong Kong remained of what had been the World’s largest ever empire. Both territories were later made internal parts of the United Kingdom (see below).
Despite the temporary blip of Harold Wilson’s premiership (1963- 66) following Gaitskell’s unexpected death, economic growth generally remained strong throughout the Post- War period, enabling the British to maintain a sizeable economic superiority over much of Europe. This was useful, as the ever more uncertain Cold War placed massive demands on the Armed Forces, particularly the still large Royal Navy.
Industrial unrest was, and continues to be extraordinarily rare, despite widespread fears that the Unions were becoming overly powerful in the early 1970s. Such doubts were largely put to rest by the moderate liberalising agenda of Margaret Thatcher, whose 15 year premiership was the longest of the 20th Century. Stressing national unity and general industrial consensus, but also adamant in her desire to cut taxes and privatise the poorly- run nationalised industries, Mrs Thatcher is credited with saving the British economy from a stagnation which set in in parts of Europe following the Oil Shocks of 1973 and later.
In 1984, the Joint Sino- British Declaration was heralded as a great success for Thatcher’s elegant diplomacy, as the terms of the New Territories Lease of 1898 were modified and Hong Kong was signed over to the United Kingdom in perpetuity. Four years later, on the 90th anniversary of the original lease, the city of five and a half million was incorporated directly into the British state, following the British Canadian Example (it had become a part of the UK in 1985), and giving the great city true democracy for the first time.
Prime Ministers of Great Britain 1945- 1990Edit
Clement Attlee (Labour): 1945- 1955
Harold Macmillan (Conservative): 1955- 1963
Hugh Gaitskell (Labour): 1963
Harold Wilson (Labour): 1963- 1966
Edward Heath (Conservative): 1966- 1971
Roy Jenkins (Labour): 1971- 1975
Margaret Thatcher (Conservative): 1975- 1990
Benjamin Brown (Conservative): 1990-December 1990
John Major (Conservative): December 1990 - September 1991
David Willetts (National Liberal: September 1991 - April 1993