Portal:United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom Portaledit
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Map of the United Kingdom in the British Isles.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly known as the United Kingdom, the UK or Britain) is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The country includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another sovereign state—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 United Kingdom is a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system, with its seat of government in the capital city of London. It is a country in its own right and consists of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There are three devolved national administrations, each with varying powers, based in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh, the capitals of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland respectively. Associated with the UK, but not constitutionally part of it, are three Crown Dependencies. The United Kingdom has fourteen overseas territories. These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in 1922, encompassed almost a third of the world's land surface and was the largest empire in history. British influence can still be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former territories.

The UK is a developed country and has the world's sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and seventh-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power with leading economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence. It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and its military expenditure ranks third or fourth in the world. The UK has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946; it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, the OECD and the World Trade Organization.

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Caricature of Major Lord Henry Arthur George Somerset

The Cleveland Street scandal occurred in 1889, when a homosexual male brothel in Cleveland Street, London, was uncovered by police. At the time, sexual acts between men were illegal in Britain, and the brothel's clients faced possible prosecution and certain social ostracism if discovered. It was rumoured that one of the brothel's clients was Prince Albert Victor, who was the son of the Prince of Wales and second-in-line to the British throne. Officials were involved in a cover-up to keep the prince's name and others' out of the scandal. One of the clients, Lord Arthur Somerset, was an equerry to the Prince of Wales but he, as well as the brothel keeper, Charles Hammond, managed to flee abroad before a prosecution could be brought. The rent boys, who also worked as messenger boys for the Post Office, were given light sentences and none of the clients were prosecuted. After Henry FitzRoy, Earl of Euston was named in the press as a client, he successfully sued for libel. The British press never named Prince Albert Victor, and there is no evidence he ever visited the brothel, but his inclusion in the rumours has coloured biographers' perceptions of him since. The scandal fuelled the attitude that male homosexuality was an aristocratic vice that corrupted lower-class youths. (more...)

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Moore's Reclining Figure (1951)

Henry Moore was a British artist and sculptor. Born into a poor mining family in the Yorkshire town of Castleford, he became well-known for his large-scale abstract cast bronze and carved marble sculptures; substantially supported by the British art establishment, Moore helped to introduce a particular form of modernism into Britain. His ability to satisfy large-scale commissions made him exceptionally wealthy towards the end of his life. However, he lived frugally and most of his wealth went to endow the Henry Moore Foundation, which continues to support education and promotion of the arts. His signature form is a pierced reclining figure, first influenced by a Toltec-Maya sculpture known as "Chac Mool", which he had seen as a plaster cast in Paris in 1925. Early versions are pierced conventionally as a bent arm reconnects with the body. Later, more abstract versions, are pierced directly through the body in order to explore the concave and convex shapes. These more extreme piercings developed in parallel with Barbara Hepworth's sculptures. Hepworth first pierced a torso after misreading a review of one of Henry Moore's early shows.

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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Photo credit: Chowells

Another Place is a piece of modern sculpture by Antony Gormley, currently erected on Crosby Beach, Liverpool until the end of 2006. It consists of 100 cast iron figures which face out to sea, spread over a 2 mile stretch of the beach. Each figure is 189 cm tall (nearly 6 feet 2½ inches) and weighs around 650 kg (over 1400 lb). In common with most of Gormley's work, the figures are cast from moulds of his own body.

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