Portal:United Kingdom

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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 country located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The United Kingdom 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. The United Kingdom 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 an EMDC and has the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and seventh-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It was the world's first industrialised state 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 European Union, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, the OECD and the World Trade Organization.

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Replica of the Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM)

The Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine was the world's first stored-program computer. It was built at the Victoria University of Manchester by Frederic C. Williams, Tom Kilburn and Geoff Tootill, and ran its first program on 21 June 1948. The machine was not intended to be a practical computer but was instead designed as a testbed for the Williams tube, an early form of computer memory. It was considered "small and primitive" compared to its contemporaries, although it did contain all of the elements essential to a modern electronic computer. As soon as the SSEM had demonstrated the feasibility of its design a project was initiated at the university to develop it into a more usable computer, the Manchester Mark 1. The Mark 1 in turn quickly became the prototype for the Ferranti Mark 1, the world's first commercially available general-purpose computer. The SSEM had a 32-bit word length and a memory of 32 words. It was designed to be the simplest possible stored-program computer; the only arithmetic operation it could perform was subtraction. The first of the three programs written for the machine found the highest factor of 218 (262,144), a calculation it was known would take a long time to run—and so prove the computer's reliability. The program consisted of 17 instructions and ran for 52 minutes before reaching the correct answer of 131,072, after the SSEM had performed 3.5 million operations. (more...)

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Wulfhere (died 675) was King of Mercia from the end of the 650s until 675. He was the first Christian king of all of Mercia, though it is not known when or how he was converted. His accession marked the end of Oswiu of Northumbria's overlordship of southern England, and Wulfhere extended his influence over much of that region. His campaigns against the West Saxons led to Mercian supremacy over much of the Thames valley. He conquered the Isle of Wight and the Meon valley and gave them to King Æthelwealh of the South Saxons. He married Eormenhild, the daughter of King Eorcenberht of Kent. He was effectively the overlord of Britain south of the Humber from the early 660s, although not overlord of Northumbria as his father had been. In 674, he challenged Oswiu's son Ecgfrith of Northumbria, but was defeated. He died, probably of disease, in 675. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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Tower Bridge as viewed from the south-west.
Photo credit: Diliff

Tower Bridge is a bascule bridge in London over the River Thames. It is close to the Tower of London, which gives it its name. It has become an iconic symbol of London and is sometimes mistakenly called London Bridge, which is the next bridge upstream. The bridge is owned and maintained by City Bridge Trust, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation.

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