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 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 fifth-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 European Union, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, the OECD and the World Trade Organization.

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Ben Greet in the role of Boomblehardt

Creatures of Impulse is a short story by English dramatist W. S. Gilbert, which he later adapted for the stage with music by composer-conductor Alberto Randegger. Both the short story and the play concern an unwanted and ill-tempered old fairy who enchants people to behave in a manner opposite to their natures, with farcical results. The short story was written for The Graphic's Christmas number of 1870, and the play was first produced at the Court Theatre on 2 April 1871. It originally included six songs, but three were eventually cut, and some productions dispensed with the music entirely. While the lyrics survive, the music was never published and is lost. Reviews of the play were mostly positive, though it was criticised for the lack of a significant plot or superstructure to support its comic premise. Nonetheless, reviewers found it enjoyable, and it was a modest success, running for 91 performances and enjoying revivals into the early part of the 20th century. Gilbert had already written a considerable body of stories, plays, poems, criticism and other works before writing Creatures of Impulse and would go on to write the libretti to the famous Savoy operas (composed by Arthur Sullivan) between 1871 and 1896. (more...)

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Cædmon is the earliest English poet whose name is known. An Anglo-Saxon herdsman attached to the double monastery of Streonæshalch (Whitby Abbey) during the abbacy of St. Hilda, it is said that he was originally ignorant of the art of song until he learned to compose one night in the course of a dream. He later became a zealous monk and an accomplished and inspirational religious poet. Cædmon is one of twelve Anglo-Saxon poets identified in medieval sources, and one of only three for whom both roughly contemporary biographical information and examples of literary output have survived. His story is told to us in the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum by St. Bede. Cædmon's only known surviving work is Cædmon's Hymn, the nine-line alliterative vernacular praise poem in honour of God he supposedly learned to sing in his initial dream. The poem is one of the earliest attested examples of Old English and is, with the runic Ruthwell Cross and Franks Casket inscriptions, one of three candidates for the earliest attested example of Old English poetry. (More...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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George IV of the United Kingdom
Credit: Thomas Lawrence

George IV of the United Kingdom as the Prince Regent, circa 1814. He served as king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1820 to 1830. The Regency, George's nine-year tenure as Prince Regent, which commenced in 1811 and ended with George III's death in 1820, was marked by victory in the Napoleonic Wars in Europe.

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