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 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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Evelyn Waugh, 1940

The Temple at Thatch is an unpublished novel by the British author Evelyn Waugh, his first adult attempt at full-length fiction. He began writing it in 1924 at the end of his final year as an undergraduate at Hertford College, Oxford, and continued to work on it intermittently in the following 12 months. After his friend Harold Acton commented unfavourably on the novel in June 1925, Waugh burned the manuscript. In a fit of despondency from this and other personal disappointments, he then made a half-hearted suicide bid before returning to his senses. In the absence of a manuscript or printed text, the only information as to the novel's subject comes from Waugh's diary entries and later reminiscences. The story was evidently semi-autobiographical, based around Waugh's Oxford experiences. The protagonist was an undergraduate and the work's main themes were madness and black magic. Some of the novel's ideas were incorporated into Waugh's first commercially published work of fiction, the 1925 short story "The Balance", which includes several references to a country house called "Thatch" and, like the novel, is partly structured as a film script. Acton's severe judgement did not deter Waugh from his intention to be a writer, but it affected his belief that he could succeed as a novelist. For a time he turned his attention away from fiction, but with the gradual recovery of his self-confidence he was able to complete his first novel, Decline and Fall, which was published with great success in 1928. (more...)

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Hannah de Rothschild

Hannah Primrose, Countess of Rosebery was the daughter of Baron Mayer de Rothschild and his wife Juliana, née Cohen. On the death of her father in 1874 she became the richest woman in Britain. Her husband, the 5th Earl of Rosebery, was, during the final quarter of the nineteenth century, one of the most celebrated figures in Britain, an influential millionaire and politician, whose charm, wit, charisma and public popularity gave him such standing that he "almost eclipsed royalty". Her marriage into the aristocracy, while controversial at the time, gave her the social cachet in an anti-Semitic society that her vast fortune could not. She subsequently became a political hostess and philanthropist. Her charitable work was principally in the sphere of public health and causes associated with the welfare of working class Jewish women living in the poorer districts of London. Having firmly assisted and supported her husband on his path to political greatness, she suddenly died in 1890, aged 39, leaving him to achieve, bewildered and without her support, the political destiny which she had plotted alone. His premiership of the United Kingdom was shambolic, and lasted barely a year. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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Passchendaele village, before and after the Battle of Passchendaele
Photo credit: UK Government

The 1917 Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was one of the major battles of World War I, fought by British, ANZAC, and Canadian soldiers against the German army. The battle was fought for control of the village of Passendale, (Belgium-French Passchendaele on maps of that time), near the Belgian town of Ypres in West Flanders.

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