The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is an island nation in Western Europe. It consists of the island of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and various Crown dependencies and territories. Its only land border is with the Republic of Ireland. Its capital and largest city is London. Welsh is spoken in Wales, Scottish Gaelic and Scots in Scotland, and English throughout.
Main article: History of the United Kingdom
Before the arrival of the Romans, the United Kingdom was composed of various Celtic tribes collectively known as the Britons. The Romans took over Britain in the first century AD, and brought Christianity and the Latin language. In 410, the Roman legions withdrew, leaving Britain vulnerable.
In the seventh century, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes sailed across the North Sea from Germany and subjugated the native Celts. They established several competing kingdoms and introduced the English language.
In 1066, William the Conqueror invaded England with a Norman army. He brought French language and culture to England, and built many castles. One of his descendants, King John, was forced by his nobles to sign the Magna Carta, a document that limited the power of the king.
In the Hundred Years' War, France expelled England from the continent after a long series of defeats. After this point, England directed her attention overseas, and began to colonize the Americas and establish factories in India.
In 1707, Scotland and England formed a union that became the Kingdom of Great Britain. Great Britain foiled French and Spanish attempts at European dominance in the War of the Spanish Succession and the Seven Years' War.
In 1776, the United States declared independence. British regulars were dispatched to put down the rebellion, but they were unable to do so. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris granted independence to the United States. Anglo-American relations quickly normalized.
In 1801, Great Britain formally absorbed Ireland into the kingdom and established the United Kingdom.
The rise of France in the Napoleonic Wars was countered by the United Kingdom. British naval superiority was confirmed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal drained French resources and allowed for Napoleon's defeat in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo.
In the next century, the United Kingdom industrialized and established a large overseas empire, with the British Raj in India as its centerpiece. By the end of the century, the United Kingdom, Russia, and France had aligned themselves against Germany.
In 1914, these tensions flared into conflict as World War I. British troops halted the German advance into France, and a long, bloody stalemate began. Not until 1917 was a breakthrough achieved, when the United States entered the war on the British side. The fresh American troops helped push back the Germans into their own territory, and an armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.
The Great Depression hit the United Kingdom as hard as any Western European nation. In the 1930s, the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain pursued a policy of appeasement against German aggression. By 1939, this became impossible, and war broke out over the invasion of Poland.
The United Kingdom was led through World War II by Winston Churchill. After the Battle of France in 1940, the United Kingdom was left to oppose Germany alone. Despite heavy civilian bombing and numerical inferiority, the British endured, and in 1944 they struck back, invading Normandy and liberating France. By May of 1945 Germany's unconditional surrender had been secured.
The United Kingdom joined NATO after World War II in opposition to the Warsaw Pact. Nuclear weapons were developed, and the Royal Navy was reimagined as anti-submarine force to combat the Soviet threat. After the end of the Cold War, the United Kingdom participated in the American-led War on Terror. The United Kingdom remains one of the most powerful and dynamic nations on the globe.
The United Kingdom is primarily situated on two islands: Great Britain and the northern third of Ireland. It also includes numerous archipelagos throughout the British Isles, including the Hebrides, Channel Isles, Shetland Islands, and the Orkney Islands. The U.K. is divided into four constituent countries: England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. England and Wales are often considered a single entity for political purposes. The highest mountain in the U.K. is Ben Nevis in Scotland. The longet river is the River Severn in England and Wales. The U.K. shares a short land border with the Republic of Ireland, and a sea border with France. It has coastlines on the English Channel, the Irish Sea, the North Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.