What is the United Kingdom?
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a nation in north-west Europe. With a population of about 68 million and an area of about 250,000 square kilometers, it is neither a large country nor a heavily populated one. Yet it was the first industrialised nation, the world's greatest power for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, and its cultural influence and legacy can found around the world. So what is the United Kingdom?
The countries of the United Kingdom
There are four countries in today's United Kingdom. These are:
With a population of about 56 million, England is the largest and most populace country in the United Kingdom. It's capital, London, is also the capital of the UK, and the city has traditionally been the centre of power in the UK.
Find out more about England here.
Scotland is the northernmost country of the United Kingdom, with a population of about 5.5. million. It's capital is Edinburgh. Scotland has a unique culture and history, one often at odds with England. A land of immense natural beauty, the Scottish Highlands are famed world-wide.
Find out more about Scotland here.
Wales is located to the west of England, with a long coastline along the Irish Sea and a population of about 3 million. It's capital is Cardiff. Part of England for 500 years, Wales nevertheless has a distinct culture, its own language, and strong sporting tradition.
Find out more about Wales here.
4. Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland covers the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, with its capital in Belfast. With a population of almost 2 million, a distinct language and linguistic heritage, and a unique culture, this country was formed in 1921 with the partition of Ireland. Prior to this, the entirety of Ireland was a part of the UK, and the historical relationship of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the UK is a long and complex one.
Find out more about Northern Ireland here.
United Kingdom Facts
Population: 68 million
Currency: The pound (£)
Monarch: Queen Elizabeth II
Size: 242,495 square kilometers
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy. This means that there is a monarch (a queen or king), but the monarch's power comes from a constitution. The British monarch does not actually exercise political power - instead, they can advise, consult, and recommend.
The government of the UK is a parliamentary democracy. The center of government is located in Westminster, London. However, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland all have their own local governments, though these are subordinate to the central Westminster government on many issues.
The United Kingdom is the world's 5th largest economy, with the city of London the 2nd largest financial center in the world. Its economy is based heavily on services, including financial services, business services, and healthcare.
The UK is also both the world's 5th largest importer and 5th largest exporter, with a very globalised economy. With an advanced economy and technological infrastructure, its top three imports are cars, machinery, and petroleum, and its top three exports are also cars, machinery, and petroleum.
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British Hills teachers answer your questions!
In the video below, British Hills teachers Laura, Emma, and Tom answer questions from students about the UK.