The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called simply Great Britain, was a sovereign state in western Europe from 1 May 1707 to 31 December 1800. The state came into being following the Treaty of Union in 1706, ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, which united the kingdoms of England (which included Wales) and Scotland to form a single kingdom encompassing the whole island of Great Britain and its outlying islands, with the exception of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The unitary state was governed by a single parliament and government that was based in Westminster. The former kingdoms had been in personal union since James VI of Scotland became King of England and King of Ireland in 1603 following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing about the "Union of the Crowns". After the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain in 1714, the kingdom was in a personal union with the Electorate of Hanover.
The early years of the unified kingdom were marked by Jacobite risings which ended in defeat for the Stuart cause at Culloden in 1746. In 1763, victory in the Seven Years' War led to the dominance of the British Empire, which was to become the foremost global power for over a century and slowly grew to become the largest empire in history.
Anthem: God Save the King/Queen
Location of Great Britain in 1789 in dark green; Ireland and Hanover in light green
|Common languages||English (official), Scots, Norn, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish Gaelic|
|Religion||Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, Presbyterianism, Judaism, others|
|Government||Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy|
|Earl of Wilmington|
|Duke of Newcastle|
|William Pitt the Elder|
|William Pitt the Younger|
|Legislature||Parliament of Great Britain|
|House of Lords|
|House of Commons|
|22 July 1706|
|1 May 1707|
|1 January 1801|
|Total||230,977 km2 (89,181 sq mi)|
|ISO 3166 code||GB|
|Today part of||United Kingdom|
The name Britain descends from the Latin name for the island of Great Britain, Britannia or Brittānia, the land of the Britons via the Old French Bretaigne (whence also Modern French Bretagne) and Middle English Bretayne, Breteyne. The term Great Britain was first used officially in 1474.
The use of the word "Great" before "Britain" originates in the French language, which uses Bretagne for both Britain and Brittany. French therefore distinguishes between the two by calling Britain la Grande Bretagne, a distinction which was transferred into English.
The Treaty of Union and the subsequent Acts of Union state that England and Scotland were to be "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain", and as such "Great Britain" was the official name of the state, as well as being used in titles such as "Parliament of Great Britain". Both the Acts and the Treaty describe the country as "One Kingdom" and a "United Kingdom", which has led some much later publications into the error of treating the "United Kingdom" as a name before it actually came into being in 1801. The websites of the Scottish Parliament, the BBC, and others, including the Historical Association, refer to the state created on 1 May 1707 as the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The term United Kingdom was sometimes used during the 18th century to describe the state, but was not its name.
The kingdoms of England and Scotland, both in existence from the 9th century (with England incorporating Wales in the 16th century), were separate states until 1707. However, they had come into a personal union in 1603, when James VI of Scotland became king of England under the name of James I. This Union of the Crowns under the House of Stuart meant that the whole of the island of Great Britain was now ruled by a single monarch, who by virtue of holding the English crown also ruled over the Kingdom of Ireland. Each of the three kingdoms maintained its own parliament and laws. Various smaller islands were in the king's domain, including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
This disposition changed dramatically when the Acts of Union 1707 came into force, with a single unified Crown of Great Britain and a single unified parliament. Ireland remained formally separate, with its own parliament, until the Acts of Union 1800. The Union of 1707 provided for a Protestant-only succession to the throne in accordance with the English Act of Settlement of 1701; rather than Scotland's Act of Security of 1704, which ceased to have effect. The Act of Settlement required that the heir to the English throne be a descendant of the Electress Sophia of Hanover and not be a Catholic; this brought about the Hanoverian succession of George I in 1714.
Legislative power was vested in the Parliament of Great Britain, which replaced both the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland. In practice it was a continuation of the English parliament, sitting at the same location in Westminster, expanded to include representation from Scotland. As with the former Parliament of England and the modern Parliament of the United Kingdom, the Parliament of Great Britain was formally constituted of three elements: the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the Crown. The right of the English peerage to sit in the House of Lords remained unchanged, while the disproportionately large Scottish peerage was permitted to send only 16 representative peers, elected from amongst their number for the life of each parliament. Similarly, the members of the former English House of Commons continued as members of the British House of Commons, but as a reflection of the relative tax bases of the two countries the number of Scottish representatives was reduced to 45. Newly created peers in the Peerage of Great Britain were given the automatic right to sit in the Lords. Despite the end of a separate parliament for Scotland, it retained its own laws and system of courts, As its own established Presbyterian Church, and control over its own schools. The social structure was highly hierarchical, and the same elite remain in control after 1707. Scotland continued to have its own excellent universities, and with the strong intellectual community, especially in Edinburgh, The Scottish Enlightenment had a major impact on British, American and European thinking.
As a result of Poynings' Law of 1495, the Parliament of Ireland was subordinate to the Parliament of England, and after 1707 to the Parliament of Great Britain. The Westminster parliament's Declaratory Act 1719 (also called the Dependency of Ireland on Great Britain Act 1719) noted that the Irish House of Lords had recently "assumed to themselves a Power and Jurisdiction to examine, correct and amend" judgements of the Irish courts and declared that as the Kingdom of Ireland was subordinate to and dependent upon the crown of Great Britain, the King, through the Parliament of Great Britain, had "full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient validity to bind the Kingdom and people of Ireland". The Act was repealed by the Repeal of Act for Securing Dependence of Ireland Act 1782. The same year, the Irish constitution of 1782 produced a period of legislative freedom. However, the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which sought to end the subordination and dependency upon the British crown and establish a republic, was one of the factors that led to the formation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801.
The deeper political integration of her kingdoms was a key policy of Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch of England and Scotland and the first monarch of Great Britain. A Treaty of Union was agreed in 1706 following negotiations between representatives of the parliaments of England and Scotland, and each parliament then passed separate Acts of Union to ratify it. The Acts came into effect on 1 May 1707, uniting the separate Parliaments and crowns of England and Scotland and forming a single Kingdom of Great Britain. Anne became the first monarch to occupy the unified British throne, and in line with Article 22 of the Treaty of Union, Scotland and England each sent members to the new House of Commons of Great Britain. Scottish and English elites retained power, and each kept its legal and educational systems, as well as its established Church. United they formed a larger economy, and the Scots began to provide soldiers and colonial officials to the new British forces and its Empire. However, in practice the new Scottish members and representative peers were elected by the outgoing Parliament of Scotland, while all existing members of the Houses of Commons and Lords at Westminster remained in office.
During the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–14) England continued its policy of forming and funding alliances, especially with the Dutch Republic and the Holy Roman Empire against their common enemy, King Louis XIV of France. Queen Anne, who reigned 1702–1714, was the central decision maker, working closely with her advisers, especially her remarkably successful senior general, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. The war was a financial drain, for Britain had to finance its allies and hire foreign soldiers. Stalemate on the battlefield and war weariness on the home front set in toward the end. The anti-war Tory politicians won control of Parliament in 1710 and forced a peace. The concluding Treaty of Utrecht was highly favourable for Britain. Spain lost its empire in Europe and faded away as a great power, while working to better manage its colonies in the Americas. The First British Empire, based upon the English overseas possessions, was enlarged. From France, Great Britain gained Newfoundland and Acadia, and from Spain Gibraltar and Menorca. Gibraltar became a major naval base which allowed Great Britain to control the entrance from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. The war marks the weakening of French military, diplomatic and economic dominance, and the arrival on the world scene of Britain as a major imperial, military and financial power. British historian G. M. Trevelyan argues:
In the 18th century England, and after 1707 Great Britain, rose to become the world's dominant colonial power, with France as its main rival on the imperial stage. The pre-1707 English overseas possessions became the nucleus of the First British Empire.
"In 1714 the ruling class was so bitterly divided that many feared a civil war might break out on Queen Anne's death", says historian W. A. Speck. A couple of hundred of the richest landed elite families controlled politics, but they were deeply split, with Tories committed to the legitimacy of the Stuart "Old Pretender", then in exile. The Whigs strongly supported the king in order to uphold the Protestant succession. The new King George I was an unpopular German, and had only a small English army to support him. He did have military support from his native Hanover, and from his allies in the Netherlands. The Earl of Mar led 18 peers with 10,000 men in the Jacobite rising of 1715 based in Scotland which aimed to overthrow the king. It was poorly organised, and was decisively defeated, with several leaders executed, many leaders dispossessed of their lands, and 700 prominent followers deported to labour in the West Indies sugar plantations. A key decision was the refusal of the Pretender to change his religion from Catholic to Anglican, which probably would have mobilised much more of the Tory element. The Whigs came to power under the leadership of James Stanhope, Charles Townshend, the Earl of Sunderland, and Robert Walpole. One by one the Tories were driven out of national and local government, and new laws were passed to impose more national control. The right of habeas corpus was restricted; to reduce electoral frenzy, the Septennial Act 1715 increased the maximum life of a parliament from three years to seven.
He spent only about half as much time abroad during his reign as did William III, who also reigned for 13 years. Jeremy Black has argued that the king wanted to spend even more time in Hanover: "His visits, in 1716, 1719, 1720, 1723 and 1725, were lengthy, and, in total, he spent a considerable part of his reign abroad. These visits were also occasions both for significant negotiations and for the exchange of information and opinion....The visits to Hanover also provided critics with the opportunity...to argue that British interests were being neglected....George could not speak English, and all relevant documents from his British ministers were translated into French for him....Few British ministers or diplomats...knew German, or could handle it in precise discussion."
George I supported the expulsion of the Tories from power; they remained in the political wilderness until young King George III came to power in 1760 and replaced Whigs with Tories. George I has often been caricatured in the history books, but according to his biographer Ragnhild Hatton:
Robert Walpole (1676–1745) was a son of the gentry who rose to control the House of Commons, manipulating the levers of British politics with rare genius, from 1721 to 1742. He was thus the first prime minister (the term itself was in use by 1727). He was followed as prime minister by his two disciples, Henry Pelham (1743–1754) and Pelham's brother the Duke of Newcastle (1754–1762). Historian Clayton Roberts summarizes his new functions:
He monopolized the counsels of the King, he closely superintended the administration, he ruthlessly controlled patronage, and he led the predominant party in Parliament.
Corporate stock was a new phenomenon, not well understood except for the strong gossip among financiers that fortunes could be made overnight. The South Sea Company, although originally set up to trade with the Spanish Empire, quickly turned most of its attention to very high risk financing, involving £30 million or 60% of the entire British national debt. It set up a scheme that invited stock owners to turn in their certificates for stock in the Company at a par value of £100—the idea was they would profit by the rising price of the stock. Everyone with connections wanted in on the bonanza—and many other outlandish schemes found gullible takers. South Sea stock peaked at £1060 on 25 June 1720. Then the bubble burst, and by the end of September it had fallen to £150. Hundreds of prominent men had borrowed to buy stock high; their "profits" had vanished but they were liable to repay the full amount of the loans. Many went bankrupt and many more lost heavily.
Confidence in the entire national financial and political system had collapsed. Parliament investigated and concluded that there was widespread fraud amongst the company directors and corruption in the Cabinet. Among Cabinet members implicated were the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Postmaster General, and a Secretary of State, as well as the two top leaders Lord Stanhope and Lord Sunderland. Walpole had dabbled in the speculation himself but was not a major player. He rose to the challenge, as the new First Lord of the Treasury, of resolving the financial and political disaster. The economy was basically healthy, and the panic ended. Working with the financiers he successfully restored confidence in the system. However, public opinion, as shaped by the many prominent men who had lost so much money so quickly, demanded revenge. Walpole supervised the process, which removed all 33 company directors and stripped them of, on average, 82% of their wealth. The money went to the victims. The government bought the stock of the South Sea Company for £33 and sold it to the Bank of England and the East India Company, the only other two corporations big enough to handle the challenge. Walpole made sure that King George and his mistresses were not embarrassed, and by the margin of three votes he saved several key government officials from impeachment.
Stanhope and Sunderland died of natural causes, leaving Walpole alone as the dominant figure in British politics. The public hailed him as the saviour of the financial system, and historians credit him with rescuing the Whig government, and indeed the Hanoverian dynasty, from total disgrace.
Walpole was a master of the effective use of patronage, as were Pelham and Lord Newcastle. They each paid close attention to the work of bestowing upon their political allies high places, lifetime pensions, honours, lucrative government contracts, and help at election time. In turn the friends enabled them to control Parliament. Thus in 1742, over 140 Members of Parliament held powerful positions thanks in part to Walpole, including 24 men at the royal court, 50 in the government agencies, and the rest with sinecures or other handsome emoluments, often in the range of £500 - £1000 per year. Usually there was little or no work involved. Walpole also distributed highly attractive ecclesiastical appointments. When the Court in 1725 instituted a new order of chivalry, the Order of the Bath, Walpole immediately seized the opportunity. He made sure that most of the 36 new honorees were peers and MPs who would provide him with useful connections. Walpole himself became enormously wealthy, investing heavily in his estate at Houghton Hall and its large collection of European master paintings.
Walpole's methods won him victory after victory, but aroused furious opposition. Historian J. H. Plumb says:
The opposition called for "patriotism" and looked at the Prince of Wales as the future "Patriot King". Walpole supporters ridiculed the very term "patriot".
The opposition "country party" attacked Walpole relentlessly, primarily targeting patronage, which they denounced as immoral corruption. In turn Walpole imposed censorship on the London theatre and subsidised writers such as William Arnall and others who rejected the charge of evil political corruption by arguing that corruption is the universal human condition. Furthermore, they argued, political divisiveness was also universal and inevitable because of selfish passions that were integral to human nature. Arnall argued that government must be strong enough to control conflict, and in that regard Walpole was quite successful. This style of "court" political rhetoric continued through the 18th century. Field Marshal Lord Cobham, a leading soldier, used his own connections to build up an opposition after 1733. Young William Pitt and George Grenville joined Cobham's faction—they were called "Cobham's Cubs". They became leading enemies of Walpole and both later became prime minister.
By 1741, Walpole was facing mounting criticism on foreign policy—he was accused of entangling Britain in a useless war with Spain—and mounting allegations of corruption. On 13 February 1741, Samuel Sandys, a former ally, called for his removal. He said:
Walpole's allies defeated a censure motion by a vote of 209 to 106, but Walpole's coalition lost seats in the election of 1741 and by a narrow margin he was finally forced out of power in early 1742.
Walpole secured widespread support with his policy of avoiding war. He used his influence to prevent George II from entering the War of the Polish Succession in 1733, because it was a dispute between the Bourbons and the Habsburgs. He boasted, "There are 50,000 men slain in Europe this year, and not one Englishman." Walpole himself let others, especially his brother-in-law Lord Townshend, handle foreign policy until about 1726, then took charge. A major challenge for his administration was the royal role as simultaneous ruler of Hanover, a small German state that was opposed to Prussian supremacy. George I and George II saw a French alliance as the best way to neutralise Prussia. They forced a dramatic reversal of British foreign policy, which for centuries had seen France as England's greatest enemy. However, the bellicose trouble-maker King Louis XIV died in 1715, and the regents who ran France were preoccupied with internal affairs. King Louis XV came of age in 1726, and his elderly chief minister Cardinal Fleury collaborated informally with Walpole to prevent a major war and keep the peace. Both sides wanted peace, which allowed both countries enormous cost savings, and recovery from expensive wars.
Henry Pelham became prime minister in 1744 and continued Walpole's policies. He worked for an end to the War of the Austrian Succession. His financial policy was a major success once peace had been signed in 1748. He demobilised the armed forces, and reduced government spending from £12 million to £7 million. He refinanced the national debt, dropping the interest rate from 4% p.a. to 3% p.a. Taxes had risen to pay for the war, but in 1752 he reduced the land tax from four shillings to two shillings in the pound: that is, from 20% to 10%.
By avoiding wars, Walpole could lower taxes. He reduced the national debt with a sinking fund, and by negotiating lower interest rates. He reduced the land tax from four shillings in 1721, to 3s in 1728, 2s in 1731 and finally to only 1s (i.e. 5%) in 1732. His long-term goal was to replace the land tax, which was paid by the local gentry, with excise and customs taxes, which were paid by merchants and ultimately by consumers. Walpole joked that the landed gentry resembled hogs, which squealed loudly whenever anyone laid hands on them. By contrast, he said, merchants were like sheep, and yielded their wool without complaint. The joke backfired in 1733 when he was defeated in a major battle to impose excise taxes on wine and tobacco. To reduce the threat of smuggling, the tax was to be collected not at ports but at warehouses. This new proposal, however, was extremely unpopular with the public, and aroused the opposition of the merchants because of the supervision it would involve. Walpole was defeated as his strength in Parliament dropped a notch.
Historians hold Walpole's record in high regard, though there has been a recent tendency to share credit more widely among his allies. W.A. Speck says that Walpole's uninterrupted run of 20 years as Prime Minister
is rightly regarded as one of the major feats of British political history... Explanations are usually offered in terms of his expert handling of the political system after 1720, [and] his unique blending of the surviving powers of the crown with the increasing influence of the Commons.
He was a Whig from the gentry class, who first arrived in Parliament in 1701, and held many senior positions. He was a country squire and looked to country gentlemen for his political base. Historian Frank O'Gorman says his leadership in Parliament reflected his "reasonable and persuasive oratory, his ability to move both the emotions as well as the minds of men, and, above all, his extraordinary self-confidence." Hoppit says Walpole's policies sought moderation: he worked for peace, lower taxes, growing exports, and allowed a little more tolerance for Protestant Dissenters. He avoided controversy and high-intensity disputes, as his middle way attracted moderates from both the Whig and Tory camps. H.T. Dickinson sums up his historical role:
Walpole was one of the greatest politicians in British history. He played a significant role in sustaining the Whig party, safeguarding the Hanoverian succession, and defending the principles of the Glorious Revolution (1688) ... He established a stable political supremacy for the Whig party and taught succeeding ministers how best to establish an effective working relationship between Crown and Parliament.
The Seven Years' War, which began in 1756, was the first war waged on a global scale and saw British involvement in Europe, India, North America, the Caribbean, the Philippines, and coastal Africa. The results were highly favorable for Britain, and a major disaster for France. Key decisions were largely in the hands of William Pitt the Elder. The war started poorly. Britain lost the island of Minorca in 1756, and suffered a series of defeats in North America. After years of setbacks and mediocre results, British luck turned in the "miracle year" ("Annus Mirabilis") of 1759. The British had entered the year anxious about a French invasion, but by the end of the year, they were victorious in all theatres. In the Americas, they captured Fort Ticonderoga (Carillon), drove the French out of the Ohio Country, captured Quebec City in Canada as a result of the decisive Battle of the Plains of Abraham, and captured the rich sugar island of Guadeloupe in the West Indies. In India, the John Company repulsed French forces besieging Madras. In Europe, British troops partook in a decisive Allied victory at the Battle of Minden. The victory over the French navy at the Battle of Lagos and the decisive Battle of Quiberon Bay ended threats of a French invasion, and confirmed Britain's reputation as the world's foremost naval power. The Treaty of Paris of 1763 marked the high point of the First British Empire. France's future in North America ended, as New France (Quebec) came under British control. In India, the third Carnatic War had left France still in control of several small enclaves, but with military restrictions and an obligation to support the British client states, effectively leaving the future of India to Great Britain. The British victory over France in the Seven Years' War therefore left Great Britain as the world's dominant colonial power, with a bitter France thirsting for revenge.
The evangelical movement inside and outside the Church of England gained strength in the late 18th and early 19th century. The movement challenged the traditional religious sensibility that emphasized a code of honor for the upper-class, and suitable behaviour for everyone else, together with faithful observances of rituals. John Wesley (1703–1791) and his followers preached revivalist religion, trying to convert individuals to a personal relationship with Christ through Bible reading, regular prayer, and especially the revival experience. Wesley himself preached 52,000 times, calling on men and women to "redeem the time" and save their souls. Wesley always operated inside the Church of England, but at his death, it set up outside institutions that became the Methodist Church. It stood alongside the traditional nonconformist churches, Presbyterians, Congregationalist, Baptists, Unitarians and Quakers. The nonconformist churches, however, were less influenced by revivalism.
The Church of England remained dominant, but it had a growing evangelical, revivalist faction the "Low Church". Its leaders included William Wilberforce and Hannah More. It reached the upper class through the Clapham Sect. It did not seek political reform, but rather the opportunity to save souls through political action by freeing slaves, abolishing the duel, prohibiting cruelty to children and animals, stopping gambling, avoiding frivolity on the Sabbath; they read the Bible every day. All souls were equal in God's view, but not all bodies, so evangelicals did not challenge the hierarchical structure of English society.
The first British Empire, was based largely in North America in the West Indies, with a growing presence in India. Emigration from Britain went mostly to the 13 American colonies, and to a lesser extent to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Very few permanent settlers went to India.
Mercantilism was the basic policy imposed by Great Britain on its overseas possessions. Mercantilism meant that the government and the merchants became partners with the goal of increasing political power and private wealth, to the exclusion of other empires. The government protected its merchants—and kept others out—by trade barriers, regulations, and subsidies to domestic industries to maximise exports from and minimise imports to the realm. The government had to fight smuggling—which became a favourite American technique in the 18th century to circumvent the restrictions on trading with the French, Spanish or Dutch. The goal of mercantilism was to run trade surpluses, so that gold and silver would pour into London. The government took its share through duties and taxes, with the remainder going to merchants in London and other British ports. The government spent much of its revenue on a superb Royal Navy, which not only protected the British colonies but threatened the colonies of the other empires, and sometimes seized them. Thus the Royal Navy captured New Amsterdam (later New York) in 1664. The colonies were captive markets for British industry, and the goal was to enrich the mother country.
During the 1760s and 1770s, relations with the Thirteen Colonies turned from benign neglect to outright revolt, primarily because of the British Parliament's insistence on taxing colonists without their consent. In 1775, the American Revolutionary War began, as the Americans trapped the British army in Boston and suppressed the Loyalists who supported the Crown. In 1776 the Americans declared the independence of the United States of America. Under the military leadership of General George Washington, and, with economic and military assistance from France, the Dutch Republic, and Spain, the United States held off successive British invasions. The Americans captured two main British armies in 1777 and 1781. After that King George III lost control of Parliament and was unable to continue the war. It ended with the Treaty of Paris by which Great Britain relinquished the Thirteen Colonies and recognized the United States. The war was expensive but the British financed it successfully.
The loss of the Thirteen Colonies marked the transition between the "first" and "second" empires, in which Britain shifted its attention away from the Americas to Asia, the Pacific and later Africa. Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, had argued that colonies were redundant, and that free trade should replace the old mercantilist policies that had characterised the first period of colonial expansion, dating back to the protectionism of Spain and Portugal. The growth of trade between the newly independent United States and Great Britain after 1781 confirmed Smith's view that political control was not necessary for economic success.
After a series of "French and Indian wars", the British took over most of France's North American operations in 1763. New France became Quebec. Great Britain's policy was to respect Quebec's Catholic establishment as well as its semi-feudal legal, economic, and social systems. By the Quebec Act of 1774, the Province of Quebec was enlarged to include the western holdings of the American colonies. In the American Revolutionary War, Halifax, Nova Scotia became Britain's major base for naval action. They repulsed an American revolutionary invasion in 1776, but in 1777 a British invasion army was captured in New York, encouraging France to enter the war.
After the American victory, between 40,000 and 60,000 defeated Loyalists migrated, some bringing their slaves. Most families were given free land to compensate their losses. Several thousand free blacks also arrived; most of them later went to Sierra Leone in Africa. The 14,000 Loyalists who went to the Saint John and Saint Croix river valleys, then part of Nova Scotia, were not welcomed by the locals. Therefore, in 1784 the British split off New Brunswick as a separate colony. The Constitutional Act of 1791 created the provinces of Upper Canada (mainly English-speaking) and Lower Canada (mainly French-speaking) to defuse tensions between the French and English-speaking communities, and implemented governmental systems similar to those employed in Great Britain, with the intention of asserting imperial authority and not allowing the sort of popular control of government that was perceived to have led to the American Revolution.
In 1770, British explorer James Cook had discovered the eastern coast of Australia whilst on a scientific voyage to the South Pacific. In 1778, Joseph Banks, Cook's botanist on the voyage, presented evidence to the government on the suitability of Botany Bay for the establishment of a penal settlement. Australia marks the beginning of the Second British Empire. It was planned by the government in London and designed as a replacement for the lost American colonies. The American Loyalist James Matra in 1783 wrote "A Proposal for Establishing a Settlement in New South Wales" proposing the establishment of a colony composed of American Loyalists, Chinese and South Sea Islanders (but not convicts). Matra reasoned that the land was suitable for plantations of sugar, cotton and tobacco; New Zealand timber and hemp or flax could prove valuable commodities; it could form a base for Pacific trade; and it could be a suitable compensation for displaced American Loyalists. At the suggestion of Secretary of State Lord Sydney, Matra amended his proposal to include convicts as settlers, considering that this would benefit both "Economy to the Publick, & Humanity to the Individual". The government adopted the basics of Matra's plan in 1784, and funded the settlement of convicts.
India was not directly ruled by the British government, instead certain parts were seized by the East India Company, a private, for-profit corporation, with its own army. The "John Company" (as it was nicknamed) took direct control of half of India and built friendly relations with the other half, which was controlled by numerous local princes. Its goal was trade, and vast profits for the Company officials, not the building of the British empire. Company interests expanded during the 18th century to include control of territory as the old Mughal Empire declined in power and the East India Company battled for the spoils with the French East India Company (Compagnie française des Indes orientales) during the Carnatic Wars of the 1740s and 1750s. Victories at the Battle of Plassey and Battle of Buxar by Robert Clive gave the Company control over Bengal and made it the major military and political power in India. In the following decades it gradually increased the extent of territories under its control, ruling either directly or in cooperation with local princes. Although Britain itself only had a small standing army, the Company had a large and well trained force, the presidency armies, with British officers commanding native Indian troops (called sepoys).
With the regicide of King Louis XVI in 1793, the French Revolution represented a contest of ideologies between conservative, royalist Britain and radical Republican France. The long bitter wars with France 1793-1815, saw anti-Catholicism emerge as the glue that held the three kingdoms together. From the upper classes to the lower classes, Protestants were brought together from England, Scotland and Ireland into a profound distrust and distaste for all things French. That enemy nation was depicted as the natural home of misery and oppression because of its inherent inability to shed the darkness of Catholic superstition and clerical manipulation.
It was not only Britain's position on the world stage that was threatened: Napoleon, who came to power in 1799, threatened invasion of Great Britain itself, and with it, a fate similar to the countries of continental Europe that his armies had overrun. The Napoleonic Wars were therefore ones in which the British invested all the moneys and energies it could raise. French ports were blockaded by the Royal Navy.
The French Revolution revived religious and political grievances in Ireland. In 1798, Irish nationalists, under Protestant leadership, plotted the Irish Rebellion of 1798, believing that the French would help them to overthrow the British.. They hoped for significant French support, which never came. The uprising was very poorly organized, and quickly suppressed by much more powerful British forces. Including many bloody reprisals, The total death toll was in the range of 10,000 to 30,000.
William Pitt the Younger, the British prime minister, firmly believed that the only solution to the problem was a union of Great Britain and Ireland. The union was established by the Act of Union 1800; compensation and patronage ensured the support of the Irish Parliament. Great Britain and Ireland were formally united on 1 January 1801. The Irish Parliament was closed down.
The Parliament of Great Britain consisted of the House of Lords (an unelected upper house of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal) and the House of Commons, the lower chamber, which was elected periodically. In England and Wales parliamentary constituencies remained unchanged throughout the existence of the Parliament.
During the 18th century, the British Constitution developed significantly.
As a result of the Union of 1707, no new peerages were created in the Peerage of England or the Peerage of Scotland. English peerages continued to carry the right to a seat in the House of Lords, while the Scottish peers elected representative peers from among their own number to sit in the Lords. Peerages continued to be created by the Crown, either in the new Peerage of Great Britain, which was that of the new kingdom and meant a seat in its House of Lords, or in the Peerage of Ireland, giving the holder a seat in the Irish House of Lords.
Kingdom of England
12 July 927 – 1 May 1707
Kingdom of Scotland
c. 843 – 1 May 1707
| Kingdom of Great Britain
1 May 1707 – 31 December 1800
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
1 January 1801 – 6 December 1922
Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms.Elizabeth was born in London as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and she was educated privately at home. Her father acceded to the throne on the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in 1936, from which time she was the heir presumptive. She began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In 1947, she married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, with whom she has four children: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
When her father died in February 1952, she became head of the Commonwealth and queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon. She has reigned as a constitutional monarch through major political changes, such as devolution in the United Kingdom, Canadian patriation, and the decolonisation of Africa. Between 1956 and 1992, the number of her realms varied as territories gained independence and realms, including South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (renamed Sri Lanka), became republics. Her many historic visits and meetings include a state visit to the Republic of Ireland and visits to or from five popes. Significant events have included her coronation in 1953 and the celebrations of her Silver, Golden, and Diamond Jubilees in 1977, 2002, and 2012 respectively. In 2017, she became the first British monarch to reach a Sapphire Jubilee. She is the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch as well as the world's longest-reigning queen regnant and female head of state, the oldest and longest-reigning current monarch and the longest-serving current head of state.
Elizabeth has occasionally faced republican sentiments and press criticism of the royal family, in particular after the breakdown of her children's marriages, her annus horribilis in 1992 and the death in 1997 of her former daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales. However, support for the monarchy has consistently been and remains high, as does her personal popularity.Flag of Great Britain
The flag of Great Britain, commonly known as the Union Jack or Union Flag, was a flag of Great Britain that was used from 1606 to 1801.The design was ordered by King James VI and I to be used on ships on the high seas, and it subsequently came into use as a national flag following the Treaty of Union and Acts of Union 1707, gaining the status of "the Ensign armorial of Great Britain", the newly created state. It was later adopted by land forces, although the blue of the field used on land-based versions more closely resembled that of the blue of the flag of Scotland.
The flag consists of the red cross of Saint George, patron saint of England, superimposed on the Saltire of Saint Andrew, patron saint of Scotland. Its correct proportions are 3:5.
The flag's official use came to an end in 1801 with the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. At that time Saint Patrick's Flag was added to the flag of Great Britain to create the present-day Union Flag.Flag of the United Kingdom
The national flag of the United Kingdom is the Union Jack, also known as the Union Flag.The current design of the Union Jack dates from the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801. It consists of the red cross of Saint George (patron saint of England), edged in white, superimposed on the Cross of St Patrick (patron saint of Ireland), which are superimposed on the Saltire of Saint Andrew (patron saint of Scotland). Wales is not represented in the Union Flag by Wales's patron saint, Saint David, as at the time the flag was designed Wales was part of the Kingdom of England.
The flag's standard height-to-length proportions are 1:2. The war flag variant used by the British Army modifies the proportions to 3:5 and crops two of the red diagonals.
The earlier flag of Great Britain was established in 1606 by a proclamation of King James VI and I of Scotland and England. The new flag of the United Kingdom was officially created by an Order in Council of 1801, reading as follows:
The Union Flag shall be azure, the Crosses saltire of Saint Andrew and Saint Patrick quarterly per saltire, counter-changed, argent and gules, the latter fimbriated of the second, surmounted by the Cross of Saint George of the third fimbriated as the saltire.Government of the United Kingdom
The Government of the United Kingdom, formally referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is also commonly referred to as simply the UK Government or the British Government.The government is led by the Prime Minister, who selects all the remaining ministers. The prime minister and the other most senior ministers belong to the supreme decision-making committee, known as the Cabinet. The government ministers all sit in Parliament, and are accountable to it. The government is dependent on Parliament to make primary legislation, and since the Fixed-terms Parliaments Act 2011, general elections are held every five years to elect a new House of Commons, unless there is a successful vote of no confidence in the government or a two-thirds vote for a snap election (as was the case in 2017) in the House of Commons, in which case an election may be held sooner. After an election, the monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) selects as prime minister the leader of the party most likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons, usually by possessing a majority of MPs.Under the uncodified British constitution, executive authority lies with the monarch, although this authority is exercised only by, or on the advice of, the prime minister and the cabinet. The Cabinet members advise the monarch as members of the Privy Council. In most cases they also exercise power directly as leaders of the Government Departments, though some Cabinet positions are sinecures to a greater or lesser degree (for instance Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster or Lord Privy Seal).
The current prime minister is Theresa May, who took office on 13 July 2016. She is the leader of the Conservative Party, which won a majority of seats in the House of Commons in the general election on 7 May 2015, when David Cameron was the party leader; although at the last general election she failed to secure a majority government. Prior to this, Cameron and the Conservatives led a coalition from 2010 to 2015 with the Liberal Democrats, in which Cameron was prime minister.
The Government is occasionally referred to with the metonym Westminster, due to that being where many of the offices of the government are situated, especially by members in the Government of Scotland, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive in order to differentiate it from their own.Great Britain
Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of 209,331 km2 (80,823 sq mi), it is the largest of the British Isles, the largest European island, and the ninth-largest island in the world. In 2011, Great Britain had a population of about 61 million people, making it the world's third-most populous island after Java in Indonesia and Honshu in Japan. The island of Ireland is situated to the west of Great Britain, and together these islands, along with over 1,000 smaller surrounding islands, form the British Isles archipelago.The island is dominated by a maritime climate with quite narrow temperature differences between seasons. Politically, Great Britain is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and constitutes most of its territory. Most of England, Scotland, and Wales are on the island. The term "Great Britain" is often used to include the whole of England, Scotland and Wales including their component adjoining islands; and is also occasionally but contentiously applied to the UK as a whole in some contexts.A single Kingdom of Great Britain resulted from the union of the Kingdom of England (which had already comprised the present-day countries of England and Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland by the 1707 Acts of Union. More than a hundred years before, in 1603, King James VI, King of Scots, had inherited the throne of England, but it was not until 1707 that the two countries' parliaments agreed to form a political union. In 1801, Great Britain united with the neighbouring Kingdom of Ireland, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which was renamed the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" after the Irish Free State seceded in 1922.House of Commons of Great Britain
The House of Commons of Great Britain was the lower house of the Parliament of Great Britain between 1707 and 1801. In 1707, as a result of the Acts of Union of that year, it replaced the House of Commons of England and the third estate of the Parliament of Scotland, as one of the most significant changes brought about by the Union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain.
In the course of the 18th century, the office of Prime Minister developed. The notion that a government remains in power only as long as it retains the support of Parliament also evolved, leading to the first ever motion of no confidence, when Lord North's government failed to end the American Revolution. The modern notion that only the support of the House of Commons is necessary for a government to survive, however, was of later development. Similarly, the custom that the Prime Minister is always a Member of the Lower House, rather than the Upper one, did not evolve until the twentieth century.
The business of the house was controlled by an elected Speaker. The Speaker's official role was to moderate debate, make rulings on procedure, announce the results of votes, and the like. The Speaker decided who may speak and had the powers to discipline members who break the procedures of the house. The Speaker often also represented the body in person, as the voice of the body in ceremonial and some other situations. The title was first recorded in 1377 to describe the role of Thomas de Hungerford in the Parliament of England. By convention, Speakers are normally addressed in Parliament as Mister Speaker, if a man, or Madam Speaker, if a woman.
In 1801, the House was enlarged to become the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, as a result of the Act of Union of 1800 which combined Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.House of Commons of the United Kingdom
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Officially, the full name of the house is the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. Owing to shortage of space, its office accommodation extends into Portcullis House.
The Commons is an elected body consisting of 650 members known as Members of Parliament (MPs). Members are elected to represent constituencies by first-past-the-post and hold their seats until Parliament is dissolved.
The House of Commons of England started to evolve in the 13th and 14th centuries. It became the House of Commons of Great Britain after the political union with Scotland in 1707, and assumed the title of "House of Commons of Great Britain and Ireland" after the political union with Ireland at the start of the 19th century. The "United Kingdom" referred to was the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1800, and became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland after the independence of the Irish Free State in 1922. Accordingly, the House of Commons assumed its current title.
Under the Parliament Act 1911, the Lords' power to reject legislation was reduced to a delaying power. The Government is solely responsible to the House of Commons and the Prime Minister stays in office only as long as he or she retains the confidence of a majority of the Commons.House of Lords
The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is granted respectively ruled by appointment, heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Officially, the full name of the house is the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.
Unlike the elected House of Commons, all members of the House of Lords (excluding 90 hereditary peers elected among themselves and two peers who are ex officio members) are appointed. The membership of the House of Lords is drawn from the peerage and is made up of Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal. The Lords Spiritual are 26 bishops in the established Church of England. Of the Lords Temporal, the majority are life peers who are appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister, or on the advice of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. However, they also include some hereditary peers including four dukes.Membership was once an entitlement of all hereditary peers, other than those in the peerage of Ireland, but under the House of Lords Act 1999, the right to membership was restricted to 92 hereditary peers. Since 2008, only one of them is female (Margaret Countess of Mar); most hereditary peerages can be inherited only by men.While the House of Commons has a defined 650-seat membership, the number of members in the House of Lords is not fixed. There are currently 781 sitting Lords. The House of Lords is the only upper house of any bicameral parliament to be larger than its lower house.The House of Lords scrutinise bills that have been approved by the House of Commons. It regularly reviews and amends Bills from the Commons. While it is unable to prevent Bills passing into law, except in certain limited circumstances, it can delay Bills and force the Commons to reconsider their decisions. In this capacity, the House of Lords acts as a check on the House of Commons that is independent from the electoral process. Bills can be introduced into either the House of Lords or the House of Commons. While members of the Lords may also take on roles as government ministers, high-ranking officials such as cabinet ministers are usually drawn from the Commons. The House of Lords has its own support services, separate from the Commons, including the House of Lords Library.
The Queen's Speech is delivered in the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament. In addition to its role as the upper house, until the establishment of the Supreme Court in 2009, the House of Lords, through the Law Lords, acted as the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom judicial system. The House also has a Church of England role, in that Church Measures must be tabled within the House by the Lords Spiritual.Ireland–United Kingdom relations
Ireland–United Kingdom relations, also referred to as Irish–British relations, or Anglo-Irish relations, are the relations between the states of Ireland and the United Kingdom. The three devolved administrations of the United Kingdom, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the three dependencies of the British Crown, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey, also participate in multilateral bodies created between the two states.Since at least the 1600s, all of these areas have been connected politically, reaching a height in 1801 with the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. About five-sixths of the island of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom in 1921 as the Irish Free State. Historically, relations between the two states have been influenced heavily by issues arising from their shared (and frequently troubled) history, the independence of the Irish Free State and the governance of Northern Ireland. These include the partition of Ireland and the terms of Ireland's secession, its constitutional relationship with and obligations to the UK after independence, and the outbreak of political violence in Northern Ireland. Additionally, the high level of trade between the two states, their proximate geographic location, their common status as islands in the European Union, common language and close cultural and personal links mean political developments in both states often closely follow each other.
Today, Irish and British citizens are accorded equivalent reciprocal rights and entitlements (with a small number of minor exceptions) and a Common Travel Area exists between Ireland, United Kingdom, and the Crown Dependencies. The British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference acts as an official forum for co-operation between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the United Kingdom on matters of mutual interest generally, and with respect to Northern Ireland in particular. Two other bodies, the British–Irish Council and the British–Irish Parliamentary Assembly act as a forum for discussion between the executives and assemblies, respectively, of the region, including the devolved regions in the UK and the three Crown dependencies. Co-operation between Northern Ireland and Ireland, including the execution of common policies in certain areas, occurs through the North/South Ministerial Council. In 2014, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the relationship between the two countries as being at 'an all time high'.Both Ireland and the United Kingdom joined the European Union (then the European Communities) in 1973. However, the three Crown dependencies remain outside of the EU. In June 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum in which the majority voted to leave the European Union, but the majority of voters in Northern Ireland voted for remaining in the EU.Judicial functions of the House of Lords
The House of Lords of the United Kingdom, in addition to having a legislative function, historically also had a judicial function. It functioned as a court of first instance for the trials of peers, for impeachment cases, and as a court of last resort within the United Kingdom. In the latter case the House's jurisdiction was essentially limited to the hearing of appeals from the lower courts. Appeals were technically not to the House of Lords, but rather to the Queen-in-Parliament. By constitutional convention, only those lords who were legally qualified (Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, or Law Lords) heard the appeals, since World War II usually in what was known as the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords rather than in the chamber of the House.
During the 20th and early 21st centuries, the judicial functions were gradually removed. The final trial of a peer in the House of Lords was in 1935, and in 1948, the use of special courts for trials of peers was abolished. In 2009 the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom assumed the functions as the new court of final appeal in the UK.List of British monarchs
There have been 12 monarchs of the Kingdom of Great Britain and the United Kingdom (see Monarchy of the United Kingdom) since the merger of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland on 1 May 1707. England and Scotland had been in personal union under the House of Stuart since 24 March 1603.
On 1 January 1801, Great Britain merged with the Kingdom of Ireland (also previously in personal union with Great Britain) to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. After most of Ireland left the union on 6 December 1922, its name was amended on 12 April 1927 to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.List of United States senators born outside the United States
This is a list of United States senators born outside the United States. It includes senators born in foreign countries (whether to American parents or to foreign parents). The list also includes senators born in territories outside the United States that were later incorporated into the United States (except for those born in the British colonies and territories in North America (or in the temporarily independent former British colonies and territories in North America) that would go on to form the United States of America).Monarchy of the United Kingdom
The Monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom, its dependencies (the Bailiwick of Guernsey, the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Isle of Man) and its overseas territories. The current monarch and head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who ascended the throne in 1952.
The monarch and their immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial, diplomatic and representational duties. As the monarchy is constitutional, the monarch is limited to non-partisan functions such as bestowing honours and appointing the Prime Minister. The monarch is commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces. Though the ultimate executive authority over the government is still formally by and through the monarch's royal prerogative, these powers may only be used according to laws enacted in Parliament and, in practice, within the constraints of convention and precedent.
The British monarchy traces its origins from the petty kingdoms of early medieval Scotland and Anglo-Saxon England, which consolidated into the kingdoms of England and Scotland by the 10th century. England was conquered by the Normans in 1066, after which Wales too gradually came under control of Anglo-Normans. The process was completed in the 13th century when the Principality of Wales became a client state of the English kingdom. Meanwhile, Magna Carta began a process of reducing the English monarch's political powers. From 1603, the English and Scottish kingdoms were ruled by a single sovereign. From 1649 to 1660, the tradition of monarchy was broken by the republican Commonwealth of England, which followed the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The Act of Settlement 1701 excluded Roman Catholics, or those who married them, from succession to the English throne. In 1707, the kingdoms of England and Scotland were merged to create the Kingdom of Great Britain, and in 1801, the Kingdom of Ireland joined to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The British monarch was the nominal head of the vast British Empire, which covered a quarter of the world's surface at its greatest extent in 1921.
In the early 1920s the Balfour Declaration recognised the evolution of the Dominions of the Empire into separate, self-governing countries within a Commonwealth of Nations. After the Second World War, the vast majority of British colonies and territories became independent, effectively bringing the Empire to an end. George VI and his successor, Elizabeth II, adopted the title Head of the Commonwealth as a symbol of the free association of its independent member states. The United Kingdom and fifteen other independent sovereign states that share the same person as their monarch are called Commonwealth realms. Although the monarch is shared, each country is sovereign and independent of the others, and the monarch has a different, specific, and official national title and style for each realm.Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland. The Acts created a new unified Kingdom of Great Britain and dissolved the separate English and Scottish parliaments in favour of a single parliament, located in the former home of the English parliament in the Palace of Westminster, near the City of London. This lasted nearly a century, until the Acts of Union 1800 merged the separate British and Irish Parliaments into a single Parliament of the United Kingdom with effect from 1 January 1801.Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known internationally as the UK Parliament, British Parliament, or Westminster Parliament, and domestically simply as Parliament, is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the Sovereign (the Queen-in-Parliament), the House of Lords, and the House of Commons (the primary chamber). The two houses meet in the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city, London.
The House of Lords includes two different types of members: the Lords Spiritual, consisting of the most senior bishops of the Church of England, and the Lords Temporal, consisting mainly of life peers, appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister, and of 92 hereditary peers, sitting either by virtue of holding a royal office, or by being elected by their fellow hereditary peers. Prior to the opening of the Supreme Court in October 2009, the House of Lords also performed a judicial role through the Law Lords.
The House of Commons is an elected chamber with elections to 650 single member constituencies held at least every five years under the first-past-the-post system. The two Houses meet in separate chambers in the Palace of Westminster (commonly known as the Houses of Parliament) in London. By constitutional convention, all government ministers, including the Prime Minister, are members of the House of Commons or, less commonly, the House of Lords and are thereby accountable to the respective branches of the legislature. Most cabinet ministers are from the Commons, whilst junior ministers can be from either House. However, the Leader of the House of Lords must be a peer.
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Treaty of Union by Acts of Union passed by the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland, both Acts of Union stating, "That the United Kingdom of Great Britain be represented by one and the same Parliament to be styled The Parliament of Great Britain". At the start of the 19th century, Parliament was further enlarged by Acts of Union ratified by the Parliament of Great Britain and the Parliament of Ireland that abolished the latter and added 100 Irish MPs and 32 Lords to the former to create the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927 formally amended the name to the "Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", five years after the secession of the Irish Free State in 1922.
With the global expansion of the British Empire, the UK Parliament has shaped the political systems of many countries as ex-colonies and so it has been called the "Mother of Parliaments". However, John Bright – who coined the epithet – used it in reference to the political culture of "England" rather than just the parliamentary system.In theory, the UK's supreme legislative power is officially vested in the Crown-in-Parliament. However, the Crown normally acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the powers of the House of Lords are limited to only delaying legislation; thus power is de facto vested in the House of Commons.Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (informally abbreviated to PM) is the head of government of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister directs both the executive and the legislature, and together with their Cabinet (consisting of all the most senior ministers, most of whom are government department heads) are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Monarch, to Parliament, to their political party and ultimately to the electorate. The office of Prime Minister is one of the Great Offices of State. The current holder of the office, Theresa May, leader of the Conservative Party, was appointed by the Queen on 13 July 2016.The office is not established by any statute or constitutional document but exists only by long-established convention, which stipulates that the monarch must appoint as Prime Minister the person most likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons; this individual is typically the leader of the political party or coalition of parties that holds the largest number of seats in that chamber. The position of Prime Minister was not created; it evolved slowly and erratically over three hundred years due to numerous acts of Parliament, political developments, and accidents of history. The office is therefore best understood from a historical perspective. The origins of the position are found in constitutional changes that occurred during the Revolutionary Settlement (1688–1720) and the resulting shift of political power from the Sovereign to Parliament. Although the Sovereign was not stripped of the ancient prerogative powers and legally remained the head of government, politically it gradually became necessary for him or her to govern through a Prime Minister who could command a majority in Parliament.
By the 1830s the Westminster system of government (or cabinet government) had emerged; the Prime Minister had become primus inter pares or the first among equals in the Cabinet and the head of government in the United Kingdom. The political position of Prime Minister was enhanced by the development of modern political parties, the introduction of mass communication (inexpensive newspapers, radio, television and the internet), and photography. By the start of the 20th century the modern premiership had emerged; the office had become the pre-eminent position in the constitutional hierarchy vis-à-vis the Sovereign, Parliament and Cabinet.
Prior to 1902, the Prime Minister sometimes came from the House of Lords, provided that his government could form a majority in the Commons. However as the power of the aristocracy waned during the 19th century the convention developed that the Prime Minister should always sit in the lower house. As leader of the House of Commons, the Prime Minister's authority was further enhanced by the Parliament Act 1911 which marginalised the influence of the House of Lords in the law-making process.
The Prime Minister is ex officio also First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service. Certain privileges, such as residency of 10 Downing Street, are accorded to Prime Ministers by virtue of their position as First Lord of the Treasury. The status of the position as Prime Minister means that the incumbent is consistently ranked as one of the most powerful and influential people in the world.United Kingdom
The United Kingdom, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but more commonly known as the UK or Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. 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 United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state—the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.
The UK is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the longest-serving current head of state. The United Kingdom's capital and largest city is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. Other major urban areas in the UK include Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow and Liverpool.
The United Kingdom consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast respectively. Apart from England, the countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers. The nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey are not part of the UK, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defence and international representation. The medieval conquest and subsequent annexation of Wales by the Kingdom of England, followed by the union between England and Scotland in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the union in 1801 of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the UK in 1922, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There are fourteen British Overseas Territories, the remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land mass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language, culture and political systems of many of its former colonies.The United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It has a high-income economy and has a very high Human Development Index rating, ranking 14th in the world. 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 considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence internationally. It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and is sixth in military expenditure in the world. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946. It has been a leading member state of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), since 1973; however, a referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9% of UK voters favouring leaving the European Union, and the country's exit is being negotiated. The United Kingdom is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Interpol and the World Trade Organization (WTO).United Kingdom and the United Nations
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a founding member of the United Nations and one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council.As the fifth largest provider of financial contributions to the United Nations, the UK provided 5 percent of the UN budget in 2015, and 6.7 percent of the peacekeeping budget. British English is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and the United Kingdom is home to the International Maritime Organization, whose head office is in London.
Permanent Missions of the United Kingdom to the United Nations are maintained in New York City, Geneva, and Vienna. These diplomatic missions represent the UK during negotiations and ensure Britain's interests and views are taken into account by UN bodies and other member states.United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland.
The United Kingdom, having financed the European coalition that defeated France during the Napoleonic Wars, developed a large Royal Navy that enabled the British Empire to become the foremost world power for the next century. The Crimean War with Russia and the Boer wars were relatively small operations in a largely peaceful century. Rapid industrialisation that began in the decades prior to the state's formation continued up until the mid-19th century. The Great Irish Famine, exacerbated by government inaction in the mid-19th century, led to demographic collapse in much of Ireland and increased calls for Irish land reform.
The 19th century was an era of rapid economic modernisation and growth of industry, trade and finance, in which Britain largely dominated the world economy. Outward migration was heavy to the principal British overseas possessions and to the United States. The empire was expanded into most parts of Africa and much of South Asia. The Colonial Office and India Office ruled through a small number of administrators who managed the units of the empire locally, while democratic institutions began to develop. British India, by far the most important overseas possession, saw a short-lived revolt in 1857. In overseas policy, the central policy was free trade, which enabled British and Irish financiers and merchants to operate successfully in many otherwise independent countries, as in South America. London formed no permanent military alliances until the early 20th century, when it began to cooperate with Japan, France and Russia, and moved closer to the United States.
Growing desire for Irish self-governance led to the Irish War of Independence, which resulted in most of Ireland seceding from the Union and forming the Irish Free State in 1922. Northern Ireland remained part of the Union, and the state was renamed to the current "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" in 1927. The modern-day United Kingdom is the same country as the one from this period—a direct continuation of what remained after the secession—not an entirely new successor state.
History of Great Britain category