The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The country includes the island of Great Britain (a term sometimes loosely applied to the whole state), 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 state: the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea in the east, the English Channel in the south and the Irish Sea in the west.
The UK's form of government is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system and its capital city is London. The current British monarch—since 6 February 1952—is Queen Elizabeth II. The United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The latter three have devolved administrations, each with varying powers, based in their capital cities, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, respectively. Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man are Crown dependencies and are not part of the UK. The United Kingdom has fourteen British Overseas Territories. These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, 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 legal systems of many of its former colonies.
The United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and eighth-largest 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 considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence internationally. It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and its military expenditure ranks fourth in the world.
The UK has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946. It has been a member of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor the European Economic Community (EEC) since 1973; it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Settlement by anatomically modern humans of what was to become the United Kingdom occurred in waves beginning by about 30,000 years ago. By the end of the region's prehistoric period, the population is thought to have belonged, in the main, to a culture termed Insular Celtic, comprising Brythonic Britain and Gaelic Ireland. The Roman conquest, beginning in 43 AD, and the 400-year rule of southern Britain, was followed by an invasion by Germanic Anglo-Saxon settlers, reducing the Brythonic area mainly to what was to become Wales and the historic Kingdom of Strathclyde. Most of the region settled by the Anglo-Saxons became unified as the Kingdom of England in the 10th century. Meanwhile, Gaelic-speakers in north west Britain (with connections to the north-east of Ireland and traditionally supposed to have migrated from there in the 5th century) united with the Picts to create the Kingdom of Scotland in the 9th century.
In 1066, the Normans invaded England from France and after its conquest, seized large parts of Wales, conquered much of Ireland and were invited to settle in Scotland, bringing to each country feudalism on the Northern French model and Norman-French culture. The Norman elites greatly influenced, but eventually assimilated with, each of the local cultures. Subsequent medieval English kings completed the conquest of Wales and made an unsuccessful attempt to annex Scotland. Thereafter, Scotland maintained its independence, albeit in near-constant conflict with England. The English monarchs, through inheritance of substantial territories in France and claims to the French crown, were also heavily involved in conflicts in France, most notably the Hundred Years War, while the Kings of Scots were in an alliance with the French during this period.
In 1603, the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland were united in a personal union when James VI, King of Scots, inherited the crowns of England and Ireland and moved his court from Edinburgh to London; each country nevertheless remained a separate political entity and retained its separate political, legal, and religious institutions.
In the mid-17th century, all three kingdoms were involved in a series of connected wars (including the English Civil War) which led to the temporary overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the short-lived unitary republic of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Although the monarchy was restored, it ensured (with the Glorious Revolution of 1688) that, unlike much of the rest of Europe, royal absolutism would not prevail, and a professed Catholic could never accede to the throne. The British constitution would develop on the basis of constitutional monarchy and the parliamentary system. During this period, particularly in England, the development of naval power (and the interest in voyages of discovery) led to the acquisition and settlement of overseas colonies, particularly in North America.
Since the Acts of Union of 1707
On 1 May 1707, the united kingdom of Great Britain came into being, the result of Acts of Union being passed by the parliaments of England and Scotland to ratify the 1706 Treaty of Union and so unite the two kingdoms.
In the 18th century, cabinet government developed under Robert Walpole, in practice the first prime minister (1721–1742). A series of Jacobite Uprisings sought to remove the Protestant House of Hanover from the British throne and restore the Catholic House of Stuart. The Jacobites were finally defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, after which the Scottish Highlanders were brutally suppressed. The British colonies in North America that broke away from Britain in the American War of Independence became the United States of America in 1782. British imperial ambition turned elsewhere, particularly to India.
During the 18th century, Britain was involved in the Atlantic slave trade. Britain transported an estimated 2 million slaves from Africa to the West Indies before banning the trade in 1807. The term 'United Kingdom' became official in 1801 when the parliaments of Britain and Ireland each passed an Act of Union, uniting the two kingdoms and creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
In the early 19th century, the British-led Industrial Revolution began to transform the country. It slowly led to a shift in political power away from the old Tory and Whig landowning classes towards the new industrialists. An alliance of merchants and industrialists with the Whigs would lead to a new party, the Liberals, with an ideology of free trade and laissez-faire. In 1832 Parliament passed the Great Reform Act, which began the transfer of political power from the aristocracy to the middle classes. In the countryside, enclosure of the land was driving small farmers out. Towns and cities began to swell with a new urban working class. Few ordinary workers had the vote, and they created their own organisations in the form of trade unions.
After the defeat of France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), the UK emerged as the principal naval and imperial power of the 19th century (with London the largest city in the world from about 1830). Unchallenged at sea, British dominance was later described as Pax Britannica. By the time of the Great Exhibition of 1851, Britain was described as the "workshop of the world". The British Empire was expanded to include India, large parts of Africa and many other territories throughout the world. Alongside the formal control it exerted over its own colonies, British dominance of much of world trade meant that it effectively controlled the economies of many countries, such as China, Argentina and Siam. Domestically, political attitudes favoured free trade and laissez-faire policies and a gradual widening of the voting franchise. During the century, the population increased at a dramatic rate, accompanied by rapid urbanisation, causing significant social and economic stresses. After 1875, the UK's industrial monopoly was challenged by Germany and the USA. To seek new markets and sources of raw materials, the Conservative Party under Disraeli launched a period of imperialist expansion in Egypt, South Africa and elsewhere. Canada, Australia and New Zealand became self-governing dominions.
Social reform and home rule for Ireland were important domestic issues after 1900. The Labour Party emerged from an alliance of trade unions and small Socialist groups in 1900, and suffragettes campaigned for women's right to vote before 1914.
After the war, the UK received the League of Nations mandate over a number of former German and Ottoman colonies. The British Empire reached its greatest extent, covering a fifth of the world's land surface and a quarter of its population. However, the UK had suffered 2.5 million casualties and finished the war with a huge national debt. The rise of Irish Nationalism and disputes within Ireland over the terms of Irish Home Rule led eventually to the partition of the island in 1921, and the Irish Free State became independent with Dominion status in 1922. Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom. A wave of strikes in the mid-1920s culminated in the UK General Strike of 1926. The UK had still not recovered from the effects of the war when the Great Depression (1929–32) occurred. This led to considerable unemployment and hardship in the old industrial areas, as well as political and social unrest in the 1930s. A coalition government was formed in 1931.
The UK entered World War II by declaring war on Germany in 1939, after it had invaded Poland and Czechoslovakia. In 1940, Winston Churchill became prime minister and head of a coalition government. Despite the defeat of its European allies in the first year of the war, the UK continued the fight alone against Germany. In 1940, the RAF defeated the German Luftwaffe in a struggle for control of the skies in the Battle of Britain. The UK suffered heavy bombing during the Blitz. There were also eventual hard-fought victories in the Battle of the Atlantic, the North Africa campaign and Burma campaign. UK forces played an important role in the Normandy landings of 1944, achieved with its ally the US. After Germany's defeat, the UK was one of the Big Three powers who met to plan the post-war world; it was an original signatory to the Declaration of the United Nations. The UK became one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. However, the war left the UK severely weakened and depending financially on Marshall Aid and loans from the United States.
In the immediate post-war years, the Labour government initiated a radical programme of reforms, which had a significant effect on British society in the following decades. Major industries and public utilities were nationalised, a Welfare State was established, and a comprehensive, publicly funded healthcare system, the National Health Service, was created. The rise of nationalism in the colonies coincided with Britain's now much-diminished economic position, so that a policy of decolonisation was unavoidable. Independence was granted to India and Pakistan in 1947. Over the next three decades, most colonies of the British Empire gained their independence. Many became members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Although the UK was the third country to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal (with its first atomic bomb test in 1952), the new post-war limits of Britain's international role were illustrated by the Suez Crisis of 1956. The international spread of the English language ensured the continuing international influence of its literature and culture. From the 1960s onward, its popular culture was also influential abroad. As a result of a shortage of workers in the 1950s, the UK government encouraged immigration from Commonwealth countries. In the following decades, the UK became a multi-ethnic society. Despite rising living standards in the late 1950s and 1960s, the UK's economic performance was not as successful as many of its competitors, such as West Germany and Japan. In 1973, the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC), and when the EEC became the European Union (EU) in 1992, it was one of the 12 founding members.
From the late 1960s, Northern Ireland suffered communal and paramilitary violence (sometimes affecting other parts of the UK) conventionally known as the Troubles. It is usually considered to have ended with the Belfast "Good Friday" Agreement of 1998.
Following a period of widespread economic slowdown and industrial strife in the 1970s, the Conservative Government of the 1980s initiated a radical policy of monetarism, deregulation, particularly of the financial sector (for example, Big Bang in 1986) and labour markets, the sale of state-owned companies (privatisation), and the withdrawal of subsidies to others. This resulted in high unemployment and social unrest, but ultimately also economic growth, particularly in the services sector. From 1984, the economy was helped by the inflow of substantial North Sea oil revenues.
Around the end of the 20th century there were major changes to the governance of the UK with the establishment of devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The statutory incorporation followed acceptance of the European Convention on Human Rights. The UK is still a key global player diplomatically and militarily. It plays leading roles in the EU, UN and NATO. However, controversy surrounds some of Britain's overseas military deployments, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2013, the UK is striving to recover from a slump that followed the 2008 global financial crisis. A coalition government has introduced austerity measures which aim to tackle a large budget deficit. Scottish Independence is back on the agenda. The Scottish Government will hold an independence referendum on 18 September 2014. If passed Scotland will become a sovereign state independent of the other nations within the current UK.
The following copied from Ancestral Quest mailing list:
The dates we use should be the dates written in our source material.
That said, it's important to know that in 1752 Great Britain jumped from using the Julian calendar to the Gregorian, which Roman Catholic countries had been using since 1582 and adopted by Protestant countries at various times. In 1752 the Gregorian calendar was ahead of the Julian by 11 days, so those days simply disappeared in Britain and its colonies.
You can imagine that having two calendars on the go was rather a pain for trade, diplomacy and life in general. This was solved by designating Julian dates as "Old Style" and Gregorian dates as "New Style". In this way, a date would be written on a document as "5 July 1750 OS" or "16 July 1750 NS".
Another wrinkle is that until 1752 the New Year in England and Ireland (but not Scotland) did not legally begin until 25 March (Lady Day), even though new year's celebrations took place on 1 January. This discrepancy was acknowledged by writing dates as "12 February 1749/1750" - i.e., the year was legally 1749, but most folks looked on it as 1750. Throw in Old Style and New Style dates and you can get a date written like this: "12/23 February 1749/1750". You can imagine what a big relief it was to everyone when Britain finally adopted the Gregorian calendar.
Scotland made 1 January their legal New Year in 1600.
The Act of Union in 1707 did not change any calendars; Scotland continued to reckon the New Year as 1 January whereas England and Ireland stayed with 25 March until 1752.
But dates should never be changed to "translate" them to a different calendar. Dates should be recorded exactly as they appear in our source material. Explain a date if you need to, but don't change it.
2c. Re: Question about British dates
The genealogy convention in the British Isles for the constituent countries(this is not the equivalent of US states in their federal connections with the US) is to always use the "Home" country at any historic date; the "Home" countries being - England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
Trying to utilise the "Political"country labels will drive you nuts . . .pre 1538 (from memory) - there was - England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
after 1538 when England annexed Wales there was - England & Wales, Scotland and Ireland
after 1707 when there was Great Britain and Ireland (Great Britain was the amalgamation of England & Wales with Scotland)
After 1801 there was the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
After 1922 there is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland with a separate new state for the divided Ireland variously known at various dates to the present as The Irish Free State, Eire and currently as The Republic of Ireland. Note that in just using "United Kingdom" you really need to be more specific as to which version of the "United Kingdom" you mean.
As an Irish man . . . I can tell you that you will be most unwelcome in Ireland if you "label" their country between 1801 and 1922 as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland . . . . and really, the same goes for all the Home countries . . . they are designated "countries" and the inhabitants consider the nationality tied to their home countries rather than than any temporary political union . . . currently there is a movement by the largest political party in Scotland to leave the the presently constituted United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
You are well advised to stick the standard used over here . . . simply use the "Home" countries of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland for any time period.
Hope this helps.
2d. Re: Question about British dates