The United Kingdom, formally known as ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’, consists of four countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Its history dates back to the Stone Age when humans first arrived on the British Isles.
The Roman Empire invaded Britain in 43 AD which led to the establishment of a new Roman province – Britannia. Roman rule continued until the 5th century when the Anglo-Saxons, Germanic tribes from Scandinavia and Germany, arrived and started to settle in the country. They established several kingdoms, such as Northumbria and Wessex.
In 1066, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, invaded and conquered England. He introduced a feudal system of governance and the French language. The monarchy in England has continued this day, and Queen Elizabeth II is the current monarch.
England became a dominant power during the 16th and 17th centuries due to the expansion of the British Empire. The empire reached its peak in the 19th century, and it was said that “the sun never set on the British Empire.” The United Kingdom played a significant role in both World War I and World War II, and their efforts were vital to the Allies’ successes in both wars.
In the 20th century, the country went through significant social, economic and political changes. The social reforms of the early 20th century, such as the introduction of the welfare state, laid the groundwork for the latter half of the century’s social progressivism movements. The rise of the labour movement led to the formation of the Labour Party in 1900, which challenged the previously dominant Conservative Party.
In 1997, Tony Blair became the Prime Minister of the UK, and his government introduced several reforms, including devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These countries were given more autonomy, including their own parliaments and legislatures.
The UK left the European Union (EU) on January 31, 2020, after a referendum in 2016 resulted in a vote for Leave. The country now navigates through this transition period as it negotiates new trade agreements and redefines its international place.
Today, the United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state. It has a diverse population with over 65 million inhabitants and is one of the leading nations in the world.