Capital cities

England: London, 7 615 000 (metro. area), 7 429 200 (city proper)

Scotland: Edinburgh

Wales: Cardiff

Other large cities: Glasgow (1 099 400); Birmingham (971 800); Liverpool (461 900); Edinburgh (460 000); Leeds (417 000); Bristol (406 500); Manchester (390 700); Bradford (288 400)

Area: 209 331 km²

Largest city: London

Population: 60 776 238

Indigenous people: Cornish, English, Scots, Welsh, others

Official language(s):

  • English (throughout)
  • Welsh (Wales)
  • Scots (Scotland)
  • Scottish Gaelic (Scotland)

Official Currency: Pound Sterling

UK is divided into 4 parts: England, Wales, Scotland, North Ireland. England is sometimes, wrongly, used in reference to the whole United Kingdom, the entire island of Great Britain (or simply Britain), or indeed the British Isles. This is not only incorrect but can cause offence to people from other parts of the UK.

parts of the UK.









England Scotland Wales Great Britain

The diverse history of England, Scotland and Wales has led to very different cultural traditions; The Scots and Welsh have right to feel aggrieved whenever the term ’English’ is used wrongly, to mean all three.

The United Kingdom has the fifth-largest economy in the world, is the second-largest economy in the European Union, and is a major international trading power. A highly developed, diversified, market-based economy with extensive social welfare services provides most residents with a high standard of living. Unemployment and inflation levels are amongst the lowest within the European Union.

The economy of the United Kingdom is now primarily based on private enterprise, accounting for approximately four-fifths of employment and output.

Oil platform

Oil platform - source

The United Kingdom is the European Union’s only significant energy exporter. It is also one of the world’s largest energy consumers, and most analysts predict a shift in U.K. status from net exporter to net importer of energy by 2020, possibly sooner. Oil production in the U.K. is leveling off. While North Sea natural gas production continues to rise, gains may be offset by ever-increasing consumption. North Sea oil and gas exploration activities are shifting to smaller fields and to increments of larger, developed fields, presenting opportunities for smaller, independent energy operators to become active in North Sea production.

Economic summary

GDP: 1.93 trillion USD; per capita 31,800 USD

Real growth rate: 2.8%

Inflation: 3%

Unemployment: 2.9%

Arable land: 23%

Agriculture: cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables; cattle, sheep, poultry; fish.

Labor force: 30.07 million; agriculture 1.5%, industry 19.1%, services 79.5%

Industries: machine tools, electric power equipment, automation equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, electronics and communications equipment, metals, chemicals, coal, petroleum, paper and paper products, food processing, textiles, clothing, other consumer goods.

Natural resources: coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica, arable land.

Exports: 468.8 billion USD f.o.b.: manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals; food, beverages, tobacco.

Imports: 603 billion USD f.o.b.: manufactured goods, machinery, fuels; foodstuffs.

Major trading partners: U.S., Germany, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, China.

Great Britain was the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century and played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science.

The first half of the 20th century saw the UK’s strength seriously depleted in two World Wars. The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation.

The timeline of Britain

Neolithic, Bronze & Iron Ages: 8300 BC – 42 AD

’Britain’ itself did not exist until around 6500 BC, when the English Channel formed separating Britain from the rest of Europe. The first settlers here were hunter-gatherers, who spent much of their lives travelling in search of food. Around 750 BC iron was introduced into Britain, which led the way for the production of sophisticated and durable tools and weapons.

Romano Britain: 43 – 1065 AD

In 43 AD the Roman army crossed the Channel and quickly defeated any resistance from local tribes. The Romans founded Londinium (London) and built military roads throughout the country. Within ten years, Roman rule had reached far into the territories of England and Wales. The Roman way of life continued in Britain until the 5th century, after which Britons were left more or less to fend for themselves.

Hadrian´s Wall

Hadrian´s Wall - source

Anglo-Normans & Middle Ages: 1066 –1347

In 1066 Duke William of Normandy invaded Britain and famously defeated King Harold of England, who legend has it was shot with an arrow through the eye during the Battle of Hastings. William of Normandy went on to rule England and Scotland, radically changing the class system and changing the official language to French. In 1216, Henry III was crowned king, but was unpopular throughout his rule.

The Battle of Hastings in 1066

The Battle of Hastings in 1066 - source

Late Medieval: 1348 – 1484

The bubonic plague – or Black Death – reached England in 1348 and quickly spread to Wales and Scotland, killing up to a third of the population by the end of 1350. The plague persistently re-emerged in Britain until the 17th century, severely affecting the country’s economic balance. In order to combat the devastating effects of the plague, the ruling classes attempted to restore economic stability through parliamentary legislation.

Tudors Stuarts: 1485 – 1713

In 1485, Henry Tudor invaded England and defeated Richard III to assume sovereignty. He went on to marry Elizabeth of York – daughter of Edward IV. In 1603 Elizabeth I – the Virgin Queen – died. With Elizabeth leaving no successor, James VI, King of Scots (son of Mary, Queen of Scots), succeeded as James I, King of England, effectively making him the first King of Great Britain.

Georgians: 1714 - 1836

After the death of Queen Anne, George I. became king, whose reign saw the development of the function of prime minister. Although the term ’prime minister’ was not used at the time, Sir Robert Walpole assumed the role typical of a prime minister thanks to his successes in developing economic growth for the country.

Victorians: 1837 - 1900

Victoria – the longest reigning British monarch – became Queen in 1837, aged just eighteen. During her reign, she introduced a number of constitutional changes and the spirit of these changes led to the publishing of the people’s charter, which laid out six demands including universal manhood suffrage and annual parliamentary elections. The charter was continually rejected in parliament, but today five out of the six original demands are firm parts of the British constitution.

Early 20th Century: 1901 - 1944

The early twentieth century saw advances in science and technology that were unimaginable in previous eras. Among the ground-breaking achievements of this period were: the invention of the television by the EMI-Marconi Corporation; and subsequent founding of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC); the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming; and insights into the structure of the atom, which led to the development of nuclear weapons and energy.

Alexander Fleming

Alexander Fleming - source

Post World War II: 1945 -

In 1945 the Labor Party won their first general election, going on to form the National Health Service, which many regard as Labor’s greatest achievement. Post-war rationing continued, but the era was marked by public enthusiasm and hope for the future. Since then, Britain has faced a number of economic crises, but survives today as one of the world’s leading trade and financial centers, with advanced public services and a thriving economy.

The main British parties support a strong transatlantic link, but have become increasingly absorbed by European issues as Britain’s economic and political ties to the continent grew in the post-Cold War world. Prime Minister Brown is expected to continue Blair’s policy of having the United Kingdom play a leading role in Europe even as the United Kingdom maintains its strong bilateral relationship with the United States. Britain’s relationship with Europe is a subject of considerable political discussion in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, where Queen Elizabeth II is recognized as the head of state, and where the leader of the majority party, the Prime Minister, currently Gordon Brown, is the head government.

House of Parliament

House of Parliament - source

Parliament is made up of 3 elements: The Queen, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. They meet together only on occasions of symbolic significance such as the State Opening of Parliament, when the Commons are summoned by the Queen to the House of Lords

  • The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament. It’s a democratically elected body consisting of 646 members called Members of Parliament (MPs). Each member is elected by and represents an electoral district of Britain known as a constituency. The Prime Minister is an MP, and part of the House of Commons. The House of Commons is where the MPs meet to debate Bills and issues affecting the country
  • The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament, and here members called ’Lords’ meet to debate, change Bills and scrutinise the work of the Government. Members of the House of Lords aren’t elected; they either inherit their title or are appointed by the Government or shadow cabinet. The members consist of 2 archbishops and 24 bishops of the Church of England ("Lords Spiritual") and 692 members of the Peerage ("Lords Temporal"). At the moment, the members of the 731 seat House of Lords currently outnumber the members of the 646 seat House of Commons. Both the House of Lords and the House of Commons are situated in the Houses of Parliament in London’s Westminster.

The main functions of Parliament are:

  • to pass laws;
  • to provide, by voting for taxation, the means of carrying on the work of government;
  • to scrutinise government policy and administration, including proposals for expenditure;
  • to debate the major issues of the day.

Scotland has its own parliament, and Wales an elected Assembly, which sit in Edinburgh and Cardiff respectively. Both Scotland and Wales remain part of the United Kingdom and have continued representation in the Parliament at Westminster in London.

Governing party: LAB

Last European Parliament election June 2009

Last European Parliament election June 2009 See: • en.html •,_2009_(United_Kingdom)


English (later British) kings and queens have lived in London for almost 1,000 years. The Royal Family in Britain is a respected and much-loved institution. Today’s British royal family is known as the House of Windsor. Since 1837 the monarch has lived in Buckingham Palace.


Religion in Great Britain

The official religion in Britain is Christianity as practised by the Anglican Church. Followers of this branch of Christianity are known as Protestants and make up the majority of the population, although there are also many Catholics. Christians constitute about 71% of the population, but Britain is a multi-faith society and all other religions, including; Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism are freely practiced. About 23% of Britain follows no particular religion.

Catholic Britain

Before the reign of King Henry VIII, Britain was once a Roman Catholic country guided in religious matters by the Vatican in Rome. In 1533 King Henry VIII founded the Anglican Church when the Vatican refused to grant him permission to divorce his first wife.

The development of the Anglican Church

Henry was desperate for a male heir, and up until then his first wife had only borne daughters. When the Vatican refused to allow him to divorce his wife, he was infuriated and decided to established his own faith – Church of England – and appointed himself leader.

The Anglican Church today

Catholicism had a short resurgence during the reign of Queen Mary (1553), but the Anglican Church was reinstated by Queen Elizabeth in 1558 and has been the official religion ever since. Today, every sovereign must swear to uphold and protect the Anglican faith and is expected to marry a protestant.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral - source


Education is an important part of British life. There are hundreds of schools, colleges and universities, including some of the most famous in the world. Education is free and compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 - 16. Children’s education in England is normally divided into two separate stages. They begin with primary education at the age of five and this usually lasts until they are eleven. Then they move to secondary school, there they stay until they reach sixteen, seventeen or eighteen years of age.

A-Z Guide of British life and Culture contains useful information:

The British are said to be reserved in manners, dress and speech. They are famous for their politeness, self-discipline and especially for a sense of humour. Basic politeness (please, thank you, excuse me) is expected.

British people are quite reserved when greeting one another. A greeting can be a bright ’Hello’ ’Hi’ or ’Good morning’, when you arrive at work or at school.

Find out more about greetings:

You may be called by many different ’affectionate’ names, according to which part of the Britain you are visiting. Do not be offended, this is quite normal. For example, you may be called dear, deary, flower, love, chick, chuck, me duck, me ducky, mate, guy, son, ma’am, madam, miss, sir, or treacle, according to your sex, age and location.

When being entertained at someone’s home it is nice to take a gift for the host and hostess. A bottle of wine, bunch of flowers or chocolates are all acceptable.

British eat continental style, with fork in the left hand and the knife in the right. Rules for eating in England:


In theory, official working hours are normally 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. In practice, most employees work considerably longer hours; many will be at their desks by 8:30 a.m. and executives rarely leave before 7:00 p.m. Professionals like lawyers and consultants may not arrive before 9:30 a.m. but, on the other hand, they may not leave the office until the following day. Generally, the British prefer to stay late in the office than to take work home with them even if they do carry a briefcase (their ’executive lunch-box’).


Business dress

Conservative dress is the norm for both men and women in British business culture where darker colours (black, dark blue, charcoal grey) and heavier fabrics (wool) predominate. No one wears a morning suit and bowler hat to work nowadays but the traditional pinstripe is still immensely popular.



Most Britons are reserved by nature and often find it difficult to indulge in small talk with a complete stranger. Indeed, there are situations where idle conversation is actually frowned upon, for example when travelling on the London underground; in these circumstances, a newspaper will act as a defensive tool in public whilst also providing potential material for subsequent social intercourse in private.


Despite their reputation for stiff formality, the British are in fact quite informal and the immediate use of first names is increasingly prevalent in all walks of British life, especially amongst the young (under 40-45 years of age) and in the newer industries.


Whilst younger, junior employees are perfectly capable of conducting negotiations at a distance, it is always desirable to send older, senior representatives to the United Kingdom for face-to-face discussions.


The guiding principle must always be St Ambrose’s dictum, ’when in Rome, do as the Romans do’, i.e. follow the lead of your hosts.


Britons, and the English in particular, are notoriously undemonstrative. The ’stiff upper lip’ is not just the stuff of fiction and emotional displays, positive or negative, are generally frowned upon. Gestures such as backslapping and hugging are discouraged and a wide distance should be maintained between participants in a conversation. Maintaining eye contact may be necessary when you are trying to emphasise important points but you must avoid any temptation to ’eye-ball’. Talking loudly is unacceptable and shouting is beyond the pale. Some old-fashioned interlocutors may not hear you if you have your hands in your pockets. The British do not gesticulate frantically.


Basic tourist information about the country

Maps, most useful for travelling:

England: London is the place to start. Nowhere in the country can match the scope and innovation of the metropolis, a colossal, frenetic city, perhaps not as immediately attractive as its European counterparts, but with so much variety that the only obstacle to a great time is the shockingly high cost of everything. It’s here that you’ll find Britain’s best spread of nightlife, cultural events, museums, galleries, pubs and restaurants.

At the link below you can find info about London, where to go, where to live and eat,...

Another places to visit:

At the link below there is 10 Top Attractions in the UK. There are places like a Buckingham Palace, York, Stonehenge, ...

London 360 from St Paul’s Cathedral

London 360 from St Paul’s Cathedral - source

Scotland: is a country that occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain. It is part of the United Kingdom, and shares a land border to the south with England. It is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest. In addition to the mainland, Scotland consists of over 790 islands including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

Edinburgh, the country’s capital and second largest city, is one of Europe’s largest financial centres.

Top 10 destinations of Scotland

Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle - source