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Formally "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". The United Kingdom comprises England, Scotland, Wales and the six counties of Northern Ireland. The UK is situated off the western coast of mainland Europe. The Isle of Man and Channel Islands are not legally part of the United Kingdom; they are British crown dependencies, though the United Kingdom is responsible for their external affairs. The United Kingdom also has many dependent territories throughout the world, which are legally part of the UK.

The primary language spoken is English. Other languages include Welsh and various Scottish dialects. Recent immigrants from elsewhere in the Commonwealth speak other languages, including Urdu.

The United Kingdom uses a form of democracy known as a constitutional monarchy and is governed from its capital, London. It is also a member of the European Union and NATO. The UK's head of state is Queen Elizabeth II who was crowned in 1953, although her role is mainly ceremonial. See /Government

See also: Monarchs; history of Britain; history of England; Ireland/History; history of Scotland; [history of Wales]?; British film.

The United Kingdom was established by the union of England, Wales and Scotland, by the [Act of Union]? of 1707; Ireland later became part of the United Kingdom under the Act of Union of 1801 (?), though most of it left again in 1922, See Ireland/History.

From the CIA World Factbook 2000.


Britain uses both the common law and the civil law legal systems, in different parts: England, Wales and Northern Ireland use the common law system, while Scotland uses the civil law system.

See also British Nationality Law, Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.


The status of Berwick-upon-Tweed has been anomalous since the 15th Century (the last time it was captured by England from Scotland). The town is north of the river Tweed, and was formerly the county town of Berwickshire. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I vast sums were spent on its fortifications. After King [James VI]? of Scotland also became James I of England in 1603, it was not returned to Scotland. Various proclamations referred to "England, Scotland and the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed". One such was the declaration of war against Russia in 1853, but it was not named in the peace treaty of 1856 - was it still at war with Russia or not?

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Last edited December 10, 2001 4:51 am by Bob Waller (diff)