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What Should I Know About the United Kingdom?

Winston Churchill served as the Prime Minster of the United Kingdom during World War II.
Stonehenge, a prehistoric megalithic structure that is aligned with the equinoxes and solstices, is one of the United Kingdom's oldest archaeological sites.
Scotland is part of the United Kingdom.
William Shakespeare is perhaps the most well-known playwright from the United Kingdom.
John Keats was a notable Romantic poet from the U.K.
Author Charles Dickens is a famous writer from what is now the United Kingdom.
Buckingham Palace -- the official residence of the British royal family -- is a popular sight in London.
Great Britain is part of the United Kingdom.
London is a center of culture and history with more than 250 museums.
Scotland is home to many historic buildings and castles.
Wales, which lies to the west of England, has a traditionally Celtic culture.
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  • Written By: Kathy Hawkins
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The United Kingdom (UK) is a country that consists of several islands off the coast of mainland Europe. It consists of England, Scotland, Wales, and northern Ireland. For centuries, it has been one of the greatest world powers, though its influence has depreciated somewhat since World War II, but it is still the fifth largest economy in the world.

In 1801, Great Britain and Ireland were formally united as a kingdom. The current incarnation of the United Kingdom was formed in 1927, when the southern part of Ireland declared independence as a separate country. Throughout history, the country has been formally controlled by a monarchy system. However, today, the monarchy controlled by Queen Elizabeth II is little more than a symbol; the royal family has not actively participated in the country's politics for centuries. Though the monarch is responsible for signing Acts of Parliament into law, no one in the royal family has refused to sign a bill since 1708.

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The United Kingdom has been one of the world's largest colonial powers. Over the past centuries, it has developed colonies and held power in many countries for a period of time, including the United States, Canada, Australia, India, and many islands, including the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and Bermuda. The United States was first settled by British colonialists, but the Americans later rebelled against control by the United Kingdom, sparking the Revolutionary War for American freedom. Other countries, such as Australia and Canada, never initiated such rebellion against British control, and still maintain symbolic ties to the UK, although they are now regarded as independent countries.

The United Kingdom has been one of the greatest sources of creative talent in Western culture. Thousands of famous writers, including William Shakespeare, John Keats, Charles Dickens, and Jane Austen, are from what is now the United Kingdom. Famous musicians from the United Kingdom include the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and more recent bands such as Oasis, Coldplay, and U2. The UK has also produced many powerful politicians, including Winston Churchill, who served as Prime Minister during World War II; and the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

The United Kingdom is a popular place for tourists to visit, particularly because it is home to some of the oldest and most famous architecture and museums in the world. Visitors to London, the UK's largest city, can visit such attractions as St. Paul's Cathedral, Big Ben, the House of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace, where the Queen resides.

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