(British citizens of any race or ethnicity)
British Overseas Territories
3,400,000 3 4
United Arab Emirates
Trinidad and Tobago
Scots (including Ulster-Scots)
1. People who identify of full or partial British ancestry born into
2. UK-born people who identify of British ancestry only.
3. British citizens by way of residency in the British overseas
territories; however, not all have ancestry from the United Kingdom.
4. British citizens or nationals.
British people or Britons are the citizens of the United Kingdom,
British Overseas Territories, and Crown dependencies.
British nationality law
British nationality law governs modern British citizenship and
nationality, which can be acquired, for instance, by descent from
British nationals. When used in a historical context, "British" or
"Britons" can refer to the Celtic Britons, the indigenous inhabitants
Great Britain and Brittany, whose surviving members are the modern
Cornish people and Bretons.
Although early assertions of being British date from the Late Middle
Ages, the creation of the united Kingdom of Great
Britain in 1707 triggered a sense of British
national identity. The notion of
Britishness was forged during the
Napoleonic Wars between Britain and the First French Empire, and
developed further during the Victorian era. The complex
history of the formation of the
United Kingdom created a "particular
sense of nationhood and belonging" in
Great Britain and Ireland;
Britishness became "superimposed on much older identities", of
English, Scots, Welsh and Irish cultures, whose distinctiveness still
resists notions of a homogenised British identity. Because of
longstanding ethno-sectarian divisions, British identity in Northern
Ireland is controversial, but it is held with strong conviction by
Modern Britons are descended mainly from the varied ethnic groups that
settled in the
British Isles in and before the 11th century:
Prehistoric, Brittonic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Normans. The
progressive political unification of the
British Isles facilitated
migration, cultural and linguistic exchange, and intermarriage between
the peoples of England,
Wales during the late Middle
Ages, early modern period and beyond. Since 1922 and earlier,
there has been immigration to the
United Kingdom by people from what
is now the Republic of Ireland, the Commonwealth, mainland
elsewhere; they and their descendants are mostly British citizens,
with some assuming a British, dual or hyphenated identity.
The British are a diverse, multinational, multicultural and
multilingual society, with "strong regional accents, expressions and
identities". The social structure of the
United Kingdom has
changed radically since the 19th century, with a decline in religious
observance, enlargement of the middle class, and particularly since
the 1950s increased ethnic diversity. The population of the UK stands
at around 62.5 million, with a
British diaspora of around 140
million concentrated in Australia, Canada, South Africa, Hong Kong,
New Zealand, United States, Ireland,
France and Spain.
1 History of the term
2.1 Ancestral roots
2.2 Union and the development of Britishness
2.3 Union of
Scotland and England
2.4 Union with Ireland
2.5 Modern period
3 Geographic distribution
3.2 British overseas territories
3.5 New Zealand
3.6 Hong Kong
3.7 South Africa
3.9 United States
4.4 Media and music
4.7 Visual art and architecture
4.8 Political culture
6 See also
8 Further reading
History of the term
Further information: Britain (place name)
See also: Glossary of names for the British
The earliest known reference to the inhabitants of Britain may have
come from 4th century BC records of the voyage of Pytheas, a Greek
geographer who made a voyage of exploration around the British Isles.
Although none of his own writings remain, writers during the time of
Roman Empire made much reference to them.
Pytheas called the
islands collectively αἱ Βρεττανίαι (hai Brettaniai),
which has been translated as the Brittanic Isles, and the peoples of
what are today England, Wales,
Scotland and the
Isle of Man
Isle of Man of
Prettanike were called the Πρεττανοί (Prettanoi), Priteni,
Pritani or Pretani.
The group included Ireland, which was referred to as Ierne (Insula
sacra "sacred island" as the Greeks interpreted it) "inhabited by the
different race of Hiberni" (gens hibernorum), and Britain as insula
Albionum, "island of the Albions". The term Pritani may have
Pytheas from the Gauls, who possibly used it as their term for
the inhabitants of the islands.
Greek and Roman writers, in the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD,
name the inhabitants of
Great Britain and
Ireland as the Priteni,
the origin of the
Latin word Britanni. It has been suggested that this
name derives from a Gaulish description translated as "people of the
forms", referring to the custom of tattooing or painting their bodies
with blue woad made from Isatis tinctoria. Parthenius, a
Ancient Greek grammarian, and the
Etymologicum Genuinum, a 9th-century lexical encyclopaedia, mention a
mythical character Bretannus (the Latinised form of the Ancient Greek
Βρεττανός) as the father of Celtine, mother of Celtus, the
eponymous ancestor of the Celts.
By 50 BC Greek geographers were using equivalents of Prettanikē as a
collective name for the British Isles. However, with the Roman
conquest of Britain the
Britannia was used for the island
of Great Britain, and later Roman-occupied Britain south of Caledonia,
although the people of
Caledonia and the north were also the self same
Britons during the Roman period, the Gaels arriving four centuries
later. Following the end of Roman rule in Britain, the island
Great Britain was left open to invasion by pagan, seafaring
warriors such as Germanic-speaking
Continental Europe, who gained control in areas around the south east,
and to Middle Irish-speaking people migrating from what is today
Northern Ireland to the north of
Great Britain (modern Scotland),
founding Gaelic kingdoms such as
Dál Riata and Alba, which would
eventually subsume the native Brittonic and
Pictish kingdoms and
In this sub-Roman Britain, as
Anglo-Saxon culture spread across
southern and eastern Britain and Gaelic through much of the north, the
demonym "Briton" became restricted to the Brittonic-speaking
inhabitants of what would later be called Wales, Cornwall, North West
England (Cumbria), and parts of Scotland such as Strathearn,
Aberdeenshire and Strathclyde. In addition the term
was also applied to
Brittany in what is today
north west Spain, both regions having been colonised by Britons in the
5th century fleeing the
Anglo-Saxon invasions. However, the term
Britannia persisted as the
Latin name for the island. The Historia
Brittonum claimed legendary origins as a prestigious genealogy for
Brittonic kings, followed by the
Historia Regum Britanniae
Historia Regum Britanniae which
popularised this pseudo-history to support the claims of the Kings of
During the Middle Ages, and particularly in the Tudor period, the term
"British" was used to refer to the
Welsh people and Cornish people. At
that time, it was "the long held belief that these were the remaining
descendants of the Britons and that they spoke 'the British
tongue'". This notion was supported by texts such as the Historia
Regum Britanniae, a pseudohistorical account of ancient British
history, written in the mid-12th century by Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Historia Regum Britanniae
Historia Regum Britanniae chronicled the lives of legendary kings
of the Britons in a narrative spanning 2000 years, beginning with the
Trojans founding the ancient British nation and continuing until the
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain in the 7th century forced the
Britons to the west, i.e.
Wales and Cornwall, and north, i.e. Cumbria,
Strathclyde and northern Scotland. This legendary Celtic history
Great Britain is known as the Matter of Britain. The Matter of
Britain, a national myth, was retold or reinterpreted in works by
Gerald of Wales, a Cambro-Norman chronicler who in the 12th and 13th
centuries used the term British to refer to the people later known as
Further information: Genetic history of the
British Isles and
historical immigration to Great Britain
The indigenous people of the
British Isles have a combination of
Anglo-Saxon and Norman
Between the 8th and 11th centuries, "three major cultural divisions"
had emerged in Great Britain: the English, the Scots and the Welsh,
the earlier Brittonic Celtic polities in what are today
Scotland having finally been absorbed into
Scotland by the early 11th century.
The English had been
unified under a single nation state in 937 by King Athelstan of Wessex
after the Battle of Brunanburh. Before then, the English (known
Old English as the Anglecynn) were under the governance of
Anglo-Saxon petty kingdoms which gradually coalesced into
Heptarchy of seven powerful states, the most powerful of which were
Mercia and Wessex. Scottish historian and archaeologist Neil Oliver
said that the
Battle of Brunanburh
Battle of Brunanburh would "define the shape of Britain
into the modern era", it was a "showdown for two very different ethnic
identities – a Norse Celtic alliance versus Anglo Saxon. It aimed to
settle once and for all whether Britain would be controlled by a
single imperial power or remain several separate independent kingdoms,
a split in perceptions which is still very much with us today".
Simon Schama suggested that it was Edward I of
England who was solely "responsible for provoking the peoples of
Britain into an awareness of their nationhood" in the 13th
century. Scottish national identity, "a complex amalgam" of
Gaelic, Brittonic, Pictish,
Norsemen and Anglo-Norman origins, was not
finally forged until the
Wars of Scottish Independence
Wars of Scottish Independence against the
England in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.
Medieval tapestry showing King Arthur, a legendary ancient British
ruler who had a leading role in the Matter of Britain, a national myth
used as propaganda for the ancestral origins of the British Royal
Family and their British subjects.
Wales was conquered by England, and its legal system replaced
by that of the Kingdom of
England under the Laws in
1535–1542, the Welsh endured as a nation distinct from the English,
and to some degree the Cornish people, although conquered into England
by the 11th century, also retained a distinct Brittonic identity and
language. Later, with both an
English Reformation and a Scottish
Reformation, Edward VI of England, under the counsel of Edward
Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, advocated a union with the Kingdom of
Scotland, joining England, Wales, and
Scotland in a united Protestant
Great Britain. The Duke of Somerset supported the unification of
the English, Welsh and Scots under the "indifferent old name of
Britons" on the basis that their monarchies "both derived from a
Pre-Roman British monarchy".
Following the death of Elizabeth I of
England in 1603, the throne of
England was inherited by James VI, King of Scots, so that the Kingdom
England and the Kingdom of
Scotland were united in a personal union
under James VI of
Scotland and I of England, an event referred to as
the Union of the Crowns. King James advocated full political union
England and Scotland, and on 20 October 1604 proclaimed
his assumption of the style "King of Great Britain", though this title
was rejected by both the Parliament of
England and the Parliament of
Scotland, and so had no basis in either
English law or Scots
Union and the development of Britishness
Treaty of Union
Treaty of Union and Britishness
Acts of Union 1707
Acts of Union 1707 and History of the formation of the
Further information: Napoleonic Wars, Royal Navy, and British Empire
On 12 April 1606, the
Union Flag representing the personal union
between the Kingdoms of
Scotland was specified in a royal
St George's Cross
St George's Cross and St Andrew's saltire were "joined
together ... to be published to our Subjects."
Despite centuries of military and religious conflict, the Kingdoms of
Scotland had been "drawing increasingly together" since
Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and the Union of the
Crowns in 1603. A broadly shared language, island, monarch,
religion and Bible (the Authorized King James Version) further
contributed to a growing cultural alliance between the two sovereign
realms and their peoples. The
Glorious Revolution of 1688
resulted in a pair of Acts of the English and Scottish
Bill of Rights 1689
Bill of Rights 1689 and Claim of Right Act 1689
respectively—which ensured that the shared constitutional monarchy
Scotland was held only by Protestants. Despite this,
although popular with the monarchy and much of the aristocracy,
attempts to unite the two states by Acts of Parliament in 1606, 1667,
and 1689 were unsuccessful; increased political management of
Scottish affairs from
England had led to "criticism", and strained
While English maritime explorations during the
Age of Discovery
Age of Discovery gave
new-found imperial power and wealth to the English and Welsh at the
end of the 17th century,
Scotland suffered from a long-standing weak
economy. In response, the Scottish kingdom, in opposition to
William II of
Scotland (III of England), commenced the Darien Scheme,
an attempt to establish a Scottish imperial outlet—the colony of New
Caledonia—on the isthmus of Panama. However, through a
combination of disease, Spanish hostility, Scottish mismanagement and
opposition to the scheme by the East
India Company and the English
government (who did not want to provoke the Spanish into war)
this imperial venture ended in "catastrophic failure" with an
estimated "25% of Scotland's total liquid capital" lost.
The events of the Darien Scheme, and the passing by the English
Parliament of the
Act of Settlement 1701 asserting the right to choose
the order of succession for English, Scottish and Irish thrones,
escalated political hostilities between
England and Scotland, and
neutralised calls for a united British people. The Parliament of
Scotland responded by passing the Act of Security 1704, allowing it to
appoint a different monarch to succeed to the Scottish crown from that
of England, if it so wished.
The English political perspective was
that the appointment of a Jacobite monarchy in
Scotland opened up the
possibility of a Franco-Scottish military conquest of
Second Hundred Years' War
Second Hundred Years' War and War of the Spanish Succession.
The Parliament of
England passed the Alien Act 1705, which provided
that Scottish nationals in
England were to be treated as aliens and
estates held by Scots would be treated as alien property, whilst
also restricting the import of Scottish products into
England and its
colonies (about half of Scotland's trade). However, the Act
contained a provision that it would be suspended if the Parliament of
Scotland entered into negotiations regarding the creation of a unified
Parliament of Great Britain, which in turn would refund Scottish
financial losses on the Darien Scheme.
Scotland and England
Despite opposition from within both Scotland and England, a
Treaty of Union
Treaty of Union was agreed in 1706 and was then ratified by the
parliaments of both countries with the passing of the Acts of Union
1707. With effect from 1 May 1707, this created a new sovereign state
called the "Kingdom of Great Britain". This kingdom "began
as a hostile merger", but led to a "full partnership in the most
powerful going concern in the world"; historian
Simon Schama stated
that "it was one of the most astonishing transformations in European
After 1707, a British national identity began to develop, though it
was initially resisted, particularly by the English. The peoples
Great Britain had by the 1750s begun to assume a "layered
identity": to think of themselves as simultaneously British and also
Scottish, English, or Welsh.
Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of Trafalgar by
J. M. W. Turner
J. M. W. Turner (oil on canvas,
1822–1824) combines events from several moments during the
Napoleonic Wars' Battle of Trafalgar—a major British naval victory
Britishness has drawn influence.
North Briton and
South Briton were devised for the Scots and
the English respectively, with the former gaining some preference in
Scotland, particularly by the economists and philosophers of the
Scottish Enlightenment. Indeed, it was the "Scots [who] played
key roles in shaping the contours of British identity"; "their
scepticism about the Union allowed the Scots the space and time in
which to dominate the construction of
Britishness in its early crucial
years", drawing upon the notion of a shared "spirit of liberty
common to both Saxon and Celt ... against the usurpation of the
Church of Rome". James Thomson was a poet and playwright born to a
Scotland minister in the
Scottish Lowlands in 1700 who was
interested in forging a common British culture and national identity
in this way. In collaboration with Thomas Arne, they wrote Alfred,
an opera about Alfred the Great's victory against the Vikings
performed to Frederick, Prince of
Wales in 1740 to commemorate the
accession of George I and the birthday of Princess Augusta.
"Rule, Britannia!" was the climactic piece of the opera and quickly
became a "jingoistic" British patriotic song celebrating "Britain's
supremacy offshore". An island country with a series of victories
Royal Navy associated empire and naval warfare "inextricably
with ideals of
Britishness and Britain's place in the
Britannia, the new national personification of Great Britain, was
established in the 1750s as a representation of "nation and empire
rather than any single national hero". On
Britannia and British
identity, historian Peter Borsay wrote:
Up until 1797
Britannia was conventionally depicted holding a spear,
but as a consequence of the increasingly prominent role of the Royal
Navy in the war against the French, and of several spectacular
victories, the spear was replaced by a trident... The navy had come to
be seen...as the very bulwark of British liberty and the essence of
what it was to be British.
From the Union of 1707 through to the
Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo in 1815,
Great Britain was "involved in successive, very dangerous wars with
Catholic France", but which "all brought enough military and
naval victories ... to flatter British pride". As the
Napoleonic Wars with the
First French Empire
First French Empire advanced, "the English
and Scottish learned to define themselves as similar primarily by
virtue of not being French or Catholic". In combination with sea
power and empire, the notion of
Britishness became more "closely bound
up with Protestantism", a cultural commonality through which the
English, Scots and Welsh became "fused together, and remain[ed] so,
despite their many cultural divergences".
The neo-classical monuments that proliferated at the end of the 18th
century and the start of the 19th, such as
The Kymin at Monmouth, were
attempts to meld the concepts of
Britishness with the Greco-Roman
empires of classical antiquity. The new and expanding British Empire
provided "unprecedented opportunities for upward mobility and the
accumulations of wealth", and so the "Scottish, Welsh and Irish
populations were prepared to suppress nationalist issues on pragmatic
British Empire was "crucial to the idea of a
British identity and to the self-image of Britishness". Indeed,
the Scottish welcomed
Britishness during the 19th century "for it
offered a context within which they could hold on to their own
identity whilst participating in, and benefiting from, the expansion
of the [British] Empire". Similarly, the "new emphasis of
Britishness was broadly welcomed by the Welsh who considered
themselves to be the lineal descendants of the ancient Britons – a
word that was still used to refer exclusively to the Welsh". For
the English, however, by the
Victorian era their enthusiastic adoption
Britishness had meant that, for them,
Britishness "meant the same
as 'Englishness'", so much so that "Englishness and
Britishness" and "'England' and 'Britain' were used interchangeably in
a variety of contexts".
Britishness came to borrow[clarification
needed] heavily from English political history because
"always been the dominant component of the
British Isles in terms of
size, population and power"; Magna Carta, common law and hostility to
Europe were English factors that influenced British
Union with Ireland
The political union in 1800 of the predominantly Catholic Kingdom of
Ireland with Great Britain, coupled with the outbreak of peace with
France in the early 19th century, challenged the previous century's
concept of militant
Protestant Britishness. The new,
United Kingdom of
Great Britain and
Ireland meant that the
state had to re-evaluate its position on the civil rights of
Catholics, and extend its definition of
Britishness to the Irish
people. Like the terms that had been invented at the time of
the Acts of Union 1707, "West Briton" was introduced for the Irish
after 1800. In 1832 Daniel O'Connell, an Irish politician who
campaigned for Catholic Emancipation, stated in Britain's House of
The people of
Ireland are ready to become a portion of the British
Empire, provided they be made so in reality and not in name alone;
they are ready to become a kind of West Briton if made so in benefits
and justice; but if not, we are Irishmen again.
Ireland, from 1801 to 1923, was marked by a succession of economic and
political mismanagement and neglect, which marginalised the
Irish, and advanced Irish nationalism. In the forty years that
followed the Union, successive British governments grappled with the
problems of governing a country which had as Benjamin Disraeli, a
staunch anti-Irish and anti-Catholic member of the
with a virulent racial and religious prejudice towards Ireland
put it in 1844, "a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, and
an alien Church, and in addition the weakest executive in the
world". Although the vast majority of Unionists in Ireland
proclaimed themselves "simultaneously Irish and British", even for
them there was a strain upon the adoption of
Britishness after the
War continued to be a unifying factor for the people of Great Britain:
British jingoism re-emerged during the
Boer Wars in southern
Africa. The experience of military, political and economic
power from the rise of the
British Empire led to a very specific drive
in artistic technique, taste and sensibility for Britishness. In
Frederic Harrison wrote:
Morally, we Britons plant the British flag on every peak and pass; and
wherever the Union Jack floats there we place the cardinal British
institutions—tea, tubs, sanitary appliances, lawn tennis, and
Catholic Relief Act 1829
Catholic Relief Act 1829 reflected a "marked change in attitudes"
Great Britain towards Catholics and Catholicism. A
"significant" example of this was the collaboration between Augustus
Welby Pugin, an "ardent Roman Catholic" and son of a Frenchman, and
Sir Charles Barry, "a confirmed Protestant", in redesigning the Palace
of Westminster—"the building that most enshrines ... Britain's
national and imperial pre-tensions".
Protestantism gave way to
imperialism as the leading element of British national identity during
the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and as such, a series of royal,
imperial and national celebrations were introduced to the British
people to assert imperial British culture and give themselves a sense
of uniqueness, superiority and national consciousness.
Empire Day and jubilees of
Queen Victoria were introduced to the
British middle class, but quickly "merged into a national
See also: British nationality law
Further information: Immigration to the
United Kingdom since 1922
A famous First World War-era recruitment poster, stressing the concept
of British national identity
First World War
First World War "reinforced the sense of Britishness" and
patriotism in the early 20th century. Through war service
(including conscription in Great Britain), "the English, Welsh, Scots
and Irish fought as British". The aftermath of the war
institutionalised British national commemoration through Remembrance
Sunday and the Poppy Appeal. The Second World War had a similar
unifying effect upon the British people, however, its outcome was
Britishness on a basis of democratic values and its
marked contrast to Europeanism. Notions that the British
"constituted an Island race, and that it stood for democracy were
reinforced during the war and they were circulated in the country
through Winston Churchill's speeches, history books and
At its international zenith, "
Britishness joined peoples around the
world in shared traditions and common loyalties that were strenuously
maintained". But following the two world wars, the British Empire
experienced rapid decolonisation. The secession of the Irish Free
State from the
United Kingdom meant that
Britishness had lost "its
Irish dimension" in 1922, and the shrinking empire supplanted by
independence movements dwindled the appeal of British identity in the
Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations during the mid-20th century.
British Nationality Act 1948
British Nationality Act 1948 and the subsequent mass
immigration to the
United Kingdom from the Commonwealth and elsewhere
in the world, "the expression and experience of cultural life in
Britain has become fragmented and reshaped by the influences of
gender, ethnicity, class and region". Furthermore, the United
Kingdom's membership of the
European Economic Community
European Economic Community in 1973 eroded
the concept of
Britishness as distinct from continental
Europe. As such, since the 1970s "there has been a sense of
crisis about what it has meant to be British", exacerbated by
growing demands for greater political autonomy for Northern Ireland,
Scotland, and Wales.
The late 20th century saw major changes to the politics of the United
Kingdom with the establishment of devolved national administrations
for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and
Wales following pre-legislative
referendums. Calls for greater autonomy for the four countries of
United Kingdom had existed since their original union with each
other, but gathered pace in the 1960s and 1970s.
led to "increasingly assertive Scottish, Welsh and Irish national
identities", resulting in more diverse cultural expressions of
Britishness, or else its outright rejection: Gwynfor Evans, a
Welsh nationalist politician active in the late 20th century, rebuffed
Britishness as "a political synonym for Englishness which extends
English culture over the Scots, Welsh and the Irish".
Britons gathered in
Whitehall to hear Winston Churchill's victory
speech on 8 May 1945
In 2004 Sir Bernard Crick, political theorist and democratic socialist
tasked with developing the life in the
United Kingdom test said:
Britishness, to me, is an overarching political and legal concept: it
signifies allegiance to the laws, government and broad moral and
political concepts—like tolerance and freedom of expression—that
United Kingdom together.
Gordon Brown initiated a debate on British identity in 2006.
Brown's speech to the Fabian Society's
Britishness Conference proposed
that British values demand a new constitutional settlement and symbols
to represent a modern patriotism, including a new youth community
service scheme and a
British Day to celebrate. One of the central
issues identified at the
Fabian Society conference was how the English
identity fits within the framework of a devolved United Kingdom.
An expression of Her Majesty's Government's initiative to promote
Britishness was the inaugural Veterans' Day which was first held on 27
June 2006. As well as celebrating the achievements of armed forces
veterans, Brown's speech at the first event for the celebration said:
Scots and people from the rest of the UK share the purpose that
Britain has something to say to the rest of the world about the values
of freedom, democracy and the dignity of the people that you stand up
for. So at a time when people can talk about football and devolution
and money, it is important that we also remember the values that we
share in common.
Main article: British diaspora
English-speaking world and List of countries by British
A world map showing the distribution of people by self-reported
British ancestral or ethnic diaspora.
Greater than 55%
Less than 10%
The earliest migrations of Britons date from the 5th and 6th centuries
AD, when Brittonic
Celts fleeing the
Anglo-Saxon invasions migrated
what is today northern
France and north western
Spain and forged the
Brittany and Britonia.
Brittany remained independent of
France until the early 16th century and still retains a distinct
Brittonic culture and language, whilst
Britonia in modern Galicia was
absorbed into Spanish states by the end of the 9th century AD.
Britons - people with British citizenship or of British descent - have
a significant presence in a number of countries other than the United
Kingdom, and in particular in those with historic connections to the
British Empire. After the
Age of Discovery
Age of Discovery the British were one of the
earliest and largest communities to emigrate out of Europe, and the
British Empire's expansion during the first half of the 19th century
triggered an "extraordinary dispersion of the British people",
resulting in particular concentrations "in
Australasia and North
British Empire was "built on waves of migration overseas by
British people", who left the
United Kingdom and "reached across
the globe and permanently affected population structures in three
continents". As a result of the British colonisation of the
Americas, what became the
United States was "easily the greatest
single destination of emigrant British", but in
Australia the British
experienced a birth rate higher than "anything seen before" resulting
in the displacement of indigenous Australians.
In colonies such as Southern Rhodesia,
British East Africa
British East Africa and Cape
Colony, permanently resident British communities were established and
whilst never more than a numerical minority these Britons "exercised a
dominant influence" upon the culture and politics of those lands.
New Zealand "people of British origin came to
constitute the majority of the population" contributing to these
states becoming integral to the Anglosphere.
United Kingdom Census 1861 estimated the size of the overseas
British to be around 2.5 million, but concluded that most of these
were "not conventional settlers" but rather "travellers, merchants,
professionals, and military personnel". By 1890, there were over
1.5 million further UK-born people living in Australia, Canada, New
Zealand and South Africa. A 2006 publication from the Institute
for Public Policy Research estimated 5.6 million Britons lived outside
of the United Kingdom.
First Fleet and Anglo-Celtic Australian
The flag of
Australia was approved by Australian and British
authorities, and features a Union Flag—the flag of the United
Kingdom—in the canton.
Australia has one of the largest
concentrations of people of British heritage.
From the beginning of Australia's colonial period until after the
Second World War, people from the
United Kingdom made up a large
majority of people coming to Australia, meaning that many people born
Australia can trace their origins to Britain. The colony of
New South Wales, founded on 26 January 1788, was part of the eastern
Australia claimed by the Kingdom of
Great Britain in 1770, and
initially settled by Britons through penal transportation. Together
with another five largely self-governing Crown Colonies, the
Australia was achieved on 1 January 1901.
Its history of British dominance meant that
Australia was "grounded in
British culture and political traditions that had been transported to
the Australian colonies in the nineteenth century and become part of
colonial culture and politics".
Australia maintains the
Westminster system of Parliamentary Government and
Elizabeth II as
Queen of Australia. Until 1987, the national status of Australian
citizens was formally described as "British Subject: Citizen of
Australia". Britons continue to make up a substantial proportion of
British overseas territories
The approximately 250,000 people of the British overseas territories
are British by citizenship, via origins or naturalisation. Along with
aspects of common British identity, each of them has their own
distinct identity shaped in the respective particular circumstances of
political, economic, ethnic, social and cultural history. For
instance, in the case of the Falkland Islanders, Lewis Clifton the
Speaker of the Legislative Council of the Falkland Islands, explains:
British cultural, economic, social, political and educational values
create a unique British-like, Falkland Islands. Yet Islanders feel
distinctly different from their fellow citizens who reside in the
United Kingdom. This might have something to do with geographical
isolation or with living on a smaller island—perhaps akin to those
Britons not feeling European.
In contrast, for the majority of the Gibraltarians, who live in
Gibraltar, there is an "insistence on their Britishness" which
"carries excessive loyalty" to Britain. The sovereignty of
Gibraltar has been a point of contention in Spain–United Kingdom
relations, but an overwhelming number of
Britishness with strong conviction, in direct opposition to Spanish
See also: Canadians
V-E Day celebrations in Toronto, May 1945
Canada traces its statehood to the French, English and Scottish
North America from the late-15th century.
nearly all of New
France in 1763 after the Seven Years' War, and so
United States Declaration of
Independence in 1776, Quebec
Nova Scotia formed "the nucleus of the colonies that constituted
Britain's remaining stake on the North American continent".
North America attracted the United Empire Loyalists, Britons
who migrated out of what they considered the "rebellious" United
States, increasing the size of British communities in what was to
Postage stamp with portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, 1954
In 1867 there was a union of three colonies with British North America
which together formed the Canadian Confederation, a federal
dominion. This began an accretion of additional
provinces and territories and a process of increasing autonomy from
the United Kingdom, highlighted by the
Statute of Westminster 1931
Statute of Westminster 1931 and
culminating in the
Canada Act 1982, which severed the vestiges of
legal dependence on the parliament of the United Kingdom.
Nevertheless, it is recognised that there is a "continuing importance
of Canada's long and close relationship with Britain"; large
parts of Canada's modern population claim "British origins" and the
cultural impact of the British upon Canada's institutions is
It was not until 1977 that the phrase "A Canadian citizen is a British
subject" ceased to be used in Canadian passports. The politics of
Canada are strongly influenced by British political culture.
Although significant modifications have been made,
Canada is governed
by a democratic parliamentary framework comparable to the Westminster
system, and retains
Elizabeth II as The Queen of
Canada and Head of
State. English is an official language used in Canada.
Main article: British Chilean
British and Chilean flags in a monument in
Coat of arms of Coquimbo, with the Union Flag.
Chile, facing the Pacific Ocean, has a large British presence.
Over 50,000 British immigrants settled in
Chile from 1840 to
1914. A significant number of them settled in Magallanes Province,
especially in the city of Punta Arenas when it flourished as a major
global seaport for ships crossing between the Atlantic and Pacific
Oceans through the Strait of Magellan. Around 32,000 English settled
in Valparaíso, influencing the port city to the extent of making it
British colony during the last decades of the 19th century
and the beginning of the 20th century. However, the opening of
Panama Canal in 1914 and the outbreak of the
First World War
First World War drove
many of them away from the city or back to Europe.
In Valparaíso, they created their largest and most important colony,
bringing with them neighbourhoods of British character, schools,
social clubs, sports clubs, business organisations and periodicals.
Even today their influence is apparent in specific areas, such as the
banks and the navy, as well as in certain social activities, such as
football, horse racing, and the custom of drinking tea.
During the movement for independence (1818), it was mainly the British
who formed the Chilean Navy, under the command of Lord Cochrane.
British investment helped
Chile become prosperous and British seamen
helped the Chilean navy become a strong force in the South Pacific.
Chile won two wars, the first against the Peru-Bolivian Confederation
and the second, the War of the Pacific, in 1878–79, against an
Peru and Bolivia. The liberal-socialist "Revolution
of 1891" introduced political reforms modelled on British
parliamentary practice and lawmaking.
British immigrants were also important in the northern zone of the
country during the saltpetre boom, in the ports of
Pisagua. The "King of Saltpetre", John Thomas North, was the principal
tycoon of nitrate mining. The British legacy is reflected in the
streets of the historic district of the city of Iquique, with the
foundation of various institutions, such as the Club Hípico (Racing
Club). Nevertheless, the British active presence came to an end with
the saltpetre crisis during the 1930s.
Some Scots settled in the country's more temperate regions, where the
climate and the forested landscape with glaciers and islands may have
reminded them of their homeland (the Highlands and Northern Scotland)
while English and Welsh made up the rest. The Irish immigrants, who
were frequently confused with the British, arrived as merchants,
tradesmen and sailors, settling along with the British in the main
trading cities and ports.
An important contingent of British (principally Welsh) immigrants
arrived between 1914 and 1950, settling in the present-day region of
Magallanes. British families were established in other areas of the
country, such as Santiago, Coquimbo, the Araucanía, and Chiloé.
The cultural legacy of the British in
Chile is notable and has spread
British Chilean community into society at large. Customs
taken from the British include afternoon tea (called onces by
Chileans), football, rugby union and horse racing. Another legacy is
the widespread use of British personal names by Chileans.
Chile has the largest population of descendants of British settlers in
Latin America. Over 700,000 Chileans may have British (English,
Scottish and Welsh) origin, amounting to 4.5% of Chile's
New Zealand European and Immigration to New Zealand
A long-term result of James Cook's voyage of 1768–71, a
significant number of New Zealanders are of British descent, for whom
a sense of
Britishness has contributed to their identity. As late
as the 1950s, it was common for British New Zealanders to refer to
themselves as British, such as when Prime Minister Keith Holyoake
described Sir Edmund Hillary's successful ascent of
Mount Everest as
putting "the British race and
New Zealand on top of the world".
New Zealand passports described nationals as "British Subject: Citizen
of New Zealand" until 1974, when this was changed to "New Zealand
In an interview with the
New Zealand Listener in 2006, Don Brash, the
then Leader of the Opposition, said:
British immigrants fit in here very well. My own ancestry is all
New Zealand values are British values, derived from centuries
of struggle since Magna Carta. Those things make
New Zealand the
society it is.
The politics of
New Zealand are strongly influenced by British
political culture. Although significant modifications have been made,
New Zealand is governed by a democratic parliamentary framework
comparable to the Westminster system, and retains
Elizabeth II as the
head of the monarchy of New Zealand. English is the dominant
official language used in New Zealand.
British nationality law
British nationality law and Hong Kong, British National
(Overseas), Britons in Hong Kong, and
Hong Kong Handover
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British nationality law
British nationality law as it pertains to
Hong Kong has been unusual
Hong Kong became a
British colony in 1842. From its
beginning as a sparsely populated trading port to its modern role as a
cosmopolitan international financial centre of over seven million
people, the territory has attracted refugees, immigrants and
expatriates alike searching for a new life.
Citizenship matters were
complicated by the fact that
British nationality law
British nationality law treated those
Hong Kong as
British subjects (although they did not enjoy
full rights and citizenship), while the People's Republic of China
(PRC) did not recognise
Hong Kong Chinese as such. The main reason for
this was that recognising these people as British was seen as a tacit
acceptance of a series of historical treaties that the PRC labelled as
"unequal", including the ones which ceded
Hong Kong Island, the
Kowloon Peninsula and the
New Territories to Britain. The British
government, however, recognising the unique political situation of
Hong Kong, granted 3.4 million Hong Kongers a new type of nationality
known as British National (Overseas), which is established in
accordance with the
Hong Kong Act 1985. Among those 3.4 million
people, there are many British Nationals (Overseas) who are eligible
for full British citizenship. Both British Nationals (Overseas) and
British citizens are British nationals and Commonwealth citizens
according to the British
Nationality Law, which enables them to
various rights in the
United Kingdom and the European Union.
British diaspora in Africa and 1820 Settlers
See also: White South Africans
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Cecil John Rhodes, the 6th Prime Minister of the Cape
between two provinces in modern-day South Africa) and founder of the
De Beers diamond company.
The British arrived in the area which would become the modern-day
South Africa during the early 18th century, yet substantial settlement
only started end of the 18th century, in the Cape of Good Hope; the
British first explored the area for conquests for or related to the
Slave Trade. In the late 19th century, the discovery of gold and
diamonds further encouraged colonisation of
South Africa by the
British, and the population of the British-South Africans rose
substantially, although there was fierce rivalry between the British
Afrikaners (descendants of Dutch colonists) in the period known as
the Boer Wars. When apartheid first started most British-South
Africans were mostly keen on keeping and even strengthening its ties
with the United Kingdom. The latest census in
South Africa showed that
there are almost 2 million British-South Africans; they make up about
40% of the total
White South African
White South African demographic, and the greatest
white British ancestry populations in
South Africa are in the
KwaZulu-Natal province and in cities such as
Johannesburg and Cape
Further information: Plantations of Ireland, Unionism in Ireland, and
Paddy Mayne from County Down; a founding member of the SAS; was one of
the most decorated British soldiers of World War II. He also played
rugby for Ireland.
Ireland introduced large numbers of people from Great
Ireland throughout the
Middle Ages and early modern period.
Protestant Ascendancy, the aristocratic class of the
Lordship of Ireland, broadly identified themselves as
Anglo-Irish. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,
Protestant British settlers subjugated Catholic, Gaelic inhabitants in
the north of
Ireland during the
Plantation of Ulster
Plantation of Ulster and the
Williamite War in Ireland; it was "an explicit attempt to control
Ireland strategically by introducing ethnic and religious elements
loyal to the British interest in Ireland".
Ulster Scots people
Ulster Scots people are an ethnic group of British origin in
Ireland, broadly descended from Lowland Scots who settled in large
numbers in the Province of
Ulster during the planned process of
Ireland which took place in the reign of James VI of
Scotland and I of England. Together with English and Welsh settlers,
these Scots introduced
Protestantism (particularly the Presbyterianism
of the Church of Scotland) and the
Ulster Scots and English languages
to, mainly, northeastern Ireland. With the partition of
independence for what is now the
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland some of these
people found themselves no longer living within the United Kingdom.
Northern Ireland itself was, for many years, the site of a violent and
bitter ethno-sectarian conflict—The Troubles—between those
claiming to represent Irish nationalism, who are predominantly Roman
Catholic, and those claiming to represent British unionism, who are
predominantly Protestant. Unionists want
Northern Ireland to
remain part of the United Kingdom, while nationalists desire a
Since the signing of the
Good Friday Agreement
Good Friday Agreement in 1998, most of the
paramilitary groups involved in the Troubles have ceased their armed
campaigns, and constitutionally, the people of
Northern Ireland have
been recognised as "all persons born in
Northern Ireland and having,
at the time of their birth, at least one parent who is a British
citizen, an Irish citizen or is otherwise entitled to reside in
Northern Ireland without any restriction on their period of
Good Friday Agreement
Good Friday Agreement guarantees the "recognition
of the birthright of all the people of
Northern Ireland to identify
themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may
Further information: British American
See also: British colonisation of the Americas, British America, and
An English presence in
North America began with the Roanoke
Colony of Virginia in the late-16th century, but the first successful
English settlement was established in 1607, on the James River at
Jamestown. By the 1610s an estimated 1,300
English people had
travelled to North America, the "first of many millions from the
British Isles". In 1620 the Pilgrims established the English
imperial venture of Plymouth Colony, beginning "a remarkable
acceleration of permanent emigration from England" with over 60% of
trans-Atlantic English migrants settling in the New England
Colonies. During the 17th century an estimated 350,000 English
and Welsh migrants arrived in North America, which in the century
Acts of Union 1707
Acts of Union 1707 was surpassed in rate and number by
Scottish and Irish migrants.
The British policy of salutary neglect for its North American colonies
intended to minimise trade restrictions as a way of ensuring they
stayed loyal to British interests. This permitted the development
of the American Dream, a cultural spirit distinct from that of its
European founders. The
Thirteen Colonies of
British America began
an armed rebellion against British rule in 1775 when they rejected the
right of the Parliament of
Great Britain to govern them without
representation; they proclaimed their independence in 1776, and
constituted the first thirteen states of the
United States of America,
which became a sovereign state in 1781 with the ratification of the
Articles of Confederation. The 1783 Treaty of Paris represented Great
Britain's formal acknowledgement of the United States' sovereignty at
the end of the American Revolutionary War.
Nevertheless, longstanding cultural and historical ties have, in more
modern times, resulted in the
Special Relationship, the historically
close political, diplomatic, and military co-operation between the
United Kingdom and United States. Linda Colley, a professor of
Princeton University and specialist in Britishness,
suggested that because of their colonial influence on the United
States, the British find Americans a "mysterious and paradoxical
people, physically distant but culturally close, engagingly similar
yet irritatingly different".
Today[when?], 838,000 people in the
United States identified
themselves as born in Britain..
See also: Culture of the United Kingdom
Result from the expansion of the British Empire, British cultural
influence can be observed in the language and culture of a
geographically wide assortment of countries such as Canada, Australia,
New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, the United States, and the
British overseas territories. These states are sometimes collectively
known as the Anglosphere. As well as the British influence on its
empire, the empire also influenced British culture, particularly
British cuisine. Innovations and movements within the wider-culture of
Europe have also changed the United Kingdom; Humanism, Protestantism,
and representative democracy have developed from broader Western
As a result of the history of the formation of the United Kingdom, the
cultures of England, Scotland, Wales, and
Northern Ireland are diverse
and have varying degrees of overlap and distinctiveness.
Main article: British cuisine
Fish and chips, a popular take-away food throughout the United
Kingdom, has been described as the quintessential British dish.
British cuisine has meant "unfussy dishes made with
quality local ingredients, matched with simple sauces to accentuate
flavour, rather than disguise it". It has been "vilified as
unimaginative and heavy", and traditionally been limited in its
international recognition to the full breakfast and the Christmas
dinner. This is despite
British cuisine having absorbed the
culinary influences of those who have settled in Britain, resulting in
hybrid dishes such as the
British Asian Chicken tikka masala, hailed
by some as "Britain's true national dish".
Celtic agriculture and animal breeding produced a wide variety of
Celts and Britons. The
Anglo-Saxons developed meat and
savoury herb stewing techniques before the practice became common in
Europe. The Norman conquest of
England introduced exotic spices into
Britain in the Middle Ages. The
British Empire facilitated a
knowledge of India's food tradition of "strong, penetrating spices and
herbs". Food rationing policies, imposed by the British
government during wartime periods of the 20th century, are said to
have been the stimulus for British cuisine's poor international
British dishes include fish and chips, the Sunday roast, and bangers
British cuisine has several national and regional varieties,
including English, Scottish and Welsh cuisine, each of which has
developed its own regional or local dishes, many of which are
geographically indicated foods such as Cheddar cheese, Cheshire
cheese, the Yorkshire pudding, Arbroath Smokie,
Cornish pasty and
The British are the second largest per capita tea consumers in the
world, consuming an average of 2.1 kilograms (4.6 lb) per person
British tea culture
British tea culture dates back to the 19th century,
India was part of the
British Empire and British interests
controlled tea production in the subcontinent.
Further information: British English, British literature, and
Languages of the United Kingdom
There is no single British language, though English is by far the main
language spoken by British citizens, being spoken monolingually by
more than 70% of the UK population. English is therefore the de facto
official language of the United Kingdom. However, under the
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Welsh,
Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Irish Gaelic,
Ulster Scots, Manx, Scots and
Lowland Scots languages are officially recognised as Regional or
Minority languages by the UK Government. As indigenous languages
which continue to be spoken as a first language by native inhabitants,
Scottish Gaelic have a different legal status from other
minority languages. In some parts of the UK, some of these languages
are commonly spoken as a first language; in wider areas, their use in
a bilingual context is sometimes supported and/or promoted by central
and/or local government policy. For naturalisation purposes, a
competence standard of English,
Scottish Gaelic or Welsh is required
to pass the life in the
United Kingdom test. However, English is
used routinely, and although considered culturally important, Scottish
Gaelic and Welsh are much less used.
United Kingdom there are distinctive spoken expressions
and regional accents of English, which are seen to be symptomatic
of a locality's culture and identity. An awareness and knowledge
of accents in the
United Kingdom can "place, within a few miles, the
locality in which a man or woman has grown up".
Main article: British literature
J.K. Rowling is one of the world's best selling British authors. Her
Harry Potter series of books have sold more than 400 million copies
British literature is "one of the leading literatures in the
world". The overwhelming part is written in the English language,
but there are also pieces of literature written in Scots, Scottish
Gaelic, Cornish and Welsh.
Britain has a long history of famous and influential authors. It
boasts some of the oldest pieces of literature in the Western world,
such as the epic poem Beowulf, one of the oldest surviving written
work in the English language.
Famous authors include some of the world's most studied and praised
William Shakespeare and
Christopher Marlowe defined England's
Elizabethan period. The British Romantic movement was one of the
strongest and most recognisable in Europe. The poets William Blake,
Wordsworth and Coleridge were amongst the pioneers of Romanticism in
literature. Other Romantic writers that followed these figure
further enhanced the profile of Romanticism in Europe, such as John
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. Later periods like
the Victorian Era saw a further flourishing of British writing,
Charles Dickens and William Thackeray.
Women's literature in Britain has had a long and often troubled
history, with many female writers producing work under a pen name,
such as George Eliot. Other great female novelists that have
contributed to world literature are Frances Burney, Frances Hodgson
Burnett, Virginia Woolf,
Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, Emily,
Charlotte and Anne.
Non-fiction has also played an important role in the history of
British letters, with the first dictionary of the English language
being produced and compiled by Samuel Johnson, a graduate of Oxford
University and a London resident.
Media and music
Further information: Music of the United Kingdom, Radio in the United
Television in the United Kingdom
The Proms is an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical
music concerts held across the United Kingdom. The Last Night of the
Proms celebrates British tradition with patriotic classical music of
the United Kingdom.
Although cinema, theatre, dance and live music are popular, the
favourite pastime of the British is watching television. Public
broadcast television in the
United Kingdom began in 1936, with the
launch of the
Television Service (now
BBC One). In the United
Kingdom and the Crown dependencies, one must have a television licence
to legally receive any broadcast television service, from any source.
This includes the commercial channels, cable and satellite
transmissions, and the Internet. Revenue generated from the television
licence is used to provide radio, television and
Internet content for
Broadcasting Corporation, and
Welsh language television
programmes for S4C. The BBC, the common abbreviation of the British
Broadcasting Corporation, is the world's largest
broadcaster. Unlike other broadcasters in the UK, it is a public
service based, quasi-autonomous, statutory corporation run by the BBC
Free-to-air terrestrial television channels available on a
national basis are
BBC Two, ITV,
Channel 4 (
S4C in Wales),
100 Greatest British
Television Programmes was a list compiled by the
British Film Institute
British Film Institute in 2000, chosen by a poll of industry
professionals, to determine what were the greatest British television
programmes of any genre ever to have been screened. Topping the
list was Fawlty Towers, a
British sitcom set in a fictional Torquay
hotel starring John Cleese.
"British musical tradition is essentially vocal", dominated by
the music of
England and Germanic culture, most greatly
influenced by hymns and
Anglican church music. However, the
specific, traditional music of
Wales and music of
distinct, and of the Celtic musical tradition. In the United
Kingdom, more people attend live music performances than football
British rock was born in the mid-20th century out of the
influence of rock and roll and rhythm and blues from the United
States. Major early exports were The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The
Who and The Kinks. Together with other bands from the United
Kingdom, these constituted the British Invasion, a popularisation of
British pop and rock music in the United States. Into the 1970s heavy
metal, new wave, and 2 tone.
Britpop is a subgenre of alternative
rock that emerged from the British independent music scene of the
early 1990s and was characterised by bands reviving British guitar pop
music of the 1960s and 1970s. Leading exponents of
Britpop were Blur,
Oasis and Pulp. Also popularised in the
United Kingdom during the
1990s were several domestically produced varieties of electronic dance
music; acid house, UK hard house, jungle,
UK garage which in turn have
influenced grime and
British hip hop
British hip hop in the 2000s. The BRIT
Awards are the British Phonographic Industry's annual awards for both
international and British popular music.
Further information: Religion in the United Kingdom
Westminster Abbey is used for the coronation of the British monarchs,
who are also made the head of the Church of England.
Christianity has been the most influential and important
religion in Britain, and it remains the declared faith of the majority
of the British people. The influence of
Christianity on British
culture has been "widespread, extending beyond the spheres of prayer
and worship. Churches and cathedrals make a significant contribution
to the architectural landscape of the nation's cities and towns"
whilst "many schools and hospitals were founded by men and women who
were strongly influenced by Christian motives". Throughout the
Easter and Christmas, the "two most important events
in the Christian calendar", are recognised as public holidays.
Christianity remains the major religion of the population of the
United Kingdom in the 21st century, followed by Islam, Hinduism,
Sikhism and then
Judaism in terms of numbers of adherents. The 2007
Tearfund Survey revealed 53% identified themselves as Christian, which
was similar to the 2004 British Social Attitudes Survey, and
United Kingdom Census 2001 in which 71.6% said that
Christianity was their religion, However, the
showed only one in ten Britons attend church weekly. Secularism
was advanced in Britain during the Age of Enlightenment, and modern
British organisations such as the
British Humanist Association
British Humanist Association and the
National Secular Society
National Secular Society offer the opportunity for their members to
"debate and explore the moral and philosophical issues in a
Treaty of Union
Treaty of Union that led to the formation of the Kingdom of Great
Britain ensured that there would be a
Protestant succession as well as
a link between church and state that still remains. The Church of
England (Anglican) is legally recognised as the established church,
and so retains representation in the Parliament of the United Kingdom
through the Lords Spiritual, whilst the
British monarch is a member of
the church as well as its Supreme Governor. The Church of
England also retains the right to draft legislative measures (related
to religious administration) through the General Synod that can then
be passed into law by Parliament. The
Roman Catholic Church in England
Wales is the second largest Christian church with around five
million members, mainly in England. There are also growing
Orthodox, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, with Pentecostal
England now third after the Church of
England and the
Roman Catholic Church in terms of church attendance. Other large
Christian groups include Methodists and Baptists.
The Presbyterian Church of
Scotland (known informally as The Kirk), is
recognised as the national church of
Scotland and not subject to state
British monarch is an ordinary member and is required to
swear an oath to "defend the security" of the church upon his or her
Roman Catholic Church in
Scotland is Scotland's second
largest Christian church, with followers representing a sixth of the
population of Scotland. The Scottish Episcopal Church, which is
part of the
Anglican Communion, dates from the final establishment of
Scotland in 1690, when it split from the Church of
Scotland over matters of theology and ritual. Further splits in the
Church of Scotland, especially in the 19th century, led to the
creation of other Presbyterian churches in Scotland, including the
Free Church of Scotland. In the 1920s, the Church in
independent from the Church of
England and became 'disestablished' but
remains in the
Methodism and other Protestant
churches have had a major presence in Wales. The main religious groups
Northern Ireland are organised on an all-
Ireland basis. Though
collectively Protestants constitute the overall majority, the
Roman Catholic Church of
Ireland is the largest single church. The
Presbyterian Church in Ireland, closely linked to the Church of
Scotland in terms of theology and history, is the second largest
church followed by the Church of
Ireland (Anglican) which was
disestablished in the 19th century.
Sport in the United Kingdom
See also: Home Nations
The British gold medalist relay team of the 2008 World Orienteering
Sport is an important element of British culture, and is one of the
most popular leisure activities of Britons. Within the United Kingdom,
nearly half of all adults partake in one or more sporting activity
each week. Some of the major sports in the
United Kingdom "were
invented by the British", including football, rugby union, rugby
league and cricket, and "exported various other games" including
tennis, badminton, boxing, golf, snooker and squash.
In most sports, separate organisations, teams and clubs represent the
individual countries of the
United Kingdom at international level,
though in some sports, like rugby union, an all-
Northern Ireland and the Republic, and the British and
Irish Lions represent the isles as a whole. The UK is represented by a
single team at the
Olympic Games and at the 2012 Summer Olympics, the
Great Britain team won 65 medals: 29 gold (the most since the 1908
Summer Olympics), 17 silver and 19 bronze, ranking them 3rd. In
total, sportsmen and women from the UK "hold over 50 world titles in a
variety of sports, such as professional boxing, rowing, snooker,
squash and motorcycle sports".
A 2006 poll found that association football was the most popular sport
in the UK. In
England 320 football clubs are affiliated to
The Football Association
The Football Association (FA) and more than 42,000 clubs to regional
or district associations. The FA, founded in 1863, and the Football
League, founded in 1888, were both the first of their kind in the
Scotland there are 78 full and associate clubs and
nearly 6,000 registered clubs under the jurisdiction of the Scottish
Football Association. Two Welsh clubs play in England's Football
League, one in the Premier league, and others at non-league level,
Welsh Football League
Welsh Football League contains 20 semi-professional clubs.
In Northern Ireland, 12 semi-professional clubs play in the IFA
Premiership, the second oldest league in the world.
Recreational fishing, particularly angling, is one of the most popular
participation activities in the United Kingdom, with an estimated
3—4 million anglers in the country. The most widely
practised form of angling in
Wales is for coarse fish
Scotland angling is usually for salmon and trout.
Visual art and architecture
Further information: Architecture of the
United Kingdom and Art of the
For centuries, artists and architects in Britain were overwhelmingly
influenced by Western art history. Amongst the first visual
artists credited for developing a distinctly British aesthetic and
artistic style is William Hogarth. The experience of military,
political and economic power from the rise of the British Empire, led
to a very specific drive in artistic technique, taste and sensibility
in the United Kingdom. Britons used their art "to illustrate
their knowledge and command of the natural world", whilst the
permanent settlers in British North America, Australasia, and South
Africa "embarked upon a search for distinctive artistic expression
appropriate to their sense of national identity". The empire has
been "at the centre, rather than in the margins, of the history of
British art", and imperial British visual arts have been fundamental
to the construction, celebration and expression of Britishness.
British attitudes to modern art were "polarised" at the end of the
19th century. Modernist movements were both cherished and
vilified by artists and critics;
Impressionism was initially regarded
by "many conservative critics" as a "subversive foreign influence",
but became "fully assimilated" into British art during the early-20th
century. Representational art was described by Herbert Read
during the interwar period as "necessarily... revolutionary", and was
studied and produced to such an extent that by the 1950s, Classicism
was effectively void in British visual art. Post-modern,
contemporary British art, particularly that of the Young British
Artists, has been pre-occupied with postcolonialism, and
"characterised by a fundamental concern with material culture ...
perceived as a post-imperial cultural anxiety".
Architecture of the
United Kingdom is diverse; most influential
developments have usually taken place in England, but Ireland,
Wales have at various times played leading roles in
architectural history. Although there are prehistoric and
classical structures in the British Isles, British architecture
effectively begins with the first
Anglo-Saxon Christian churches,
built soon after
Augustine of Canterbury
Augustine of Canterbury arrived in
Great Britain in
Norman architecture was built on a vast scale from the 11th
century onwards in the form of castles and churches to help impose
Norman authority upon their dominion. English Gothic
architecture, which flourished between 1180 until around 1520, was
initially imported from France, but quickly developed its own unique
qualities. Secular medieval architecture throughout Britain has
left a legacy of large stone castles, with the "finest examples" being
found lining both sides of the Anglo-Scottish border, dating from the
Wars of Scottish Independence
Wars of Scottish Independence of the 14th century. The invention
of gunpowder and canons made castles redundant, and the English
Renaissance which followed facilitiated the development of new
artistic styles for domestic architecture: Tudor style, English
Baroque, The Queen Anne Style and Palladian. Georgian and
Neoclassical architecture advanced after the Scottish Enlightenment.
Outwith the United Kingdom, the influence of British architecture is
particularly strong in South India, the result of British rule in
India in the 19th century. The Indian cities of Bangalore, Chennai,
Mumbai each have courts, hotels and train stations designed in
British architectural styles of Gothic Revivalism and
Further information: Politics of the United Kingdom
Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster is a UNESCO
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site which houses
the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
British political culture is tied closely with its institutions and
civics, and a "subtle fusion of new and old values". The
principle of constitutional monarchy, with its notions of stable
parliamentary government and political liberalism, "have come to
dominate British culture". These views have been reinforced by
Bernard Crick who said:
To be British seems to us to mean that we respect the laws, the
elected parliamentary and democratic political structures, traditional
values of mutual tolerance, respect for equal rights and mutual
concern; that we give our allegiance to the state (as commonly
symbolised by the Crown) in return for its protection.
British political institutions include the Westminster system, the
Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations and Privy Council of the United Kingdom.
Although the Privy Council is primarily a British institution,
officials from other Commonwealth realms are also appointed to the
body. The most notable continuing instance is the Prime Minister
of New Zealand, its senior politicians, Chief Justice and Court of
Appeal judges are conventionally made Privy Counsellors, as the
prime ministers and chief justices of
Australia used to
be. Prime Ministers of Commonwealth countries which retain
British monarch as their sovereign continue to be sworn as Privy
Universal suffrage for all males over 21 was granted in 1918 and for
adult women in 1928 after the Suffragette movement. Politics in
United Kingdom is multi-party, with three dominant political
Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Scottish
National Party. The social structure of Britain, specifically social
class, has "long been pre-eminent among the factors used to explain
party allegiance", and still persists as "the dominant basis" of party
political allegiance for Britons. The
Conservative Party is
descended from the historic
Tory Party (founded in
England in 1678),
and is a centre-right conservative political party, which
traditionally draws support from the middle classes. The Labour
Party (founded by Scotsman Keir Hardie) grew out of the trade union
movement and socialist political parties of the 19th century, and
continues to describe itself as a "democratic socialist party".
Labour states that it stands for the representation of the low-paid
working class, who have traditionally been its members and
Scottish National Party
Scottish National Party is the third largest
political party in the UK in terms of both party membership and
representation in parliament, having won 56 out of 59 Scottish seats
at the 2015 General Election. The Liberal Democrats are a liberal
political party, and third largest in
England in terms of membership
and MPs elected. It is descended from the Liberal Party, a major
ruling party of 19th century Britain through to the First World War,
when it was supplanted by the Labour Party. The Liberal Democrats
have historically drawn support from wide and "differing social
backgrounds". There are over 300 other, smaller political parties
United Kingdom registered to the Electoral
See also: British nationality law, Ethnic groups in the United
United Kingdom Census 2001 Ethnic Codes
According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, there are broadly
two interpretations of British identity, with ethnic and civic
The first group, which we term the ethnic dimension, contained the
items about birthplace, ancestry, living in Britain, and sharing
British customs and traditions. The second, or civic group, contained
the items about feeling British, respecting laws and institutions,
speaking English, and having British citizenship.
Of the two perspectives of British identity, the civic definition has
become "the dominant idea ... by far", and in this capacity,
Britishness is sometimes considered an institutional or overarching
state identity. This has been used to explain why
first-, second- and third-generation immigrants are more likely to
describe themselves as British, rather than English, because it is an
"institutional, inclusive" identity, that can be acquired through
naturalisation and British nationality law; the vast majority of
people in the
United Kingdom who are from an ethnic minority feel
However, this attitude is more common in
England than in
English people perceived themselves as English first and
as British second, and most people from ethnic minority backgrounds
perceived themselves as British, but none identified as English, a
label they associated exclusively with white people". Contrawise, in
Scotland and Wales,
White British and ethnic minority people both
identified more strongly with
Wales than with
Studies and surveys have "reported that the majority of the Scots and
Welsh see themselves as both Scottish/Welsh and British though with
some differences in emphasis". The Commission for Racial Equality
found that with respect to notions of nationality in Britain, "the
most basic, objective and uncontroversial conception of the British
people is one that includes the English, the Scots and the
Welsh". However, "English participants tended to think of
themselves as indistinguishably English or British, while both
Scottish and Welsh participants identified themselves much more
readily as Scottish or Welsh than as British".
Some persons opted "to combine both identities" as "they felt Scottish
or Welsh, but held a
British passport and were therefore British",
whereas others saw themselves as exclusively Scottish or exclusively
Welsh and "felt quite divorced from the British, whom they saw as the
English". Commentators have described this latter phenomenon as
"nationalism", a rejection of British identity because some Scots and
Welsh interpret it as "cultural imperialism imposed" upon the United
Kingdom by "English ruling elites", or else a response to a
historical misappropriation of equating the word "English" with
"British", which has "brought about a desire among Scots, Welsh
and Irish to learn more about their heritage and distinguish
themselves from the broader British identity".
100 Greatest Britons
Demographics of the United Kingdom
Lists of British people
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^ Population By Country of Birth and
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British American – The
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Canada reported in 2006 that 6,570,015 Canadians
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440,965 Welsh and 403,915 from the
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Canada (2006), "Ethnic origins, 2006 counts, for Canada,
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Australian Bureau of Statistics
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Australians reported having English ancestry, and 1,792,600 reported
having Scottish ancestry. The most commonly reported ancestry was
English (36.1% of the population). Scottish ancestry was reported by
8.3% of the population. See:
Australian Bureau of Statistics
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The total white population with a first language specified was
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