United Kingdom

2008-01-26 08:45:00

United Kingdom
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"UK" redirects here. For other uses, see UK (disambiguation).
For other uses, see United Kingdom (disambiguation).
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland[2]
Flag Royal coat of arms
Motto: "Dieu et mon droit"[3]  (French)
"God and my right"
Anthem: "God Save the Queen"[4]

Location of the  United Kingdom  (dark green) – on the European continent  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)
(and largest city) London
51°30′N, 0°7′W
Official languages English[5] (de facto)
Recognised regional languages Welsh, Irish, Ulster Scots, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Manx[6]
Demonym British
Government Parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Queen Elizabeth II
 -  Prime Minister Gordon Brown
 -  Acts of Union 1 May 1707 
 -  Act of Union 1 January 1801 
 -  Anglo-Irish Treaty 12 April 1922 
EU accession 1 January 1973
 -  Total 244,820 km² (79th)
94,526 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.34
 -  mid-2006 estimate 60,587,300[1] (22nd)
 -  2001 census 58,789,194[7] 
 -  Density 246/km² (48th)
637/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2006 estimate
 -  Total US$2.270 trillion (6th)
 -  Per capita US$37,328 (13th)
GDP (nominal) 2006 estimate
 -  Total $2.660.7 trillion[2] (6th)
 -  Per capita $38,624 (12th)
Gini (1999) 36.8 (medium) 
HDI (2005)  0.946 (high) (16th)
Currency Pound sterling (£) (GBP)
Time zone GMT (UTC+0)
 -  Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)
Internet TLD .uk[8]
Calling code +44
^  In the United Kingdom and Dependencies, some other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous (regional) languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, the UK's official name is as follows:
Cornish: Rywvaneth Unys Breten Veur ha Kledhbarth Iwerdhon; Irish: Ríocht Aontaithe na Breataine Móire agus Thuaisceart Éireann; Scots: Unitit Kinrick o Graet Breetain an Northren Irland; Scottish Gaelic: Rìoghachd Aonaichte Bhreatainn Mhòir agus Èireann a Tuath; Welsh: Teyrnas Unedig Prydain Fawr a Gogledd Iwerddon.
^  This is the royal motto. In Scotland, the royal motto is the Latin phrase Nemo Me Impune Lacessit ("No-one provokes me with impunity"). There is also a variant form of the coat-of-arms for use in Scotland; see Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.
^  See #Symbols below. It also serves as the Royal anthem.
^  English is established by de facto usage. In Wales, the Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg is tasked with ensuring that, "in the conduct of public business and the administration of justice, the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality".[3][4] Bòrd na Gàidhlig is tasked with "securing the status of the Gaelic language as an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect to the English language".[5]
^ Under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages the Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Irish, Ulster Scots and Scots languages are officially recognised as Regional or Minority languages by the UK Government.[6] See also Languages in the United Kingdom.
^  CIA Factbook. Official estimate provided by the UK Office for National Statistics.[7]
^  ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 is GB, but .gb is practically unused. The .eu domain is also shared with other European Union member states.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly known as the United Kingdom, the U.K., or Britain)[8] is a country[9][10] to the northwest of mainland Europe. It comprises the island of Great Britain, the northeast part of the island of Ireland and many small islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a land border, sharing it with the Republic of Ireland.[11][12][13] Apart from this land border, the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea. The largest island, Great Britain, is linked to France by the Channel Tunnel.

The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy comprising four constituent countries — England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales — with Elizabeth II as head of state. The Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, formally possessions of the Crown, are not part of the UK but form a federacy with it.[14] The UK has fourteen overseas territories,[15] all remnants of the British Empire, which at its height encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land surface. As a direct result of the empire, British influence can be observed in the infrastructure, culture, sporting preferences and language of many other leading countries all over the globe including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America as well as in less globally influential independent states. Queen Elizabeth II remains the head of the Commonwealth of Nations and head of state of the Commonwealth realms. It is a Technologically advanced and developed country, with the sixth[16] largest economy in the world by PPP and nominal GDP.

The UK was the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th century,[17] but the economic cost of two world wars and the decline of its empire in the latter half of the 20th century diminished its leading role in global affairs. The UK nevertheless retains significant economic, cultural, military and political influence and is a nuclear power, with the second highest defence spending in the world. It holds a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, and is a member of the G8, NATO, the European Union and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Contents [hide]
1 History
2 Government and politics
2.1 Administrative subdivisions
2.2 Law
2.3 Foreign relations
3 Geography
3.1 Topography
3.2 Climate
3.3 Cities and urban areas
3.3.1 Cities
3.3.2 Largest cities/towns
3.3.3 Urban areas
3.3.4 Larger Urban Zones
4 Demography
4.1 Population
4.2 Migration and ethnicity
4.3 Language
4.4 Religion
4.4.1 Christianity
4.4.2 Islam
4.4.3 Other religions
4.4.4 No religion
5 Economy
5.1 Currency
6 Infrastructure
7 Armed forces
8 Healthcare
9 Culture
9.1 Cinema
9.2 Education
9.3 Literature
9.4 Media
9.4.1 Broadcasting
9.4.2 Print
9.5 Music
9.6 Philosophy
9.7 Science, engineering and innovation
9.8 Sport
9.9 Television
9.10 Visual art
10 Symbols
11 Miscellaneous data
12 See also
13 References
14 External links

Main article: History of the United Kingdom
The Battle of Waterloo marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars.England and Scotland had existed as separate sovereign and independent states with their own monarchs and political structures since the 9th century. The once independent Principality of Wales fell under the control of English monarchs from the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284. Under the Acts of Union 1707, England (including Wales) and Scotland, which had been in personal union since the Union of the Crowns in 1603, agreed to a political union in the form of a unified Kingdom of Great Britain.[18] The Act of Union 1800 united the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland, which had been gradually brought under English control between 1541 and 1691, to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801.[19] Independence for the Irish Free State in 1922 followed the partition of the island of Ireland two years previously, with six of the nine counties of the province of Ulster remaining within the UK, which then changed to the current name in 1927 of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.[20]

Britain played an important part in the Age of Enlightenment with philosophical and scientific input and a literary and theatrical tradition. Over the next century the United Kingdom played an important role in developing Western ideas of parliamentary democracy with significant contributions to literature, the arts and science.[21] The UK-led Industrial Revolution transformed the country and fuelled the British Empire. During this time, like other Great Powers, the UK was involved in colonial exploitation, including the slave trade, while the passing of the 1807 Slave Trade Act also made the UK the first nation to prohibit trade in slaves.

The British Empire in 1897After the defeat of Napoleon in the Napoleonic Wars, Britain became the principal naval power of the 19th century. At its peak the British Empire controlled large amounts of territory in Asia, Africa, Oceania and America.

In the 19th century, the country played an important role in the development of parliamentary democracy, partly through the emergence of a multi-party system. At the end of the Victorian era the United Kingdom lost its industrial leadership, particularly to the German Empire, which surpassed the UK in industrial production and trade in the 1890s, and to the United States. Britain remained an eminent power and its empire expanded to its maximum size by 1921, gaining the League of Nations mandate over former German and Ottoman colonies after World War I.

After World War I, the world's first large-scale international broadcasting network, the BBC, was created. In 1924 the country's Labour movement, which had been gaining strength since the late 1890s, formed the first Labour government. Britain fought Nazi Germany in World War II, with its Commonwealth allies including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India, later to be joined by further allies such as the United States. Wartime leader Winston Churchill and his peacetime successor Clement Atlee helped create the post-war world as part of the "Big Three". World War II left the United Kingdom financially damaged. Loans taken out during and after World War II from both Canada and the United States were economically costly but, along with post-war Marshall aid, the UK began the road to recovery.

The immediate post-war years saw the establishment of the British Welfare State and one of the world's first and most comprehensive public health services, while the demands of a recovering economy brought people from all over the Commonwealth to create a multi-ethnic Britain. Although the new post-war limits of Britain's political role were confirmed by the Suez Crisis of 1956, the international spread of the language meant the continuing impact of its literature and culture, while at the same time from the 1960s its popular culture found influence abroad. Following a period of economic stagnation and industrial strife in the 1970s after a global economic downturn, the 1980s saw the inflow of substantial oil revenues, and the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, under whom there was a marked break with the post-war political and economic consensus. Her supporters credit her with economic success, but her critics blame her for greater social division. From 1997 onward, these trends of growth largely continued under the leadership of Tony Blair.

The United Kingdom has been a member of the European Union since 1973. The attitude of the present Labour government towards further integration with this organisation is mixed,[22] with the Conservative Party favouring a return of some powers and competencies to the state,[23] and the Liberal Democrats supportive of current engagement.

Government and politics
Main articles: Politics of the United Kingdom and Monarchy of the United Kingdom
Queen Elizabeth IIThe United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as head of state; the monarch of the UK also serves as head of state of fifteen other Commonwealth countries, putting the UK in a personal union with those other states. The UK has a parliamentary government based on strong democratic traditions: the Westminster system has been emulated around the world — a legacy of the British Empire.

The UK's constitution governs the legal framework of the country and consists mostly of written sources, including statutes, judge made case law, and international treaties. As there is no technical difference between ordinary statutes and law considered to be "constitutional law," the British Parliament can perform "constitutional reform" simply by passing Acts of Parliament and thus has the power to change or abolish almost any written or unwritten element of the constitution. However, no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change.[24] The United Kingdom is one of the three countries in the world today that does not have a codified constitution (the other two being New Zealand and Israel).[25]

The position of Prime Minister, the UK's head of government, belongs to the current leader of the political party that can obtain the confidence of a plurality in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister and their Cabinet are formally appointed by the Monarch to form Her Majesty's Government. However, the Prime Minister chooses the Cabinet, and by convention, the Queen respects the Prime Minister's choices. The Cabinet is traditionally drawn from members of the Prime Minister's party in both legislative houses, and mostly from the House of Commons, to which they are responsible. Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet, all of whom are sworn into Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, and become Ministers of the Crown. Gordon Brown, leader of the Labour Party, has been Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service since 27 June 2007.

The Parliament is the legislature of the United Kingdom; housed in the Palace of Westminster, it is the ultimate legislative authority in the UK, according to the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. However, questions over sovereignty have been brought forward due to the UK's membership within the European Union.[26] The parliament is made up of the Queen and two houses: an elected House of Commons and an appointed House of Lords. Each member in the House of Commons is elected by simple plurality in a constituency; general elections are called by the Monarch when the Prime Minister so advises. There is no minimum term for a Parliament, but a new election must be called within five years of the last general election.

The Houses of ParliamentThe UK's three major political parties are the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, and the Liberal Democrats. Other parties such as the Democratic Unionist Party, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the Ulster Unionist Party, and Sinn Féin (from Northern Ireland) hold most of the remaining seats in the House. In accordance with party policy, no elected Sinn Féin Member of Parliament has ever attended the House of Commons to speak in the House on behalf of their constituents as all Members of Parliament are required to take an oath of allegiance to the Monarch. However, the current five Sinn Féin MPs have since 2002 made use of the offices and other facilities available at Westminster.[27]

Administrative subdivisions
Main article: Subdivisions of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is divided into four home nations or constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The latter three each has a unicameral legislature, devolved from the United Kingdom Parliament, which relates specifically to each constituent country: the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Each also has its own Executive, led by a First Minister, which controls separate law making and constitutional powers devolved from Westminster. However, despite being the largest of the United Kingdom's four constituent countries, England, (with the exception of the Greater London Authority), has no devolved executive; it is ruled directly by the UK government.

Each nation is further subdivided for the purposes of local government. The Queen appoints a Lord-Lieutenant as her personal representative in lieutenancy areas across the UK; this is little more than a ceremonial role. The following table highlights the arrangements for local government, lieutenancy areas and cities across the home nations:

Manchester Town Hall. Many towns and cities reflect their "civic pride" with public buildings.Constituent Country  Population Subdivisions
England  50,431,700 Regions
Metropolitan and
non-metropolitan counties
Lieutenancy areas
Scotland  5,094,800 Council areas
Lieutenancy areas
Wales  2,958,600 Unitary authorities
Lieutenancy areas
Northern Ireland  1,724,400 Districts
Lieutenancy areas

Historically, the four nations were divided into counties as areas for local government administration. Although these are still used to some extent for this purpose and as geographical areas, they are no longer the sole basis for local government administration.

In recent years, England has, for some purposes, been divided into nine intermediate-level Government Office Regions. Each region is made up of counties and unitary authorities, apart from London, which consists of London boroughs. Although at one point it was intended that these regions would be given their own elected regional assemblies, the plan's future is uncertain following a rejection, by referendum, of a proposed assembly in the North East region.

City status is governed by Royal Charter. There are sixty-six British cities: fifty in England; six in Scotland; five in Wales; and five in Northern Ireland.

The Crown has sovereignty over the Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey. Collectively, these three territories are known as the Crown dependencies, lands owned by the British monarch but not part of the United Kingdom. They are also not part of the European Union. However, the Parliament of the United Kingdom has the authority to legislate for the dependencies, and the British government manages their foreign affairs and defence.

The UK also has fourteen overseas territories around the world, the last remaining territories of the British Empire. The overseas territories are also not considered part of the UK, but in most cases, the local populations have British citizenship and the right to abode in the UK. This has been the case since 2002.

Main article: Law of the United Kingdom
Scottish Parliament is the national legislature of ScotlandThe United Kingdom has three distinct systems of law. English law, which applies in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland law, which applies in Northern Ireland, are based on common-law principles. Scots law, which applies in Scotland, is a hybrid system based on both common-law and civil-law principles. The Treaty of Union guaranteed the continued existence of a separate law system for Scotland.

The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (usually just referred to, as "The House of Lords") is the highest court in the land for all criminal and civil cases in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and for all civil cases in Scots law. Recent constitutional changes will see the powers of the House of Lords transfer to a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.[28]

In England and Wales, the court system is headed by the Supreme Court of Judicature of England and Wales, consisting of the Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice (for civil cases) and the Crown Court (for criminal cases). In Scotland the chief courts are the Court of Session, for civil cases, and the High Court of Justiciary, for criminal cases, while the sheriff court is the Scottish equivalent of the county court.

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, comprising the same members as the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, is the highest court of appeal for several independent Commonwealth countries, the UK overseas territories, and the British crown dependencies.

Foreign relations
Main article: Foreign relations of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of the G8 and NATO, and a member state of the European Union. The UK has a "Special Relationship" with the United States. Apart from the US and Europe, Britain's close allies include Commonwealth nations and other English speaking countries. Britain's global presence and influence is further amplified through its trading relations and its armed forces, which maintain approximately eighty military installations and other deployments around the globe.[29]

Main article: Geography of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is in Western Europe. It comprises the island of Great Britain (most of England, Scotland and Wales) and the northeastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland (Northern Ireland), together with many smaller islands. The mainland areas lie between latitudes 49° and 59° N (the Shetland Islands reach to nearly 61° N), and longitudes 8° W to 2° E. The Royal Greenwich Observatory, near London, is the defining point of the Prime Meridian. The United Kingdom has a total area of approximately 245,000 square kilometres (94,600 sq mi). The UK lies between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, and comes within 35 kilometres (22 mi) of the northwest coast of France, from which it is separated by the English Channel. Northern Ireland shares a 360 kilometres (224 mi) land boundary with the Republic of Ireland. The Channel Tunnel ("Chunnel") now links the UK with France beneath the English Channel.

Map of the United Kingdom.
Ben Nevis, in the Grampian Mountains, is the highest point in the British IslesMost of England consists of lowland terrain, with some mountainous terrain in the north-west (Cumbrian Mountains of the Lake District), north (the upland moors of the Pennines and limestone hills of the Peak District) and south-west (Exmoor and Dartmoor) by the Tees-Exe line. Lower ranges include the limestone hills of the Isle of Purbeck, Cotswolds and Lincolnshire Wolds, and the chalk downs of the Southern England Chalk Formation. The main rivers and estuaries are the Thames, Severn and the Humber Estuary. The largest urban area is Greater London. England's highest mountain is Scafell Pike, which is in the Lake District 978 metres (3,209 ft).

Scotland's geography is varied, with lowlands in the south and east and highlands in the north and west, including Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles at 1,344 metres (4,409 ft). There are many long and deep-sea arms, firths, and lochs. There are nearly eight hundred islands in Scotland, mainly west and north of the mainland, notably the Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands. In total, it is estimated that the UK includes around one thousand islands.[30]

Wales is mostly mountainous, the highest peak being Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) at 1,085 metres (3,560 ft) above sea level, however South Wales is less mountainous than North and Mid Wales. North of the mainland is the island of Anglesey (Ynys Môn).

Three Cliffs Bay, Gower Peninsula.Northern Ireland, making up the northeastern part of Ireland, is mostly hilly. It includes Lough Neagh, at 388 square kilometres (150 sq mi), the largest body of water in the UK and Ireland.[31] The highest peak is Slieve Donard at 849 metres (2,785 ft) in the province's Mourne Mountains.

The greatest distance between two points on the UK mainland of Great Britain is 1,350 kilometres (840 mi) between Land's End in Cornwall (near Penzance) and John O'Groats in Caithness (near Thurso), a two day journey by car. When measured directly north-south it is a little over 1,100 kilometres (700 mi) in length and is a fraction under 500 kilometres (300 mi) at its widest.

Main article: Climate of the United Kingdom
All parts of the United Kingdom have a temperate climate, with plentiful rainfall all year round. The temperature varies with the seasons but seldom drops below −10 °C (14.0 °F) or rises above 35 °C (95 °F). The prevailing wind is from the southwest, bearing frequent spells of mild and wet weather from the Atlantic Ocean. Eastern parts are most sheltered from this wind and are therefore the driest. Atlantic currents, warmed by the Gulf Stream, bring mild winters, especially in the west, where winters are also wet, especially over high ground. Summers are warmest in the south east of England, being closest to the European mainland, and coolest in the north. Snowfall can occur in winter and early spring, though it rarely settles to any great depth away from high ground.

Absolute temperature ranges
Country Maximum temperatures Minimum temperatures
°C °F location and date °C °F location and date
England 38.5 101.3 Brogdale, near Faversham, Kent on 10 August 2003
 −26.1 −15 Edgmond, near Newport, Shropshire on 10 January 1982
Wales 35.2 95.4 Hawarden Bridge, Flintshire on 2 August 1990
 −23.3 −10 Rhayader, Radnorshire on 21 January 1940
Scotland 32.9 91.2 Greycrook, Scottish Borders on 9 August 2003
 −27.2 −17 Braemar, Aberdeenshire on 11 February 1895 and 10 January 1982
Altnaharra, Sutherland on 30 December 1995
Northern Ireland 30.8 87.4 Knockarevan, near Belleek, County Fermanagh on 30 June 1976
Belfast on 12 July 1983
 −17.5 0 Magherally, near Banbridge, County Down on 1 January 1979

Cities and urban areas
Further information: List of largest United Kingdom settlements by population

Main article: City status in the United Kingdom
The skyline of Canary Wharf, London.
The skyline of the City of London, London.
Manchester city centre.
Birmingham’s central skyline.
Liverpool skyline across the Mersey.
Glasgow skyline, Scotland.
Cardiff, Capital of Wales.London is the capital of the UK as a whole. Several cities lay claim to the title "second city".

The capitals of the United Kingdom's constituent countries are:

Belfast (Northern Ireland)
Cardiff (Wales)
Edinburgh (Scotland)
London (England)

Largest cities/towns
Main article: List of largest United Kingdom settlements by population
above 7 million: London
around 1 million: Birmingham
above 500,000: Glasgow
400,000 – 500,000: Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Bristol
300,000 – 400,000: Manchester, Leicester, Coventry, Kingston upon Hull
250,000 – 300,000: Bradford, Cardiff, Belfast, Stoke-on-Trent, Wolverhampton
200,000 – 250,000: Nottingham, Plymouth, Southampton, Reading, Derby

Urban areas
Further information: List of conurbations in the United Kingdom
Greater London Urban Area - 8.28 million
West Midlands conurbation - 2.28 million
Greater Manchester Urban Area - 2.24 million
West Yorkshire Urban Area - 1.50 million
Greater Glasgow - 1.17 million

Larger Urban Zones
Further information: Larger Urban Zones (LUZ) in the European Union
A European Union measurement of urbanisation, the Larger Urban Zone is a harmonised definition of metropolitan area. Eurostat's objective was to have an area from which a significant share of the residents commute into the city, a concept known as the “********al urban region”. To ensure good data availability, Eurostat works with administrative boundaries that approximate the ********al urban region.

Seven UK Zones feature in the top 50 in the EU.

London - 11.62 million
Manchester - 2.51 million
Leeds/Bradford - 2.36 million
Birmingham - 2.34 million
Glasgow - 1.75 million
Liverpool - 1.36 million
Sheffield - 1.26 million

Main article: Demography of the United Kingdom
The populations and percentage of total population in the four nations of the United Kingdom.
At the April 2001 UK Census, the United Kingdom's population was 58,789,194, the third largest in the European Union (behind Germany and France), the fifth largest in the Commonwealth and the twenty-first largest in the world. This had been estimated up to 60,587,300 by the Office for National Statistics in 2006.[32] In August 2006 it was confirmed that the UK's population had reached 60 million, then rapidly increased to 60.2 million, largely from net immigration, but also because of a rising birth rate and increasing life expectancy.[33]

The UK's overall population density is one of the highest in the world. About a quarter of the population lives in England's prosperous south-east and is predominantly urban and suburban,[34] with an estimated 7,517,700 in the capital of London.[35] The population of the United Kingdom has now reached 60,587,000 (mid 2006 estimate).[36]

In 2006, the UK's total fertility rate (TFR) was 1.86 children per woman, below the replacement rate of 2.1. In 2001, the TFR was at a record low of 1.63, but it has increased each year since, and will continue to do so as the share of births from immigrant mothers continues to prod the fertility rate. The TFR was considerably higher during the 1960s 'baby boom', peaking at 2.95 children per woman in 1964.[37]

Migration and ethnicity
Main article: Ethnic groups of the United Kingdom
Located as they are on a group of islands close to Continental Europe, the lands now constituting the United Kingdom have historically been subject to many invasions and migrations, especially from Scandinavia and the continent - including Roman occupation for several centuries. Present day Britons are descended mainly from the varied ethnic stocks that settled there before the eleventh century. The pre-Celtic, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse influences were blended in Great Britain under the Normans, Scandinavian Vikings who had lived in northern France (Normandy). Since 1945, international ties forged by the British Empire have contributed to substantial immigration, especially from Africa and South Asia, and, most recently, the accession of new EU members in 2004 has fuelled more immigration from continental Europe. As of 2001, 13.1% (5.2% white, 7.9% non-white[38] ) of the UK population identified themselves as an ethnic minority.

Trafalgar Square in London is one of the most famous public places in the United Kingdom.
Birmingham town hall in Victoria Square. Victoria Square is a famous public place similar to London's Trafalgar Square.Ethnic group   Population    % of total*  
White British &&&&&&&050366497.&&&&&050,366,497 85.7%
White Irish &&&&&&&&&0691232.&&&&&0691,232 1.2%
White (other) &&&&&&&&03096169.&&&&&03,096,169 5.3%
Mixed race &&&&&&&&&0677117.&&&&&0677,117 1.2%
Indian &&&&&&&&01053411.&&&&&01,053,411 1.8%
Pakistani &&&&&&&&&0747285.&&&&&0747,285 1.3%
Bengali &&&&&&&&&0283063.&&&&&0283,063 0.5%
Other Asian (non-Chinese) &&&&&&&&&0247644.&&&&&0247,644 0.4%
Black Caribbean &&&&&&&&&0565876.&&&&&0565,876 1.0%
Black African &&&&&&&&&0485277.&&&&&0485,277 0.8%
Black (others) &&&&&&&&&&097585.&&&&&097,585 0.2%
Chinese &&&&&&&&&0247403.&&&&&0247,403 0.4%
Other &&&&&&&&&0230615.&&&&&0230,615 0.4%
* Percentage of total UK population

Cities with high proportions of people from ethnic minorities include London with 40.1% of its population coming from minority groups, Leicester with 39.5% and Birmingham with 34.4%, according to the 2001 census.

In contrast with some other European countries, high foreign-born immigration is contributing to a rising population,[39] accounting for about half of the population increase between 1991 and 2001. The latest official figures (2006) show net immigration to the UK of 191,000 (591,000 immigrants and 400,000 emigrants) up from 185,000 in 2005 (overall, there was a loss of 126,000 Britons and a gain of 316,000 foreign citizens).[40][41][42] Only one in six were from Eastern European countries. They were outnumbered by immigrants from New Commonwealth countries.[43] Immigration from the Indian subcontinent, mainly fuelled by family reunion, accounted for two-thirds of net immigration.[44] By contrast, at least 5.5 million British-born people are living abroad.[45][46][47] The most popular emigrant destinations were Australia, Spain, France, New Zealand and the U.S.[48][49][50]

A study by a city forecaster, however, contends that the above immigration figures are unreliable and that net immigration for 2005 was circa 400,000.[51] Nonetheless, the proportion of foreign-born people in the UK population remains slightly below that of some other European countries.[52]

In 2004, the number of people who became British citizens rose to a record 140,795 - a rise of 12% on the previous year. This number had risen dramatically since 2000. The overwhelming majority of new citizens come from Africa (32%) and Asia (40%), the largest three groups being people from Pakistan, India and Somalia.[53] In 2006, there were 149,035 applications for British citizenship, 32% fewer than in 2005. The number of people granted citizenship during 2006 was 154,095, 5% fewer than in 2005. The largest groups of people granted British citizenship were from India, Pakistan, Somalia and the Philippines.[54] 21.9% of babies born in the UK in 2005 were born to foreign-born mothers, according to official statistics released in 2007 that also show the highest birth rates in Britain for 26 years.[55]

Figures published in August 2007 indicate that 682,940 people applied to the Worker Registration Scheme (for nationals of the central and eastern European states that joined the EU in May 2004) between 1 May 2004 and 31 June 2007, of whom 656,395 were accepted.[56] Self-employed workers and people who are not working (including students) are not required to register under the scheme so this figure represents a lower limit on immigration inflow. These figures do not indicate the number of immigrants who have since returned home, but 56% of applicants in the 12 months ending 30 June 2007 reported planning to stay for a maximum of three months. Of the 2.5 million foreign workers who moved to the UK to work, the majority were from EU countries,[57] but net migration in 2005 from the new EU states stood at 64,000.[41]

Main article: Languages of the United Kingdom
Countries where English has de facto or de jure official language status.Though the UK does not de jure have an official language, the predominant spoken language is English, a West Germanic language descended from Old English featuring a large number of borrowings from Old Norse and Norman. The other indigenous languages of the UK are Scots (which is closely related to English) and the Insular Celtic languages. The latter fall into two groups: the P-Celtic languages (Welsh and Cornish); and the Q-Celtic languages (Irish and Scottish Gaelic and Manx). Celtic dialectal influences from Cumbric persisted in Northern England for many centuries, most famously in a unique set of numbers used for counting sheep (see Yan Tan Tethera).

The English language has spread to all corners of the world (largely due to the British Empire) and has thus become the business language of the world. Worldwide, it is taught as a second language more than any other.[58] The United Kingdom's Celtic languages are also spoken by small groups around the globe, mainly Gaelic in Nova Scotia, Canada, and Welsh in Patagonia, Argentina.

Immigrant languages constitute for up to 10% of the UK's population, French is spoken by 2.3% of the country's population, 1.0% of Britons speak Polish reflecting the recent mass migration to the UK. 0.9% of the UK's population speak German and 0.8% Spanish. The majority of other foreign languages spoken in the UK originate from Europe, Asia and Africa. A large percentage of the immigrants to the UK come from Anglophone countries (such as Nigeria, Jamaica, Hong Kong and the Philippines), which is why there is not a great deal of diversity between some of the country's ethnic minority communities.

Main article: Religion in the United Kingdom
While the United Kingdom has a long tradition of Christianity and a link between church and state still remains, in practice the UK is a predominantly secular society with only 38%[59] proclaiming a belief in a God. People identify themselves with religion in the UK for both cultural and religious reasons and this is reflected by the disparity between the figures for those proclaiming a belief in a God and those identifying themselves with a particular religion. Christianity has the largest number of adherents followed by Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism.

Westminster Abbey is used for the coronation of all British Monarchs, when they are also made the head of the Church of England.
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool, England.Christianity is the majority religion; there are many Christian churches, denominations, and sects. However, Christianity in the UK is on the decline. The Tearfund Survey[60] in 2007 revealed 53% identified themselves as Christian compared to 71.6% in the 2001 UK Census.[61] Only 7% of people in the UK are actually practising Christians. Christianity was first introduced to Britain by the Romans. The direct influence of the Anglican Communion has been on the decline for many years but the Church of England retains a representation in Parliament and the right to draft legislative measures (usually related to religious administration), through the General Synod, that can be passed into law, but not amended by Parliament. The churches of the Anglican Communion in the rest of the UK were disestablished in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Scotland and northern England were evangelised first, by Celtic missionaries from Ireland, such as Ninian, Columba and Aidan. Augustine was subsequently sent to southern England by Pope Gregory I in 597.

The English Church split from Rome in 1534, during the reign of Henry VIII of England (see English Reformation). Today, the Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and senior branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The British monarch is required to be a member of the Church of England under the Act of Settlement 1701 and is the Supreme Governor. The senior bishop of Church of England is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Church of Scotland (known informally as the Kirk) broke with the Roman Catholic Church in 1560 (see Calvinism and Scottish Reformation). Today it is a Presbyterian church, recognised as the national church of Scotland, and not subject to state control. The British monarch is an ordinary member, and is required to swear an oath to "defend the security" of the Church at the coronation. The Scottish Episcopal Church, which is part of the Anglican Communion, dates from the final establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland in 1690. Further splits in the Church of Scotland, especially in the nineteenth century, led to the creation of various other Presbyterian churches in Scotland, including the Free Church of Scotland.

In the 1920s, the Church in Wales was separated from the Church of England and became disestablished (lost its status as the state religion). However the Church in Wales remains in the Anglican Communion. Methodism and other independent churches are traditionally strong in Wales.

The Anglican Church of Ireland was disestablished in the nineteenth century. It covers the entire island of Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland). In Northern Ireland the Catholic Church in Ireland is the largest single denomination, although Protestants are in the majority overall. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is the largest Protestant denomination and is in terms of theology and history closely linked to the Church of Scotland

The Roman Catholic Church is the second largest denomination of Christianity in the UK. After the Protestant Reformation, strict laws were passed against Catholics; these were removed by the Catholic Emancipation laws in 1829. There are separate Catholic hierarchies for England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Other large Christian groups include the Methodists (founded by John Wesley in London) and the Baptists. There are also growing Evangelical or Pentecostal churches, many of which have flourished with immigration from around the Commonwealth and beyond.

East London Mosque, one of the country's largest Islamic places of worship.Muslims in the United Kingdom are believed to number 1.8 million.[62] Mosques are present in most regions: The biggest groups are of Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi origin. More recently, refugees from Somalia, Northern Cyprus, the Balkans and Arab countries have increased Britain's Muslim population. The 2006 controversy over the burqa, brought up in comments by politician Jack Straw, reflects a split between some Britons questioning the extent to which traditionalist forms of Islam are compatible with British society, and others who believe that wearing the veil is compatible with Muslim integration in Britain.[63]

Other religions
Religions of Indian origin, such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism are followed in Britain. As of the 2001 census, there are about 560,000 Hindus and 340,000 Sikhs. Buddhism is practised by about 150,000[64] It is likely that these figures have increased since 2001. One non-governmental organisation estimates that there are 800,000 Hindus in the UK.[65] Leicester houses one of the world's few Jain temples that are outside of India.

There are approximately 270,000 Jews in Britain, according to the 2001 census.[66]

390,000 individuals proclaimed themselves as "Jedi Knight" in the 2001 census, though this is largely due to an internet campaign to make it an official religion.[67]

No religion
The United Kingdom has a large and growing atheist and agnostic population with 13,626,000 (23.2% of the UK population) either claiming no religion or not answering the question on religion at the 2001 census.[68]

Main article: Economy of the United Kingdom
London is a major centre for international business and commerce and is the leader of the three "command centres" for the global economy (along with New York City and Tokyo).[69] For over twenty-five years, the British economy has corresponded with what has been described by some since the 1980s as the Anglo-Saxon model, focusing on the principles of liberalisation, the free market, and low taxation and regulation. Based on market exchange rates, the United Kingdom is the fifth largest economy in the world,[70] and the second largest in Europe after Germany.

The British started the Industrial Revolution, and, like most industrialising countries at the time, initially concentrated on heavy industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining, steel production, and textiles. The empire created an overseas market for British products, allowing the United Kingdom to dominate international trade in the 19th century. However, as other nations industrialised and surplus labour from agriculture began to dry up, coupled with economic decline after two world wars, the United Kingdom began to lose its economic advantage. As a result, heavy industry declined, by degrees, throughout the 20th century. The British service sector, however, has grown substantially, and now makes up about 73% of GDP.[71]

The Bank of England; the central bank of the United Kingdom.
The HSBC bank headquarters 8 Canada Square in Canary Wharf. HSBC is one of the largest companies in the world.The service sector of the United Kingdom is dominated by financial services, especially in banking and insurance. London is the world's largest financial centre with the London Stock Exchange, the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange, and the Lloyd's of London insurance market all based in The City. It also has the largest concentration of foreign bank branches in the world. In the past decade, a rival financial centre in London has grown in the Docklands area, with HSBC and Barclays Bank relocating their head offices there. Many multinational companies that are not primarily UK-based have chosen to site their European or rest-of-world headquarters in London: an example is the US financial services firm Citigroup. The Scottish capital, Edinburgh, also has one of the large financial centres of Europe.[72]

Tourism is very important to the British economy. With over 27 million tourists a year, the United Kingdom is ranked as the sixth major tourist destination in the world.[73]

The British manufacturing sector, however, has greatly diminished, relative to the economy as a whole, since World War II. It is still a significant part of the economy, but only accounted for one-sixth of national output in 2003.[74] The British motor industry is a significant part of this sector, although it has diminished with the collapse of MG Rover and most of the industry is foreign owned. Civil and defence aircraft production is led by the United Kingdom's largest aerospace firm, BAE Systems, and the continental European firm EADS, the owner of Airbus. Rolls-Royce holds a major share of the global aerospace engines market. The chemical and pharmaceutical industry is also strong in the UK, with the world's second and sixth largest pharmaceutical firms (GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, respectively)[75] being based in the UK.

The creative industries accounted for 7.3% GVA in 2004 and grew at an average of 5% per annum between 1997 and 2004.[76]

The United Kingdom's agriculture sector accounts for only 0.9% of the country's GDP.[77]

The UK has a small coal reserve along with significant natural gas, and oil reserves, although the natural gas and oil reserves are diminishing.

Government involvement throughout the economy is exercised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (currently Alistair Darling) who heads HM Treasury, but the Prime Minister (currently Gordon Brown), is First Lord of the Treasury; the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the Second Lord of the Treasury. However since 1997, the Bank of England, headed by the Governor of the Bank of England, has control of interest rates and other monetary policy.

See also: Banknotes of the pound sterling and pound sterling
The currency of the UK is the pound sterling, represented by the symbol £. The Bank of England is the central bank, responsible for issuing currency. Banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland retain the right to issue their own notes, subject to retaining enough Bank of England notes in reserve to cover the issue. The UK chose not to join the Euro at the currency's launch, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ruled out membership for the foreseeable future, saying that the decision not to join had been right for Britain and for Europe.[78] The government of former Prime Minister Tony Blair had pledged to hold a public referendum for deciding membership should "five economic tests" be met. In 2005, more than half (55%) of the UK were against adopting the currency, while 30% were in favour.[79]

Main articles: Transport in the United Kingdom and Telecommunications in the United Kingdom
Heathrow Airport is the world's busiest airport in terms of numbers of international passengers.The government's Department for Transport oversees the well-developed transport system in the United Kingdom. A radial road network of 46,904 kilometres (29,145 mi) of main roads is centred on London, Edinburgh and Belfast, whilst, in Great Britain, a motorway network of 3,497 kilometres (2,173 mi) is centred on Birmingham, Manchester and London. There are a further 213,750 kilometres (132,818 mi) of paved roads.

The National Rail network of 16,116 km (10,072 miles) in Great Britain and 303 route km (189 route mi) in Northern Ireland carries over 18,000 passenger trains and 1,000 freight trains daily. Urban rail networks are also well developed in London and several other cities. There was once over 48,000 route km (30,000 route mi) of rail network in the UK, however most of this was reduced over a time period from 1955 to 1975, much of it after a report by a government advisor Richard Beeching in the mid 1960s (known as the Beeching Axe).

Heathrow Airport is the world's busiest international airport, and being an island nation the UK has a considerable network of sea ports, which received over 558 million tonnes of goods in 2003–04.[citation needed]

Armed forces
HMS Illustrious. Two Invincible class aircraft carriers are currently in service. A third carrier is in reserve.
A Trident II SLBM being launched from one of the Royal Navy's 4 Vanguard class submarines as a test launch.
DDH in Barrow-in-Furness is Europe's largest shipbuilding hall, and the location of every British submarine's construction.Main article: British Armed Forces
The Army, Navy and Air Force are collectively known as the British Armed Forces (or Her Majesty's Armed Forces) and officially the Armed Forces of the Crown. The commander-in-chief is the monarch, Queen Elizabeth II and they are managed by the Ministry of Defence. The armed forces are controlled by the Defence Council, chaired by the Chief of the Defence Staff.

The United Kingdom fields one of the most technologically advanced and best trained armed forces in the world. According to various sources, including the Ministry of Defence, the UK has the second highest military expenditure in the world,[80][81] despite only having the 28th largest military in terms of manpower. Total defence spending currently accounts for 2.2% of total national GDP, compared to 4.4% at the end of the Cold War.[82] It is also the second largest spender on military science, engineering and technology.[83] The Royal Navy is considered to be the only other blue-water navy along with those of France and the United States.[84] The British Armed Forces are equipped with many advanced weapons systems, including the Challenger 2 tank and the Eurofighter Typhoon jet fighter. The Ministry of Defence also confirmed the acquisition of two new Aircraft Carriers on 25 July 2007.

The United Kingdom is one of the five recognised countries possessing nuclear weapons, utilising the Vanguard class submarine-based Trident II ballistic missile system.

The British Armed Forces are charged with protecting the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, promoting the United Kingdom's global security interests, and supporting international peacekeeping efforts. They are active and regular participants in NATO, including the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, as well as the Five Power Defence Arrangements and other worldwide coalition operations. Overseas garrisons and facilities are maintained at Ascension Island, Belize, Brunei, Canada, Diego Garcia, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Gibraltar, Kenya, and Cyprus.[85][86]

The British Army had a reported strength of 102,440 in 2005,[87] the Royal Air Force a strength of 49,210 and the 36,320-strong Royal Navy, which includes the Royal Marines, who provide commando units specialising in amphibious warfare.

The United Kingdom Special Forces, provide troops trained for quick, mobile, military responses in counter-terrorism, land, maritime and amphibious operations, often where secrecy or covert tactics are required.

There are also reserve forces supporting the regular military. These include the Territorial Army, the Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Marines Reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. This puts total active and reserve duty military personnel at approximately 429,500, deployed in over eighty countries.

Despite the United Kingdom's military capabilities, recent pragmatic defence policy has a stated assumption that "the most demanding operations" would be undertaken as part of a coalition.[88] Setting aside the intervention in Sierra Leone, operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq may all be taken as precedent. Indeed the last war in which the British military fought alone was the Falklands War of 1982, in which they were victorious.

Health is a devolved matter and though each of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom has healthcare available to all of their citizens that is free at the point of need (being funded from general taxation), considerable differences are developing between the different systems.[89] Though commonly referred to as the NHS across the UK, infact the National Health Service just covers England with NHS Scotland covering Scotland, NHS Wales covering Wales and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety providing healthcare in Northern Ireland. The NHS is one of the largest cohesive organisations of any type in the world.

Public sector healthcare delivery consists of primary (General Practice), secondary (district general hospital) and tertiary (teaching hospital) levels of service. There is considerable interaction and cross-flow between the various levels.

The private medical system is very small in the United Kingdom, but it is growing.[citation needed]

NNUH is a good example of a large modern hospital on a city's outskirts.There are various regulatory bodies in the UK, both government-based (e.g. Department of Health, General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council) and non-governmental-based (e.g. Royal Colleges).

With respect to quality, unlike in the USA and many other developed countries where hospital accreditation groups independent of central government are utilised, the UK government take on both the role of suppliers of healthcare and assessors of the quality of its delivery through groups organised directly by government departments, such as NICE and CHI.

The United Kingdom has a large number of medical schools and dental schools, and a considerable establishment for training nurses and professions allied to medicine, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, clinical psychology and radiography.

Main article: Culture of the United Kingdom

Main article: Cinema of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has been influential in the development of cinema, with the Ealing Studios claiming to be the oldest studios in the world. Despite a history of important and successful productions, the industry is characterised by an ongoing debate about its identity, and the influences of American and European cinema. Famous films include the Harry Potter and Ian Fleming's James Bond series which, although now made by American studios, used British source materials, locations, actors and filming crew.

King's College, part of the University of Cambridge, England.Further information: Education in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom's official literacy rate (99%) is normal by developed country standards. Universal state education was introduced for the primary level in 1870 and secondary level in 1900 (except in Scotland where it was introduced in 1696, see Education in Scotland).[90] Education is mandatory from ages five to sixteen (15 if born in late July or August).

The majority of children in the UK are educated in state-sector schools, only a small proportion of which select on the grounds of academic ability. Around 7% of children in the UK are educated privately, the vast majority at the anachronistically named public schools. The products of public schools make up about 50% of students at the leading universities of Cambridge and Oxford, as well as the majority of doctors, judges and business leaders. State schools which are allowed to select pupils according to intelligence and academic ability can achieve comparable results to public schools: out of the top ten performing schools in terms of GCSE results in 2006 two were state-run grammar schools. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks the UK's education as the 14th best in the world, being significantly higher than the OECD average.[9]

Some of the UK's 138 university level institutions are internationally renowned, especially those of Cambridge, Oxford, and London.[91] and Loughborough University which is regarded as the best Sports University in the worldCitation?, as well as holding research facilities for global companies such as Ford and Motorola. In the 2006 THES - QS World University Rankings,[92] 30 UK institutions were ranked amongst the top 200 universities in the world.

Fewer citizens of the UK are able to speak a foreign language than in any other EU country except Ireland. This has caused fear that the poor language skills in the UK will have a negative effect on business, and has led to calls for languages to be given priority in education.[93][94]

Main article: British literature
The Chandos portrait, believed to depict the famed playwright William Shakespeare.The English playwright and poet William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language.[95][96][97]

Among the earliest British writers are Geoffrey of Monmouth (12th century) , Geoffrey Chaucer (14th century) , and Thomas Malory (15th century). In the 18th century, Samuel Richardson is often credited with inventing the modern novel. In the 19th century, there followed further innovation by Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, the social campaigner Charles Dickens, the naturalist Thomas Hardy, the visionary poet William Blake and romantic poet William Wordsworth. Twentieth century writers include the science fiction novelist H. G. Wells, the controversial D. H. Lawrence, the modernist Virginia Woolf, the prophetic novelist George Orwell and the poet John Betjeman. Most recently, the children's fantasy Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling has recalled the popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Scotland's contribution includes the detective writer Arthur Conan Doyle, romantic literature by Sir Walter Scott, the epic adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson and the celebrated poet Robert Burns. More recently, the modernist and nationalist Hugh MacDiarmid and Neil M. Gunn contributed to the Scottish Renaissance. A more grim outlook is found in Ian Rankin's stories and the psychological horror-comedy of Iain Banks. Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, is UNESCO's first worldwide city of literature.

In the early medieval period, Welsh writers composed the Mabinogion. In modern times, the poets R.S. Thomas and Dylan Thomas have brought Welsh culture to an international audience.

Many authors from other nationalities, particularly from Ireland, or from Commonwealth countries, have also lived and worked in the UK. Significant examples through the centuries include Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Joseph Conrad, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, and more recently British authors born abroad such as Kazuo Ishiguro and Sir Salman Rushdie.

In theatre, Shakespeare's contemporaries Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson added depth. More recently Alan Ayckbourn, Harold Pinter, Michael Frayn, Tom Stoppard and David Edgar have combined elements of surrealism, realism and radicalism.

Further information: English literature, Scottish literature and Welsh literature

Main article: Media in the United Kingdom
The prominence of the English language gives the UK media a widespread international dimension.

The Channel 4 building.
BBC Television Centre.The BBC is the UK's publicly funded radio, television and internet broadcasting corporation, and is the oldest and largest broadcaster in the world. It operates several television channels and radio stations in both the UK and abroad. The BBC's international television news service, BBC World, is broadcast throughout the world and the BBC World Service radio network is broadcast in thirty-three languages globally.

The domestic services of the BBC are funded by the television licence, a legal requirement for any British household with a television receiver that is in use to receive broadcasts, regardless of whether or not the householders watch BBC channels. Households which are the principal residence of any person over 75 are exempt[98] and the requirement does not extend to radio listeners. The BBC World Service Ra

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