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The United Kingdom (1 January 1801-), also known as Britain or the UK, is a country located in Europe (specifically the British Isles). The United Kingdom used to be the largest overseas empire in history, with 13,012,000 square miles of territory on every continent except for Antarctica. Its capital is London, located in England, one of the kingdoms in the union (along with Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland). The United Kingdom gave independence to most of its colonies, with many of its former possessions joining the Commonwealth of Nations alliance (including Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Ireland, India, and Burma).

History

The extent of the British Empire's territory (from all periods from 1801 to 1918).

King George III of Great Britain

On 1 January 1801, the Acts of Union 1801 were signed, which united Great Britain (the kingdoms of England-Wales and Scotland in a personal union) with Ireland. The United Kingdom took over Great Britain's old possessions, which were British Canada, British India, British Ghana, British Gambia, Australia, British Guyana, British Jamaica, and Gibraltar). The United Kingdom was formed at a time of war with the French Directory during the War of the Second Coalition (1799-1802), and after the Treaty of Amiens was signed on 25 March 1802 to end the war, the United Kingdom put together a new alliance of countries to fight the French, and on 18 May 1803 they declared war on the French Empire. In 1805, the Austrian Empire, Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Naples, Kingdom of Sicily, and Sweden declared war on France as a member of the Third Coalition. Although the Third Coalition was defeated in 1805, the United Kingdom remained in a continuous state of war with France until 1814. They always fought against France and their allies (such as the Dutch Batavian Republic and Spain) in naval battles before sending an army to open a new front in the Iberian Peninsula when Napoleon deposed the House of Bourbon of Spain and occupied the country. The Peninsular War, lasting from 1808 to 1814, saw the majority of the land actions that the British fought in the war, with the British assisting the Spanish Army, local guerrillas, and Portugal (which was invaded by France in 1811) in fighting France. The British eventually pushed up to the French city of Toulouse by April 1814, forcing the French government to surrender (it was also pressured by the fall of Paris at the end of April). In June 1815, Emperor Napoleon returned to power, but at the 18 June 1815 Battle of Waterloo in Belgium, an army of British, Prussian, Dutch, and Belgian troops under Arthur Wellesley defeated the French emperor Napoleon in an epic battle that marked the end of an era.

Iron workers during the Industrial Revolution

The Age of Liberalism followed the defeat of Napoleon's armies, as did the Industrial Revolution. Exploiting the vast array of resources in the British Isles, the United Kingdom developed into an industrial country. Cities rapidly increased in size through urbanization as farmers' lands were taken over by cities, with machines outperforming humans. Farmers moved to cities to find jobs as laborers, and the United Kingdom exported their rare goods to the rest of the world. The UK started the Industrial Revolution, a era that would lead to the growth of cities across the world.

The United Kingdom fought a series of wars in India to expand the East India Company after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and from 1817-18 they defeated the Maratha Confederacy in the Third Anglo-Maratha War. The British soon took over the Mughal Empire, which was torn apart through civil warfare, and it was an easy conquest. After 1836, the United Kingdom began to absorb the Princely States into their empire, and also fought expansionist wars against the Kingdom of Nepal, Bhutan, Panjab, Kalat, Sindh, and Gujarat. The British fought against their enemies in the Anglo-Sikh Wars before later expanding into the lands of the Emirate of Afghanistan during the Anglo-Afghan Wars, which were fought to prevent Russia from gaining influence over the Middle East. The United Kingdom's colonial wars in India led to them acquiring lots of territory from the weaker Indian states, and they also defeated the Kingdom of Burma in the Anglo-Burmese Wars.

British troops on Queimada in 1848

Apart from their colonial wars in South Asia, the British also intervened in the affairs of Europe. In 1848, the United Kingdom dispatched British troops to intervene in the Queimadan Revolution, restoring order to rebel slaves that were rising up against the predominantly-white government, which they had helped to fight for independence from Portugal in exchange for trade rights. The British intervened in the Uruguayan Civil War by blockading Argentina from 1845 to 1850 along with France, helping Uruguay against the Argentines.

A skirmish between Russia and France during the Crimean War.

The British participated in several interventions in both South America and Europe, including their multiple wars of containment against France, whose colonial empire was expanding across North Africa. The UK failed in its attempts to get France to accept his disarmament and reparation terms, and they also failed to contain the Russian Empire after they expanded their empire into Central Asia against Bukkhara, Kokand, and Khiva and their empire in the Caucasus against the Qajar Empire. They also fought Russia in the Crimean War (October 1853-30 March 1856), which was an attempt to preserve the status quo during Russia's war with the Ottoman Empire. In an alliance with France, the United Kingdom thwarted the Russian attempt to conquer more lands from the Ottoman Empire, and they were able to prove their military power.

The United Kingdom further demonstrated its military abilities during the Scramble for Africa, during which it battled the powerful Sokoto Caliphate of northern Nigeria, conquering its lands and taking over a large portion of West Africa. They also subjugated Liberia after an anarcho-liberal coup back on 19 November 1855 overthrew the pro-United States satellite government, and they proceeded to colonize much of the West Coast not occupied by France. The British wars with the Sokotos and the other tribes led to Britain gaining control over West Africa, and in the Cape Colony (present-day South Africa), the British battled the Zulu African tribesmen and the Boer republics of Oranje and Transvaal to the north, defeating them in the Anglo-Zulu War and the Second Boer War, respectively. The British victory in the Second Boer War of 1899-1902 left Britain in control of South Africa, and they later colonized Namibia, Botswana, and other small colonies in Central Africa.

Emperor Komei of Japan making peace with the British in 1864.

The United Kingdom was able to field strong armies through mobilization due to the large populations of the Indian states, who were able to provide around 30,000 British troops each. The British were well-prepared for the turn of the 20th century, a century of great wars and revolutions. In 1902, the United Kingdom made an alliance with Japan, a country that Britain helped in their coup against the Tokugawa Shogunate to become a powerful empire. The 22 October 1904 Dogger Bank Incident during the Russo-Japanese War, during which the Imperial Russian Navy killed three British fishermen mistaken for an Imperial Japaneese Navy force, nearly led to British involvement in the war on the Japanese side. The British allied with their former French enemies in the Entente Cordiale of 1904, before forming the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907, forming a powerful alliance. 

British recruitment poster

Kitchener's Army recruitment poster

On 28 July 1914, Austria-Hungary and the German Empire declared war on the Kingdom of Serbia after Young Bosnia member Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo, and the Austro-German Central Powers were joined by the Ottoman Empire. The Central Powers declared war on the Russian Empire, allies of Serbia who mobilized to support Serbia in the war, and they also declared war on France, which was preparing to assist Russia. The British public was not willing to fight another war, but when the Germans invaded France through neutral Belgium (with which Britain had a neutrality treaty), the British decided to intervene and defend their allies. The British mobilized, fielding 8,841,541 troops in the conflict. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF, founded following the Boer War in 1902 by Secretary of War Richard Haldane in the case of a European conflict needing British intervention) was sent under John French to assist Belgium, but Belgium was overrun, and the British were driven back with the 8,660,000-strong French army. The two armies repelled a German attack at the First Battle of the Marne later that year, and the Western Front became a battlefield where stalemate set in. Bloody French/British and German offensives against the other side usually resulted in extremely-high losses during the trench warfare of the Western Front, which later involved tanks, poison gas, and bomber planes. The bloody combat led to Kitchener's Army (New Army) being formed to fight on the Western Front.

In 1915, after the failure of the ANZAC to invade Turkey at Gallipoli, the British decided to counteract the Ottoman Empire's armies by fighting them in Palestine. Their armies fought with the Ottomans on the border of Egypt with the Middle East, but in 1916, the sideshow became larger when the Arab Revolt broke out against the Turks. Led by Hedjaz, the Arabs rose up against Ottoman rule with the assistance of the British, who sent archaeologist T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") to help the Arabs. Led by Lawrence of Arabia, the Arabs fought a guerrilla war against the Turks and defeated a Turkish attack on Yenbo before capturing Aqaba from the Turks. Then, they cut off Ottoman railroad lines, raided Ottoman units, and attacked Ottoman strongholds in the Levant, assisting the British as they moved north into Israel, Jordan, and Syria. Lawrence helped the British take Jerusalem in 1917 and Damascus in 1918, and by October 1918 the Turks were forced to sign an armistice with the Allies.

On the Western Front, the arrival of the Americans in 1917 assisted the Allies in launching an offensive against the Germans, who had previously won the 1916 Battle of Verdun, a bloody affair. The Allies defeated the Michael Offensive of early 1918 and launched their own offensives at the Battle of Belleau Wood, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the Battle of Amiens, the Battle of St. Quentin Canal, and the Hundred Days Offensive. The Allies drove the Germans back, and they were able to secure an armistice at 11:00 AM on 11 November 1918, and World War I ended. 673,375 British troops had been killed and 1,643,469 were wounded in the Great War, and at the end of the war, the British army demobilized from 4,000,000 in 1918 to 370,000 in 1920. Some British troops took part in the conflicts that immediately followed the war's end such as the suppression of rebellions in newly-acquired Iraq and the other Arab states, the fight against the newly-declared republic of Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the Turkish War of Independence, and the war with the Bolsheviks of the former Russian Empire during the Russian Civil War. In 1922, Ireland fought a war of independence, which they won. They intervened in the Irish Civil War against the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1923, which gave them control of Northern Ireland.

During the Interwar Era, the United Kingdom had to deal with these crises, as well as the risk of another world war. The German Empire's dissolution led to the formation of the corrupt Weimar Republic, which was forced to fight a series of wars against socialist and communist rebels as well as the Freikorps army forces. In 1933, the republic was overthrown and replaced by Nazi Germany, a fascist German government led by Adolf Hitler, the dictator of the Nazi Party. The United Kingdom failed to react to the German advances into Czechoslovakia, but on 1 September 1939, the United Kingdom, together with France, declared war on Germany when Hitler invaded Poland, a weak country that Hitler sought to conquer. The Nazis overwhelmed Poland, and the United Kingdom fought no land battles in 1939. However, in 1940 they deployed troops to stop Germany's invasion of France and the Low Countries of Belgium and the Netherlands, and they also had to fight Germany's invasion of Norway. France fell on 4 June 1940 after blitzkrieg, and the British were forced to withdraw all of their men in Europe to the British Isles after the Nazis flushed them out of France.

After 10 June 1940, when Fascist Italy entered the war on the side of Nazi Germany, the war moved to Africa, where the British easily defeated the Italians. However, the British were eventually forced back when the Germans sent the Afrika Korps under Erwin Rommel to assist the Italians, and the British were forced back to Egypt. The British attempted to defend Greece when it was invaded in April 1941 by Germany and their Italian, Romanian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian allies, but their forces were defeated on the mainland and in the Battle of Crete. Their men were evacuated back to Egypt, where stalemate set in. The British were later aided in their campaign in North Africa by the United States after 8 December 1941, when Nazi Germany and the Axis Powers declared war on the USA following the attack on their naval base at Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy a day earlier. The Americans sent tanks and troops to aid them in 1942, and they aided the British in their war in North Africa. British troops in the Pacific Theater against Japan were defeated as Japan occupied Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and other British possessions, and Burma was also overrun. Britain fought Japan in Burma and India as well as in China, where they aided the Chinese against the Japanese forces.

The war turned in the favor of the British after the Second Battle of El Alamein in October 1942, when they defeated Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps. The British, with the assistance of the Americans, pushed Rommel's forces into the center of North Africa at Tunisia as American troops landed in Morocco and Algeria and liberated them from the pro-German French troops and the British pushed through Libya, and in May 1943, the German and Italian troops at Cape Bon in Tunisia surrendered. The British and Americans then invaded the soft underbelly of Europe at Italy in July 1943, and in September 1943, Italy signed an armistice. The British and Americans, with assistance from Commonwealth and exiled European forces, pushed up the boot of Italy, defended by the Germans. In 1944, the Allied Powers invaded France at Normandy on 6 June, and by 30 August, Paris was liberated and the French Fourth Republic was formed. The Allies pushed into central Europe, and British and Canadian troops liberated Belgium and the Netherlands. The Allies, assisting the Soviet Union (which entered the war on the Allied side in June 1941), divided Germany in half after meeting at the Elbe River, and Berlin fell to the USSR on 2 May 1945. On 7 May, Germany surrendered days after Hitler committed suicide, and World War II in Europe ended. Soon after, on 3 September 1945, Japan surrendered, ending the war. 383,800 British and colonial troops were killed in the war.

In the aftermath, the British occupied West Germany, and the Soviets occupied East Germany, dividing Europe in half. The British, Americans, and French occupied West Berlin, their half of the capital of Germany, and they stared off with the Soviet troops in East Berlin, and until 1991, they were always preparing to fight the Soviets if necessary. However, their main problems were the independence wars of their African possessions. They suppressed the Mau Mau Revolt in Kenya, but they decided to give Africa independence to avoid more deaths. In Asia, they lost Malaysia in 1948-1960, Cyprus in 1955, and Aden in 1963, and India peacefully got its independence in 1948, as did Burma. Britain gave up all of their possessions, and they were left with only the British Isles, bar Ireland.

The United Kingdom was a founding member of NATO and the United Nations, and the United Kingdom is a global power, and a strong ally of the United States. The United Kingdom has aided the US in the War on Terror, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The British aided America when they were in need, and today, they are very strong allies. In 2014, Scotland refused to become independent in a referendum for independence, and it remained a part of the UK.

Culture

The British population in 1877

As an empire on which "the sun never sets", the United Kingdom was a multiethnic and multicultural nation. On 23 September 1877, there were 42,820,000 people in the British Empire. 20.3% were Bengalis, 15.4% British, 9.2% Avadhis, 8% Marathis, 7.6% Biharis, 6.6% Tamils, 6.5% Kanaujis, 3.8% Telegus, 3.6% Kannadas, 2.4% Irish, 1.7% Punjabis, 1.6% Asian Minor, 1.4% Gujaratis, 1.4% Anglo-Canadians, 1.3% African Minor, 1% Assamese, and 8.4% other (including Tibetans, Sindhis, Sephardim, Yue, and others). The empire was so large that 52.3% of the population followed Hinduism, the main religion of British India. 22% adhered to Sunni Islam, 17.9% to Protestant Christianity, 3.2% to Animism, and 2.9% to Catholic Christianity. The empire also had a diverse work force. 48.9% were farmers, 29.9% were soldiers, 5.8% artisans, 4.7% laborers, 3.9% craftsmen, 2.7% clergymen, 2% aristocrats, 1.2% bureaucrats, .5% clerks, .2% officers, and .2% capitalists, with slavery outlawed.

Politics

The government of the United Kingdom was a mix of conservative, liberal, reactionary, and socialist parties. Although the country was 66.8% conservative in 1877, 64.3% of the electorate vote went to the UK Liberal Party. The UK Conservative Party had 26.5% of the electorate vote, the reactionary Tory Party 5.9%, and the socialist UK Labor Party 3.2%. 

Gallery

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