The United Kingdom has historically played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its zenith in the 19th century, the British Empire stretched over one-fourth of the earth's surface. The first half of the 20th century saw the UK's strength seriously depleted in two World Wars and the Irish republic withdraw from the union. The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation. As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a founding member of NATO, and of the Commonwealth, the UK pursues a global approach to foreign policy. The UK is also an active member of the EU, although it chose to remain outside the Economic and Monetary Union. Devolution and constitutional reform have been significant recent issues in the UK. The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly were established in 1999, but the latter was suspended until May 2007 due to wrangling over the peace process.
 Economical characteristics
- Currency: Pound sterling (ISO code: GBP)
- Central bank discount rate: 0.86% (31 December 2008)
- Commercial banks lending rate: 4.63% (31 December 2008)
- Stock of money (M1): $NA
- Quasi money (with M1 makes M2): $NA
 Notable events:
- Banking crisis: 1810, 1815-1817, 1825-1826, 1837-1839, 1847-1848, August 1857, May 1866, October 1878, November 1890, 1974-1976, 1984, 1991, 1995; in Scotland: 1857-1858, 1878-1880, 1908; 2007
- Years in inflation: 2.4% (share of years 1800-2009 with annual inflation above 20 per cent per annum)
- Public default: 1822, 1834, 1888-1889, 1932 (domestic)
|Statistic / Year||1999||2000||2001||2002||2003||2004||2005||2006||2007||2008|
|GDP (million USD)||1 502 560||1 477 580||1 470 890||1 612 060||1 860 810||2 198 090||2 280 180||2 435 710||2 803 460||2 674 060|
|Govt. debt (% of GDP)||47.484||47.469||42.507||42.528||42.598||44.905||47.300||47.133||47.863||57.523|
|Govt. revenue (% of GDP)||36.560||37.114||37.082||35.498||35.096||35.918||36.985||37.708||37.380||38.408|
|Govt. expenses (% of GDP)||35.652||36.204||36.651||37.633||38.809||39.200||41.222||40.378||40.005||42.827|
|Debt to revenue (years)||1.299||1.279||1.146||1.198||1.214||1.250||1.279||1.250||1.280||1.498|
 Points of interest
For economists, Henry VIII of England should be almost as famous for clipping his kingdom's coins as he was for chopping off the heads of its queens. Despite inheriting a vast fortune from his father, Henry VII, and even after confiscating the church's assets, he found himself in such desperate need of funds that he resorted to an epic debasement of the currency. This debasement began in 1542 and continued through the end of Henry's reign in 1547 and on into that of his successor, Edward VI. Cumulatively, the pound lost 83 percent of its silver content during this period.
- No law was passed making God Save the Queen the official anthem. In the British tradition, such laws are not necessary; proclamation and usage are sufficient to make it the official national anthem. God Save the Queen also serves as the Royal anthem for several other countries.
- Under the Council of Europe's European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Irish, Scots and its regional variant Ulster Scots are officially recognised as Regional or Minority languages by the UK Government for the purposes of the Charter. See also Languages of the United Kingdom.
- British dependencies drive on the left except for BIOT and Gibraltar.
- ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 states that this should be GB and .gb was initially used by the Government, but registration has been suppressed in favour of .uk. The .eu domain is shared with other European Union member states.
Note: statistical data was rounded. Different sources may use different methodologies for their estimates. Debt to revenue is calculated by dividing the two variables from their original ('unrounded') values. It represents how long it would a government take to repay its entire debt if it used its whole revenue for this purpose.
- "European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages". Scottish Government. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/ArtsCulture/gaelic/gaelic-english/17910/europeancharter. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
- "United Kingdom population by ethnic group" (XLS). United Kingdom Census 2001. Office for National Statistics. 1 April 2001. http://www.statistics.gov.uk/StatBase/Expodata/Spreadsheets/D6588.xls. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
- "Total population at 1 January". Eurostat. 11 March 2011. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/table.do?tab=table&language=en&pcode=tps00001&tableSelection=1&footnotes=yes&labeling=labels&plugin=1. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
- "Census 2001: Population estimates". Office for National Statistics. http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/pop2001/united_kingdom.asp. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
- "United Kingdom". International Monetary Fund. April 2011. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2011/01/weodata/weorept.aspx?sy=2007&ey=2010&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=112&s=NGDPD%2CNGDPDPC%2CPPPGDP%2CPPPPC%2CLP&grp=0&a=&pr.x=25&pr.y=6. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
- "Income inequalities". The Poverty Site. http://www.poverty.org.uk/09/index.shtml. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
- "Human Development Report 2010". United Nations. p. 143 ff. http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2010_EN_Table1.pdf. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
- "Index of Economic Freedom 2011". The Heritage Foundation. 2011. http://www.heritage.org/Index/Country/UnitedKingdom. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
- "Corruption Perceptions Index 2010". Transparency International. 2010. http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2010/in_detail. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
- "Doing Business Report 2011". International Finance Corporation, World Bank. 2011. http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/united-kingdom/. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
- CIA - The World Factbook. "United Kingdom", from The World Factbook. Referenced 2010-09-21.
- Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff. "This Time is Different", Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-14216-6, p. 381, 387-388. (The list does not claim to be complete.) Referenced 2011-07-21.
- Carmen M. Reinhart. "This Time is Different Chartbook: Country Histories on Debt, Default, and Financial Crises" (pdf), March 3, 2010, p. 114. (The list does not claim to be complete.) Referenced 2011-07-21.
- World Bank. "United Kingdom: GDP", from World Bank Data. Referenced 2010-09-21.
- World Bank. "United Kingdom: government debt", from World Bank Data. Referenced 2010-09-21.
- World Bank. "United Kingdom: government revenue", from World Bank Data. Referenced 2010-09-21.
- World Bank. "United Kingdom: government expenses", from World Bank Data. Referenced 2010-09-21.
- Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff. "This Time is Different", Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-14216-6. Referenced 2011-07-13, p. 175.
- Central bank of United Kingdom
- BBC country profile
- Mercantilism in England by Murray N. Rothbard, May 2010 (from An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, vol. 1)
- Anarchy in the UK (and US, too)? by Jim Jubak, July 2010
- Sir Philip Green reports findings of his review into Government efficiency by Cabinet Office Press Office, October, 2010
- George Osborne announces further Â£7bn welfare cuts by Spending Review, October 2010
- Cuts 'tough but fair', David Cameron insists by Spending Review, October 2010
- The 1822 Refutation of the Spitalfields Act of Wage and Price Controls by Anders Mikkelsen, November 2010; about the Observations on the Ruinous Tendency of the Spitalfields Act to the Silk Manufacture of London (pdf), 1822
- An Earlier Response to Environmental Tyranny by Daniel Walker (about land controls leading to the Magna Carta)
- "The English Civil War and the First Libertarian Movement" by Jeff Riggenbach, August 2010
- "The Principles of Liberalism in 17th-Century England" by Murray N. Rothbard, 1975 (from Conceived in Liberty)
- The History of England by David Hume, in 6 volumes, 1778
- United Kingdom at Wikipedia