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Sunday, 3 July 2011

History of the United Kingdom

History of the United Kingdom


Also, see History of Ireland.
A published version of the Articles of Union, agreement that led to the creation of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707
The history of the United Kingdom as a unified sovereign state began with the political union of the kingdoms of England, which included Wales, and Scotland on 1 May 1707 in accordance with the Treaty of Union, as ratified by the Acts of Union 1707. The Union created the United Kingdom of Great Britain, which shared a single constitutional monarch and a single Parliament of Great Britain at Westminster. Prior to this, the kingdoms of England and Scotland had been separate sovereign states, although in personal union following the Union of the Crowns of 1603, each with political, administrative and cultural institutions including representative governance, law systems, and distinguished contributions to the arts and sciences, upon which the institutions of the United Kingdom were later to be built. On the new kingdom the historian Simon Schama said "What began as a hostile merger would end in a full partnership in the most powerful going concern in the world... it was one of the most astonishing transformations in European history."[5] A further Act of Union in 1800 added the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

18th century

18th century

] Birth of the Union

"Articles of Union with Scotland", 1707
The Kingdom of Great Britain came into being on 1 May 1707, as a result of the political union of the Kingdom of England (which included Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland. The terms of the union had been agreed in the Treaty of Union that was negotiated the previous year and then ratified by the parliaments of Scotland and England each approving Acts of Union.[10]
Although previously separate states, England and Scotland had shared monarchs since 1603 when James VI of Scotland become James I of England on the death of the childless Elizabeth I, an event known as the Union of the Crowns. The Treaty of Union enabled the two kingdoms to be combined into a single kingdom with the two parliaments merging into a single parliament of Great Britain. Queen Anne, who reigned from 1702 to 1714, had favoured deeper political integration between the two kingdoms and became the first monarch of Great Britain. The union was valuable to England from a security standpoint, since it meant that Scotland lost the possibility to choose a different monarch on her death, reducing the chance of a European power using Scotland as a route to invading England.

The creation of Great Britain happened during the War of the Spanish Succession, in which just before his death in 1702 William III had reactivated the Grand Alliance against France. His successor, Anne, continued the war. The Duke of Marlborough won a series of brilliant victories over the French, England's first major battlefield successes on the Continent since the Hundred Years War. France was nearly brought to its knees by 1709, when King Louis XIV made a desperate appeal to the French people. Afterwards, his general Marshal Villars managed to turn the tide in favour of France. A more peace-minded government came to power in Great Britain, and the treaties of Utrecht and Rastadt in 1713–1714 ended the war.
George I in 1714, by Godfrey Kneller
Queen Anne died in 1714, and the Elector of Hanover, George Louis, became king as George I. Jacobite factions remained strong however, and they instigated a revolt in 1715–1716. The son of James II planned to invade England, but before he could do so, John Erskine, Earl of Mar, launched an invasion from Scotland, which was easily defeated. George II succeeded to the throne in 1727 and ruled until his death in 1760. During his reign, the rising power of Prussia led to two major conflicts in Europe, the War of the Austrian Succession from 1740 to 1748, and the Seven Years War from 1756 to 1763. Both spilled over into the American colonies, and when the latter ended, Britain gained all of Canada and France was destroyed as a colonial power in North America.

British Empire

British Empire

Lord Clive meeting with Mir Jafar after the Battle of Plassey, by Francis Hayman (c. 1762).
The Seven Years' War, which began in 1756, was the first war waged on a global scale, fought in Europe, India, North America, the Caribbean, the Philippines and coastal Africa. The signing of the Treaty of Paris (1763) had important consequences for Britain and its empire. In North America, France's future as a colonial power there was effectively ended with the ceding of New France to Britain (leaving a sizeable French-speaking population under British control) and Louisiana to Spain. Spain ceded Florida to Britain. In India, the Carnatic War had left France still in control of its enclaves but with military restrictions and an obligation to support British client states, effectively leaving the future of India to Britain. The British victory over France in the Seven Years War therefore left Britain as the world's dominant colonial power.[11]
During the 1760s and 1770s, relations between the Thirteen Colonies and Britain became increasingly strained, primarily because of resentment of the British Parliament's ability to tax American colonists without their consent.[12] Disagreement turned to violence and in 1775 the American Revolutionary War began. The following year, the colonists United States Declaration of Independence declared the independence of the United States, thus marking a formal secession. For the first few years, the British populace supported the war, but by 1779 France and Spain had entered on the side of the United States and Britain no longer had secure control of the seas. Its army controlled only a handful of coastal cities. The French and Spanish intervention had the effect of turning the American Revolution into a foreign conflict, which meant that the war itself could not be criticised, only the conduct of it.
1780-81 was a low point for Britain. Taxes and deficits were high, government corruption was pervasive, and the war in America was entering its sixth year with no apparent end in sight. The Gordon Riots erupted in London during the spring of 1781, in response to increased concessions to Catholics by Parliament. In October 1781 Lord Cornwallis surrendered his army at Yorktown, Virginia. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, formally terminating the war and recognising the independence of the United States. However, the British continued to maintain forts along the Canadian border until 1796 and the Great Lakes remained militarised until 1815.
British general John Burgoyne surrenders at Saratoga (1777), painting by John Trumbull 1822

During its first 100 years of operation, the focus of the British East India Company had been trade, not the building of an empire in India. Company interests turned from trade to territory during the 18th century as the Mughal Empire declined in power and the British East India Company struggled with its French counterpart, the La Compagnie fran├žaise des Indes orientales, during the Carnatic Wars of the 1740s and 1750s. The British, led by Robert Clive, defeated the French and their Indian allies in the Battle of Plassey, leaving the Company in control of Bengal and a major military and political power in India. In the following decades it gradually increased the size of the territories under its control, either ruling directly or indirectly via local puppet rulers under the threat of force of the Indian Army, 80% of which was composed of native Indian sepoys.
Voyages of the explorer James Cook
On 22 August 1770, James Cook discovered the eastern coast of Australia[15] while on a scientific voyage to the South Pacific. In 1778, Joseph Banks, Cook's botanist on the voyage, presented evidence to the government on the suitability of Botany Bay for the establishment of a penal settlement, and in 1787 the first shipment of convicts set sail, arriving in 1788.
At the threshold to the 19th century, Britain was challenged again by France under Napoleon, in a struggle that, unlike previous wars, represented a contest of ideologies between the two nations.[16]
British Empire in 1921
The British government had somewhat mixed reactions to the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, and when war broke out on the Continent in 1792, it initially remained neutral. But the following January, Louis XVI was beheaded. This combined with a threatened invasion of the Netherlands by France spurred Britain to declare war. For the next 23 years, the two nations were at war except for a short period in 1802–1803. Britain alone among the nations of Europe never submitted to or formed an alliance with France. Throughout the 1790s, the British repeatedly defeated the navies of France and its allies, but were unable to perform any significant land operations. An Anglo-Russian invasion of the Netherlands in 1799 accomplished little except the capture of the Dutch fleet.

19th century

19th century

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1800)

The Flag of the United Kingdom is based on the flags of England, Scotland and Ireland
On 1 January 1801, the Kingdom of Great Britain merged with the Kingdom of Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Events that culminated in the union with Ireland had spanned several centuries. Invasions from England by the ruling Normans from 1170 led to centuries of strife in Ireland and successive Kings of England sought both to conquer and pillage Ireland, imposing their rule by force throughout the entire island. In the early 17th century, large-scale settlement by Protestant settlers from both Scotland and England began, especially in the province of Ulster, seeing the displacement of many of the native Roman Catholic Irish inhabitants of this part of Ireland. Since the time of the first Norman invaders from England, Ireland has been subject to control and regulation, firstly by England then latterly by Great Britain.
After the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Irish Roman Catholics were barred from voting or attending the Irish Parliament. The new English Protestant ruling class was known as the Protestant Ascendancy. Towards the end of the 18th century the entirely Protestant Irish Parliament attained a greater degree of independence from the British Parliament than it had previously held. Under the Penal Laws no Irish Catholic could sit in the Parliament of Ireland, even though some 90% of Ireland's population was native Irish Catholic when the first of these bans was introduced in 1691. This ban was followed by others in 1703 and 1709 as part of a comprehensive system disadvantaging the Catholic community, and to a lesser extent Protestant dissenters.[17] In 1798, many members of this dissenter tradition made common cause with Catholics in a rebellion inspired and led by the Society of United Irishmen. It was staged with the aim of creating a fully independent Ireland as a state with a republican constitution. Despite assistance from France the Irish Rebellion of 1798 was put down by British forces.

20th century

20th century

Queen Victoria died in 1901 and her son Edward VII became king, inaugurating the Edwardian Era, which was characterised by great and ostentatious displays of wealth in contrast to the sombre Victorian Era. With the event of the 20th century, things such as motion pictures, automobiles, and aeroplanes were coming into use. The new century was characterised by a feeling of great optimism. The social reforms of the last century continued into the 20th with the Labour Party being formed in 1900. Edward died in 1910, to be succeeded by George V. The Edwardian Era barely lasted longer than its namesake, for it all came crashing down in the summer of 1914, just as Europe was at the zenith of its power in the world.
The era was prosperous but political crises were escalating out of control. Dangerfield (1935) identified the "strange death of liberal England" as the multiple crisis that hit simultaneously in 1910-1914 with serious social and political instability arising from the Irish crisis, labor unrest, the women's suffrage movements, and partisan and constitutional struggles in Parliament. At one point it even seemed the Army might refuse orders dealing with Northern Ireland.[24] No solution appeared in sight when the unexpected outbreak of the Great War in 1914 put domestic issues on hold. After a rough start Britain under David Lloyd George successfully mobilised its manpower, industry, finances, Empire and diplomacy, in league with the French and Americans, to fight off the Germans and Turks.
Lloyd George said after victory that "the nation was now in a molten state", and his Housing Act 1919 would lead to affordable council housing which allowed people to move out of Victorian inner-city slums. The slums, though, remained for several more years, with trams being electrified long before many houses. The Representation of the People Act 1918 gave women householders the vote, but it would not be until 1928 that equal suffrage was achieved. Labour did not achieve major success until the 1922 general election.

21st century

21st century

Terrorism at home, War in Afghanistan and Iraq

In the 2001 General Election, the Labour Party won a second successive victory though voter turnout dropped to the lowest level for more than 80 years.[39] Later that year, the September 11th attacks in the United States led to American President George W. Bush launching the War on Terror, beginning with the invasion of Afghanistan aided by British troops in October 2001. Thereafter, with the US focus shifting to Iraq, Tony Blair decided to support the United States in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, despite huge anti-war marches held in London and Glasgow. Forty-six thousand British troops, one-third of the total strength of the British Army's land forces, were deployed to assist with the invasion of Iraq and thereafter British armed forces were responsible for security in southern Iraq in the run-up to the Iraqi elections of January 2005.
The Labour Party won the 2005 general election and a third consecutive term in office despite support dropping to just 35% of those who voted.[40] However the effects of the War on Terror following 9/11 increased the threat of international terrorists plotting attacks against the UK. On 7 July 2005, a series of four bomb explosions struck London's public transport system during the morning rush-hour. All four incidents were suicide bombings, and killed a total of 52 commuters in addition to the four bombers. Later in 2007, Muslim extremists drove a Jeep Cherokee, loaded with propane canisters, into the glass doors of Glasgow International Airport setting it ablaze. The intention was to drive the Jeep into the airport and have the car explode inside the terminal, but the car was hindered by security bollards, causing no civilian deaths