UK Lesson Notes

Understanding the U.K

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I. Geographical Features and Natural Resources
II. Population of U.K
III. The Origins of a Nation
Feudal England
England Under the Tudors
The Burgeois Revolution
Hanoverian England and Industrial Revolution
Party Politics and Colonial Expansion
Britain in the Two World Wars
British Monarchy and the Government
Parliament and Judicial System
Political Parties and Election
Mass Media
British Family Life , Character and Customs
Religion in the United Kingdom

U.K Online Notes

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Geographical Features and Natural Resources
Population of U.K
The Origins of a Nation

Feudal England
England Under the Tudors
The Burgeois Revolution
Hanoverian England and Industrial Revolution
Party Politics and Colonial Expansion
Britain in the Two World Wars
British Monarchy and the Government
Parliament and Judicial System
Political Parties and Election
Mass Media
British Family Life , Character and Customs
Religion in the United Kingdom

UK Online Notes


 Geographical Features

Is UK the same as Great Britain?
Which countries are in Great Britain?
What countries make up the UK?
Why does England dominate the UK?
What is the British Isles ?
I. Different Names for Britain and its Parts
1.Geographical names: the British Isles, Great Britain and England.

2.Official name: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.(England,Wales , Scotland , Northern Ireland)
3.The British Isles are made up of two large islands-Great Britain (the larger one) and Ireland, and hundreds of small ones.

4.Three political divisions on the island of Great Britain: England, Scotland and Wales.
   (1) England is in the southern part of Great Britain. It is the largest, most populous section.
   (2) Scotland is in the north of Great Britain. It has three natural zones (the Highlands in the north; the Central lowlands; the south Uplands) Capital: Edinburgh
   (3) Wales is in the west of Great Britain. Capital: Cardiff
   (4) Northern Ireland is the fourth region of the UK. Capital: Belfast.
5.The Commonwealth (of nations) is a free association of independent countries that were once colonies of Britain. It was founded in 1931, and has 50 member countries until 1991.
          Why does England dominate the UK?

1. England is the largest and most populous
portion of Great Britain. It contains about 84% of the UK population.
2. The capital, seat of government, and the largest city in the United Kingdom is London,England.
3. The British Royal family live in England
4. Most of the world assumes that British people are "English" unless specified otherwise.

Total Area:
244 , 820

1000 S-N
500 W-E

12 , 429 sq. km.


II. Geographical Features ???????

1.Geographical position of Britain:

Britain is an island country surrounded by the sea. It lies in the North Atlantic Ocean off the north coast of Europe. It is separated from the rest of Europe by the English Channel in the south and the North Sea in the east.

2.The north and west of Britain are mainly highlands; and the east and southeast are mostly lowlands.

III. Rivers and Lakes

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Britain (1,343m).
Severn River is the longest river in Britain (338km).
Thames River is the second longest and most important river in Britain. (336km).
Lough Neagh is the largest lake in Britain which is located in Northern Ireland. (396 square kilometres).
River Clyde is the most important river in Scotland.
Snowdonia is the highest mountain in Wales.(1,085m)

IV. Climate

1. Britain's favorable climate
Britain has a maritime climate-winters are not too cold and summers are not too hot. It has a steady reliable rainfall throughout the whole year. The temperature varies within a small range.

2.The factors influence the climate in Britain:

1)The surrounding waters tend to balance the seasonal differences by heating up the land in winter and cooling it off in summer;
2)The prevailing south-west winds or the Westerlies blow over the country all the year round bringing warm and wet air in winter and keeping the temperatures moderate
3)The North Atlantic Drift passes the western coast of the British Isles and warms them.


Britain has a steady reliable rainfall throughout the whole year. The average annual rainfall in Britain is over 1,000mm. There is a water surplus in the north and west, and a water deficit in the south and east.




The People

1.Population distribution
Britain has a population of about 57 millions and it is very unevenly distributed. 90% of the population is urban and only 10% is rural. The population of Britain is made up mainly of the English (81.5%), the Scottish (9.6%), the Welsh (1.9%), the Irish (2.4%), the Northern Irish (1.8%) and other peoples (2.8%).

2.The difference between the ancestors of the English and Scots, Welsh and Irish:

The ancestors of the English are Anglo-Saxons, the Scots, Welsh and Irish are Celts.

3.The difference in character
The Welsh are emotional and cheerful people. They are music lovers and are proud of their past.
The Scots are said to be a serious, cautious and thrifty people, and they are also hospitable, generous and friendly.

4.The difference in speech between southern England and northern England:
Southerners speak the type of English close to BBC English; In northern England, regional speech is usually "broader" than that of southern England.

5.The Welsh keep their language and culture in this way:
Throughout the year they have festivals of song and dance and poetry called Eisteddfod. The great event of the year is the National Eisteddfod. On these occasions competitions are held in Welsh poetry, music, singing and art.

6.The main problem in Northern Ireland:
The fight between the Protestants who are the dominant group, and the Roman Catholics, who are seeking more social, political and economic opportunities.

About three million have come to Britain to live and find work since World War II.



The Origins of a Nation (5000BC-1066)

I.Early Settlers (5000BC-55BC)

1.The first known settlers of Britain were the Iberians.
2. At about 2000 BC the Beaker Folk arrived from the areas now know as Holland and Rhineland.
3. The Celts began to arrive Britain about 700 BC.
4. The Celts came to Britain in three main waves.

The first wave were the Gaels-came about 600 BC.
The second wave were the Brythons-came about 400 BC.
The third wave were the Belgae-came about 150 BC.

II. Roman Britain (55BC-410AD)

1.British recorded history begins with the Roman invasion. In 55BC and 54BC, Julius Caesar, a Roman general, invaded Britain twice. In AD 43, the Emperor Claudius invaded Britain successfully. For nearly 400 years, Britain was under the Roman occupation, though it was never a total occupation.

2. Roman’s influence on Britain.

The Roman built many towns, road, baths, temples and buildings. They make good use of Britain’s natural resources. They also brought the new religion, Christianity, to Britain.

3.Reasons for limited Roman influence on Britain.

First, the Romans always treated the Britons as a subject people of slave class. Second, never during the 4 centuries did the Romans and Britons intermarry. Third, the Romans had no impact on the language or culture of ordinary Britons.

III. The Anglo-Saxons (446-871)

1. Basis of Modern English race: the Anglo-Saxons.

In the mid-5th century a new wave of invaders, Jutes, Saxons, and Angles came to Britain. They were three Teutonic tribes.
The Jutes, who fished and farmed in Jutland, came to Britain first. A Jutish chief became the King of Kent in 449. Then the Saxons, users of the short-sword from northern Germany, established their kingdom in Essex, Sussex and Wessex from the end of the 5th century to the beginning of the 6th century. In the second half of the 6th century. In the second half of the 6th century, the Angles, who also came from northern Germany and were to give their name to the English people, settled in East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria. These seven principal kingdoms of Kent, Essex, Sussex, Wessex, East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria have been given the name of Heptarchy.

2.The early Anglo-Saxons converted to Christianity.

The Anglo-Saxons brought their own Teutonic religion to Britain. Christianity soon disappeared, except among the Celts of Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. In 597, Pope Gregory I sent St. Augustine, the Prior of St. Andrew’s Monastery in Rome, to England to convert the heathen English to Christianity. In 579 St. Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. He was remarkably successful in converting the king and the nobility, but the conversion of the common people was largely due to the missionary activities of the monks in the north.

3.The Early Anglo-Saxons make the contributions to the English state.

The Anglo-Saxons laid the foundations of the English state. Firstly, they divided the country into shires, with shire courts and shire reeves, or sheriffs, responsible for administering law. Secondly, they devised the narrow-strip, three-field farming system which continued to the 18th century. Thirdly, they also established the manorial system. Finally, they created the Witan(council or meeting of the wisemen) to advise the king, the basis of the Privy Council which still exists today.

IV.Viking and Danish invasions

1.The invaders were the Norwegians and the Danes. They attacked various parts of England from the end of the 8th century. They became a serious problem in the 9th century, especially between 835 and 878. They even managed to capture York, an important center of Christianity in 867. By the middle of 9th century, the Viking and the Danes were posing a threat to the Saxon kingdom of Wessex.

2.King Alfred (849-899) and his contributions

Alfred was a king of Wessex. He defeated the Danes and reached a friendly agreement with them in 879. The Danes gained control of the north and east, while he ruled the rest. He also converted some leading Danes into Christians.
He founded a strong fleet and is known as “ the father of the British navy”. He reorganized the Saxon army, making it more efficient. He translated a Latin book into English. He also established schools and formulated a legal system. All this earns him the title “Alfred the Great.”

V.The Norman Conquest (1066)

1.Reasons for William’s invasion of England after Edward’s death.

It was said that king Edward had promised the English throne to William, but the Witan chose Harold as king. So William led his army to invade England. In October 1066, during the important battle of Hastings, William defeated Harold and killed him. One Christmas Day, William was crowned king of England, thus beginning the Norman Conquest of England.

2.The Norman Conquest and its consequences

The Norman Conquest of 1066 is perhaps the best-known event in English history. William the Conqueror confiscated almost all the land and gave it to his Norman followers. He replaced the weak Saxon rule with a strong Norman government. He replaced the weak Saxon rule with a strong Norman government. So the feudal system was completely established in England. Relations with the Continent were opened, and the civilization and commerce were extended. Norman-French culture, language, manners and architecture were introduced. The Church was brought into closer connection with Rome, and the church courts were separated from the civil courts.

3.The English is a mixture of nationalities of different origins. The ancestors of many English people were the ancient Angles and Saxons. Some English people are of the Norman-French origin.

The Shaping of the Nation (1066-1381)

I. Norman Rule (1066-1381)

1. William's Rule (1066-1087)

England's feudalism under the rule of William the Conqueror

1Under William, the feudal system in England was completely established. 2According to this system, the King owned all the land personally. 3William gave his barons large estates in England in return for a promise of military service and a proportion of the land's produce. ?These estates were scattered far and wide over the country, so that those who held them could not easily combine to rebel the king. ?The barons, who had become William's tenants-in-chief, parceled out land to the lesser nobles, knights and freemen, also in return for goods and services. ?At the bottom of the feudal scale were the villeins or serfs. ?One peculiar feature of the feudal system of England was that all landowners must take the oath of allegiance,not only to their immediate lord, but also to the king.

2. King Henry II and his reforms

The ways King Henry II consolidate the monarchy.

Henry II took some measures to consolidate the monarchy. He forced the Flemish mercenaries to leave England; recalled grants of Royal lands made by his previous king Stephen; demolished many castles built in Stephen’s time; strengthened and widened the powers of his sheriffs and relied for armed support upon a militia composed of English freemen.

The ways Henry II reform the courts and the law.

King Henry II greatly strengthened the Court and extended its judicial work. He divided the whole country into six circuits and appointed justices to each. Cases were therefore heard before the intermittent justices who applied the law impartially. During his reign, a common law was gradually established in place of the previous laws of the local barons. He also introduced a new jury system to replace the old ordeal-based trial system. Besides, he shifted the trial of clergymen charged with criminal offenses from the Bishop's court to the King's court.

II.Contents and the significance of the Great Charter

Great Charter was signed by King John in 1215 under the press of the barons. It consists of sixty-three clauses. Its important provisions are as follows: (1) no tax should be made without the approval of the Grand Council; (2) no freemen should be arrested, imprisoned or deprived of their property; (3) the Church should possess all its rights, together with freedom of elections; (4) London and other towns should retain their traditional rights and privileges, and (5) there should be the same weights and measures throughout the country. Although The Great Charter has long been popularly regarded as the foundation of English liberties, it was a statement of the feudal and legal relationships between the Crown and the barons, a guarantee of the freedom of the Church and a limitation of the powers of the king. The spirit of the Great Charter was the limitation of the powers of the king, keeping them within the bounds of the feudal law of the land. 

III.The origins of the English Parliament

The Great Council is known to be the prototype of the current British Parliament. In 1265, Simon de Montfort summoned the Great Council, together with two knights from each county and two citizens from each town. It later developed into the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Its main role was to offer advice. There were no elections or parties. And the most important part of Parliament was the House of Lords.

IV.The Hundred Years' War and its consequences.

The Hundred Years’ War refers to the war between England and France that lasted intermittently from 1337 to 1453. The causes of the war were partly territorial and partly economic. The territorial causes were related with the possession by the English kings of the large duchy in France, while the French kings coveted this large slice. The economic causes were connected with cloth manufacturing towns in Flanders, which were the importer of English wool, but they were loyal to the French king politically. Besides, England's desire to stop France from giving aid to Scots and a growing sense of nationalism were the other causes.
The English's being driven out of France is regarded as a blessing for both countries. If the English had remained in France, the superior size and wealth of France would have hindered the development of a separate English national identity, while France was hindered so long as a foreign power occupied so much French territory.

V. The Black Death

The Black Death is the modern name given to the deadly epidemic disease spread by rat fleas across Europe in the 14th century. It swept through England in the summer of 1348. It reduced England's population from four million to two million by the end of the 14th century.
The economic consequences of the Black Death were far-reaching. As a result of the plague, much land was left untended and there was a terrible shortage of labour. The surviving peasants had better bargaining power and were in a position to change their serfdom into paid labour. Some landlords, unable or unwilling to pay higher wages, tried to force peasants back into serfdom. In 1351 the government issued a Statute of Labourers which made it a crime for peasants to ask for more wages or for their employers to pay more than the rates laid down by the Justices of the Peace.

VI. The Peasant Uprising of 1381 and its significance

Armed villagers and townsmen of Kent and Essex, led by Wat Tyler and Jack Straw, moved on London in June, 1381. The king was forced to accept their demands. Most of the rebels dispersed and went home, while Tyler and other leaders stayed on for more rights. Tyler was killed at a meeting with the king.
The uprising was brutally suppressed, but it had far-reaching significance in English history. First, it directed against the rich clergy, lawyers and the landowners. Second, it dealt a telling blow to villeinage, and third, a new class of yeomen farmers emerged, paving the way to the development of capitalism.


Transition to the Modern Age (1455-1688)

I. Transition to the Modern Age (1455-1485)

The Wars of Rose

The name Wars of the Roses was refer to the battles between the House of Lancaster, symbolized by the read rose, and that of York, symbolized by the white, from 1455 to 1485. Henry Tudor, descendant of Duke of Lancaster won victory at Bosworth Fireld in 1485 and put ht country under the rule of the Tudors. From these Wars, English feudalism received its death blow. The great medieval nobility was much weakened.

II. The English Reformation

Henry VIII was above all responsible for the religious reform of the church. There were three main causes: a desire for change and reform in the church had been growing for many years and now, encouraged by the success of Martin Luther, many people believed its time had come; the privilege and wealth of the clergy were resented; and Henry needed money.

The reform began as a struggle for a divorce and ended in freedom from the Papacy. Henry VIII wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon but the Pope refused. Henry’s reforms was to get rid of the English Church’s connection with the Pope, and to make an independent Church of England. He made this break with Rome gradually between 1529 and 1534. He dissolved all of England’s monasteries and nunneries because they were more loyal to the Pope than to their English kings. The laws such as the Act of succession of 1534 and the Act of Supremacy of 1535 made his reform possible. He established the church of England as the national church of the country, and he made himself the supreme head of the church of England.

Henry VIII’s reform stressed the power of the monarch and certainly strengthened Henry’s position; Parliament had never done such a long and important piece of work before, its importance grew as a result. His attack on the Pope’s power encouraged many critics of abuses of the Catholic Church. England was moving away form Catholicism towards protestaintism.

III. Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

Elizabeth's religious reform and her foreign policy

Elizabeth's religious reform was a compromise of views. She broke Mary's ties with Rome and restored her father's independent Church of England, i.e. keeping to Catholic doctrines and practices but to be free of the Papal control. He religious settlement was unacceptable to both the extreme Protestants known as Puritans and to ardent Catholics.
For nearly 30 years Elizabeth successfully played off against each other the two great Catholic powers, France and Spain, and prevented England from getting involved in any major European conflict. Through her marriage alliances which were never materialized, Elizabeth managed to maintain a friendly relationship with France. So England wad able to face the danger from Spain.

IV. The English Renaissance

Distinctive features of the English Renaissance

1) English culture was revitalized not so much directly by the classics as by contemporary Europeans under the influence of the classics;
2) England as an insular country followed a course of social and political history which was to a great extent independent of the course of history elsewhere in Europe;
3) Owing to the great genius of the 14th century poet Chaucer, the native literature was sufficiently vigorous and experienced in assimilating for foreign influences without being subjected by them;
4) English Renaissance coincided with the Reformation in England.
VI. The Civil Wars and their consequences
Because of the absolute rule of Charles, the confrontation between Charles I and the parliament developed into the civil war. The war began on August 22,1642 and ended in 1651. Charles I was condemned to death.
The English Civil War is also called the Puritan Revolution. It has been seen as a conflict between the parliament and the King, and a conflict between economic interests of the Crown. The economic interests of the urban middle classed coincided with their religious ( Puritan) ideology while the Crown’s traditional economic interests correspondingly allied with Anglican religious belief. The English Civil War not only overthrew feudal system in England but also shook the foundation of the feudal rule in Europe. It is generally regarded as the beginning of modern world history.

The Restoration

When Oliver Cromwell died in 1658 and was succeeded by his son, Richard, the regime began to collapse. One of Cromwell's generals George Monck, occupied London and arranged for new parliamentary elections. The Parliament thus was elected in 1660 resolved the crisis by asking the late King's son to return from his exile in France as king Charles II. It was called the Restoration.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688

In 1685 Charles II died and was succeeded by his brother James II. James was brought up in exile in Europe, was a Catholic. He hoped to rule without giving up his personal religious vies. But England was no more tolerant of a Catholic king in 1688 than 40 years ago. So the English politicians rejected James II, and appealed to a Protestant king, William of Orange, to invade and take the English throne. William landed in England in 1688. The takeover was relatively smooth, with no bloodshed, nor any execution of the king. This was known as the Glorious Revolution.
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was the most famous of the Catholic conspiracies. On Nov. 5,1605, a few fanatical Catholics attempted to blow King James and his ministers up in the House of Parliament where Guy Fawkes had planted barrels of gun-powder in the cellars. The immediate result was the execution of Fawkes and his fellow-conspirators and imposition of severe anti-Catholic laws. The long-term result has been an annual celebration on Nov. 5, when a bonfire is lit to turn a guy and a firework display is arranged.
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (1688-1990)

I. Whigs and Tories

These two party names originated with the Glorious Revolution (1688).

The Whig were those who opposed absolute monarchy and supported the right to religious freedom for Nonconformists. The Whig were to form a coalition with dissident Tories in the mid-19th century and become the Liberal Party.

The Tories were those who supported hereditary monarchy and were reluctant to remove kings. The Tories were the forerunners of the Conservative Party.

I. Agricultural Changes in the Late 18th Century

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the “open-field” system ended when the Enclosure Act was passed. The movement lasted for centuries. Agricultural enclosure had good as well as bad results:

(1) Farms became bigger and bigger units as the great bought up the small;

(2) More vegetables, more milk and more dairy produce were consumed, and diet became more varied;
(3) Enclosure was a disaster for the tenants evicted from their lands by the enclosures. These peasant farmers were forced to look for work in towns. Enclosure led to mass emigration, particularly to the New World;

(4) A new class hostility was introduced into rural relationships.

II. The Industrial Revolution (1780-1830)

1.The industrial Revolution refers to the mechanisation of industry and the consequent changes in social and economic organization in Britain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
2.Britain was the first country to industrialize because of the following factors:

(1) Favourable geopraphical location. Britain was well placed geographically to participate in European and world trade;

(2) Political stability. Britain had a peaceful society, which, after the 17th century, was increasingly interested in overseas trade and colonies. International trade brought wealth to merchants and city bankers. They and those who had done well out of new farming methods provided capital in large quantities for industralization.

(3) Good foundation in economy. The limited monarchy which resulted from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 ensured that the powerful economic interests in the community could exert their influence over Government policy.

(4) It was a country in which the main towns were never too far from seaports, or from rivers, which could distribute their products.

(5) Britain had many rivers, which were useful for transport but also for water and steam power. Britain also had useful mineral resources.

(6) British engineers had sound training as craftsmen.

(7) The inventors were respected. They solved practical problems.

(8) Probably laissez faire and “Protestant work ethic” helped.

(9) England, Scotland, and Wales formed a customs union after 1707 and this included Ireland after 1807. So the national market was not hindered by internal customs barriers.

(10) The enclosures and other improvements in agriculture made their contributions by providing food for the rising population, labour for the factories, and some of the raw materials needed by industry.

3.Typical examples of the inventions during the Industrial Revolution

(1) John Kay’s flying shuttle in 1733;
(2) James Hargreaves’ Spinning Jenny in 1766;
(3) Richard Arkwright’s waterframe in 1769;
(4) Samuel Crompton’s mule in 1779
(5) Edmund Cartwright’s power loom in 1784;
(6) James Watt’s steam engine in 1765.

4.Consequences of the industrial Revolution

(1) Britain was by 1830 the “workshop of the world”;

(2) Towns grew rapidly and became the source of the nation’s wealth.

(3) Mechanization destroyed the livelihood of those who could not invest in it . The working men worked and lived in a appalling conditions.

(4) The industrial revolution created the industrial working class, the proletariat, and it later led to trade unionism.

III. The Chartist Movement (1836-1848)

1. Reasons for parliamentary reforms.

(1) Power was monopolized by the aristocrats.

(2) Representation of town and country, and North and South was unfair.

(3) There were also various so-called rotten or pocket boroughs.

2.Three Reform Bills

Between 1832 and 1884 three Reform Bills were passed.

a) The Reform Act of 1832 (also called the “Greater Charter of 1832) abolished “rotten boroughs”, and redistributed parliamentary seats more fairly among the growing tows. It also gave the vote to many householders and tenant’s, based on the value of their property.

b) The New Poor Law of 1834 forced the poor people into work houses instead of giving them sufficient money to survive in their own homes.

3.A People’s Charter

There was widespread dissatisfaction with the Reform Act of 1832 and the New Poor Law. In 1836, a group of skilled workers and small shopkeepers formed the London Working Men’s Association. They drew up a charter of political demands (a People’s Charter) in 1838, with the intention of presenting it to Parliament. It had six points: (1)the vote for all adult males; (2)voting by secret ballot; (3)equal electoral districts; (4)abolition of property qualifications for members of Parliament; (5)payment of members of Parliament; (6)annual Parliaments, with a General Election every June.

4.Results of the Chartist Movement

Chartism failed because of its weak and divided leadership, and its lack of coordination with trade-unionism. The working class still immature, without the leadership of a political party armed with correct revolutionary theory. The Chartist movement was, however, the first nationwide working class movement and drew attention to serious problems. The 6 points were achieved very gradually over the period of 1858-1918, although the sixth has never been practical. Lenin said that Chartism was “the first broad, really mass, politically formed, proletarian revolutionary movement.”

I. Trade Unions and the Labour Party

1. The Trade Union Act of 1871 legalized the trade unions and gave financial security.

2. The Labor Party had its origin in the Independent Labor Party(ILP), which was formed in January, 1893. In 1900, representatives of trade unions, the ILP, and a number of small socialist societies set up the Labor Representation Committee (LRC). The LRC changed its name to the Labor Party for the general election called for in 1906.

II. Colonial Expansion

1. The growth of dominions

English colonial expansion began with the colonization of Newfoundland in 1583. Encouraged by Britain’s control of the seas, especially by the rising tide of emigration, British colonialists stepped up their expansion to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, in the late 18th and the early 19th centuries. By 1900, Britain had built up a big empire, “on which the sun never set”. It consisted of a vast number of protectorates, Crown colonies, spheres of influence, and self-governing dominions. It included 25% of the world’s population and area.

Canada was ceded to Britain by the 1763 Treaty of Paris. French rights were guaranteed by the Quebec Act of 1774. The Canada Act of 1791 divided Canada into Upper Canada where the British had settled, and Lower Canada populated by the French. The British North America Act of 1867 established Canada as a dominion.1
English began to transport convicts to Australia in 1788. Free settlement began in 1816, and no convicts were sent to Australia after 1840. The gold rushes (1851-1892) brought more people to Australia, and in 1901 the six self-governing wer united in one dominion-the independent Commonwealth of Australia.

New Zealand became a separate colony of Britain in 1841, achieved self-government in 1857, became a dominion under the British crown in 1907 and was made completely independent in 1931.

1. The Conquest of India

The British East India Company established in 1600. By 1819 the British conquest of most India was almost complete. After the muting of Bengal army in 1857, the control of India passed to the British Crown and Queen Victoria became Empress of India in 1877.

2. The Scramble for Africa

At the beginning of the 19th century British possessions were confined to forts and slave trading posts on the west coast. Over the 19th century the interior of Africa was gradually discovered and colonized by Europeans. Britain led the way in the race. Apart from the colonies in the South and West, Britain was also involved in the North East in Egypt and the Sudan.

3. Aggression against China

In 1840, the Opium War broke out between Britain and China. Since then, Britain gradually invaded many coastal areas and imposed a series of unequal treaties upon China.

VI. Twentieth Century

1. Britain and the First World War

The Work War I was fought from 1914 to 1918 primarily between two European Power blocs: “the Central power”. Germany and Austria-Hungary, and the “Allies”, Britain, France and Russia. During the war, the Britain lost much. Apart from the loss of manpower, there had been considerable disruption of the economy and society. Out of the war settlement came the establishment of the league of Nations.

2. Britain Between the Two World Wars

The effects of the New York Stock Market Crash of 1929 soon spread throughout Europe and by 1931 Britain was entering the Great depression.

3. Britain and the Second World War

As Adolf Hitler and Nazism showed off their aggressive momentum in Europe, Chamberlain, the Prime Minister, found his policy of appeasement of German aggression was no longer tenable, and was forced to declare war on Germany on September 3,1939.

4. Postwar Britian

(1) One of the most far-reaching consequences of the War was that it hastened the end of Britain’s empire.

(2) In 1952 Princess Elizabeth was crowned Queen Elizabeth II. Many people through television saw the ceremony.

(4) In January 1973, Britain became a full member of the European Economic Community which was still called the Common Market in 1973. Britain witnessed the first oil shock in 1973.

(5) Mrs Thatcher

Thatcherism referred to the policies put forward by Margaret Thatcher, the first woman prime minister in England in 1979. The main contents of her policies included the return to private ownership of state-owned industries, the use of monetarist policies to control inflation, the weakening of trade unions the strengthening of the role of market forces in the economy, and an emphasis on law and order. To some extent her program was successful and she led one of the most remarkable periods in the British economy.

I. The Evolution of the British Economy since the War

The evolution of the British economy since WWII falls into three periods:

(1) Steady development in the 50s and 60s: The British economy in this period is characterized by slow but steady growth, low unemployment and great material prosperity with rising standards of consumption.

(2) Economic recession in the 70s: In the 1970s among the developed countries, Britain maintained the lowest growth rate and the highest inflation rate, and the high record of trade deficits.

(3) Economic recovery in the 80s: An outstanding feature of the economic recovery in the 80s was its length, lasting seven years. Another was the improved financial position of the government, with stronger current account of the balance of payments.

Measures taken by Mrs. Thatcher's government to improve the economy
Mrs. Thatcher's government took numerous measures to improve the efficiency of the economy during the past decade, using both macroeconomic and microeconomic policies.

(1) Macroeconomic measures were directed towards bringing down the rate of inflation and achieving price stability.

(2) Microeconomic policies were aimed at working with the grain of market forces by encouraging enterprise, efficiency and flexibility.

Reasons for the British coal mining is called a “sick” industry today.

Reasons for the British coal mining is called a “sick” industry today.

Today the coal industry in Britain is on the decline,the number of miners, collieries and the total output have been falling.

The reasons for the decline are as follows: exhaustion of old mines, costly operations of extraction, poor old equipment, little investment, fall in demand due to imports of cleaner, cheaper and more efficient fuels, etc.

Britain’s oil and natural gas

Natural gas was discovered in 1965 and oil in 1970 under the North Sea. Today Britain is not only self-sufficient in oil but also has a surplus for export. The transport and domestic heating systems mostly depend on oil. So does the food supply, because most agriculture is highly mechanized. Modern farming requires things which are all oil-based.

Main problems associated with Britain’s iron and steel industry today.

British iron and steel industry is declining for the following reasons:

1. Local supplies of iron ore have become exhausted;
2. Old fashioned furnaces for making coke cannot recover valuable by-products;
3. Blast furnaces, steelworks, and rolling mills are often separated from each other and thus cannot perform as well as more compact operation;
4. Many steelworks have to be closed down, causing major unemployment in an area.

The main textile producing regions of Britain are the East Midlands, Yorkshire, Humberside, and Northern Ireland.
New Industries
New industries include microprocessors and computers, biotechnology and other high-tech industries. There are three areas in Britain which have seen some high-tech industrial growth: (1).the area between London and South Wales, (2).the Cambridge area of East Anglia and (3).the area between Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland. The third area is the most spectacular of the three and is now often referred to as the “Silicon Glen”. By the end of 1985 half of Britain’s microchip output was estimated to have come from Scotland.

The reasons behind the decline of Britain's textile industry are:

(1) Exports of textiles have not competed well with those of other foreign producers who have managed to produce cheaper goods.
(2) There has been a rise in cheaper imports of textiles to Britain from foreign producers.
(3) Poor and outdated management decisions have caused problem.
(4) Substitutions of human-made fibres have been made for natural fibres.
(5) An improvement of output per worker has been achieved, due to mechanization.
Government and Administration
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, the head of state is a king or a queen. The United Kingdom is governed, in the name of the Sovereign by His or Her Majesty’s Government. The System of parliamentary government is not based on a written constitution, the British constitution is not set out in any single document. It is made up of statute law, common law and conventions. The Judiciary determines common law and interprets statutes.

I.The Monarchy
1.Elizabeth II, her title in the United Kingdom is “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Her Other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

2.The Queen is the symbol of the whole nation. In law, She is head of the executive, an integral part of the legislature, head of the judiciary, the commander-in-chief of all the armed forces and the “supreme governor” of the Church of England. She gives Royal Assent to Bills passed by parliament.

3.The monarch actually has no real power. The monarch’s power are limited by law and Parliament. Constitutional monarchy began after the Glorious Revolution in 1688.


1.The United Kingdom is a unitary, not a federal, state. Parliament consists of the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

2.The main functions of Parliament are: (1) to pass laws; (2) to provide, by voting for taxation, the means of carrying on the work of government; (3) to examine government Policy and administrations, including proposal for expenditure; and (4) to debate the major issues of the day.

3.The House of Lords is made up of the Lords Spiritual and the Lords Temporal. The main function of the House of Lords is to bring the wide experience of its members into the process of lawmaking. In other words, the non-elected House is to act as a chamber of revision, complementing but not rivaling the elect House.

4.The House of Common is elected by universal adult suffrage and consists of 651 Members of Parliament (MPs). It is in the House of Commons that the ultimate authority.

5.Britain is divided 651 constituencies. Each of the constituencies returns one member to the House of Commons. A general Election must be held every five years and is often held at more frequent intervals.

6.Britain has a number of parties, but there are only two major parties. These two parties are the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. Since 1945, either the Conservative Party or the Labour Party has held power. The party which wins sufficient seats at a General Election to command a majority of Government. The leader of the majority party is appointed Prime Minister. The party which wins the second largest number of seats becomes the Official Opposition, with its own leader and “shadow cabinet ”. The rule of Opposition is to help the formulation of policy. Criticizes the Government and debate with the Government.
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III.The Cabinet and Ministry

1. The Prime Minister presides over the Cabinet, is responsible for the allocation of functions among ministers and informs the Queen at regular meetings of general business of the Government. Cabinet members hold meetings under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister for a few hours each week to decide Government policy on major issues.
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2. Ministers are responsible collectively to Parliament for all Cabinet decisions; individual Ministers are responsible to Parliament for the work of their department.

IV.The Privy Council

1. The Privy Council was formerly the chief source of executive power in the state and give private advice to the King. So the Privy Council was also called the King’s Council in history. Today its role is largely formal, advising the sovereign to approve certain government decrees.

2. Its membership is about 400, and includes all Cabinet ministers, the speaker of the House of Common and senior British and Commonwealth statement.

V.Government Department and the Civil Service

1. The principal Government department main includes: the Treasury, the House of office, the Foreign and Commonwealth office, the Ministry of Defense…

2. Members of the Civil Service are called Civil Services. They staff government departments. Civil Servants are recruited mainly by competitive examination. Civil servants do not belong to any political party. Changes of Government do not involve changes in departmental staff, There are about 541800 civil servants in Britain now.

VI.Local Government

1. There are two main tiers of local authority throughout England and Wales: counties and the smaller districts. Now, England and Wales are divided into 53 counties which are sub-divided into 369 districts.

2. Greater London is divided into 32 boroughs.