Culture of the United Kingdom: Wikis


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The Proms is an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts, featuring traditional with patriotic music of the United Kingdom.[1][2]

The culture of the United Kingdom refers to the patterns of human activity and symbolism associated with the United Kingdom and the British people. It is informed by the UK's history as a developed island country, being a major power, and, its composition of four countries—England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales—each of which have preserved and distinct customs, cultures and symbolism.

As a direct result of the British Empire, British cultural influence (such as the English language) can be observed in the language and culture of a geographically wide assortment of countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, the United States, and the British overseas territories. These states are sometimes collectively known as the Anglosphere. As well as the British influence on its empire, the empire also influenced British culture, particularly British cuisine. Innovations and movements within the wider-culture of Europe have also changed the United Kingdom; Humanism, Protestantism, and representative democracy are borrowed from broader Western culture.

The Industrial Revolution, with its origins in the UK, brought about major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation, and had a profound effect on the socio-economic and cultural conditions of the world. The social structure of Britain during this period has also played a central cultural role. More recently, popular culture of the United Kingdom in the form of the British invasion, Britpop and British television broadcasting, and British cinema, British literature and British poetry is respected across the world.

As a result of the history of the formation of the United Kingdom, the cultures of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are diverse and have varying degrees of overlap and distinctiveness.



Though the UK has no official language, English is the main language and is spoken monolingually by an estimated 95% of the UK population.

However, individual countries within the UK have frameworks for the promotion of their indigenous languages. In Wales, all pupils at state schools must study Welsh until aged 16, and the Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998 provide that the Welsh and English languages should be treated equally in the public sector, so far as is reasonable and practicable. Irish and Ulster Scots enjoy limited use alongside English in Northern Ireland, mainly in publicly commissioned translations. The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act, passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2005, recognised Gaelic as an official language of Scotland, commanding equal respect with English, and required the creation of a national plan for Gaelic to provide strategic direction for the development of the Gaelic language.

Under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which is not legally enforceable, the UK Government has committed to the promotion of certain linguistic traditions. The United Kingdom has ratified the charter for: Welsh (in Wales), Scottish Gaelic and Scots (in Scotland), Cornish (in Cornwall), and Irish and Ulster Scots (in Northern Ireland). British Sign Language is also a recognised language.

The arts


A portrait of Sherlock Holmes by Sidney Paget from the Strand Magazine, 1891

The earliest existing native literature of the territory of the modern United Kingdom was written in the Celtic languages of the isles. The Welsh literary tradition stretches from the 6th century. Irish poetry also represents a more or less unbroken tradition from the 6th century to the present day, with the Ulster Cycle being of particular relevance to Northern Ireland. Anglo-Saxon literature includes Beowulf, a national epic, but literature in Latin predominated among educated elites. After the Norman Conquest, Anglo-Norman literature brought continental influences to the isles. English literature emerged as a recognisable entity in the late 14th century and, by the time of the foundation of the United Kingdom, was the dominant literature.

The early 18th century is known as the Augustan Age of English literature. The poetry of the time was highly formal, as exemplified by the works of Alexander Pope.

The English novel became a popular form in the 18th century, with Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719), Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740) and Henry Fielding's Tom Jones (1745).

From the late 18th century, the Romantic period showed a flowering of poetry comparable with the Renaissance two hundred years earlier and a revival of interest in vernacular literature. In Scotland the poetry of Robert Burns revived interest in Scots literature, and the Weaver Poets of Ulster were influenced by literature from Scotland. In Wales the late 18th century saw the revival of the eisteddfod tradition, inspired by Iolo Morganwg.

In the 19th century major poets in English literature included William Blake, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. The Victorian period was the golden age of the realistic English novel, represented by Jane Austen, Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne), Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy.

World War I gave rise to British war poets and writers such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Rupert Brooke who wrote (often paradoxically), of their expectations of war, and/or their experiences in the trench.

The Celtic Revival stimulated new appreciation of traditional Irish literature, however, with the independence of the Irish Free State, Irish literature came to be seen as more clearly separate from the strains of British literature. The Scottish Renaissance of the early 20th century brought modernism to Scottish literature as well as an interest in new forms in the literatures of Scottish Gaelic and Scots.

The English novel developed in the 20th century into much greater variety and was greatly enriched by immigrant writers. It remains today the dominant English literary form.

Other well-known novelists include Arthur Conan Doyle, D. H. Lawrence, George Orwell, C. S. Lewis, Mary Shelley, Salman Rushdie, H.G Wells, Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkien, Virginia Woolf, Ian Fleming, Walter Scott, Agatha Christie, J. M. Barrie, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene, E. M. Forster, Aldous Huxley, Jonathan Swift, Roald Dahl, Arthur C. Clarke, Alan Moore, Ian McEwan, Evelyn Waugh, William Golding, Douglas Adams, P. G. Wodehouse, Martin Amis, Anthony Trollope, Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett, H. Rider Haggard, Neil Gaiman, A. A. Milne, and J. K. Rowling.

Important poets of the 20th century include Rudyard Kipling, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, T. S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas.


The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, opened in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1932, was named after famous English playwright, William Shakespeare


From its formation in 1707, the United Kingdom has had a vibrant tradition of theatre, much of it inherited from England and Scotland.

In the 18th century, the highbrow and provocative Restoration comedy lost favour, to be replaced by sentimental comedy, domestic tragedy such as George Lillo's The London Merchant (1731), and by an overwhelming interest in Italian opera. Popular entertainment became more important in this period than ever before, with fair-booth burlesque and mixed forms that are the ancestors of the English music hall. These forms flourished at the expense of legitimate English drama, which went into a long period of decline. By the early 19th century it was no longer represented by stage plays at all, but by the closet drama, plays written to be privately read in a "closet" (a small domestic room).

In 1847, a critic using the pseudonym Dramaticus published a pamphlet[3] describing the parlous state of British theatre. Production of serious plays was restricted to the patent theatres, and new plays were subjected to censorship by the Lord Chamberlain's Office. At the same time, there was a burgeoning theatre sector featuring a diet of low melodrama and musical burlesque; but critics described British theatre as driven by commercialism and a 'star' system.

A change came in the late 19th century with the plays on the London stage by the Irishmen George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde and the Norwegian Henrik Ibsen, all of whom influenced domestic English drama and vitalised it again. The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre was opened in Shakespeare's birthplace Stratford upon Avon in 1879; and Herbert Beerbohm Tree founded an Academy of Dramatic Art at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1904. Sadler's Wells, under Lilian Baylis, nurtured talent that led to the development of an opera company, which became the English National Opera (ENO), a theatre company, which evolved into the National Theatre, and a ballet company, which eventually became the English Royal Ballet.

In July 1962, a board was set up to supervise construction of a National Theatre in London and a separate board was constituted to run a National Theatre Company and lease the Old Vic theatre. The Company was to remain at the Old Vic until 1976, when the new South Bank building was opened. A National Theatre of Scotland was set up in 2006.

Today the West End of London has a large number of theatres, particularly centred around Shaftesbury Avenue. A prolific composer of the 20th century Andrew Lloyd Webber has dominated the West End for a number of years and his musicals have travelled to Broadway in New York and around the world, as well as being turned into films.

The Royal Shakespeare Company operates out of Stratford-upon-Avon, producing mainly but not exclusively Shakespeare's plays.

Important modern playwrights include Alan Ayckbourn, John Osborne, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, and Arnold Wesker.


Composers William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, John Taverner, John Blow, Henry Purcell, Edward Elgar, Arthur Sullivan, William Walton, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett have made major contributions to British music, and are known internationally. Living composers include John Tavener, Harrison Birtwistle, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Oliver Knussen, Harry Gregson Williams, Mike Oldfield, John Rutter, James MacMillan, Joby Talbot, John Powell, David Arnold, John Murphy, Brian Eno, Clint Mansell, Craig Armstrong, Michael Nyman and John Barry.

The Beatles are one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed bands in the history of music, selling over a billion records internationally.[4][5][6]

The United Kingdom also supports a number of major orchestras including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia, the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. London is one of the world's major centres for classical music: it holds several important concert halls and is also home to the Royal Opera House, one of the world's leading opera houses. British traditional music has also been very influential abroad.

The UK was one of the two main countries in the development of rock music, and has provided global acts including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Queen, Elton John, David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, The Kinks, Yardbirds, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits, Bee Gees, Rod Stewart, The Animals, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Foreigner, Whitesnake, Motorhead, Phil Collins, Duran Duran, Billy Idol, ELO, The Hollies, Sting, Annie Lennox, George Michael, Genesis, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Police, UB40, Ozzy Osbourne, The Smiths, Joy Division, Elvis Costello, Dusty Springfield, Status Quo, Cat Stevens, Judas Priest, Bonnie Tyler, Pet Shop Boys, Joe Cocker, T. Rex, Depeche Mode, Roxy Music, The Jam, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Seal, Eurythmics, Free, Tears for Fears, Moody Blues, Steve Winwood, Robert Palmer, Cream, Procol Harum, The Pretenders, Simple Minds, Human League, Supertramp, Bad Company, Brian Johnson, The Stone Roses, Oasis, Blur and Radiohead. It has provided inspiration for many modern bands of today, including Coldplay, Kaiser Chiefs, The Verve, Placebo, Snow Patrol, Bloc Party, Bullet for My Valentine, The Libertines, The Kooks, Muse, Editors, Gorillaz and Arctic Monkeys. Since then it has also pioneered various forms of electronic dance music including acid house, drum and bass and trip hop, all of which were in whole or part developed in the United Kingdom. Acclaimed British dance acts include The Prodigy, Underworld, Orbital, Massive Attack, Jamiroquai, Basement Jaxx, The Chemical Brothers, Portishead, Groove Armada, The KLF, Aphex Twin and Fatboy Slim. Other notable British artists in pop music include Spice Girls, Leona Lewis, Amy Winehouse, Duffy, Lily Allen, Dido, James Blunt, Imogen Heap, Kim Wilde, Sade, Sarah Brightman, Natasha Bedingfield, Mika, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Culture Club, Simply Red, Madness, Robbie Williams, New Order. British rap is also becoming increasingly popular, mainly within the youth of large cities such as London, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds and Sheffield. Popular British rappers include Tinchy Stryder, Jay Sean, Dizzee Rascal, M.I.A., So Solid Crew, Sway DaSafo, Wiley and N-Dubz.


Television Centre, the main broadcasting centre for the BBC, situated in White City, London.

The UK has been at the forefront of developments in film, radio, and television.

Many important films have been produced in the UK over the last century, and a large number of significant actors and film-makers have emerged. Currently the main film production centres are at Shepperton and Pinewood Studios.

Broadcasting in the UK has historically been dominated by the BBC, although independent radio and television (ITV, Channel 4, Five) and satellite broadcasters (especially BSkyB) have become more important in recent years. BBC television, and the other three main television channels are public service broadcasters who, as part of their license allowing them to operate, broadcast a variety of minority interest programming. The BBC and Channel 4 are state-owned, though they operate independently.

The United Kingdom has a large number of national and local radio stations which cover a great variety of programming. The most listened to stations are the five main national BBC radio stations. BBC Radio 1, a new music station aimed at the 16-24 age group. BBC Radio 2, a varied popular music and chat station aimed at adults is consistently highest in the ratings. BBC Radio 4, a varied talk station, is noted for its news, current affairs, drama and comedy output as well as The Archers, its long running soap opera, and other unique programmes. The BBC, as a public service broadcaster, also runs minority stations such as BBC Asian Network, BBC 1xtra and BBC 6 Music, and local stations throughout the country.

Visual art

The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up is an oil painting executed in 1838, by J. M. W. Turner (c.1775–1851). The experience of military, political and economic power from the rise of the British Empire, led to a very specific drive in artistic technique, taste and sensibility in the United Kingdom.[7]

From the foundation of the United Kingdom, the English school of painting is mainly notable for portraits and landscapes, and indeed portraits in landscapes. Among the artists of this period are Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), George Stubbs (1724–1806), and Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788). William Hogarth painted far more down to earth portraits and satires, and was the first great English printmaker.

The late 18th century and the early 19th century was perhaps the most radical period in British art, producing William Blake (1757–1827), John Constable (1776–1837) and William Turner (1775–1851), the later two being arguably the most internationally influential of all British artists.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) achieved considerable influence after its foundation in 1848 with paintings that concentrated on religious, literary, and genre subjects executed in a colorful and minutely detailed style. PRB artists included John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and subsequently Edward Burne-Jones. Also associated was designer William Morris, whose efforts to make beautiful objects affordable (or even free) for everyone led to his wallpaper and tile designs defining the Victorian aesthetic and instigating the Arts and Crafts movement.

Visual artists from the United Kingdom in the 20th century include Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Bridget Riley, and the pop artists Richard Hamilton and Peter Blake. As a reaction to abstract expressionism, pop art emerged originally in England at the end of the 1950s. The 1990s saw the Young British Artists, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. New York-born Sir Jacob Epstein was a pioneer of modern sculpture.

Aubrey Beardsley, Roger Hargreaves, and Beatrix Potter were illustrators.

Arts institutions include the Royal College of Art, Royal Society of Arts, New English Art Club, Slade School of Art, Royal Academy, and the Tate Gallery.


Norman Foster's 'Gherkin' (2004) rises above the 13th century church St Helen's Bishopsgate in the City of London. The architecture of the United Kingdom is diverse.
The Forth Railway Bridge is a cantilever bridge over the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland. It was opened in 1890, and is designated as a Category A listed building.

The architecture of the United Kingdom includes many features that precede the creation of the United Kingdom in 1707, from as early as Skara Brae and Stonehenge to the Giant's Ring, Avebury and Roman ruins. In most towns and villages the parish church is an indication of the age of the settlement. Many castles remain from the medieval period. Over the two centuries following the Norman conquest of England of 1066, and the building of the Tower of London, castles such as Caernarfon Castle in Wales and Carrickfergus Castle in Ireland were built.

In the United Kingdom, a listed building is a building or other structure officially designated as being of special architectural, historical or cultural significance. About half a million buildings in the UK have "listed" status.

One of the best known British architects working at the time of the foundation of the United Kingdom was Sir Christopher Wren. He was employed to design and rebuild many of the ruined ancient churches of London following the Great Fire of London. His masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral, was completed in the early years of the United Kingdom.

In the early 18th century baroque architecture — popular in Europe — was introduced, and Blenheim Palace was built in this era. However, baroque was quickly replaced by a return of the Palladian form. The Georgian architecture of the 18th century was an evolved form of Palladianism. Many existing buildings such as Woburn Abbey and Kedleston Hall are in this style. Among the many architects of this form of architecture and its successors, neoclassical and romantic, were Robert Adam, Sir William Chambers, and James Wyatt.

The aristocratic stately home continued the tradition of the first large gracious unfortified mansions such as the Elizabethan Montacute House and Hatfield House.

In the early 19th century the romantic medieval gothic style appeared as a backlash to the symmetry of Palladianism, and such buildings as Fonthill Abbey were built. By the middle of the 19th century, as a result of new technology, construction was able to develop incorporating steel as a building component; one of the greatest exponents of this was Joseph Paxton, architect of the Crystal Palace. Paxton also continued to build such houses as Mentmore Towers, in the still popular retrospective Renaissance styles. In this era of prosperity and development British architecture embraced many new methods of construction, but ironically in style, such architects as August Pugin ensured it remained firmly in the past.

At the beginning of the 20th century a new form of design arts and crafts became popular, the architectural form of this style, which had evolved from the 19th century designs of such architects as George Devey, was championed by Edwin Lutyens. Arts and crafts in architecture is symbolized by an informal, non symmetrical form, often with mullioned or lattice windows, multiple gables and tall chimneys. This style continued to evolve until World War II.

Following the Second World War reconstruction went through a variety of phases, but was heavily influenced by Modernism, especially from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Many bleak town centre redevelopments—criticised for featuring hostile, concrete-lined "windswept plazas"—were the fruit of this interest, as were many equally bleak public buildings, such as the Hayward Gallery. Many Modernist inspired town centres are today in the process of being redeveloped, Bracknell town centre being a case in point.

However, it should not be forgotten that in the immediate post-War years many thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of council houses in vernacular style were built, giving working class people their first experience of private gardens and indoor sanitation.

Modernism remains a significant force in UK architecture, although its influence is felt predominantly in commercial buildings. The two most prominent proponents are Lord Rogers of Riverside and Lord Foster of Thames Bank. Rogers' iconic London buildings are probably Lloyd's Building and the Millennium Dome, while Foster created the Swiss Re Buildings (aka The Gherkin) and the Greater London Authority H.Q.

Science and technology

From the time of the Scientific Revolution, England and Scotland, and thereafter the United Kingdom, have been prominent in world scientific and technological development.

The Royal Society serves as the national academy for sciences, with members drawn from many different institutions and disciplines. Formed in 1660, it is the oldest learned society still in existence.

Isaac Newton's Principia is one of the most influential works in the history of science. This is Newton's copy of the first edition annotated by him for the second edition of 1713.

Isaac Newton's publication of the Principia Mathematica ushered in what is recognisable as modern physics. The first edition of 1687 and the second edition of 1713 framed the scientific context of the foundation of the United Kingdom. He realised that the same force is responsible for movements of celestial and terrestrial bodies, namely gravity. He was the father of classical mechanics, formulated as his three laws and as the co-inventor (with Gottfried Leibniz) of differential calculus. He also created the binomial theorem, worked extensively on optics, and created a law of cooling.

Since Newton's time, figures from the UK have contributed to the development of most major branches of science. Examples include Michael Faraday, who, with James Clerk Maxwell, unified the electric and magnetic forces in what are now known as Maxwell's equations; James Joule, who worked extensively in thermodynamics and is often credited with the discovery of the principle of conservation of energy; Paul Dirac, one of the pioneers of quantum mechanics; Naturalist Charles Darwin, author of On the Origin of Species and discoverer of the principle of evolution by natural selection; Harold Kroto, the discoverer of buckminsterfullerene; William Thomson (Baron Kelvin) who drew important conclusions in the field of thermodynamics and invented the Kelvin scale of absolute zero; and the creator of Bell's Theorem, John Stewart Bell. Other British pioneers in their field include; Joseph Lister (Antiseptic surgery), Edward Jenner (Vaccination), Florence Nightingale (Nursing), Richard Owen (Palaeontology), Howard Carter (Modern Archaeology).

William Sturgeon invented the electromagnet in 1824.[8][9] The first commercial electrical telegraph was co-invented by Sir William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone. Cooke and Wheatstone patented it in May 1837 as an alarm system, and it was first successfully demonstrated on 25 July 1837 between Euston and Camden Town in London.[10][11]

Historically, many of the UK's greatest scientists have been based at either Oxford or Cambridge University, with laboratories such as the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and the Clarendon Laboratory in Oxford becoming famous in their own right. In modern times, other institutions such as the Red Brick and New Universities are catching up with Oxbridge. For instance, Lancaster University has a global reputation for work in low temperature physics.

A Watt steam engine, the steam engine that propelled the Industrial Revolution in Britain and the world.[12]

Technologically, the UK is also amongst the world's leaders. Historically, it was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, with innovations especially in textiles, the steam engine, railroads and civil engineering. Famous British engineers and inventors from this period include James Watt, Robert Stephenson, Richard Arkwright, and the 'father of Railways' George Stephenson. Engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel is best known for creating the Great Western Railway, as well as famous steamships including the SS Great Britain, the first propeller-driven ocean-going iron ship, and SS Great Eastern which laid the first lasting transatlantic telegraph cable.

Since then, the United Kingdom has continued this tradition of technical creativity. Alan Turing (leading role in the modern computer), Scottish inventor Alexander Graham Bell (the first practical telephone),[13] John Logie Baird (world's first working television system, first electronic colour television),[14][15] Frank Whittle (inventor of the jet engine), Charles Babbage (who devised the idea of the computer) and Alexander Fleming (discoverer of penicillin)[16] were all British. The UK remains one of the leading providers of technological innovations today, providing inventions as diverse as the World Wide Web and Viagra (created by Tim Berners-Lee and Pfizer respectively). Pioneers of fertility treatment Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards, successfully achieved conception through IVF (world's first "test tube baby")

Other famous scientists, engineers and inventors from the UK include: Richard Trevithick, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin, Robert Hooke, Humphry Davy, Robert Watson-Watt, Frederick Soddy, J. J. Thomson, James Chadwick, John Cockcroft, Henry Bessemer, Edmond Halley, Sir William Herschel, Charles Parsons, Alan Blumlein, George Cayley, James Dewar, Peter Durand, Rowland Hill, Henry Cavendish, Francis Galton, Sir Joseph Swan, Frank Pantridge, Sir George Everest, Daniel Rutherford, Arthur Eddington, Lord Rayleigh, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Joseph Priestly and others.


The United Kingdom was created as a Protestant Christian country and Protestant churches remain the largest faith group in each country of the UK. Following this is Roman Catholicism and religions including Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, and Buddhism. While 2001 census information[17] suggests that over 75 percent of UK citizens consider themselves to belong to a religion, Gallup International reports that only 10 percent of UK citizens regularly attend religious services. A 2004 YouGov poll found that 44 percent of UK citizens believe in God, while 35 percent do not.[18]


Sunday roast consisting of roast beef, roast potatoes, vegetables and Yorkshire pudding
Fish and chips, a popular take-away food of the United Kingdom.

British cuisine is the specific set of cooking traditions and practices associated with the United Kingdom. Historically, British cuisine means "unfussy dishes made with quality local ingredients, matched with simple sauces to accentuate flavor, rather than disguise it."[19] However, British cuisine has absorbed the cultural influence of those that settled in Britain, producing hybrid dishes, such as the Anglo-Indian Chicken tikka masala, hailed as "Britain's true national dish".[20][21]

Vilified as "unimaginative and heavy", British cuisine has traditionally been limited in its international recognition to the full breakfast and the Christmas dinner.[22] However, Celtic agriculture and animal breeding produced a wide variety of foodstuffs for indigenous Celts and Britons. Anglo-Saxon England developed meat and savoury herb stewing techniques before the practice became common in Europe. The Norman conquest introduced exotic spices into Great Britain in the Middle Ages.[22] The British Empire facilitated a knowledge of India's elaborate food tradition of "strong, penetrating spices and herbs".[22] Food rationing policies, put in place by the British government during wartime periods of the 20th century,[23] are said to have been the stimulus for British cuisine's poor international reputation.[22]

Well known British dishes include fish and chips and the Sunday roast.

Each country within the United Kingdom has its own specialities: English cuisine has bangers and mash, Cheshire cheese and the Yorkshire pudding; Scottish cuisine includes Arbroath Smokie and Haggis; Irish cuisine features the Ulster fry and Irish Stew and Welsh cuisine is noted for Welsh rarebit.


Each country of the United Kingdom has a separate education system. Power over education matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is devolved but education in England is dealt with by the UK government since there is no devolved administration for England.


Typical uniform of an English comprehensive school

Most schools came under state control in the Victorian era, a formal state school system was instituted after the Second World War. Initially schools were separated into infant schools (normally up to age 4 or 5), primary schools and secondary schools (split into more academic grammar schools and more vocational secondary modern schools). Under the Labour governments of the 1960s and 1970s most secondary modern and grammar schools were combined to become comprehensive schools. England has many prominent private schools, often founded hundreds of years ago, which are known as public schools or independent schools. Eton, Harrow and Rugby are three of the better known. Most primary and secondary schools in both the private and state sectors have compulsory school uniforms. Allowances are almost invariably made, however, to accommodate religious dress including the Islamic hijab and Sikh bangle (kara).

Although the Minister of Education is responsible to Parliament for education, the day to day administration and funding of state schools is the responsibility of Local Education Authorities.

England's universities include the so-called Oxbridge universities of (Oxford University and Cambridge University) which are amongst the world's oldest universities and are generally ranked top of all British universities. Some institutions are world-renowned in specialised and often narrow areas of study, such as Imperial College London (science and engineering) and London School of Economics (economics and social sciences). Academic degrees are usually split into classes: first class (I), upper second class (II:1), lower second class (II:2) and third (III), and unclassified (below third class).

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Assembly is responsible for education in Northern Ireland though responsibility at a local level is administered by 5 Education and Library Boards covering different geographical areas.


Scotland has a long history of universal provision of public education which, traditionally, has emphasised breadth across a range of subjects compared to depth of education over a smaller range of subjects at secondary school level. The majority of schools are non-denominational, but by legislation separate Roman Catholic schools, with an element of control by the Roman Catholic Church, are provided by the state system. Qualifications at the secondary school and post-secondary (further education) level are provided by the Scottish Qualifications Authority and delivered through various schools, colleges and other centres. Political responsibility for education at all levels is vested in the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive Education and Enterprise, Transport & Lifelong Learning Departments. State schools are owned and operated by the local authorities which act as Education Authorities, and the compulsory phase is divided into primary school and secondary school (often called High school). Schools are supported in delivering the National Guidelines and National Priorities by Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Scottish universities generally have courses a year longer than their counterparts elsewhere in the UK, though it is often possible for students to take a more advanced specialised exams and join the courses at the second year. One unique aspect is that the ancient universities of Scotland issue a Master of Arts as the first degree in humanities.


The National Assembly for Wales has responsibility for education in Wales. A significant number of students in Wales are educated either wholly or largely through the medium of Welsh and lessons in the language are compulsory for all until the age of 16. There are plans to increase the provision of Welsh Medium schools as part of the policy of having a fully bi-lingual Wales.

Sociological issues


Terraced houses are typical in inner cities and places of high population density

England has one of the highest population densities in Europe. Housing, therefore, tends to be smaller and more closely packed than in other countries, resulting in a particular affinity with the terraced house, dating back to the aftermath of the Great Fire of London. The majority of surviving housing built before 1914 is of this type, and consequently it dominates inner residential areas. In the twentieth century the process of suburbanisation led to a spread of semi-detached and detached housing. In the aftermath of the second world war, public housing was dramatically expanded to create a large number of council estates, although the majority of these have since been purchased by their tenants.

There is a wealth of historic country houses and stately homes in rural areas, though the majority of these are now put to other uses than private living accommodation.

In recent times, more detached housing has started to be built. Also, city living has boomed with city centre population's rising rapidly. Most of this population growth has been accommodated through new apartment blocks in residential schemes, such as those in Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester. Demographic changes (see below) are putting great pressure on the housing market, especially in London and the South East.

Living arrangements

Typical 20th Century, three-bedroom semis in Austhorpe, Leeds designed for family living.

Historically most people in the United Kingdom lived either in conjugal extended families or nuclear families. This reflected an economic landscape where the general populace tended to have less spending power, meaning that it was more practical to stick together rather than go their individual ways. This pattern also reflected gender roles. Men were expected to go out to work and women were expected to stay at home and look after the families.

In the 20th century the emancipation of women, the greater freedoms enjoyed by both men and women in the years following the Second World War, greater affluence and easier divorce have changed gender roles and living arrangements significantly. The general trend is a rise in single people living alone, the virtual extinction of the extended family (outside certain ethnic minority communities), and the nuclear family arguably reducing in prominence.

From the 1990s, the break up of the traditional family unit, when combined with a low interest rate environment and other demographic changes, has created great pressure on the housing market, in particular regarding the accommodation of key workers such as nurses, other emergency service workers and teachers, who are priced out of most housing, especially in the South East.

Some research indicates that in the 21st century young people are tending to continue to live in the parental home for much longer than their predecessors[1][2]. The high cost of living, combined with rising cost of accommodation, further education and higher education means that many young people cannot afford to live independent lives from their families.


The national sport of the UK is football, having originated in England, and the UK has the oldest football clubs in the world. The home nations all have separate national teams and domestic competitions, most notably the Barclays Premier League, the FA Cup, and the Scottish Premier League. The first ever international football match was between Scotland and England in 1872. The match ended goalless.

Other famous sporting events in the United Kingdom include the Wimbledon tennis championships, the Grand National, the London Marathon, the Six Nations rugby championships, the British Grand Prix, The Open Championship, The Ashes cricket series and The Boat Race.

A great number of major sports originated in the United Kingdom, including football, squash, golf, tennis, boxing, rugby league, rugby union, cricket, field hockey, snooker, billiards, badminton and curling.

National costume and dress

There is no national costume of the United Kingdom though the individual countries have distinctive forms of national dress: Scotland has the kilt, accompanied by sporran and sgian dubh, as well as the Tam o'shanter; England has the costumes of Morris dancers.

Naming convention

The common naming convention throughout the United Kingdom is for everyone to have a given name (a forename, still often referred to as a Christian name) usually (but not always) indicating the child's sex, followed by a family name (surname). This naming convention has remained much the same since the 15th century in England although patronymic naming remained in some of the further reaches of the other home nations until much later. Since the 19th century middle names have become very common and are often taken from the name of a family ancestor.

Traditionally, Christian names were those of Biblical characters or recognised saints; however, in the Gothic Revival of the Victorian era, other Anglo Saxon and mythical names enjoyed something of a fashion among the literati. Since the middle of the 20th century, however, first names have been influenced by a much wider cultural base.

See also:

See also


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