United Kingdom–United States relations: Wikis


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United Kingdom – United States relations
United Kingdom   United States
Map indicating location of UK and USA
     United Kingdom      United States
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, and the President of the United States, Barack Obama, during a photo opportunity in the Oval Office at the White House.

British–American relations widely encompass and span four centuries, beginning in 1607 with England's first permanent colony in North America called Jamestown, to the present day, between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America.

The United Kingdom and the United States, a remnant of the British Empire itself during the colonial period, are bound by shared history, a common language and legal system, culture, and kindred, ancestral blood lines in British Americans which can be traced back hundreds of years.

Through times of war and rebellion, peace and estrangement, as well as later becoming friends and allies, the United Kingdom and the United States cemented these deeply rooted links during World War II into what is known as the "Special Relationship", still described by a leading commentator as "the key trans-Atlantic alliance",[1] which the US Senate Chair on European Affairs acknowledged in 2010 as "one of the cornerstones of stability around the world."[2]

Today, the relationship with the United States represents the "most important bilateral partnership" in current British foreign policy [3] while United States foreign policy affirms its relationship with the United Kingdom as one of its most enduring bilateral relationships,[4][5] as evidenced in aligned political affairs, mutual cooperation in the areas of trade, commerce, finance, technology, academics, as well as the arts and sciences; the sharing of government and military intelligence, and joint combat operations and peacekeeping missions carried out between the United States Armed Forces and the British Armed Forces.


Country comparison

United Kingdom United Kingdom United States United States
Population 62,041,708 308,347,000
Area 244,820 km2 (94,526 sq mi) 9,826,630 km2 (3,794,066 sq mi )
Population Density 246/km2 (637/sq mi) 31/km2 (80/sq mi)
Capital London Washington, D.C.
Largest City London – 7,556,900 (13,945,000 Metro) New York City – 8,363,710 (19,006,798 Metro)
Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy Federal presidential constitutional republic
Official languages English (de facto) None at federal level
Main religions 71.8% Christianity, 15.1% non-Religious, 7.8% Unstated, 2.8% Islam,
1% Hinduism, 0.6% Sikhism, 0.5% Judaism, 0.3% Buddhism
78.4% Christianity, 16.1% Non-Religious, 1.7% Judaism, 1.2% Other, 0.7% Buddhism, 0.6% Islam, 0.4% Hinduism
Ethnic groups 92.1% White, 4% South Asian, 2% Black, 1.2% Multi-racial, 0.4% Chinese, 0.4% Other 74% White American, 14.8% Hispanic and Latino American (of any race), 13.4% African American,
6.5% Some other race, 4.4% Asian American, 2.0% Two or more races,
0.68% Native American or Native Alaskan, 0.14% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
GDP (nominal) US$2.674 trillion ($43,875 per capita) US$14.441 trillion ($47,440 per capita)
British Americans 224,000 American-born people live in the UK 678,000 British-born people live in the USA
Military expenditures $64 billion (FY 2009–10) $663.7 billion (FY 2010) [6]




The Mayflower transported the Pilgrims to the New World in 1620, as depicted in William Halsall's The Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, 1882.

On June 7, 1579, the English explorer Sir Francis Drake aboard his galleon called the Golden Hind, spotted a harbor on a land-mass in the New World that he named Nova Albion—Latin for "New Britain." Claiming it for England, the location of Francis Drake's port remains a mystery and there was no follow-up. But subsequently, archaic maps such as those drawn by Flemish cartographer Jodocus Hondius, named all lands above present-day Baja California as "Nova Albion." The most prevailing theory held by most historians is that Francis Drake's landing occurred in present-day northern California near Point Reyes, just north of the Golden Gate. Another location often claimed to be Nova Albion is present-day Whale Cove, Oregon.

The first attempt of English colonization was the Roanoke Colony, also known as the Lost Colony, in 1585. Led by Sir Walter Raleigh who represented Queen Elizabeth I of England, the colony would ultimately fail by 1587, due to an unsustainable supply of food and the alleged disappearance and abandonment by the colonists. The first permanent English settlement in mainland North America was the Jamestown Settlement in the Colony and Dominion of Virginia, founded for King James I of England and VI of Scotland as a charter colony when the Susan Constant, Discovery, and Godspeed landed ashore on May 14, 1607. The first Africans brought to the New World were sent to Virginia around 1619. These individuals appear to have been treated as indentured servants. By 1624, the Colony and Dominion of Virginia would cease as a charter colony administered by the Virginia Company of London as it became a crown colony. By 1698, the colonial capital moved from Jamestown further inland to the Middle Plantation in nearby Williamsburg, named in honor of King William III of England and II of Scotland.

The Pilgrims were a small Protestant-sect based in England and the Dutch Republic. One group in particular sailed on the Mayflower. After drawing up the Mayflower Compact by which they gave themselves broad powers of self-governance, they established the Plymouth Colony in 1620. William Bradford became the first governor. The Puritans established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629 with 400 settlers who sought to reform the Church of England by creating a new and more pure church in the New World.

On August 10, 1622, a royal patent was granted to Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason by the Plymouth Council for New England for the establishment of the Province of Maine between the 40th to the 48th parallel "from sea to sea".

In 1632, a royal charter was granted by King Charles I of England and Scotland which established a proprietary colony known as the Province of Maryland. Ruled and administered by successive generations of the Barons of Baltimore, a now extinct title in the Peerage of Ireland, the Province of Maryland was established as a safe haven for Roman Catholics in the New World.

In 1636, the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations were founded by Roger Williams, a theologian, independent preacher, and linguist on land gifted by the Narragansett sachem Canonicus who believed that God had brought him and his followers there to settle.

On March 3, 1636, the Connecticut Colony, originally known as the River Colony, was founded as a haven for Puritan noblemen. The Connecticut Colony was later the scene of a bloody war between the English and Native Americans, known as the Pequot War throughout much of the later 1630s.

In 1663, a royal charter was granted for the founding of the Province of Carolina. Named in honor of King Charles II of England and Scotland, the Province of Carolina was governed by the Lords Proprietary, a group of eight English noblemen led informally by member Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury. Over time, the Province of Carolina gradually experienced internal divisions within as the colonists could not agree on a slate of elected officials in government. A split occurred in 1729 when the Province of Carolina was dissolved and two separate royal colonies, the Province of North Carolina and the Province of South Carolina, were created due to seven of the eight Lords Proprietor selling their interests. In 1732, the Province of South Carolina was further divided as a corporate charter established a penal colony for debtors known as the Province of Georgia, named in honor of King George II of Great Britain. Also, the Province of Georgia served as a "buffer state" between the rest of British America to the north and Spanish Florida to the south.

After being under the colonial rule of New Sweden and New Netherland, ending in 1655 and 1664 respectively, the Delaware Colony and its colonial capital of New Castle were founded by the English.

On August 27, 1664, New Netherland ceased to exist as the Dutch Republic relinquished power and the English acquired colonial rule. In March 1665, King James II of England and VII of Scotland, then known at the time as James, Duke of York, was granted a charter for the founding of the Province of New York. Thus, the city of New Amsterdam was also renamed New York to reflect the transition from Dutch to English rule. In 1674, the Province of New Jersey, named after the Island of Jersey in England and sub-divided into East Jersey and West Jersey, split from the Province of New York due to a settlement of debt by James, Duke of York to Sir George Carteret in exchange for land.

The Quakers, now known as the Religious Society of Friends, is based on the idea that individuals can have a relationship with the divine. Originating in England, the Quakers were banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony due to hostility held by the Puritans. The Quakers then uprooted and settled in the Province of New Jersey. Eventually, William Penn was awarded a royal charter in 1681 by King Charles II of England and Scotland for the founding of the Province of Pennsylvania where the Quakers would finally settle. Second only to London, the city of Philadelphia became the second largest city in the British Empire as well as the foremost center of trade and commerce in British America.

After the short-lived Dominion of New England failed in 1689, which attempted to unify the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Plymouth Colony, the Province of New Hampshire, the Province of Maine, the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the Connecticut Colony, and the Narraganset Country or King's Province, a permanent unification of the Plymouth Colony and the Massachusetts Bay Colony occurred in 1691 by creating a crown colony known as the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

The Province of New Hampshire was a crown colony founded on October 7, 1691. A royal charter was further enacted on May 14, 1692, by King William III of England and II of Scotland and Queen Mary II of England and II of Scotland, the joint monarchs of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland, at the same time that the Province of Massachusetts Bay was created.

During the 17th century, an estimated 350,000 English and Welsh migrants arrived in the Thirteen Colonies, which in the century after the Acts of Union 1707, was surpassed in rate and number by Scottish and Irish migrants.[7]

All of the Thirteen Colonies were involved in the slave trade. People enslaved in the Middle Colonies and New England Colonies typically worked as house servants, artisans, laborers and craftsmen. Early on, slaves in the Southern Colonies worked primarily in agriculture, on farms and plantations growing indigo, rice, cotton, and tobacco. Likewise, mercantilism provided a trade surplus for the Thirteen Colonies which in return, benefited the mother country.

The French and Indian War, fought between 1754 and 1763, was the North American theatre of the Seven Years' War. The conflict, the fourth such colonial war between France and the Kingdom of Great Britain in North America, resulted in the British acquisition of New France with the aid of the Iroquois Confederation. As part of the terms dictated in the Treaty of Paris signed in 1763, the French ceded control of French Louisiana east of the Mississippi River to the British, which became known as the Indian Reserve. Thereafter, Great Britain's position as the dominant colonial power in North America was confirmed.

American Revolution

John Trumbull's painting depicting The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill, 1775.

The Thirteen Colonies gradually began to experience more limited self-government. Additionally, British mercantilist policies became more stringent, benefiting the mother country which resulted in trade restrictions, thereby limiting the growth of the colonial economy and artificially constraining colonial merchants' earning potential. Prefaced by debt accrued during the French and Indian War of which the American Colonies were expected to help repay, tensions escalated from 1765 to 1775 over issues of taxation without representation and control by King George III. Stemming from the Boston Massacre when British Redcoats opened fire on civilians in 1770, rebellion consumed the outraged colonists. The British Parliament earlier imposed a series of taxes such as the Stamp Act of 1765 and later on, the Tea Act of 1773, of which an angry mob of colonists protested about in the Boston Tea Party by dumping chests of tea into Boston Harbor. The British Parliament responded to the defiance of the colonists by passing the Intolerable Acts in 1774. This course of events ultimately triggered the first shots fired in the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 and effectively, the beginning of the American War of Independence itself. A British victory at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775 would agitate tensions even further. While the goal of attaining independence was sought by a majority known as Patriots, a minority known as Loyalists wished to remain as British subjects indefinitely. However, when the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in May 1775, deliberations conducted by notable figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and John Adams would eventually come to the conclusion of seeking full independence from the mother country. Thus, the Declaration of Independence, ratified on July 4, 1776, signed on August 2, 1776, and then sent to King George III for his review, was a radical and decisive break for its time.

Early in the war, British forces were driven back during the Boston campaign by colonial militia, retreating to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1776. However, the New York and New Jersey campaign as well as the Philadelphia campaign saw numerous British victories at the Battle of Kip's Bay, the Battle of Long Island, the Battle of White Plains, the Battle of Brandywine, and the Battle of Germantown while the Continental Army under the command of George Washington defeated British forces at the Battle of Harlem Heights, the Battle of Princeton, and the Battle of Trenton. In addition, a capture and occupation of New York City and Philadelphia by British forces proved initially successful before they would eventually evacuate both cities in 1777 and 1778 respectively. Although British forces were victorious at the Siege of Fort Ticonderoga in 1777, the Saratoga campaign would result in the overwhelming favor of the Continental Army under the command of Horatio Gates, most notably at the Battles of Saratoga, and further underlined by the entry of the Kingdom of France in 1778. During the Siege of Savannah in 1779, American and French forces made a failed attempt to retake the city of Savannah after it was captured by British forces a year earlier. In the Southern theatre, colonial militias largely dominated the Southern Colonies until the Siege of Charleston occurred and British forces took control of the city in 1780. The Battle of Camden and Battle of Guilford Courthouse were tactically decisive for British forces, although any future victories would come at a high cost as the British Army became more weakened over time with mounting casualties and not enough manpower. Turning points in the war were during the Battle of King's Mountain in 1780 and the Battle of Cowpens in 1781 when the Continental Army under the command of Daniel Morgan were deemed victorious over Banastre Tarleton's cavalry unit, the 1st King's Dragoon Guards. With limitations placed on successful war tactics, the long-term strategy of military commanders in the British Army such as Thomas Gage, Sir William Howe, Henry Clinton, John Burgoyne, and most notably Lord Charles Cornwallis, failed to defeat the Continental Army and French. The tipping point came on October 19, 1781 when Lord Cornwallis' subordinate, Charles O'Hara surrendered his sword to George Washington's subordinate, Benjamin Lincoln at the Siege of Yorktown.

In 1783, the original thirteen states which created one independent and sovereign nation known as the United States of America, was recognized by the Kingdom of Great Britain in the mutual terms agreed upon by both sides in the Treaty of Paris. In 1785, John Adams was appointed the first American plenipotentiary minister, now known as an ambassador, to the Court of St. James's. In 1791, Great Britain sent its first diplomatic envoy, George Hammond, to the United States.

When Great Britain and France went to war in 1793, relations between the United States and Great Britain as well verged on war. Tensions were subdued when the Jay Treaty was signed in 1794, which established a decade of peace and prosperous trade relations.[8] The international slave trade was gradually suppressed after Great Britain passed the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807, and the United States passed a similar law in 1808.

War of 1812

An artist's rendering of the bombardment at the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States.

The United States imposed a trade embargo, namely the Embargo Act of 1807, in retaliation for the United Kingdom’s blockade of France, which involved the visit and search of neutral merchantmen, and resulted in the suppression of Franco-United States trade for the duration of the Napoleonic Wars. The Royal Navy also boarded American ships and impressed sailors suspected of being British deserters.[9]

The War of 1812 was initiated by the United States under James Madison partly to protect American trading rights and freedom of the seas for neutral countries. Another motivation was American anger over British military support for Native Americans defending their tribal lands from encroaching American pioneers. Additionally, the United States' ambition for territorial expansion northward and westward was reflected in a belief in Manifest Destiny.[10]

A planned American invasion of British North America, including the destruction of the colonial capital of York and victory at the Battle of York in April 1813, was countered when on August 24, 1814, the burning of Washington saw the United States Treasury Building razed and the White House burned. British forces would again prove victorious on that same day at the Battle of Bladensburg. Some but not all land attacks made by American forces northward into British North America, such as the Battle of the Chateauguay in October 1813 and the Battle of Crysler's Farm in November 1813, were repulsed by British forces. However, American forces also won victories at the Battle of the Thames in October 1813 and the Battle of Longwoods in March 1814. The United States Navy gained naval supremacy over the Great Lakes by defeating the Royal Navy at the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813 and at the Battle of Plattsburgh in September 1814. Beginning on September 12, 1814, and lasting for another three days, British forces were also repulsed at the Battle of Baltimore.

Negotiations led to the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war by restoring the status quo ante bellum. No territorial gains were made by either side. The U.S. negotiator Albert Gallatin conceded: "Under the existing unpropitious circumstances of the world, America cannot by a continuance of the war compel Great Britain to yield any of the maritime points in dispute, and particularly to agree to any unsatisfactory arrangement on the subject of impressment; and that the most favorable terms of peace that can be expected are the status ante bellum." The United Kingdom retained the right of impressment and the United States dropped the issue for good.[11]

The impressment controversy had in fact been largely resolved shortly after war had been declared, when the U.S. government, by enacting the Impressment Bill (1812), began to insist that applicants for U.S. citizenship must reside continuously in the United States for a minimum of five years, thereby inhibiting the reception of deserters and removing the source of British complaint, and therefore largely solving, with a stroke of Madison's pen, the problem the United States had ostensibly gone to war over.[12][13][14]

As one of the peace terms, the United Kingdom agreed to return captured slaves, but subsequently paid the United States £350,000 for them. A British proposal to create an Indian buffer zone in Ohio and Michigan collapsed after the Indian coalition fell apart. The United States largely ignored the guarantees it made in article IX regarding American treatment of Native Americans.[15]

Before word could be sent to field commanders that the war was over, a US force under General Andrew Jackson repulsed a British attack at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815. Shortly afterwards, a US force was defeated at Fort Bowyer by a British force under John Lambert. The War of 1812 marked the end of a long period of conflict between the United Kingdom and the United States, and ushered in a new era of peace between the two nations, who would become allies nearly a century later.

In the words of one American historian of the conflict: "Neither side sought the War of 1812, and in the short run it was tragically unnecessary."[16]

Disputes 1815–1860

The Monroe Doctrine, a unilateral response in 1823 to a British suggestion of a joint declaration, expressed American hostility of further European encroachment in the Western hemisphere. Nevertheless, the United States benefited from British recognition and was thus complied by the Royal Navy.

After the Panic of 1837, numerous states in the United States defaulted on bonds owned by British investors. During the Caroline Affair in 1837, British North American rebels fled to New York and used a small American ship called the Caroline to smuggle supplies into British North America after a failed rebellion there. In late 1837, militia from British North America burned the ship, leading to diplomatic protests, an unquenched sense of Anglophobia, and other incidents.

Additional conflicts on the Maine-New Brunswick border involved rival teams of lumberjacks in the Aroostook War. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty, signed in 1842, resolved these issues and finalized the border.[17] In 1859, the Pig War determined the question of where the border should be in relationship to the San Juan Islands and Gulf Islands.

1859 was also a year of early signs of British-American co-operation when a British naval force under the command of Admiral Sir James Hope attempted to seize the Tako Forts guarding the mouth of the Peiho river in northeastern China. The action was witnessed by American Commodore Josiah Tattnall, who had fought in the War of 1812, and, on this occasion, was supposed to be just a neutral observer. However, he eventually went to the assistance of the British gunboat Plover, offering to take off their wounded. The offer was accepted and the wounded evacuated. Later, Tattnall discovered that some of his men were black from powder flashes. When asked, the men replied that the British had been short-handed with the bow gun. In his famous report sent to Washington soon afterwards, Tattnall claimed that "Blood is thicker than water". Although the British and Americans had fought side-by-side, the action was unofficial — and the Americans were supposed to be neutral observers.

American Civil War

At the beginning of the American Civil War, the United Kingdom issued a proclamation of neutrality on May 13, 1861. Nevertheless, the Confederate States of America assumed that the British would prove sympathetic, despite their dim view on slavery. Although the Confederacy attempted to provoke British intervention through cotton diplomacy, leading to failed threats of a trade embargo on "King Cotton," it was the Trent Affair in 1861, when the USS San Jacinto stopped the British civilian vessel RMS Trent and took off two Confederate diplomats named James Mason and John Slidell, that almost provoked a third war between the United Kingdom and the United States. While diplomatic measures between London and Washington were ongoing, the British under Lord Palmerston began mobilizing a small militia in British North America who were unprepared in the event of a full-scale invasion of up to an estimated 200,000 soldiers in the Union Army.

The United Kingdom knew that any recognition of a sovereign and independent nation called the Confederate States would be an act of war against the United States. In addition, the United Kingdom had to take into consideration that the British economy was heavily reliant on growing trade with the United States, most notably cheap grain imports high in demand which in the event of war, would be cut off by the Americans. Third, the British knew that the United States had an indispensable European ally, the Russian Empire to help fight in a possible war against the United Kingdom. And lastly, British forces in British North America were vastly outnumbered by the Union Army which if British war tactics proved to be unsuccessful, the risk of annexation of British North America by the United States might be inevitable.

The British were content with a formal apology on behalf of the United States so that war could be averted over lingering issues revolving around the Trent Affair. Thus, Abraham Lincoln eventually relented as he did not want to fight a war on two fronts, having United States Secretary of State William H. Seward smooth matters over.

Despite outrage and intense American protests, the United Kingdom allowed the British-built CSS Alabama to leave port as a commerce raider under the naval flag of the Confederacy. After the American Civil War ended in 1865, the United Kingdom abided by the terms of the Treaty of Washington outlined by an arbitration of an international tribunal in 1871, thus paying $15.5 million in gold to the United States for the destruction caused by the CSS Alabama, while admitting no guilt.[18]

Venezuelan and border disputes

When the United Kingdom and Venezuela disputed the boundary between the latter country and British Guiana in 1895, President Grover Cleveland and Secretary of State Richard Olney pressured the British into agreeing to an international arbitration.[19] In 1898, a tribunal convened in Paris to decide the matter in question, and thus issued its verdict in 1899, awarding the bulk of the disputed territory to British Guiana.[20] Despite this setback for the United States, it showed that standing with a Latin American nation against the encroachment of the British Empire improved relations with the United States' southern neighbors. However, the cordial manner in which the negotiations were conducted by the United States also improved diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom.[21]

This 1898 depiction of the Great Rapprochement shows Uncle Sam embracing John Bull, while Columbia and Britannia sit together and hold hands.

Ever since the Alaska Purchase in 1867, the United States inherited unresolved border disputes dating all the way back to 1821 over the Alaska Panhandle between what was previously known as Russian Alaska and British North America. However, the Alaska boundary dispute was finally resolved by an arbitration in 1903, agreed upon in the Hay-Herbert Treaty as a British judge sided with the United States and the District of Alaska against their neighbors, the Canadians, who were outraged that land and territorial waters in British Columbia were sacrificed for the benefit of British-American harmony.[22]

The Great Rapprochement

The Great Rapprochement is a term that was used to specifically describe the convergence of social and political objectives between the United Kingdom and the United States from 1895 until World War I began in 1914. Ever since the War of 1812 ended in 1815, exactly 80 years prior to when the Great Rapprochement began, relations between the United Kingdom and the United States were continuously and deeply troubled. However, the differences that had separated an industrialized United Kingdom and an agrarian, anti-imperialist United States where Anglophobia ran high, rapidly diminished in the decades preceding World War I.

The most notable sign of improving relations during the Great Rapprochement was the United Kingdom's actions during the Spanish–American War. With the onslaught of war beginning in 1898, the British had an initial policy of supporting the Spanish Empire and its colonial rule over Cuba since the perceived threat of American occupation and a territorial acquisition of Cuba by the United States might harm British trade and commerce interests within its own imperial possessions in the West Indies. However, after the United States made genuine assurances that it would grant Cuba's independence, which eventually occurred in 1902 under the terms dictated in the Platt Amendment, the British abandoned this policy and ultimately sided with the United States unlike most other European powers who supported Spain.[23]

After victory in the Spanish-American War, the United States appeared to have its own rising empire due to its rapid acquisition of numerous overseas colonial possessions and had begun to build the Great White Fleet as a newfound symbol of its enormous power projection and as a blue water navy. Seizing upon this notion, both the United Kingdom and the German Empire engaged in pro-American propaganda campaigns designed to win over a possible World War I alliance with the United States. The British in fact, were able to guarantee a price for American cotton producers, who were the most affected by the potential loss of trade with Germany and Central Europe.

World War I

An American doughboy receiving an award from King George V.

At the beginning of World War I, the unrestricted activities of German agents against British interests, as well as the United States' refusal to check the Indian sedetionist movement, was a major concern for the British Government that triggered an intense neutrality dispute through 1916. The British Far-Eastern Fleet's activities, especially the SS China and SS Henry S incidents drew strong responses from the United States, prompting the United States Atlantic Fleet to dispatch naval destroyers and battleships to the Pacific Ocean in order to protect the sovereignty of American vessels. However, this dispute did not calm down before November 1916.[24]

Woodrow Wilson allowed a munitions trade to continue, despite disputes over freedom of the seas because of the British naval blockade of Germany and complaints of German 'militarism'. Thus, the United States would only supply the Triple Entente onwards.

As evidence of German complicity in public incidents, including the Black Tom explosion, and conspiracies in and against the United States such as the Zimmerman Telegram, it became more obvious that American public opinion was becoming more influenced to the prospect of joining World War I. When the German Empire responded in 1916 with a submarine blockade of the United Kingdom and the sinking of the RMS Lusitania by a German U-boat, it led to a protest by the United States and a strong sense of anti-German feelings among the American people.

The German Empire returned to unrestricted submarine warfare in January 1917 in the belief that the United Kingdom would be decisively weakened before the United States could mobilize for war. Nevertheless, the United States declared war on the German Empire, joined the Allies, and sent 1.982 million American servicemen under the command of General John J. Pershing to France out of a total of 4.355 million available.[25] Though initially slow at mobilization of the American Expeditionary Force to the Western front, American doughboys were instrumental in providing heightened morale for the Allies as well as hastening a victorious end to the war in Europe. British and American forces in fact, fought together and side by side at numerous engagements on the Western Front such as the Third Battle of the Aisne from May to June 1918, the Battle of Belleau Wood in June 1918, the Second Battle of the Marne from July to August 1918, the Battle of Amiens in August 1918, the Battle of St. Quentin Canal and the Fifth Battle of Ypres both from September to October 1918, and the Battle of Courtrai in October 1918, all leading to Armistice Day on November 11, 1918.

Although Woodrow Wilson had wanted to wage war for the sake of humanity, the negotiations over the Treaty of Versailles underlined in his Fourteen Points for Peace made it plainly clear that his diplomatic position had weakened with victory. The borders of Europe were redrawn on the basis of national self-determination, with the exception of Germany under the newly formed Weimar Republic. Financial reparations were imposed on the Germans, despite British reservations and American protests, largely because of France's desire for punitive peace.[17]

Inter-war years

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor on their wedding day, June 3, 1937.

World War I was theoretically the end of the Royal Navy's superiority, an eclipse acknowledged in the Washington Naval Treaty, when the United States and the United Kingdom agreed to the allocation of equal tonnage quotas on February 6, 1922. Although the United States Navy had the right to build a navy equal in size and power of the British Royal Navy, it voluntarily opted to remain the junior of the two navies, with a smaller, yet a growing fleet of vessels. Nevertheless, the United States' policies on immigration and trade ignited a Pacific Fleet rivalry with the Empire of Japan rather than an Atlantic Fleet rivalry with the British Empire.

During the Great Depression, the United States was preoccupied with its own internal affairs and economic recovery, espousing an isolationist policy which was only sporadically active in foreign affairs throughout the 1920s and 1930s. After the United States imposed a high tariff on foreign imports in 1930 called the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, the United Kingdom and the rest of the British Empire unsuccessfully built up imperial trade preferences, thereby attempting to promote trade internally and divert trade away from the United States. Nevertheless, the Great Depression did eventually spread to the United Kingdom, so much that the UK Treasury found it nearly impossible to repay loans and war bonds granted by banks in the United States during World War I. In the end, most of the World War I debt which had been accrued by the United Kingdom as well as many other European countries were largely written off and excused by American bankers.

Towards the end of 1936, the Abdication Crisis, while absorbing popular interest in both the United Kingdom and the United States, did not become a foreign relations issue. At the insistence of Stanley Baldwin, the ultimatum was given to King Edward VIII of retaining his throne as head of the Church of England, or renouncing his birth right as king and marrying an American divorcee named Wallis Simpson.

Tensions over the Irish question diminished with the independence of the Irish Free State, which was granted much earlier in 1922, and with the ambassadorship of Joseph P. Kennedy to the Court of St. James's beginning in 1938.[26]

World War II

Though much of the American people were sympathetic to the United Kingdom and France during their dangerous confrontation with Nazi Germany, there was widespread opposition to possible American intervention in European affairs. This was highlighted in a series of Neutrality Acts which were ratified by the United States Congress in 1935, 1936, and 1937 respectively. However, Franklin Roosevelt's policy of cash-and-carry still allowed the United Kingdom and France to order munitions from the United States.

Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill during church services held in conjunction with the Atlantic Charter aboard the HMS Prince of Wales in August 1941.

Winston Churchill, whose mother was an American, became prime minister after the Allies' failure to prevent the German invasion of Norway. After the fall of France, Franklin Roosevelt gave the United Kingdom and later the Soviet Union all aid short of war. The Destroyers for Bases Agreement which was signed in September 1940, gave the United States a ninety-nine-year rent-free lease of numerous land and air bases throughout the British Empire in exchange for the United Kingdom receiving possession of fifty destroyers from the United States Navy. Beginning in March 1941, the United States enacted Lend-Lease in the form of Sherman tanks, fighter airplanes, munitions, bullets, food, and medical supplies which were sent to the United Kingdom, $31.4 billion out of a total of $50.1 billion ($700 billion in 2007) sent to the Allies.[27]

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war by the United States Congress on Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan in December 1941, two United States Navy destroyers had already been torpedoed on convoy duties in the North Atlantic Ocean. The United States nevertheless became extensively involved in the European theatre due to the real and perceived threat of the Axis Powers eventually reaching American shores, contingent on the Allies in Fortress Europe and to another extent, the Allies in the Pacific War, being defeated. 60,000 British and 73,000 Americans on June 6, 1944 stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, and both nations' armed forces fought alongside each other at the invasion of Sicily from July to August 1943, the Battle of Monte Cassino from January to May 1944, Operation Market Garden in September 1944, the Battle of Overloon from September to October 1944, the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945, and many other numerous battles in the China Burma India Theater of World War II as well as the Pacific War. It was during this period of extremely close cooperation that the "Special Relationship" was created and conceptualized.[28]

Millions of American servicemen were based in the United Kingdom during World War II, which led to a certain amount of friction with their British counterparts. This animosity was explored in art and film, most particularly A Matter of Life and Death and A Canterbury Tale.

As part of their military collaboration throughout the war, scientists and physicists from the United States, the United Kingdom, and many other countries, all under the control of the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the administration of General Leslie Groves, worked on the Manhattan Project in total secrecy, which eventually achieved the objective of building an atomic bomb before Nazi Germany could obtain and use such a weapon. Scientific research during the Manhattan Project was directed and headed by an American theoretical physicist named Robert Oppenheimer.

Cold War

In the years following World War II, the United Kingdom found itself in virtual financial ruin whereas the United States was in the midst of an economic boom. Due to many hardships during and after the toll of war, the British Empire went into relative decline as several of its overseas colonies began the process of de-colonization, most notably, the independence of India which occurred in 1947.

Furthermore, the United Kingdom found itself at the mercy of American economic policy when the United States abruptly terminated lend-lease at the end of World War II. This fact was highlighted by the Anglo-American loan made to the United Kingdom by the United States in 1946. At a 2% interest rate, the terms of this loan were $586 million (£145 million in 1945) and a $375 million line of credit which was to be paid off in 50 annual installments, the first payment being due in 1950. The United Kingdom deferred twice on repayment with the last payment of $83 million (£45.5 million) being sent to the United States Federal Reserve on December 31, 2006.[29]

The United States and the United Kingdom became founding members of the United Nations in 1945, as well as becoming two of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. In the post-war era, the United States and the United Kingdom were becoming increasingly suspicious of the motives of their former ally, the Soviet Union. Rising tensions between the capitalist and communist powers led to the Cold War. Thus, close cooperation between the United States and the United Kingdom resulted in the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with their European allies, a mutual defense alliance whereby if one country is attacked, then it is seen as an attack on all countries.

On February 11, 1946, negotiators from the United Kingdom and the United States signed the Bermuda I Agreement, a bilateral air transport agreement which regulated commercial air transport between British and American airports.

The United States began practicing an anti-colonial and anti-communist stance in its foreign policy throughout the Cold War. Military forces from the United States and the United Kingdom were heavily involved in the Korean War, fighting under a United Nations mandate. A withdrawal of military forces occurred when a stalemate was implemented in 1953. When the Suez Crisis erupted in October 1956, the United States feared a wider war after the Soviet Union and the other Warsaw Pact nations threatened to intervene on the Egyptian side. Thus, the United States demanded that the United Kingdom and France end their invasion of Egypt or otherwise face imminent economic sanctions which would in all probable causes, create an economic collapse in the United Kingdom and a severe devaluation of the sterling pound. This threat made by Dwight Eisenhower led to an immediate British and French withdrawal of their military occupation as well as the immediate resignation of Anthony Eden in 1957.

Through the US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement signed in 1958, the United States assisted the United Kingdom in their own development of a nuclear arsenal. In April 1963, John F. Kennedy and Harold Macmillan signed the Polaris Sales Agreement to the effect of the United States agreeing to supply the UGM-27 Polaris ballistic missile to the United Kingdom and for use in the Royal Navy's submarine fleet starting in 1968.[30]

The United States gradually became involved in the Vietnam War in the early 1960s, but received no support this time from the United Kingdom. Anti-Americanism due to the Vietnam War and a lack of American support for France and the United Kingdom over the Suez Crisis weighed heavily on the minds of many in Europe. This sentiment extended in the United Kingdom by Harold Wilson's refusal to send British troops to Indochina.

On July 23, 1977, officials from the United Kingdom and the United States renegotiated the previous Bermuda I Agreement, thus signing the Bermuda II Agreement to the effect of only four combined airlines, two from the United Kingdom and two from the United States, being allowed to operate flights from London Heathrow Airport and specified "gateway cities" in the United States. The Bermuda II Agreement was in effect for nearly 30 years until it was eventually replaced by the EU-US Open Skies Agreement, which was signed on April 30, 2007 and entering into effect on March 30, 2008.

Ronald Reagan with close ally and personal friend, Margaret Thatcher at Aspen Lodge, Camp David, 1984.

Throughout the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher was strongly supportive of Ronald Reagan's unwavering stance towards the Soviet Union. Often described as 'political soulmates' and a high point in the "Special Relationship," both President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher met on numerous occasions throughout their political careers, speaking in concert when confronting Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.

In 1982, the British Government made a request to the United States, which the Americans agreed upon in principle, to sell the Trident II D5 ballistic missile, associated equipment, and related system support for use on four Vanguard class nuclear submarines in the Royal Navy. The Trident II D5 ballistic missile replaced the United Kingdom's previous use of the UGM-27 Polaris ballistic missile, beginning in the mid-1990s.[30]

In the Falklands War, the United States initially tried to mediate between the United Kingdom and Argentina in 1982, but ultimately ended up supporting the United Kingdom's counter-invasion. The United States Defense Department under Caspar Weinberger, supplied the British military with equipment as well as logistical support.[31]

In October 1983, the United States and a coalition of Caribbean nations undertook Operation Urgent Fury, codename for the invasion of the Commonwealth island nation of Grenada. A bloody Marxist-coup had overrun Grenada and neighboring countries in the region asked the United States to intervene militarily, which it did successfully despite having made assurances to a deeply resentful British Government.

On April 15, 1986, the United States Air Force with elements of naval and marine forces launched Operation El Dorado Canyon from RAF Fairford, RAF Upper Heyford, RAF Lakenheath, and RAF Mildenhall. Despite firm opposition from within the Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher nevertheless gave Ronald Reagan permission to use Royal Air Force stations in the United Kingdom during the bombings of Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya, a counter-attack by the United States in response to Muammar Gaddafi's exportation of state-sponsored terrorism directed towards civilians and American servicemen stationed in West Berlin.

On December 21, 1988, Pan American Worldways' Flight 103 from London Heathrow Airport to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport exploded over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 169 Americans and 40 Britons onboard. The motive that is generally attributed to the country of Libya can be traced back to a series of military confrontations with the United States Navy that took place in the 1980s in the Gulf of Sidra, the whole of which Libya claimed as its territorial waters. Despite a guilty verdict announced on January 31, 2001 by the Scottish High Court of Justiciary which ruled against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, the alleged bomber on charges of murder and the conspiracy to commit murder, Libya had never formally admitted carrying out the 1988 bombing over Scotland until 2003.

During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the United States and the United Kingdom throughout the 1980s provided arms to the Mujahadeen rebels in Afghanistan until the last troops from the Soviet Union left Afghanistan on February 15, 1989.

Post Cold War

When the United States became the world's lone superpower after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, new threats emerged which confronted the United States and its NATO allies. With military build-up beginning in August 1990 and the use of force beginning in January 1991, the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, provided the two largest forces respectively for the coalition army which liberated Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's regime during the Persian Gulf War.

In 1997, the British Labour Party was elected to office for the first time in eighteen years. The new prime minister, Tony Blair, and Bill Clinton both used the expression 'Third Way' to describe their center-left ideologies. In August 1997, the American people expressed solidarity with the British people, sharing in their grief and sense of shock on the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, who perished in a car crash in Paris, France. Hillary Rodham Clinton attended the funeral at Westminster Abbey on September 6, 1997.

Throughout 1998 and 1999, the United States and the United Kingdom sent troops to impose peace during the Kosovo War.

War on Terrorism and Iraq War

Tony Blair and George W. Bush seen shaking hands after a press conference in the East Room of the White House on November 12, 2004.

2,669 Americans and 67 Britons at the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania were victims of a terrorist plot orchestrated by the Islamic group known as al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, there was an enormous outpouring of sympathy from the United Kingdom for the American people, and Tony Blair was one of George W. Bush's strongest international supporters for bringing al-Qaeda and the Taliban to justice. With permission from Queen Elizabeth II, the Star Spangled Banner was played in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace during Guard Mounting on September 12, 2001 in the presence of Prince Andrew, Duke of York and then United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James's, William Farish.

The United States declared a War on Terror following the attacks. British forces participated in the United States-led war in Afghanistan and unlike France, Canada, Germany, China, and Russia, the United Kingdom, as well as the Commonwealth nation of Australia, supported the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The United States, followed closely by the United Kingdom, contributed the most troops to the coalition during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the ensuing Iraq War which followed.[32]

The July 7, 2005 London bombings emphasized the difference in the nature of the terrorist threat to both nations. The United States concentrated primarily on global enemies, like the al-Qaeda network and other Islamic extremists from the Middle East. The London bombings were carried out by homegrown extremist Muslims, and it emphasized the United Kingdom's threat from the radicalization of its own people.

By 2007, support amongst the British public for the Iraq war had plummeted.[33] Despite Tony Blair's historically low approval ratings with the British people, mainly due to allegations of faulty government intelligence of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction, his unapologetic and unwavering stance for the United Kingdom's alliance with the United States can be summed up in his own words. He said, "We should remain the closest ally of the US... not because they are powerful, but because we share their values." [34] The alliance between George W. Bush and Tony Blair seriously damaged the prime minister's standing in the eyes of many British citizens.[35] Tony Blair argued it is in the United Kingdom's interest to "protect and strengthen the bond" with the United States regardless of who is in the White House.[36] However, a perception of one-sided compromising personal and political closeness led to serious discussion of the term "Poodle-ism" in the British media, to describe the "Special Relationship" of the British Government and prime minister with the White House and president.[37].

On March 31, 2009, Major General Andy Salmon of the British Army formally handed over command of combat operations in Basra, Iraq to Major General Michael Oates of the 10th Mountain Division of the United States Army. This transition marked the beginning of the end of British occupation in southern Iraq. All British servicemen were withdrawn with the exception of 400 who remained in Iraq until July 31, 2009.[38]

On June 11, 2009, the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda accepted four Chinese Uighurs from the United States' detainment facility known as Guantanamo Bay detention camp located on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. At the request of the United States Government, Bermudan officials agreed to host Abdul Nasser, Huzaifa Parhat, Abdul Semet, and Jalal Jalaladin as guest workers in Bermuda who seven years ago, were all captured by Pakistani bounty hunters during the United States-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. This decision agreed upon by American and Bermudan officials drew considerable consternation and contempt by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as it was viewed by British officials in London that they should have been consulted on whether or not the decision to take in four Chinese Uighurs was a security and foreign issue of which the Bermudan government does not have delegated responsibility over.[39]

Release of Al Megrahi and Boycott of Scotland

On August 20, 2009, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill publicly announced during a media conference that Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, the only person convicted of the terrorist plot which killed 169 Americans and 40 Britons on Pan American Worldways' Flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988, was to be released from a Scottish jail on compassionate grounds based on medical advice verifying that Abdelbaset Al Megrahi has terminal cancer and an estimated three months left to live.[40] After media reports showed Abdelbaset Al Megrahi at Tripoli International Airport receiving a hero's welcome on Libyan soil, fury and mounting anger grew in the United States over the decision itself to release Abdelbaset Al Megrahi under the framework of Scottish law for a crime he was found guilty of committing on January 31, 2001 by the Scottish High Court of Justiciary and one in which his sentence carried out was being revoked. The judges recommended a minimum of 20 years "in view of the horrendous nature of this crime." [41] From the American viewpoint, the decision to release Abdelbaset Al Megrahi on compassionate grounds was seen as uncompassionate and insensitive to the memory of the victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the decision made her "deeply disappointed." [42] President Barack Obama said that the decision was "highly objectionable" while FBI Director Robert Mueller had even more strong words in an open letter written to Kenny MacAskill in which he said the decision to release Abdelbaset Al Megrahi "makes a mockery of the rule of law." [43]

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and several officials of the British Government declined to say whether or not they supported the release of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi as they repeatedly stressed that the decision was a devolved matter and under the sole authority of the Scottish Government.[44] Nevertheless, serious questions arose as to whether or not a lucrative trade agreement or oil deal was made between Libya and the United Kingdom, contingent upon the release of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, as claimed by Saif Gaddafi, the son of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. After the release, Colonel Gaddafi stated, "And I say to my friend Brown, the prime minister of Britain, his government, the Queen of Britain, Elizabeth, and Prince Andrew, who all contributed to encouraging the Scottish government to take this historic and courageous decision, despite the obstacles." In response to all accusations made in the media, Lord Peter Mandelson, the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills made a rebuttal by saying, "It's not only completely wrong to make such a suggestion, it's also quite offensive." [45]

Surrounding the controversy of releasing Abdelbaset Al Megrahi and the allegations of a trade deal between Libya and the United Kingdom, a backlash of angry protesters in the United States called for a boycott of Scotland. A web site in the form of an online petition was launched soon thereafter with a list of e-mail addresses of Scottish and British politicians, contact details of Scottish newspapers, and a list of Scottish products and companies for the American people to economically boycott. The online web petition claimed that a boycott of Scotland was the "only way to send a clear and direct message" of American contempt. Grassroots campaigns also took hold on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, while there were calls to have Scotch whisky renamed as 'Freedom Liquor.' [46]

In the aftermath of the release of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, several commentators suggested that British-American relations have been damaged due to the actions of the Scottish Government. Others in the media as well as in government circles have even questioned whether or not the "Special Relationship" developed between the United Kingdom and the United States during World War II still exists.[47] David Rivkin, a former official of the United States Department of Justice said, "This will damage US relations with Britain for years to come." [48] However, Louis Susman, the United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James's said that although the decision made by Scotland to release Abdelbaset Al Megrahi on the grounds of compassion was seen by the United States as extremely regrettable, relations with the United Kingdom would remain fully intact and strong.[49] Despite these assurances made by the United States, sceptics such as Susan Stewart, a former diplomat of Scottish Affairs contended that Scotland's standing and negative image in the United States resulted in a setback of Scottish-American relations where only a 'diplomatic charm offensive' on the behalf of Scotland could repair the damage already done.[50]

Present status

Queen Elizabeth II welcomed President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to Buckingham Palace on April 1, 2009.

Present British policy is that the relationship with the United States represents the United Kingdom's "most important bilateral relationship" in the world.[3] United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton paid tribute to the relationship in February 2009 by saying, "it stands the test of time."[51]

On March 3, 2009, Gordon Brown made his first visit to the Obama White House. During his visit, he presented the president a gift in the form of a pen holder carved from the HMS Gannet, which served anti-slavery missions off the coast of Africa. Barack Obama’s gift to the prime minister was a box of 25 DVDs with movies including Star Wars and E.T.--all of which were Region 1 disks, unplayable on most machines sold outside the United States. The wife of the prime minister, Sarah Brown, gave the Obama daughters, Sasha and Malia, two dresses from British clothing retailer, Topshop, and a few unpublished books that have not reached the United States. Michelle Obama gave the prime minister's sons two Marine One helicopter toys.[52] During this visit to the United States, Prime Minister Brown made an address to a joint session of the United States Congress, a privilege rarely accorded to foreign heads of government.

On a personal level, the fondness between the United States' First Family and the British Royal Family was illustrated by a breach of protocol between Queen Elizabeth II and Michelle Obama, who in gestures of good will and friendship, publicly put their arms around each other during a party held at Buckingham Palace on April 1, 2009, which was in conjunction with the London G20 summit.[53] On June 13, 2009, Michelle Obama and her two children, Sasha Obama and Malia Obama, had a private audience with Queen Elizabeth II. During this visit, the Obama children were granted a rare and unprecedented three-hour tour of the State rooms at Buckingham Palace. The Queen and the First Lady are known to have discussed their mutual love of gardening, the countryside, and fashion.[54]

In March 2009, a Gallup poll was conducted by means of a telephone survey of 1,023 adults in the United States. Of those surveyed, 36% identified the United Kingdom as their country's "most valuable ally", followed by Canada, Japan, Israel, and Germany rounding out the top five.[55] The poll also indicated that 89% of Americans view the United Kingdom favorably, second only to Canada with 90%.[55] According to the Pew Research Center, a global survey conducted in July 2009 revealed that 70% of Britons who responded had a favorable view of the United States.[56]

Trade and investment

The United States accounts for the United Kingdom's largest single export market, buying $57 billion worth of British goods in 2007.[57] Total trade of imports and exports between the United Kingdom and the United States amounted to the sum of $107.2 billion in 2007.[58]

The United States and the United Kingdom share the world's largest foreign direct investment partnership. In 2005, American direct investment in the United Kingdom totaled $324 billion while British direct investment in the United States totaled $282 billion.[59]


More than 4.5 million Britons visit the United States every year, spending approximately $14 billion. Around 3 million Americans visit the United Kingdom every year, spending approximately $10 billion.[60]


New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport is the most popular international destination for people flying out of London Heathrow Airport. Approximately 2,802,870 people on multiple daily non-stop flights flew from Heathrow to JFK in 2008.[61] Concorde, British Airway's flagship supersonic airliner, began trans-Atlantic service to Washington Dulles International Airport in the United States on May 24, 1976. After the United States Supreme Court ruled on October 17, 1977 to lift a lower court's ban on sonic boom over the skies of New York City, the traditional trans-Atlantic route between London's Heathrow and New York's JFK in under 3 1/2 hours, had its first operational flight between the two hubs on October 19, 1977 and the last being on October 23, 2003.[62]

Cunard Line, a British shipping company which is owned by American parent company, Carnival Corporation, provides seasonal trans-Atlantic crossings aboard the RMS Queen Mary 2 and the MS Queen Victoria between Southampton and New York City.[63]

State and official visits

Reciprocal state and official visits have been carried out over the years by three Presidents of the United States as well as two British monarchs. Throughout her lifetime, Queen Elizabeth II has met a total of eleven presidents (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama), with the notable exception of Lyndon B. Johnson.[64]

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush, share a toast during a 2007 state dinner held at the White House in celebration of British-American relations.
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, riding on horseback in the grounds of Windsor Great Park during President Reagan's 1982 official visit to the United Kingdom.
State and official visits to the United States by the British Monarch [65][66]
Dates Monarch and Consort Locations Itinerary
June 7–11, 1939 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Washington D.C., New York City, and Hyde Park (New York) Paid a state visit to Washington D.C., stayed at the White House, laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, visited George Washington's Virginian plantation Mount Vernon, made an appearance at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City, and made a private visit to Franklin Roosevelt's upstate New York retreat, Springwood Estate.
October 17–20, 1957 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh Jamestown and Williamsburg (Virginia), Washington D.C., and New York City Paid a state visit to Washington D.C., attended the official ceremonies of the 350th anniversary of the Jamestown Settlement, and made a brief stop-over in New York City before sailing to the United Kingdom.
July 6–9, 1976 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh Philadelphia, Washington D.C., New York City, Charlottesville (Virginia), Newport and Providence (Rhode Island), and Boston Paid a state visit to Washington D.C. and toured the United States East Coast in conjunction with the United States Bicentennial celebrations aboard HMY Britannia.
February 26- March 7, 1983 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh San Diego, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park (California), and Seattle (Washington) Made an official visit to the United States, toured the United States West Coast aboard HMY Britannia, and made a private visit to Ronald Reagan's retreat in the Santa Ynez Mountains, Rancho del Cielo.
May 14–17, 1991 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh Washington D.C., Baltimore (Maryland), Miami and Tampa (Florida), Austin, San Antonio, and Houston (Texas), and Lexington (Kentucky) Paid a state visit to Washington D.C., addressed a joint session of the United States Congress, made a private visit to Kentucky, and toured the Southern United States.
May 3–8, 2007 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh Richmond, Jamestown, and Williamsburg (Virginia), Louisville (Kentucky), Greenbelt (Maryland), and Washington D.C. Paid a state visit to Washington D.C., addressed the Virginia General Assembly, attended the official ceremonies of the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown Settlement, toured NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, visited the National World War II Memorial on the National Mall, and made a private visit to Kentucky to attend the 133rd Kentucky Derby.
State and official visits to the United Kingdom by the President of the United States [67]
Dates Administration Locations Itinerary
December 26–28, 1918 Woodrow Wilson and Edith Wilson London, Carlisle, and Manchester Made an official visit to the United Kingdom, stayed at Buckingham Palace, attended an official dinner, had an audience with King George V and Queen Mary, and made a private visit called the 'pilgrimage of the heart' to the ancestral home of his British-born mother, Janet Woodrow.
June 7–9, 1982 Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan London and Windsor Made an official visit to the United Kingdom, stayed at Windsor Castle, attended a state banquet, and addressed the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
November 18–21, 2003 George W. Bush and Laura Bush London and Sedgefield Paid a state visit to the United Kingdom, stayed at Buckingham Palace, attended a state banquet, laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, and made a private visit to Tony Blair's constituency in the north of England.


Of United States
Of United Kingdom

Common memberships

Strategic Alliance Cyber Crime Working Group

Map showing member countries of the Strategic Alliance Cyber Crime Working Group and their respective lead agencies.
UKUSA Community
Map of UKUSA Community countries with Ireland

New Zealand
United Kingdom
United States of America

The Strategic Alliance Cyber Crime Working Group is an initiative by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and headed by the United States as a "formal partnership between these nations dedicated to tackling larger global crime issues, particularly organized crime." The cooperation consists of "five countries from three continents banding together to fight cyber crime in a synergistic way by sharing intelligence, swapping tools and best practices, and strengthening and even synchronizing their respective laws." [68]

Within this initiative, there is increased information sharing between the United Kingdom's Serious Organised Crime Agency and the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation on matters relating to serious fraud or cyber crime.

UKUSA Community

The UK-USA Security Agreement is an alliance of five English-speaking countries; Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, for the sole purpose of sharing intelligence. The precursor to this agreement is essentially an extension of the historic BRUSA Agreement which was signed in 1943. In association with the ECHELON system, all five nations are assigned to intelligence collection and analysis from different parts of the world. For example, the United Kingdom hunts for communications in Europe, Africa, and Russia west of the Ural Mountains whereas the United States has responsibility for gathering intelligence in Latin America, Asia, Asiatic Russia, and northern mainland China.[69]

Sister-Twinning cities

England and the United States

Scotland and the United States

Wales and the United States

Northern Ireland and the United States

UK-USA Friendship links


The Resolute desk as seen in the Oval Office at the White House during the Carter Administration, was hand-crafted from barque-timbers of the decommissioned HMS Resolute, and then presented by Queen Victoria as a gift to the United States on November 23, 1880.

Because thirteen states of the United States are historical remnants of the original Thirteen Colonies, the United States and its mother country, the United Kingdom, retain significant, shared threads of cultural heritage, many of which are common to all Anglophone countries.

The peoples of the United Kingdom and the United States are historically Christian, although increasingly secular and diverse in the modern era.[70][71] The legal systems of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the United States on both the federal and state level, with the one exception being the state of Louisiana, are all based on common law.[72] Likewise, the United States Constitution, drafted in 1787 and ratified the following year by the Founding Fathers of the United States, was largely influenced by the political writings of English philosopher John Locke, the Magna Carta signed by King John of England in 1215, the Mayflower Compact drawn up by the Pilgrims in 1620, and the English Bill of Rights ratified by an act of the Parliament of England in 1689.[73]

In the area of economics and as two leading nations that both use a capitalist macroeconomic model, both the United Kingdom and the United States practice what is commonly referred to as an Anglo-Saxon economy in which levels of regulation and taxes are low, and government provides a low to medium level of social services in return.[74]

Since English is the de facto language of the United Kingdom and the United States, both nations belong to the English-speaking world. However, the common language which binds the peoples of the United Kingdom and the United States does come with significant differences in spelling, pronunciation, and the meaning of words.[75]

Because of shared history, the United Kingdom has also had a direct influence on the traditional holidays in which Americans celebrate every year. Thanksgiving Day, a federal holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday of every November, is a traditional gathering of family and friends in remembrance of the Pilgrims, a 17th century Protestant sect from England who sailed to the New World in 1620, and their first harvest festival and feast in 1621 with Native Americans known as the Wampanoag tribe. Independence Day, a federal holiday celebrated in the United States every 4th of July, is a national celebration which commemorates the July 4, 1776 adoption of the Declaration of Independence and the severing and dissolution of political ties with the mother country, the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Perhaps one of the most endearing and moving symbols of ties between the United Kingdom and the United States is the story of how the national anthem of the United States, The Star Spangled Banner, was created. As British forces attempted to bombard Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on the evening of September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key while detained aboard HMS Minden, penned words about the intense, destructive battle scenes which he witnessed on a firsthand account. When the smoke from canon fire cleared, Key was visibly able to see the flag of the United States still waving and reported this to the American prisoners-of-war below deck. After the British surrendered, Key was inspired to write a poem which he entitled, "The Defence of Fort McHenry". In later years, the poem was adapted to the melody of the English drinking song, The Anacreontic Song, by Englishman John Stafford Smith.[76]

Popular culture


Literature is transferred across the Atlantic Ocean, as evidenced by, the appeal of British authors such as William Shakespeare, J. R. R. Tolkien, Jackie Collins, and J.K. Rowling in the United States, and American authors such as Dan Brown, Stephen King, James Patterson, and Michael Crichton in the United Kingdom.

T.S. Eliot, a poet and playwright who moved to England in 1914 and became a British subject in 1927, was a leading American author who greatly influenced the Modern period of British literature.[77]

Print journalism

British Sunday broadsheet newspaper The Observer includes a condensed copy of The New York Times.[78] The American newspaper USA Today is sold widely across the UK.


In The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), British actor Laurence Olivier starred alongside the American icon, Marilyn Monroe.

There is much crossover appeal in the modern entertainment culture of the United Kingdom and the United States. For example, Hollywood blockbuster movies made by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have had a large effect on British audiences in the United Kingdom, while the James Bond and Harry Potter series of films have attracted high interest in the United States. Also, the animated films of Walt Disney have continued to make an indelible mark and impression on British audiences, young and old, for almost 100 years. Films by Alfred Hitchcock continuously make a lasting impact on a loyal fan base in the United States, as Alfred Hitchcock himself influenced notable American film makers such as John Carpenter, in the horror and slasher film genres.

Production of films are often shared between the two nations, whether it be a concentrated use of British and American actors or the use of film studios located in London or Hollywood.


Broadway theatre in New York City has toured London's West End theatre over the years, with notable performances such as The Lion King, Grease, Wicked, and Rent. British productions, such as Mamma Mia! and several of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals, including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera have found success on Broadway. For many years, the comedies, histories, and tragedies written by English playwright William Shakespeare have also proven to be overwhelmingly popular on the American stage.


Both the United Kingdom and the United States have television shows which are similar, as they are either carried by the other nations' networks, or are re-created for distribution in their own nations. Some popular British television shows that were re-created for the American market in more recent years are The Office, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing With the Stars), and Pop Idol (American Idol). Some American television shows re-created for the British market in more recent years include The Apprentice and Deal or No Deal. Popular American television shows that are currently popular in the United Kingdom include The Simpsons, South Park, Scrubs, Family Guy, and the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation series.

The BBC airs two networks in the United States, BBC America and BBC World. The American network PBS collaborates with the BBC and rebroadcasts British television shows in the United States such as Monty Python's Flying Circus, Keeping Up Appearances, Doctor Who, Nova, and Masterpiece Theatre. The BBC also frequently collaborates with American network HBO, showing recent American mini-series in the United Kingdom such as Rome, John Adams, Band of Brothers, and The Gathering Storm. Likewise, the American network Discovery Channel has partnered with the BBC by televising recent British mini-series in the United States such as Planet Earth and The Blue Planet, the latter popularly known as The Blue Planet: Seas of Life in the American format. The United States' public affairs channel C-Span, broadcasts Prime Minister's Questions every Sunday.

On some British digital television platforms, it is also possible to watch American television channels direct from the United Kingdom, such as Fox News, as well as American television channels tailored for British audiences such as CNBC Europe, CNN Europe, ESPN Classic UK, Comedy Central UK, and FX UK. The Super Bowl, the National Football League's championship tournament of American football which occurs every February, has been broadcast in the United Kingdom since 1982.[79]


The arrival of The Beatles in the United States and subsequent appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 marked the beginning of the "British Invasion."

American artists such as Madonna, Tina Turner, Cher, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, Frank Sinatra, Beyoncé, Fergie, and Britney Spears are popular in the United Kingdom. British artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Sting, David Bowie, Amy Winehouse, KT Tunstall and Coldplay have achieved success in the large American market. Undoubtedly, the popular music of both nations has had a strong sway on each other.

In the United Kingdom, many Hollywood films as well as Broadway musicals are closely associated and identified with the musical scores and soundtracks created by famous American composers such as George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Henry Mancini, John Williams, Alan Silvestri, Jerry Goldsmith, and James Horner.

The Celtic music of the United Kingdom has had a dynamic effect upon American music.[80] In particular, the traditional music of the Southern United States is descended from traditional Celtic music and English folk music of the colonial period, and the musical traditions of the South eventually gave rise to country music and, to a lesser extent, American folk.[81]

The birth of jazz, swing, big band, and especially rock n roll, all developed and originating in the United States, had greatly influenced the later development of rock music in the United Kingdom, particularly British rock bands such as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, while it's American precursor, the blues, greatly influenced British electric rock.[82]


I cannot but lament. . . the impending Calamities Britain and her Colonies are about to suffer, from great Imprudencies on both Sides – Passion governs, and she never governs wisely – Anxiety begins to disturb my Rest.

Benjamin Franklin, [83]

Once vigorous measures appear to be the only means left of bringing the Americans to a due submission to the mother country, the colonies will submit.

King George III, [84]

The injuries we have received from the British nation were so unprovoked, and have been so great and so many, that they can never be forgotten.

George Washington, [83]

I was the last to consent to the Separation, but the Separation having been made and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the Friendship of the United States as an independent Power. . . let the Circumstances of Language; Religion and Blood have their natural and full Effect.

King George III, [85]

The appointment of a Minister from the United States to your Majesty’s Court, will form an Epocha in the History of England & of America. I think myself more fortunate than all my fellow Citizens in having the distinguished Honor to be the first to stand in your Majesty’s royal Presence in a diplomatic Character . . .

John Adams, [85]

I considered the British as our natural enemies, and as the only nation on earth who wished us ill from the bottom of their souls. And I am satisfied that were our continent to be swallowed up by the ocean, Great Britain would be in a bonfire from one end to the other.

Thomas Jefferson, [86]

England and America are two countries separated by a common language.

George Bernard Shaw, [87]

Mr. President (Roosevelt), I believe you are trying to do away with the British Empire. Every idea you entertain about the structure of the postwar world demonstrates it.... But in spite of that, you constitute our only hope. You know it. We know it. You know that we know that without America, the British Empire won't stand.

Sir Winston Churchill, [88]

I've tried to make it clear ... that while we're Britain's allies and in it to victory by their side, they must never get the idea that we're in it just to help them hang on to their archaic, medieval empire ideas ... I hope they realize they're not the senior partner; that we are not going to sit by and watch their system stultify the growth of every country in Asia and half the countries in Europe to boot.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, [89]

These two great organisations of the English-speaking democracies, the British Empire and the United States, will have to be somewhat mixed up together in some of their affairs for mutual and general advantage. For my own part, looking out upon the future, I do not view the process with any misgivings. I could not stop it if I wished; no one can stop it. Like the Mississippi, it just keeps rolling along. Let it roll. Let it roll on full flood, inexorable, irresistible, benignant, to broader lands and better days.

Sir Winston Churchill, [90]

We lost the American colonies because we lacked the statesmanship to know the right time and the manner of yielding what is impossible to keep.

Queen Elizabeth II, [91]

We are bound by so much more than just language. Many of our values, beliefs, and principles of government were nurtured on this soft. I also thought of how our future security and prosperity depend on the continued unity of Britain and America.

Ronald Reagan, [92]

What links our countries is less a place than an idea -- the idea that for nearly 400 years has been America's inheritance and England's bequest. The legacy of democracy, the rule of law, and basic human rights.

George H.W. Bush, [93]

Britain has repeatedly proved to be America's closest and most effective ally in times of crisis. Our relationship is based, of course, on shared history, values, institutions and language. But it has also been reinforced by strategic interests. If Britain is drawn much further into Europe's plans to create a superstate, its Atlantic orientation will be lost, perhaps irreparably.

Margaret Thatcher, [94]

No one can be as calculatedly rude as the British, which amazes Americans, who do not understand studied insult and can only offer abuse as a substitute.

Noel Gallagher, [95]

I am not sure, with America as it is these days, that it would be easy for someone, even the British, to be an honest broker.

Jacques Chirac, [96]

We will not allow people to separate us from the United States of America in dealing with the common challenges that we face around the world.

Gordon Brown, [97]

What I think and fear is that Britain will draw back from the US without moving closer to Europe. In that sense London’s bridge is falling down.

Kendall Myers, [98]


See also


  • Ephraim Douglass Adams; Great Britain and the American Civil War 2 vol 1925
  • H. C. Allen; Great Britain and the United States: A History of Anglo-American Relations, 1783–1952 (1954)
  • Burt, Alfred L. The United States, Great Britain, and British North America from the Revolution to the Establishment of Peace after the War of 1812. (1940), detailed history by Canadian scholar; online
  • Charles S. Campbell, Anglo-American Understanding 1898–1903 (1957)
  • John Charmley. Churchill's Grand Alliance: The Anglo-American Special Relationship 1940–57 (1996)
  • Martin Crawford. The Anglo-American Crisis of the Mid-Nineteenth Century: The Times and America, 1850–1862 (1987)
  • Alan P Dobson. Anglo-American Relations in the Twentieth Century (1995)
  • John Dumbrell. A special relationship: Anglo-American relations from the cold war to Iraq (2006)
  • Robert M. Hendershot. Family Spats: Perception, Illusion, and Sentimentality in the Anglo-American Special Relationship (2008)
  • Jonathan Hollowell; Twentieth-Century Anglo-American Relations (2001)
  • Christopher Hitchens. Blood, Class and Empire: The Enduring Anglo-American Relationship (2004)
  • Roger Louis; Imperialism at Bay: The United States and the Decolonization of the British Empire, 1941–1945 (1978)* William Roger Louis and Hedley Bull. The "Special Relationship": Anglo-American Relations since 1945 (1987)
  • Bradford Perkins; The First Rapprochement: England and the United States, 1795–1805 (1955)
  • Edwin J Perkins. Financing Anglo-American trade: The House of Brown, 1800–1880 (1975)
  • Shawcross, William. Allies: The U.S., Britain, Europe and the War in Iraq (2004)
  • Woods, Randall Bennett. Changing of the Guard: Anglo-American Relations, 1941–1946 (1990)


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