Home > England Information Articles
|Motto: Dieu et mon droit (French)
"God and my right"
|Anthem: None officially specific to England; the anthem of the United Kingdom is "God Save the Queen". See also De Facto National anthem of England.
Location of England (inset — orange)
in the United Kingdom (camel)
in the European continent (white)
(and largest city)
|Recognised regional languages||Cornish2|
|Ethnic groups||90% White, 5.3% South Asian, 2.7% Black, 1.6% Mixed race, 0.7% Chinese, 0.6% Other|
|Legislature||Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|-||by Athelstan||AD 927|
50,346 sq mi
|GDP (PPP)||2006 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2006 estimate|
|HDI (2006)||▲ 0.940 (high)|
|Currency||Pound sterling (
|Time zone||GMT (UTC0)|
|-||Summer (DST)||BST (UTC+1)|
|Patron saint||St. George|
|1||English is established by de facto usage.|
|2||Cornish is officially recognised as a Regional or Minority language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.|
|3||National population projection from the Office for National Statistics.|
|4||Also .eu, as part of the European Union. ISO 3166-1 is GB, but .gb is unused. All these top level domain names are assigned to the United Kingdom as a whole, with no separate allocation to the countries which comprise it.|
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Its inhabitants account for more than 83% of the total UK population, whilst its mainland territory occupies most of the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain. England shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west and elsewhere is bordered by the North Sea, Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, Bristol Channel and English Channel. The capital is London, the largest urban area in Great Britain, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most, but not all, measures.
England became a unified state in the year 927 and takes its name from the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes who settled there during the 5th and 6th centuries. It has had a significant cultural and legal impact on the wider world being the place of origin of the English language, the Church of England, and English law, which forms the basis of the common law legal systems of countries around the world. In addition, England was the birth place of the Industrial Revolution and the first country in the world to industrialise. It is home to the Royal Society, which laid the foundations of modern experimental science. England is the world's oldest parliamentary system and consequently constitutional, governmental and legal innovations that had their origin in England have been widely adopted by other nations.
The Kingdom of England (including Wales) continued as a separate state until 1 May 1707, when the Acts of Union, putting into effect the terms agreed in the Treaty of Union the previous year, resulted in political union with the Kingdom of Scotland to create the united Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1800, Great Britain was united with Ireland through another Act of Union 1800 to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1921, the Irish Free State was created, and the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act in 1927 officially established the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which exists today.
England is named after the Angles, the largest of the Germanic tribes who settled in England in the 5th and 6th centuries, and who are believed to have originated in the peninsula of Angeln, in what is now Denmark and northern Germany. (The further etymology of this tribe's name remains uncertain, although a popular theory holds that it need be sought no further than the word angle itself, and refers to a fish-hook-shaped region of Holstein.)
The Angles' name has had various spellings. The earliest known reference to these people is under the Latinised version Anglii used by Tacitus in chapter 40 of his Germania, written around 98 AD. He gives no precise indication of their geographical position within Germania, but states that, with six other tribes, they worshipped a goddess named Nerthus, whose sanctuary was situated on "an island in the Ocean".
The early 8th century historian Bede, in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People), refers to the English people as Angelfolc (in English) or Angli (in Latin).
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known usage of "England" referring to the southern part of the island of Great Britain was in 897, with the modern spelling first used in 1538.
England is officially defined as "subject to any alteration of boundaries under Part IV of the Local Government Act 1972, the area consisting of the counties established by section 1 of that Act, Greater London and the Isles of Scilly."
Bones and flint tools found in Norfolk and Suffolk show that Homo erectus lived in what is now England about 700,000 years ago. At this time, Great Britain was joined to mainland Europe by a large land bridge. The current position of the English Channel was a large river flowing westwards and fed by tributaries that would later become the Thames and the Seine. This area was greatly depopulated during the period of the last major ice age, as were other regions of the British Isles. In the subsequent recolonisation, after the thawing of the ice, genetic research shows that present-day England was the last area of the British Isles to be repopulated, about 13,000 years ago. The migrants arriving during this period contrast with the other of the inhabitants of the British Isles, coming across lands from the south east of Europe, whereas earlier arriving inhabitants came north along a coastal route from Iberia. These migrants would later adopt the Celtic culture that came to dominate much of western Europe.
By AD 43, the time of the main Roman invasion, Britain had already been the target of frequent invasions, planned and actual, by forces of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire. It was first invaded by the Roman dictator Julius Caesar in 55 BC, but it was conquered more fully by the Emperor Claudius in 43 AD. Like other regions on the edge of the empire, Britain had long enjoyed trading links with the Romans, and their economic and cultural influence was a significant part of the British late pre-Roman Iron Age, especially in the south. With the fall of the Roman Empire 400 years later, the Romans left the Province of Britannia, much of which later came to be known as England.
The History of Anglo-Saxon England covers the history of early mediæval England from the end of Roman Britain and the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the 5th century until the Conquest by the Normans in 1066. Fragmentary knowledge of Anglo-Saxon England in the 5th and 6th centuries comes from the British writer Gildas (6th century) the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (a history of the English people begun in the 9th century), saints' lives, poetry, archaeological findings, and place-name studies. The dominant themes of the seventh to tenth centuries were the spread of Christianity and the political unification of England. Christianity is thought to have come from three directions — from Rome to the south, and Scotland and Ireland to the north and west. From about 500 AD, it is believed England was divided into seven petty kingdoms, known as the Heptarchy: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Wessex. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms tended to coalesce by means of warfare. As early as the time of Ethelbert of Kent, one king could be recognised as Bretwalda ("Lord of Britain"). Generally speaking, the title fell in the 7th century to the kings of Northumbria; in the 8th, to those of Mercia; and in the 9th, to Egbert of Wessex, who, in 825, defeated the Mercians at the Battle of Ellendun. In the next century, his family came to rule England.
Originally, England (or "Englaland") was a geographical term to describe the part of Britain occupied by the Anglo-Saxons, rather than a name of an individual nation-state. It became politically united through the expansion of the kingdom of Wessex, whose king Athelstan brought the whole of England under one ruler for the first time in 927, although unification did not become permanent until 954, when Edred defeated Eric Bloodaxe and became King of England.
In 1016, England was conquered by the Danish king Canute the Great and became the centre of government for his short-lived empire. With the accession of Edward the Confessor, heir of the native English dynasty, in 1042, England once again became a separate kingdom. Its ties and nature, however, were forever changed following the Norman Conquest in 1066.
The next few hundred years saw England as a major part of expanding and dwindling empires based in France, with the "Kings of England" using England as a source of troops to enlarge their personal holdings in France for years (Hundred Years' War) ; in fact the English crown did not relinquish its last foothold on mainland France until Calais was lost, in 1558, during the reign of Mary Tudor (the Channel Islands are still crown dependencies, though not part of the UK).
In the 13th century Wales (the remaining Romano-Celts) was brought under the control of English monarchs through conquest. This was formalised in the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284 and Wales was legally annexed to the Kingdom of England by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542. Wales shared a legal identity with England as the joint entity originally called England and later England and Wales.
An epidemic of catastrophic proportions, the Black Death first reached England in the summer of 1348. The Black Death is estimated to have killed between a third and two-thirds of Europe's population. England alone lost as much as 70% of its population, which passed from seven million to two million in 1400. The plague repeatedly returned to haunt England throughout the 14th to 17th centuries. The Great Plague of London in 1665–1666 was the last plague outbreak.
During the English Reformation in the 16th century, the external authority of the Roman Catholic Church in England was abolished and replaced with Acts of Royal Supremacy and the establishment of the Church of England ("Anglican Church") under the Supreme Governance of the English monarch. This occurred during the reign of Henry VIII. The English Reformation differed from its European counterparts in that its roots were more political than theological.
The English Reformation paved the way for the spread of Anglicanism in the church and other institutions.
The period known as the English Civil War (1642-1651) saw political machinations and armed conflicts between supporters of the Long Parliament (Roundheads) and of King Charles I (Royalists) in 1642 to 1645 and 1648 to 1649, followed by conflict between supporters of the Rump Parliament and of King Charles II in 1649 to 1651. The War ended with the Parliamentary victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651. It had led to the trial and execution of Charles I, the exile of his son Charles II, the replacement of the English monarchy with the Commonwealth of England (1649–1653) and personal rule by Oliver Cromwell during The Protectorate (1653–1659).
After Cromwell's death in 1659, a brief return to Commonwealth rule was attempted before Parliament invited Charles II to return to England in 1660 and restore the monarchy. During the interregnum, the Church of England's monopoly on Christian worship in England came to an end and the Protestant Ascendancy consolidated in Ireland. Constitutionally, the wars established a precedent that British monarchs could not govern without parliamentary consent, although this would not be cemented until the Glorious Revolution later in the century.
Although embattled for centuries, the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland had been drawing increasingly together since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and in 1603, with the Scottish king James VI accession to the English crown, the two countries became linked by a personal union, being ruled by the same Stuart dynasty. Following a number of attempts to unite the Kingdoms, a Treaty of Union was agreed on 22 July 1706 by representatives of the English and Scottish parliaments, and put into effect by the Acts of Union which resulted in political union between the states with the creation of the united Kingdom of Great Britain on 1 May 1707. (Ireland joining in 1801 with all of Ireland except Northern Ireland leaving in 1922 has resulted in the current name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).
After the Union, England (including Wales) retained its separate legal identity since the continuance of the separate Scottish legal system was enshrined in the Articles of the Treaty of Union. Wales was already part of the Kingdom of England but the Wales and Berwick Act 1746 made explicit that laws passed for England were automatically applicable to Wales. The Wales and Berwick Act 1746 also referred to the formerly Scottish burgh of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The border town changed hands several times and was last conquered by England in 1482, but was not officially incorporated into England. Contention about whether Berwick was in England or Scotland was ended by the union of the two in 1707. Berwick remains within the English legal system and so is regarded today as part of England (though there has been suggestion in Scotland that Berwick should be invited to 'return to the fold'). The county of Monmouthshire has long been an ambiguous area with its legal identity passing between England and Wales at various periods. In the Local Government Act 1972 it was made part of Wales. The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are Crown dependencies and are not part of England.
There has not been a Government of England since 1707, when the Acts of Union 1707, putting into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed the previous year, joined the Kingdom of England with the Kingdom of Scotland to form the united Kingdom of Great Britain. Prior to this, England was ruled by a monarch and the Parliament of England. However, following the establishment of devolved government for Scotland and Wales in 1999, England was left as the only country within the United Kingdom still governed in matters by the UK government and the UK parliament in London.
Since Westminster is the UK parliament but also legislates on matters that affect England alone, devolution of national matters to parliament/assemblies in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland has refocused attention on the anomaly called the West Lothian question. The "question" is why Scottish and Welsh MPs should continue to be able to vote on legislation relating only to England while English MPs have no equivalent right to legislate on devolved matters. This constitutional arrangement resulted in the Labour government only winning a 2004 vote to impose higher tuition fees on students in England due to the support of Scottish Labours MPs. This "question" is also exacerbated by the large number of Scottish MPs in the government, a group sometimes disparagingly called the Scottish mafia, and by having a Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who represents a Scottish constituency that is unaffected by the policy decisions he takes.
There are calls for a devolved English parliament, such as by former minister Frank Field MP, and there is opinion poll evidence of public support for the idea. Some minor English parties go further, calling for the dissolution of the Union. However, the approach favoured by the current Labour government was (on the basis that England is too large to be governed as a single sub-state entity) to propose the devolution of power to the Regions of England. Lord Falconer claimed a devolved English parliament would dwarf the rest of the United Kingdom. The Conservative Party, on the other hand, are considering proposals to ban Scottish MPs from voting on English only legislation in Westminster.
Today, therefore, England's affairs are managed by a combination of the UK government, the UK parliament, and England-specific quangos such as English Heritage.
A total of 529 of the current 646 MPs in the House of Commons represent English constituencies, which will rise to 533 out of 650 at the next general election.
At the 2005 General Election, the Conservative Party won more votes than any other single party, with 35.7% of the vote. However, Labour won a majority of England's MPs, having 284 MPs elected, on the basis of just 35.4% of the popular vote with the Conservative Party winning just 194 MPs. The Liberal Democrats were the third party winning 47 MPs with 22.5% of the vote, and the only other MPs elected were one for Respect and a Kidderminster Hospital campaigner.
The upper-tier subdivisions of England are the nine Regions of England or European Union government office regions. A London referendum in 1998 on the question of having a directly elected assembly and directly elected mayor produced a large majority in favour and it was intended that other regions would also be given their own elected regional assemblies. However, a rejection by a referendum in 2004 of a proposed assembly in the North East region stopped this idea in its tracks. During the campaign, a common criticism of the proposals was that England did not need "another tier of bureaucracy".
Below the regional level, London consists of 32 London boroughs and the rest of England has either county councils and district councils or unitary authorities. At the lowest level, much of England is divided into parishes though parishes are prohibited from existing in Greater London.
The English common law legal system, developed over the centuries, is also the foundation of many legal systems throughout the English-speaking countries of the world. It continued to apply in England and Wales after the Treaty of Union because the terms of the Treaty specifically guaranteed the continued existence of Scotland's separate legal system, which meant that England's system has also remained separate.
The essence of English common law is that it is made by judges sitting in courts, applying their common sense and knowledge of legal precedent (stare decisis) to the facts before them. The court system is headed by the Supreme Court of Judicature of England and Wales, consisting of the Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice (for civil cases) and the Crown Court (for criminal cases). The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (usually just referred to as "The House of Lords") is presently the highest court for both criminal and civil cases in England and Wales though recent constitutional changes will see the powers of the House of Lords transfer to a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. A decision of the highest appeal court in England and Wales, the House of Lords, is binding on every other court in the hierarchy, and they will follow its directions.
Crime in England and Wales increased in the period between 1981 and 1995 though, since that peak, there has been an overall fall of 42% in crime from 1995 to 2006/7. Despite the fall in crime rates, the prison population of England and Wales has almost doubled over the same period, to over 80,000, giving England and Wales the highest rate of incarceration in Western Europe at 147 per 100,000, Her Majesty's Prison Service which reports to the Ministry of Justice, manages most of the prisons within England and Wales.
England comprises the central and southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain, plus offshore islands of which the largest is the Isle of Wight. It is bordered to the north by Scotland and to the west by Wales. It is closer to continental Europe than any other part of mainland Britain, divided from France only by a 24-statute mile (52 km or 21 nautical mile) sea gap. The Channel Tunnel, near Folkestone, directly links England to mainland Europe. The English/French border is halfway along the tunnel.
Much of England consists of rolling hills, but it is generally more mountainous in the north with a chain of low mountains, the Pennines, dividing east and west. Other hilly areas in the north and Midlands are the Lake District, the North York Moors, and the Peak District. The approximate dividing line between terrain types is often indicated by the Tees-Exe line. To the south of that line, there are larger areas of flatter land, including East Anglia and the Fens, although hilly areas include the Cotswolds, the Chilterns, and the North and South Downs.
The largest natural harbour in England is at Poole, on the south-central coast. Some regard it as the second largest harbour in the world, after Sydney, Australia, although this fact is disputed (see harbours for a list of other large natural harbours).
England has a temperate climate, with plentiful rainfall all year round, although the seasons are quite variable in temperature. However, temperatures rarely fall below −5 °C (23 °F) or rise above 30 °C (86 °F). The prevailing wind is from the south-west, bringing mild and wet weather to England regularly from the Atlantic Ocean. It is driest in the east and warmest in the south, which is closest to the European mainland. Snowfall can occur in winter and early spring, although it is not that common away from high ground.
The highest temperature recorded in England is 38.5 °C (101.3 °F) on 10 August 2003 at Brogdale, near Faversham, in Kent. The lowest temperature recorded in England is −26.1 °C (−15.0 °F) on 10 January 1982 at Edgmond, near Newport, in Shropshire.
England has a number of important rivers including the Severn (the longest river and largest river basin in Great Britain), Tees, Thames, Trent, Humber, Tyne, Wear, Ribble, Ouse, Mersey, Dee, Aire, Avon and Medway.
London is by far the largest urban area in England and one of the largest and busiest cities in the world. Other cities, mainly in central and northern England, are of substantial size and influence. The list of England's largest cities or urban areas is open to debate because, although the normal meaning of city is "a continuously built-up urban area", this can be hard to define, particularly because administrative areas in England often do not correspond with the limits of urban development, and many towns and cities have, over the centuries, grown to form complex urban agglomerations. Various definitions of cities can be used. For the official definition of a UK (and therefore English) city, see City status in the United Kingdom.
According to the ONS urban area populations for continuous built-up areas, these are the 15 largest conurbations (population figures from the 2001 census):
England's economy is the among the largest in in the world. It follows the Anglo-Saxon economic model. England's economy is the largest of the four economies of the United Kingdom, with 100 of Europe's 500 largest corporations based in London. As part of the United Kingdom, England is a major centre of world economics. One of the world's most highly industrialised countries, England is a leader in the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors and in key technical industries, particularly aerospace, the arms industry and the manufacturing side of the software industry.
London exports mainly manufactured goods and imports materials such as petroleum, tea, wool, raw sugar, timber, butter, metals, and meat. England exported more than 30,000 tons of beef last year, worth around £75,000,000, with France, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain being the largest importers of beef from England.
The central bank of the United Kingdom, which sets interest rates and implements monetary policy, is the Bank of England in London. London is also home to the London Stock Exchange, the main stock exchange in the UK and the largest in Europe. London is one of the international leaders in finance and the largest financial centre in Europe.
Traditional heavy and manufacturing industries have declined sharply in England in recent decades, as they have in the United Kingdom as a whole. At the same time, service industries have grown in importance. For example, tourism is the sixth largest industry in the UK, contributing 76 billion pounds to the economy. It employs 1,800,000 full-time equivalent people—6.1% of the working population (2002 figures). The largest centre for tourism is London, which attracts millions of international tourists every year.
England's official currency is the Pound Sterling (also known as the British pound or GBP).
With 50,431,700 inhabitants (84% of the UK total), England is the most populous and most ethnically diverse nation in the United Kingdom. If it were a sovereign state, England would have the fourth largest population in the European Union and would be the 25th largest country by population in the world.
England's population continues to grow: with the exception of 1976, there have been more births than deaths every year since 1901. While the percentage of people over 65 increases, the percentage of people under 16 is falling, meaning the country's population is ageing overall. With a density of 383 people per square kilometre (992/sq mi), it is the most densely populated country in Europe, having recently overtaken the Netherlands.
The generally accepted view is that the ethnic background of the English populace, before 19th and 20th century immigration, was a mixed European one deriving from historical waves of Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Norman invasions, along with the possible survival of pre-Celtic ancestry.
The economic prosperity of England has also made it a destination for economic migrants from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This was particularly true during the Industrial Revolution.
Since the fall of the British Empire, many denizens of former colonies have migrated to Britain including the Indian sub-continent and the British Caribbean. A BBC-published report of the 2001 census, by the Institute for Public Policy Research stated that the vast majority of immigrants settled in London and the South East of England. The largest groups of residents born in other countries were from the Republic of Ireland, India, Pakistan, Germany, and the Caribbean. Although Germany was high on the list, this was mainly the result of children being born to British forces personnel stationed in that country.
About half the population increase between 1991 and 2001 was due to foreign-born immigration. In 2004 the number of people who became British citizens rose to a record 140,795—a rise of 12% on the previous year. The number had risen dramatically since 2000. The overwhelming majority of new citizens come from Africa (32%) and Asia (40%), the largest three groups being people from India, Pakistan and Somalia. One in five babies in the UK are born to immigrant mothers according to official statistics released in 2007. 21.9% of births in the UK in 2006 were to mothers born outside the United Kingdom compared with just 12.8% in 1995. As of 2007, 22% of primary school children and 17.7% of children at secondary school in England were from ethnic minority families.
In 2006, an estimated 591,000 migrants arrived to live in the UK for at least a year, while 400,000 people emigrated from the UK for a year or more, with Australia, Spain, France, New Zealand and the U.S. most popular destinations. Largest group of arrivals were people from the Indian subcontinent who accounted for two-thirds of net immigration, mainly fueled by family reunion. One in six were from Eastern European countries. They were outnumbered by immigrants from New Commonwealth countries.
The European Union allows free movement between the member states. While France and Germany put in place controls to curb Eastern European migration, the UK and Ireland did not impose restrictions in 2004. The Home Office publishes quarterly statistics on the number of applications to the Worker Registration Scheme. Figures published in August 2007 indicate that 656,395 people were accepted on to the scheme between 1 May 2004 and 30 June 2007, of whom 430,395 were Polish nationals. Many Poles work in seasonal occupations and a large number is likely to move back and forth including between Ireland and other EU Western nations. A quarter of Eastern European migrants, often young and well-educated, planned to stay in Britain permanently. Most of them originally intended to go home but changed their minds later. The 2008 economic crisis in the UK and the growing economy in Poland reduced the economic incentive for Poles to migrate to the UK. By the last quarter of 2008, approximately half of those that had come to the UK to work had returned home.
England has a vast and influential culture that encompasses elements both old and new. The modern culture of England is sometimes difficult to identify and separate clearly from the culture of the wider United Kingdom, so intertwined are its composite nations. However the English traditional and historic culture remains distinct albeit with substantial regional differences.
English Heritage is a governmental body with a broad remit of managing the historic sites, artefacts and environments of England. London's British Museum, British Library and National Gallery contain the finest collections in the world.
The English have played a significant role in the development of the arts and sciences. Many of the most important figures in the history of modern western scientific and philosophical thought were either born in, or at one time or other resided in, England. Major English thinkers of international significance include scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin and New Zealand-born Ernest Rutherford, philosophers such as John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, Bertrand Russell and Thomas Hobbes, and economists such as David Ricardo, and John Maynard Keynes. Karl Marx wrote most of his important works, including Das Kapital, while in exile in Manchester, and the team that developed the first atomic bomb began their work in England, under the wartime codename Tube Alloys.
England has played a significant part in the advancement of Western architecture. It is home to the most notable medieval castles and forts in the world, including Warwick Castle, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle (the largest inhabited castle in the world and the oldest in continuous occupation). It is known for its numerous grand country houses, and for its many medieval and later churches and cathedrals.
English architects have contributed to many styles over the centuries, including Tudor architecture, English Baroque, the Georgian style and Victorian movements such as Gothic Revival. Among the best-known contemporary English architects are Norman Foster and Richard Rogers.
Although highly regarded in the Middle Ages, English cuisine later became a source of fun among Britain's French and European neighbours, being viewed until the late 20th century as crude and unsophisticated by comparison with continental tastes. However, with the influx of non-European immigrants (particularly those of south and east Asian origins) from the 1950s onwards, the English diet was transformed. Indian and Chinese cuisine in particular were absorbed into British culinary life, with restaurants and takeaways appearing in almost every town in Britain, and 'going for an Indian' becoming a regular part of British social life. A distinct hybrid food style composed of dishes of Asian origin, but adapted to British tastes, emerged and was subsequently exported to other parts of the world. Many of the well-known Indian dishes in the western world, such as Tikka Masala and Balti, are in fact dishes of this sort.
Dishes forming part of the old tradition of English food include:
As birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, England was home to many significant inventors during the late 18th and early 19th century. Famous English engineers include Isambard Kingdom Brunel, best known for the creation of the Great Western Railway, a series of famous steamships, and numerous important bridges, hence revolutionising public transport and modern-day engineering.
Other notable English figures in the fields of engineering and innovation include:
English folklore is rich and diverse. Many of the land's oldest legends share themes and sources with the Celtic folklore of Wales, Scotland and Ireland, a typical example being the legend of Herne the Hunter, which shares many similarities with the traditional Welsh legend of Gwyn ap Nudd.
Successive waves of pre-Norman invaders and settlers, from the Romans onwards, via Saxons, Jutes, Angles, Norse to the Norman Conquest have influenced the myth and legend of England. Some tales, such as that of The Lambton Worm show a distinct Norse influence, while others, particularly the events and characters associated with the Arthurian legends show a distinct Romano-Gaulic slant.
Among the most famous English folk-tales are the legends of King Arthur, although it would be wrong to regard these stories as purely English in origin as they also concern Wales and, to a lesser extent, Ireland and Scotland. They should therefore be considered as part of the folklore of the British Isles as a whole.
Post-Norman stories include the tales of Robin Hood, which exists in many forms, and stories of other folk heroes such as Hereward the Wake and Fulk FitzWarin who, although being based on historical characters, have grown to become legends in their own right.
The English language has a rich and prominent literary heritage. England has produced a wealth of significant literary figures including playwrights William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, John Webster, as well as writers Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, Jane Austen, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, H. G. Wells, George Eliot, Rudyard Kipling, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell and Harold Pinter. Others, such as J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling, Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie have been among the best-selling novelists of the last century.
Among the poets, Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, Sir Philip Sydney, Thomas Kyd, John Donne, Andrew Marvell, Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John Keats, John Milton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, T. S. Eliot (American-born, but a British subject from 1927) and many others remain read and studied around the world. Among men of letters, Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt and George Orwell are some of the most famous. England continues to produce writers working in branches of literature, and in a wide range of styles; contemporary English literary writers attracting international attention include Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and Zadie Smith.
Composers from England have not achieved recognition as broad as that earned by their literary counterparts, and, particularly during the 19th century, were overshadowed in international reputation by other European composers; however, many works of earlier composers such as Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, and Henry Purcell are still frequently performed throughout the world today. A revival of England's musical status began during the 20th century with the prominence of composers such as Edward Elgar, Gustav Holst, William Walton, Eric Coates, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Frederick Delius and Benjamin Britten.
In popular music, however, English bands and solo artists have been cited as the most influential and best-selling musicians of all time. Acts such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Elton John, Queen, and The Rolling Stones are among the highest selling in the world. England is also credited with being the birthplace of many musical genres and movements such as hard rock, British invasion, heavy metal, britpop, glam rock, drum and bass, progressive rock, punk rock, gothic rock, shoegazing, acid house, UK garage, trip hop and dubstep.
Prominent English figures from the field of science and mathematics include Sir Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Joseph Priestley, J. J. Thomson, Charles Babbage, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking, Christopher Wren, Alan Turing, Francis Crick, Joseph Lister, Tim Berners-Lee, Andrew Wiles and Richard Dawkins. Some experts claim that the earliest concept of a Metric system was invented by John Wilkins, first secretary of the Royal Society in 1668.
England played a major role in the development of Western philosophy, particularly during the Enlightenment. Jeremy Bentham, leader of the Philosophical Radicals influenced the development of English Law and of socialism. although the Levellers and other radical movements of the Civil War were significant. Major English philosophers include William of Ockham, Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, Bertrand Russell and Bernard Williams.
Modern sports were codified in England during the 19th century, among them cricket, rugby union and rugby league, football, tennis and badminton. Of these, association football, cricket and rugby remain the country's most popular spectator sports.
England contains more UEFA 5 star and 4 star rated stadia than any other country, and is home to some of the sport's top clubs. Among these, Aston Villa, Liverpool FC, Manchester United and Nottingham Forest have won the European Cup. The England national football team are currently ranked 15th by FIFA and 8th by Elo) and won the World Cup in 1966 when it was hosted in England. Since then, they have failed to reach a final of a major international tournament, although they reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1990 and the quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006 and Euro 2004. More recently, England failed to qualify for the Euro 2008 championships when it lost 2–3 to Croatia on 21 November 2007 in its final qualifying match. England, playing at home at Wembley Stadium, needed just a draw to ensure qualification. This is the first time since the 1994 World Cup that England has failed to qualify for a major football championship and first time since 1984 that the team will miss the UEFA European Championship. On 22 November 2007, the day after the defeat to Croatia, England fired its football coach, Steve McClaren and his assistant Terry Venables, ostensibly as a direct consequence of its failure to qualify for Euro 2008.
The England national rugby union team won the 2003 Rugby World Cup (and finishing as runners-up in 2007). Rugby union clubs such as Leicester Tigers, London Wasps and the Northampton Saints have had success in the Europe-wide Heineken Cup.
At rugby league, the England national rugby league team are ranked third in the world and first in Europe. They have taken part in three World Cup's finishing second in 1975 and 1995, hosting the competition in the latter. In 2008 the team will once again contest the World Cup in Australia. From 2008 England will become a full test nation in lieu of the Great Britain national rugby league team, when that team is retired. At a domestic level, England is host to large clubs like Leeds Rhinos, St Helens and Wigan Warriors, all of whom have won the World Club Challenge and have produced some of the world's greats. It is in Huddersfield in 1895 that the game was born.
The England cricket team is a composite England and Wales Cricket Team. It has seen mixed fortunes in recent years but won The Ashes in 2005, and is currently ranked the fourth best Test nation in the world. The 2009 ICC World T20 will be hosted in England and Wales, and the 2018 Cricket World Cup may also be hosted in England.
Sport England is the governing body responsible for distributing funds and providing strategic guidance for sporting activity in England.
The 2012 Summer Olympics are to be hosted by London, England. It will run from 26 July to 12 August 2012. London will become the first city to have hosted the modern Olympic Games three times, having previously done so in 1908 and 1948.
As its name suggests, the English language, today spoken by hundreds of millions of people around the world, originated as the language of England, where it remains the principal tongue today (although not officially designated as such). An Indo-European language in the Anglo-Frisian branch of the Germanic family, it is closely related to Scots and the Frisian languages. As the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms merged into England, "Old English" emerged; some of its literature and poetry has survived.
Used by aristocracy and commoners alike before the Norman Conquest (1066), English was displaced in cultured contexts under the new regime by the Norman French language of the new Anglo-Norman aristocracy. Its use was confined primarily to the lower social classes while official business was conducted in a mixture of Latin and French. Over the following centuries, however, English gradually came back into fashion among classes and for official business except certain traditional ceremonies, some of which survive to this day. Middle English, as it had by now become, showed many signs of French influence, both in vocabulary and spelling. During the Renaissance, many words were coined from Latin and Greek origins; and more recent years, Modern English has extended this custom, willing to incorporate foreign-influenced words.
It is most commonly accepted that — thanks in large part to the British Empire, and now the United States — the English language is now the world's unofficial lingua franca. English language learning and teaching is an important economic sector, including language schools, tourism spending, and publishing houses.
There is no UK legislation in respect of language use within England, but English is the only language used in England for general official business. The only non-Anglic native spoken language in England is the Cornish language, a Celtic language spoken in Cornwall, which became extinct in the 19th century but has been revived and is spoken in various degrees of fluency, currently by about 2,000 people. This has no official status (unlike Welsh) and is not required for official use, but is nonetheless supported by national and local government under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Cornwall County Council has produced a draft strategy to develop these plans. There is, however, no programme as yet for public bodies to actively promote the language. Scots is spoken by some adjacent to the Anglo-Scottish Border, and there are over 100,000 Welsh speakers in London and areas such as Oswestry on the Welsh border
Most deaf people within England use British sign language (BSL), a sign language native to Britain. The British Deaf Association estimates that 250,000 people throughout the UK use BSL as their first or preferred language, but does not give statistics specific to England. BSL is not an official language of the UK and most British government departments and hospitals have limited facilities for deaf sign language users. The Disability Discrimination Act gives sign language users the right to request 'reasonable adjustment', which is generally interpreted to mean that interpreters should be provided wherever practical. The BBC broadcasts several of its programmes with BSL interpreters.
Different languages from around the world, especially from the former British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations, have been brought to England by immigrants. Many of these are widely spoken within ethnic minority communities, with Bengali, Hindi, Sinhala, Tamil, Punjabi, Urdu, Gujarati, Polish, Greek, Turkish and Cantonese being the most common languages that people living in Britain consider their first language. These are often used by official bodies to communicate with the relevant sections of the community, particularly in large cities, but this occurs on an "as needed" basis rather than as the result of specific legislative ordinances.
Other languages have also traditionally been spoken by minority populations in England, including Romany. The use of Yiddish by the Jewish population has dwindled, although an increasing number are able to speak Hebrew.
Despite the relatively small size of the nation, there are many distinct English regional accents. Those with particularly strong accents may not be easily understood elsewhere in the country. Use of foreign non-standard varieties of English (such as Caribbean English) is also increasingly widespread, mainly because of the effects of immigration.
Due to immigration in the past decades, there is an enormous diversity of religious belief in England, as well as a growing percentage that have no religious affiliation. Levels of attendance in various denominations have begun to decline. England is classed largely as a secular country even allowing for the following affiliation percentages : Christianity: 71.6%, Islam: 3.1%, Hindu: 1.1%, Sikh: 0.7%, Jewish: 0.5%, and Buddhist: 0.3%, No religion: 14.6%. The EU Eurobarometer poll of 2005 shows that only 38% of people in the UK believe in a god, while 40% believe in "some sort of spirit or life force" and 20% do not believe in either.
Christianity reached England through missionaries from Scotland and from Continental Europe; the era of St. Augustine (the first Archbishop of Canterbury) and the Celtic Christian missionaries in the north (notably St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert). The Synod of Whitby in 664 ultimately led to the English Church being fully part of Roman Catholicism. Early English Christian documents surviving from this time include the 7th century illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels and the historical accounts written by the Venerable Bede. England has many early cathedrals, most notably York Minster (1080), Durham Cathedral (1093) and Salisbury Cathedral (1220), In 1536, the Church was split from Rome over the issue of the divorce of King Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon. The split led to the emergence of a separate ecclesiastical authority, and later the influence of the Reformation, resulting in the Church of England and Anglicanism. Unlike the other three constituent countries of the UK, the Church of England is an established church (although the Church of Scotland is a 'national church' recognised in law).
The 16th century break with Rome under the reign of King Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries had major consequences for the Church (as well as for politics). The Church of England remains the largest Christian church in England; it is part of the Anglican Communion. Many of the Church of England's cathedrals and parish churches are historic buildings of significant architectural importance.
Other major Christian Protestant denominations in England include the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church and the United Reformed Church. Smaller denominations, but not insignificant, include the Religious Society of Friends (the "Quakers") and the Salvation Army — both founded in England. There are also Afro-Caribbean Churches, especially in the London area.
The Roman Catholic Church re-established a hierarchy in England in the 19th century. Attendances were considerably boosted by immigration, especially from Ireland and more recently Poland.
The Church of England remains the official established church of England.
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, immigration from many colonial countries, often from South Asia and the Middle East have resulted in a considerable growth in Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism in England. Cities and towns with large Muslim communities include Birmingham, Blackburn, Coventry, Bolton, Bradford, Leicester, London, Luton, Manchester, Oldham and Sheffield. Cities and towns with large Sikh communities include London, Slough, Staines, Hounslow, Southall, Reading, Ilford, Barking, Dagenham, Leicester, Leeds, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and others.
The Jewish community in England is mainly in the Greater London area, particularly the north west suburbs such as Golders Green; although Manchester, Leeds and Gateshead also have significant Jewish communities. England was also the founding place for many Neopagan religions, notably Wicca.
There is a long history of the promotion of education in England in schools, colleges and universities. England is home to the oldest existing schools in the English speaking world: The King's School, Canterbury and The King's School, Rochester, believed to be founded in the 6th and 7th century respectively. At least eight existing schools in England were founded in the first millennium. Sherborne School was granted a royal charter in 1550, but may have been the site of a school since the 8th century. Most of these ancient institutions are now fee-paying schools, however some state schools are also very old, most notably Beverley Grammar School founded in 700. The oldest surviving girls' school in England is Red Maids' School founded in 1634. The most famous schools in England are now fee-paying institutions, including Winchester College (founded 1382), Eton College (1440), St Paul's School (1509), Rugby School (1567) and Harrow School (1572).
England is also home to the two oldest universities in the English speaking world: Oxford University (12th century) and Cambridge University (early 13th century). There are now more than 90 universities in England.
Primary and secondary education in England is administered by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Schools are of two main types: state schools funded through taxation and free to all, and private schools (also known as "public" or "independent" schools) funded through fees. Standards are monitored by regular inspections of state-funded schools by the Office for Standards in Education, and of private schools by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.
University education is the responsibility of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Students attending English Universities now have to pay tuition fees towards the cost of their education, as do English students who choose to attend a Scottish university (though Scottish students attending Scottish universities get their fees paid for them by the Scottish Government.)
The National Health Service (NHS) is the publicly funded healthcare system in England responsible for provided the majority of healthcare in the country. The NHS provides most services at no cost to the patient though there are charges associated with eye tests, dental care, prescriptions, and many aspects of personal care.
The NHS began on 5 July 1948, putting into effect the provisions of the National Health Service Act 1946. Private health care has continued parallel to the NHS, paid for largely by private insurance, but it is used by less than 8% of the population, and generally as a top-up to NHS services. Recently the private sector has been increasingly used to increase NHS capacity despite a large proportion of the public opposing such involvement.
The NHS is largely funded from general taxation (including a proportion from National Insurance payments). The UK government department responsible for the NHS is the Department of Health, headed by the Secretary of State for Health (Health Secretary), who sits in the British Cabinet. Most of the expenditure of The Department of Health (£98.6 billion in 2008-9) is spent on the NHS.
The government department overseeing transport is the Department for Transport.
The growth in private car ownership in the latter half of the 20th century led to major road-building programmes. Important trunk roads built include the A1 Great North Road from London to Newcastle and Edinburgh, and the A580 "East Lancs." road between Liverpool and Manchester. The M6 motorway is the country's longest motorway running from Rugby through North West England to the Scottish border. Other major roads include the M1 motorway from London to Leeds up the east of the country, the M25 motorway which encircles London, the M60 motorway which encircles Manchester, the M4 motorway from London to South Wales, the M62 motorway from Liverpool to Manchester and Yorkshire, and the M5 motorway from Birmingham to Bristol and the South West.
Most of the British National Rail network of 16,116 kilometres (10,014 mi) lies in England. Urban rail networks are also well developed in London and other cities, including the Manchester Metrolink and the London Underground. The London Underground is the oldest and most extensive underground railway in the world, and as of 2007 consists of 407 km (253 mi) of line and serves 275 stations.
There are around 7,100 km (4,400 mi) of navigable waterways in England, of which roughly half is owned by British Waterways. An estimated 165 million journeys are made by people on Britain's waterways annually. The Thames is the major waterway in England, with imports and exports focused at the Port of Tilbury, one of the three major ports in the UK. Ports in the UK handled over 560 million tonnes of domestic and international freight in 2005.
London Heathrow Airport is England's largest airport, the largest airport by passenger volume in Europe and one of the world's busiest airports. London Gatwick Airport is England's second largest airport, followed by Manchester Airport. Other major airports include London Stansted Airport in Essex, about 50 kilometres (30 mi) north of London, Luton Airport and Birmingham International Airport.
The ancestry of the English, considered as an ethnic group, is mixed; it can be traced to the mostly Celtic Romano-Britons, to the eponymous Anglo-Saxons, the Danish-Vikings that formed the Danelaw during the time of Alfred the Great and the Normans, among others. The 19th and 20th centuries, furthermore, brought much new immigration to England.
Ethnicity aside, the simplest view is that an English person is someone who was born or lives in England, holds British nationality and regards themselves as English, regardless of his or her racial origin. It has, however, been a notoriously complicated, emotive and controversial identity to delimit. Centuries of English dominance within the United Kingdom has created a situation where to be English is, as a linguist would put it, an "unmarked" state. The English frequently include themselves and their neighbours in the wider term of "British" or even use English when they should use British. Over the last five years, celebrations of St George's Day, England's national day, have increased year on year.
Modern celebration of English identity is often found around its sports, one field in which the British Home Nations often compete individually. The English football team, rugby union team and cricket team often cause increases in the popularity of celebrating Englishness.
The country is named after the Angles, one of several Germanic tribes who settled the country in the fifth and sixth centuries. There are two distinct linguistic patterns for the name of the country.
Alternative names include:
The slang "Blighty", from the Hindustani bila yati meaning "foreign".
The ancient name "Albion", supposedly referring to the white (Latin: alba) cliffs of Dover. Although it refers to the whole island of Great Britain, it is occasionally, and incorrectly, used for England. Following the Roman conquest of Britain, the term contracted to mean only the area north of Roman control and is today a relative of Alba, the Celtic languages name for Scotland.
More poetically, England has been called "this sceptred isle... this other Eden" and "this green and pleasant land", quotations from the poetry of William Shakespeare (in Richard II) and William Blake (And did those feet in ancient time) respectively.
Slang terms sometimes used for the people of England include "Sassenachs" or "Sasanachs" (from the Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic respectively, both originally meaning "Saxon", and originally a Scottish Highland term for Lowland Scots), "Limeys" (in reference to the citrus fruits carried aboard English sailing vessels to prevent scurvy) and "Pom/Pommy" (used in Australian English and New Zealand English), but these may be perceived as offensive. Also see alternative words for British.
The two main symbols of England are the St George's Cross (the English flag), and the Three Lions coat of arms of England.
Other national symbols exist, but have varying degrees of official usage, such as the oak tree and the rose.
England's National Day is St George's Day (Saint George being the patron saint), which is on 23 April.
The St. George's Cross is a red cross on a white background and is the flag of England.
It is believed to have been adopted for the uniform of English soldiers during the Crusades of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. From about 1277 it became the national flag of England.
St. George's Cross was originally the flag of Genoa and was adopted by England and the City of London in 1190 for their ships entering the Mediterranean to benefit from the protection of the powerful Genoese fleet. The maritime Republic of Genoa was rising and going to become, with its rival Venice, one of the most important powers in the world. The English Monarch paid an annual tribute to the Doge of Genoa for this privilege. The cross of St George would become the official Flag of England.
A red cross acted as a symbol for many Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries. It became associated with St. George and England, along with other countries and cities (such as Georgia, Milan and the Republic of Genoa), which claimed him as their patron saint and used his cross as a banner. It remained in national use until 1707, when the Union Flag (also known as the Union Jack, especially at sea) which English and Scottish ships had used at sea since 1606, was adopted for purposes to unite the whole of Great Britain under a common flag. The flag of England no longer has much of an official role, but it is widely flown by Church of England properties and at sporting events.
Until recently, the flag was not commonly flown in England with the British Union Flag being used instead. This was certainly evident at the 1966 football World Cup when English fans predominantly flew the latter. However, since devolution in the United Kingdom, the St George Cross has experienced a growth in popularity and is now the predominant flag used in English sporting events.
The coat of arms of England are described as gules, three lions passant guardant or. The earliest surviving record of their use was by Richard I ("Richard the Lionheart") in the late 12th century.
Since union with Scotland and Northern Ireland, the arms of England are no longer used on their own; instead they form a part of the conjoined Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. However, both the Football Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board use logos based on the three lions. In recent years, it has been common to see banners of the arms flown at English football matches, in the same way the Lion Rampant is flown in Scotland.
In 1996, Three Lions was the official song of the England football team for the 1996 European Football Championship, which were held in England.
The Tudor rose is the national floral emblem of England, and was adopted as a national emblem of England around the time of the Wars of the Roses.
The rose is used in a variety of contexts in its use for England's representation. The Rose of England is a Royal Badge, and is a Tudor, or half-red-half-white rose, symbolising the end of the Wars of the Roses and the subsequent marriage between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. This symbolism is reflected in the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom and the crest of the FA. However, the rose of England is often displayed as a red rose (which also symbolises Lancashire), such as the badge of the England national rugby union team. A white rose (which also symbolises Yorkshire) is also used on different occasions.
England does not have an official designated national anthem, as the United Kingdom as a whole has "God Save the Queen". However, the following are often considered unofficial English national anthems:
"I Vow to Thee, My Country"
"Land of Hope and Glory"
"Heart of Oak"
"God Save the Queen" is usually played for English sporting events, such as football matches, against teams from outside the UK, although "Land of Hope and Glory" was used as the English anthem for the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Since 2004, "Jerusalem" has been sung before England cricket matches, and "Rule Britannia" ("Britannia" being the Roman name for Great Britain, a personification of the United Kingdom) was often used in the past for the English national football team when they played against another of the home nations. More recently, however, "God Save the Queen" has been used by the rugby union and football teams.