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United Kingdom (UK) - History

Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland were separate countries before they were brought under the title of Great Britain and then the United Kingdom. The four countries joined as one “country” in 1801; however, this does not mean that they share a common governmental system. Instead, the United Kingdom is considered a decentralised government system.

Historical Formation and Events in England

Archaeologists have found human bones dating back to the Palaeolithic era. It is thought that the area was settled with permanent homes even during this age; however, many scientists focus more on the 5th and 6th centuries when Germanic tribes moved in. Germanic people were not the first to arrive in England, however; it was settled in 43 AD by the Roman Empire. England was a place of war in the earliest centuries, with numerous invading tribes and empires trying to win the land from people who had been settled on the isles for many years.

It was not until the 4th century that paganism started to lose its hold on early settlers and Christianity began to take over. Today there are still religious delineations throughout the region with Presbyterianism, Protestantism, Catholicism and others being practised. These three main Christian faiths sprung from wars in England which sought to convert the local population to the religion of the reigning monarch at any given time.

Anglos, Saxons and Jutes fought throughout the Middle Ages in England. War was a continuous state, and eventually Anglos and Saxons emerged as victorious over the Jutes. By the 7th century counties such as Wessex, Essex, Kent, and Sussex were formed. Many of these larger land areas still remain today and some are named for Dukes or other nobles who originally held the land.

Throughout the 11th century the Royal Dynasty was able to take back control of England and the House of Plantagenet ruled the people. They remained in power for well over 300 years, even during the Black Death and similar plagues that continually affected the masses. While local royal families fought for the throne, there were also battles with the European continent, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland to determine which country had the power to install a king.

In the 1500s the Tudors took control of the Kingdom of England. By this time great strides were being made by England to rule other nations and become a top competitor in world trade. Expansion into the West Indies, East Indies, and Americas was well on its way. Yet trouble could still be found in England, such as the 1666 Great Fire of London, which destroyed much of the city.

During the 19th century the Kingdom of Britain established itself as the British Empire, a great power reigning with great wealth. The Industrial Revolution helped to take scientific development to new heights.

Historical Formation and Events in Wales

Wales, like England, was populated early in history. The first settlements of Wales date to 29,000 years ago. Since England and Wales form part of the same land mass, there was barely a distinction between the two countries in the early years. Most scholars date Wales’ separation from England to 1057; however, the exact year is still under debate. Prior to the Welsh Marches who ruled from the 1200s to 1400s, the Normans subjugated England. During the Marches’ reign, the “house” did not run by English or Welsh laws, instead making their own laws until 1536. The next big change occurred in 1801 with the unification of the United Kingdom bringing the four countries together.

Historical Formation and Events in Scotland

Scotland had clear divisions from England starting in the Middle Ages, perhaps earlier. The true date on which the borders were created is unclear as Scotland only became inhabited about 12,800 years ago, more than 10,000 years after Wales. Scotland also saw influence from the Roman Empire. In the 6th to 8th century, the Kingdom of Picts ruled Scotland with divisions between Lowland and Highland tribes. In the Early Middle Ages King Kenneth MacAlpin was credited with officially starting the Kingdom of Scotland, despite there having been rulers before his time. Throughout the Middle Ages border wars with England occurred. Sometimes England would try to overtake Scotland; at other times Scotland would attempt to put a Scottish king on the English throne.

Clear distinctions between the two countries did not occur until 1320, when Scotland declared independence through the declaration of Arbroath in which Pope John XXII was recognised. Despite this bid for separation, wars still continued well into the 1600s. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, England established the Kingdom of Great Britain, with the 1706 Treaty of Union including Scotland as part of the Kingdom. It was the first step towards both Scotland and England living under a single ruling party. The following three centuries saw industrial and scientific growth, as well as further discord between England and Scotland.

Historical Formation and Events in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland was a part of the Kingdom of Ireland that was once controlled by the English. King Henry VIII finally declared Ireland a separate country by name, but Scotland also fought for a piece of their neighbouring island. For almost 100 years, starting in 1610, Ireland’s residential ratio was 5:3:1 Scots:Irish:English. Ireland suffered from many religious wars, particularly between Catholics and Presbyterians. By contrast, major wars in recent years have tended to be between Catholics and Protestants. Northern Ireland joined the kingdom of Britain in 1801 to form part the UK; however, it was not until the war of independence in 1921 that a full split occurred between Southern and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland had the choice of becoming a free state, but refused. Scholars believe the refusal was due to the power of Great Britain at the time and the economic stability that could be acquired from remaining in the United Kingdom.

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