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Map showing the United Kingdom's location within Europe (the upper part); map showing the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, including England (the lower part); .

England[1] is a country[2] located to the north-west of continental Europe (across the English Channel). England is the largest and most populous constituent country within the United Kingdom (UK), accounting for more than 83% of the total population of the nation[3] and occupying most of the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain. England is bordered mostly by seas (the North Sea, Irish Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and English Channel) but shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west.

England became a unified state during the tenth century and takes its name from the Angles - one of a number of Germanic tribes who settled in the territory during the fifth and sixth centuries. The largest city of England is London, which is the capital of the UK. Other major cities are Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, and Sheffield.

England ranks amongst the world's most influential and far-reaching centres of cultural development.[4][5] It is the place of origin of both the English language and the Church of England, It was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution[6] and was the first country in the world to become industrialised. England is home to the Royal Society, which laid the foundations of modern experimental science. The English political system for 1000 years has been based on Parliament, and for 800 years on the Magna Carta ('Great Charter'), which defined individual rights. It built a worldwide British Empire, and the numerous countries that evolved from the Empire, including the United States of America, Canada, India and South Africa, adopted English Law and variations of the parliamentary system that has operated for 1000 years, as well as commitments to individual rights that were first established by the Magna Carta of 1215.

The Kingdom of England was a separate state until 1707, when the Acts of Union resulted in a political union with the Kingdom of Scotland to create the Kingdom of Great Britain.

PD Flag
The flag of England.


England is named after the Angles (Old English genitive case, "Engla" — hence, Old English "Engla Land"), the largest of a number of Germanic tribes who settled in England in the fifth and sixth centuries, who are believed to have originated in the peninsula of Angeln, in modern-day northern Germany.

Their name has had a variety of different spellings. The earliest known reference to these people is under the name Anglii by Tacitus in chapter 40 of his Germania,[7] written around 98. He gives no precise indication of their geographical position within Germania, but states that, together with six other tribes, they worshipped a goddess named Nerthus, whose sanctuary was situated on "an island in the Ocean."

The terms Angelfolc, Anglorum and Anglis were all used by Bede in Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) when referring to England and the English people.[8]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary entry[9], the word Angle is derived from the same root as the word angle, originally meaning a fish hook and in this instance referring to the shape of the district where the Angles originated.


Prehistoric England

Bones and flint tools found in Norfolk and Suffolk show that Homo erectus lived in what is now England around 700,000 years ago.[10] At this time, England was linked 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. These people were depopulated during the period of the last major ice age as with other inhabitants of the British Isles. In the subsequent recolonisation, after the thawing of the ice, genetic research[11] shows that 'England' was the last area of the British Isles to be repopulated (circa 13,000 years ago). The migrants arriving during this period contrast with the other of the inhabitants of the British Isles, coming across land from the south east of Europe, whereas earlier arriving inhabitants came north along a coastal route from Iberia.

Roman conquest of England

By 43 ad, the time of the successful Roman invasion of England, Britain had already frequently been the target of invasions, planned and actual, by forces of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire. Julius Caesar in 55 bc made landings and in 54 bc he defeated the Britons, led by Cassivellaunus. 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 late British Iron Age, especially in the south. After a century of weakness, the final Roman collapse came in 410.[12]

Anglo-Saxon England

The History of Anglo-Saxon England begins with the end of Roman Britain and the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the fifth century and ends with the Conquest by the Normans in 1066.

Fragmentary knowledge of Anglo-Saxon England in the fifth and sixth centuries comes from the British writer Gildas (6th century) the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (a history of the English people begun in the ninth 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 — Rome from the south and Scotland and Ireland to the north and west.

Heptarchy is a term used to refer to the existence (as believed) of the seven petty kingdoms which eventually merged to become the Kingdom of England during the early tenth century. These were 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, or "Lord of Britain". Generally speaking, the title fell in the seventh century to the kings of Northumbria, in the eighth to those of Mercia, and finally, in the ninth, to Egbert of Wessex, who in 825 defeated the Mercians at Ellendun. In the next century his family came to rule all England.

Kingdom of England

Originally, England (or Angleland) was a geographical term to describe the territory of Britain which was occupied by the Anglo-Saxons, rather than a name of an individual nation state.

The Kingdom of England was not founded until the separate petty kingdoms were unified under Alfred the Great King of Wessex, who later proclaimed himself King of the English after liberating London from the Danes in 886.

For the next few hundred years, the Kingdom of England would fall in and out of power between several West-Saxon and Danish kings. For over half a century, the unified Kingdom of England became part of a vast Danish empire under Canute the Great, before regaining independence for a short period under the restored West-Saxon lineage of Edward the Confessor.

The Kingdom of England continued to exist as an independent nation-state right through to the Acts of Union and the Union of Crowns. However the political ties and direction of England were changed for ever by the Norman conquest in 1066.

Norman conquest

In 1066 William Duke of Normandy led the Norman invasion of England, killing King Harold at the Battle of Hastings and taking the English throne. It was an important watershed in English history for a number of reasons. The conquest linked England more closely with Continental Europe and lessened Scandinavian influence. The success of the conquest established one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe, created the most sophisticated governmental system in Europe, changed the English language and culture, and set the stage for English-French conflict that would last into the nineteenth century.

The events of the conquest also paved the way for a pivotal historical document to be produced - the Domesday Book. The Domesday Book was the record of the great survey of England completed in 1086, executed for William the Conqueror.

To date, the Norman conquest remains the last successful military conquest of England.


The next few hundred years saw England as an important part of expanding and dwindling empires based in France, with the "King of England" being a subsidiary title of a succession of French-speaking Dukes of territories in what is now France. Only when English kings realised that their losses in France meant that England was now their richest and most important possession did they accept the same "nationality" and language as their subjects in England. They used England as a source of troops to enlarge their personal holdings in France for many years (Hundred Years' War); in fact the English crown did not relinquish its last foothold on mainland France until Calais was lost during the reign of Mary Tudor.

The Principality of Wales, under the control of English monarchs from the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284, became part of 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.


The English Reformation was the process whereby the external authority of the Roman Catholic Church in England was abolished and replaced with Royal Supremacy and the establishment of a Church of England outside the Roman Catholic Church and under the Supreme Governance of the English monarch. The English Reformation differed from its other European counterparts in that it was more of a political than a theological dispute which was at the root of it.[13] The break with Rome started in the reign of Henry VIII.

The English Reformation ultimately paved the way for the spread of Anglicanism in the church and other institutions.

English Civil War

For more information, see: English Civil War.

The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations which took place between Parliamentarians and Royalists from 1642 until 1651. The first (1642–1645) and second (1648–1649) civil wars pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third war of (1649–1651) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament. The Civil War ended with the Parliamentary victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651.

The Civil War led to the trial and execution of Charles I, the exile of his son Charles II and the replacement of the English monarchy with the Commonwealth of England (1649–1653) and then with a Protectorate (1653–1659): the personal rule of Oliver Cromwell. The monopoly of the Church of England on Christian worship in England came to an end, and the victors consolidated the already-established Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. Constitutionally, the wars established a precedent that British monarchs could not govern without the consent of Parliament although this would not be cemented until the Glorious Revolution later in the century.


Charles II was the restored House of Stuart King of England in 1660.

Great Britain and the United Kingdom

When the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland merged to form the unified United Kingdom of Great Britain under the Acts of Union in 1707, both England and Scotland lost their individual political identities, while keeping separate legal identities. This union has subsequently changed its name twice: firstly on the merger with the Kingdom of Ireland following the Act of Union in 1800 creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801, and then following the secession from the union of the Irish Free State under the terms of the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act 1922, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with the official name being changed in 1925. Throughout these changes, England retained a separate legal identity from its partners, with a separate legal system (English law) from those in Northern Ireland (Northern Irish law) and Scotland ("Scots law"), and eventually the strong feelings of the Welsh were acknowledged when it was decided that the name would henceforth be "England and Wales".


There has not been a Government of England since 1707 when the Kingdom of England merged with the Kingdom of Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, although both kingdoms had been ruled by a single monarch since 1603 under James I. Prior to the Acts of Union 1707, England was ruled by a monarch and the Parliament of England.

Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland were given their own devolved parliaments shortly before the secession of the Irish Free State, and Northern Ireland continued to be the only region of the United Kingdom with a devolved government, until 1973. The Scottish and Welsh governing institutions were created by the UK parliament along with strong support from the majority of people of Scotland, and much weaker support in Wales, and are not independent of the rest of the United Kingdom. However, this gave each country a separate and distinct political identity, leaving England (83% of the UK population) as the only part of the UK directly ruled in nearly all matters by the British government in London. In Cornwall, a region of England claiming a distinct national identity, there has been a campaign for a Cornish assembly along Welsh lines by nationalist parties such as Mebyon Kernow.

In terms of national administration, England's affairs are managed by a combination of the UK government, the UK parliament, a number of England-specific quangos, and the mostly unelected Regional Assemblies (a kind of nascent executive for each English Region).

There are calls for a "devolved" English Parliament, and some English people and parties go further by calling for the dissolution of the Union entirely. However, the major political parties on the whole consider that England is too large to be governed as a single sub-state entity.


Historically, the highest level of local government in England was the county. These divisions had emerged from a range of units of old, pre-unification England (such as the Kingdoms of Sussex and Kent) and further mediaeval reorganisations (sometimes using duchies such as Lancashire and Cornwall). These historical county lines were usually drawn up before the industrial revolution and the mass urbanisation of England. The counties each had a county town and many county names were drawn from these (for example Nottinghamshire, from Nottingham).

A series of local government reorganisations have taken place since the latter part of the nineteenth century. The solution to the emergence of large urban areas was the creation of large metropolitan counties centred on cities (an example being Greater Manchester). The creation of unitary authorities, where districts gained the administrative status of a county, began with the 1990s reform of local government. Today, some confusion exists between the ceremonial counties (which do not necessarily form an administrative unit) and the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties.

Non-metropolitan counties (or "shire counties") are divided into one or more districts. At the very lowest level, England is divided into civil parishes, though these are not to be found everywhere (many urban areas for example are unparished). Civil parishes are prohibited from existing in Greater London.

England is now also divided into nine regions, which do not have an elected authority and exist to co-ordinate certain local government functions across a wider area. London is an exception, however, and is the one region which now has a representative authority as well as a directly elected mayor. The 32 London boroughs and the Corporation of London remain the local form of government in the city.


(CC) Photo: Paolo Margari
The city of York is a popular tourist destination; it was once the Roman capital of England, Eboracum.

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 the UK, divided from France only by a 21-mile sea gap.

Most of England consists of rolling hills, but it is more mountainous in the north with a chain of low mountains, the Pennines, dividing east and west. The dividing line between terrain types is usually indicated by the Tees-Exe line. There is also an area of flat, low-lying marshland in the east, the Fens, much of which has been drained for agricultural use.

The list of England's largest cities is much debated because in English the normal meaning of "city" is "a continuously built-up urban area"; these are hard to define and various other definitions are preferred by some people to boost the ranking of their own city. For the official definition of a UK (and therefore English) city, see City status in the United Kingdom. However, by any practical definition London is by far the largest urban area in England and one of the largest and busiest cities in the world (though the offical "City of London" has a population of only about 4000). Birmingham is the second largest, both in terms of the city itself and its urban conurbation. A number of other cities, mainly in central and northern England, are of substantial size and influence. These include: Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield, Bristol, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham and Hull.

The Channel Tunnel, near Folkestone, directly links England to the European mainland. The English/French border is halfway along the tunnel, but each country has some jurisdiction even up to the end stations.

The largest natural harbour in England is at Poole, on the south-central coast.


Scarborough, a seaside town in North Yorkshire, relies on pleasant weather as a popular tourist destination.

England has a temperate climate, with plentiful rainfall all year round, though 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, though it is not that common away from high ground.

The highest temperature ever recorded in England is 38.5 °C (101.3 °F) on August 10, 2003 at Brogdale, near Faversham, in Kent.[15] The lowest temperature ever recorded in England is -26.1 °C (-15.0 °F) on January 10, 1982 at Edgmond, near Newport, in Shropshire.[16]

Major rivers

Major conurbations

Largest city[17]

The largest cities in England are much debated but according to the urban area populations (continuous built-up areas) these would be the fifteen largest conurbations (population figures taken from 2001 census):

Greater London Urban Area 8,278,251
West Midlands conurbation 2,284,093
Greater Manchester Urban Area 2,240,230
West Yorkshire Urban Area 1,499,465
Tyneside 879,996
Liverpool Urban Area 816,216
Nottingham City Area 666,358
Sheffield Urban Area 640,720
Greater Bristol 551,066
Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton 461,181
Portsmouth Urban Area 442,252
Leicester Urban Area 441,213
Bournemouth Urban Area 383,713
Reading/Wokingham Urban Area 369,804
Teesside 365,323


Financial centre[18] England's economy is the second largest economy in Europe and the fifth largest economy 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.[19] 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 oil, tea, wool, sugar, timber, butter, metals, and meat,[20] exporting over 30,000 tonnes of beef last year, worth around £75,000,000, with France, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain being the biggest importers of beef from England.[21]

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 the world. London, is an international leader in finance[22] 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).[23] The largest centre for tourism is London, which attracts millions of international tourists every year.

As part of the United Kingdom, England's official currency is the pound sterling (also known as the British pound or GBP).


England is both the most populous and the most ethnically diverse nation in the United Kingdom with about 53,000,000 inhabitants, or 84% of the UK's total.[24] England would have the fourth largest population in the European Union and would be the 25th largest country by population if it were a sovereign state. The country's population is 'ageing', with a declining percentage of the population under age 16 and a rising one of over 65. Population continues to rise and in every year since 1901, with the exception of 1976, there have been more births than deaths.[25] England is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, with 383 people per square kilometre (992/sq mi),[26] making it second only to the Netherlands.

There is a debate over the extent to which the population of England (and indeed that of United Kingdom as a whole) is composed of long-standing indigenous stock or descended from various groups of settlers and immigrants who have arrived over millennia. The Cheddar Man has been cited as demonstrating that a substantial proportion of the present day population may be descended from groups that populated the island in prehistory (The Times, 8 March 1997). The often given view of English ethnicity is that it is a mixed one with large influences from various waves of Celtic, Norse, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman invasions.

The economic prosperity of England has also made it a destination for economic migrants from the periphery of the UK; this was particularly true during the Industrial Revolution.

Since the fall of the British Empire, many denizens of former colonies have migrated to the United Kingdom 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 Ireland, India, Pakistan, Germany, and the Caribbean. Though Germany was high on the list, this was mainly the result of children being born to British forces personnel stationed in that country.[27]


England has a vast 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 traditional and historic culture of England is more clearly defined.

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 some of 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, Charles Darwin and New Zealand-born Ernest Rutherford, philosophers such as John Locke, John Stuart Mill, 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, whilst in exile in London, and the team that developed the first atomic bomb began their work in the England, under the wartime codename tube alloys.


England has played a significant part in the advancement of Western architecture. It is home to some of the finest mediaeval castles and forts in the world (see Castles in England), 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 also known for its numerous grand country houses (see List of historic houses in England), and for its many mediaeval and later churches and cathedrals.

English architects have contributed to a number of 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.


England is home to the National Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, Tate St. Ives, and the Tate Modern. Significant figures in English art include William Blake, William Hogarth, J.M.W. Turner and John Constable in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, through to the influential William Morris in the late nineteenth, to L. S. Lowry, Henry Moore and Francis Bacon during the twentieth century, and names such as David Hockney and Damien Hirst in the present day.


A typical pub meal may include chips accompanying steak, washed down with beer.

Although highly-regarded in the Middle Ages, English cuisine later became a source of fun among the UK's French and European neighbours, being viewed until the late twentieth century as crude and unsophisticated by comparison with continental tastes. For example, the humble chip is a popular accompaniment to many dishes; these are simply potatoes cut into strips and deep-fried or grilled. 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 English culinary life, with restaurants and takeaways appearing in almost every town in England, and 'going for an Indian' becoming a regular part of English 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 Anglo-Indian dishes of this sort. Chicken Tikka Masala is often jokingly referred to as England's national dish, in a reference both to its English origins and to its enormous popularity.

Dishes forming part of the old tradition of English food include:

Engineering and innovation

As birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, England was home to many significant inventors during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth 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.

Recent English inventors include James Dyson, inventor of the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner.

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 all influenced the myth and legend of England. Some tales, such as that of The Lambton Wyrm show a distinct Norse influence, whilst others, particularly some of the events and characters associated with the Arthurian legends show a distinct Romano-Gaulic slant.[28]

The most famous body of English folktales concerns 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 Dunn of Cumbria who, although being based on historical characters, have grown to become legends in their own right.

Finally, other historical figures come to have legends associated with them (such as Sir Francis Drake and 'Drake's Drum'). These figures then move out of the realm of historical fact and into the realm of mythology.


For more information, see: English literature.

The English language boasts 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 Bronte, Emily Bronte, C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, 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 Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton and J.K. Rowling 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 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 all 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 often not achieved recognition as broad as that earned by their literary counterparts, and particularly during the nineteenth 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 today, and a revival of England's musical status began during the twentieth 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, English bands and solo artists have been cited as among the most influential and best-selling musicians of all time. Acts such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, David Bowie, Queen, Oasis, Sir Elton John and Coldplay are amongst the biggest selling in the world. England is also credited with being the birthplace of many pop-culture movements such as Britpop, glam rock, drum and bass, grindcore, progressive rock, punk, shoegazing, acid house and UK Garage.

Science and philosophy

Prominent English figures from the fields of science and mathematics include Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, J. J. Thomson, Charles Babbage, Stephen Hawking, Christopher Wren, Alan Turing, Francis Crick, Joseph Lister, Tim Berners-Lee, Andrew Wiles and Richard Dawkins. Many scientists from other UK nations have completed their achievements whilst working at English academic institutions; for example, the Scotsmen Alexander Fleming and James Clerk Maxwell.

England played an important role in the development of Western philosophy, particularly during the Enlightenment. Major English philosophers include Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Bernard Williams and Bertrand Russell. Jeremy Bentham, leader of the Philosophical Radicals, and his school are recognised as the men who unknowingly laid down the doctrines for Socialism.[29] Bentham's impact on English law is also considerable.


A number of modern sports were codified in England during the nineteenth century, among them cricket, rugby union and rugby league, football, tennis and badminton. Of these, association football, rugby and cricket 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. The England national football team are considered one of the game's superpowers (currently ranked 8th by FIFA and 7th by Elo), having won the World Cup in 1966 when it was hosted in England. Since then, however, they have failed to reach a final of a major international tournament, though they reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1990 and the quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006 and Euro 2004.

The England national rugby union team and England cricket team are often among the best performing in the world, with the rugby union team winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup, and the cricket team winning The Ashes in 2005, and being ranked the second best Test nation in the world. 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 to compete more regularly after 2006, when England became a full test nation in lieu of the Great Britain national rugby league team, when that team retired after the 2006 Rugby League Tri-Nations.

Sport England is the governing body responsible for distributing funds and providing strategic guidance for sporting activity in England.

The 2012 Summer Olympics were hosted by London, England. It ran from 26 July to 12 August 2012. London became the first city to have hosted the modern Olympic Games three times, having previously done so in 1908 and 1948.


English language

For more information, see: English language and History of the English language.

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). The language arose primarily out of the West-Germanic dialects spoken by Germanic tribes (notably, the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians) that invaded and settled Britain from the 5th century AD onwards. After the 9th century, when Danish and, to some extent, Norwegian Vikings settled in the north-eastern part of Britain, the language absorbed some features from the Scandinavian languages.

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 all classes and for all official business except certain traditional ceremonies, some of which survive to this day. But 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, being always remarkable for its far-flung willingness to incorporate foreign-influenced words.

It is most commonly accepted that the English language is now the world's unofficial lingua franca,[30] while English common law is also the foundation of many legal systems throughout the English-speaking countries of the world.[31]

Additional languages

UK legislation does not recognise any language as being official,[32] but English is the only language used in England for general official business. The other national languages of the UK (Welsh, Irish, Scots and Scottish Gaelic) are confined to their respective nations, except Welsh to some degree.

The only non-Anglic native spoken language in England is the Cornish language, a Celtic language spoken in Cornwall, which became close to extinction in the 18th century but has been revived since the beginning of the 20th century and is spoken in various degrees of fluency, currently by around 2000 people.[33] 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 Welsh is still spoken by some natives around Oswestry, Shropshire, on the Welsh border.

Most deaf people within England speak British sign language (BSL), a sign language native to the UK. The British Deaf Association estimates that 250,000 people throughout the UK speak BSL as their first or preferred language,[34] but does not give statistics specific to England. Neither Cornish nor BSL are official languages of the UK and most British government departments and hospitals have limited facilities for deaf people. 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 Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Urdu, Polish, Greek, Turkish and Cantonese being the most common languages that people living in the UK consider their first language. These are often used by official bodies to communicate with the relevant sections of the community, particularly in big 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.

Despite the relatively small size of the nation, there are a 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.


Owing to immigration in the past decades, among other things, there is an enormous diversity of religious belief in England, as well as a growing percentage who have no religious affiliation. Levels of attendance in many denominations have been declining for some time. England today is, in practice, largely a secular country. Answers people give to questions about their religion vary with the form and context of the questions: in the census for 2011, the majority still put themselves down as Christian (though, if the trend from the 2001 census continues, this will no longer be true by the next census), but opinion polls commonly find only a minority identifying with any religion. Non-Christian religions are growing, as are some forms of Christianity.


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 seventh 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 the 16th century, the Church was split from Rome over the issue of the annulment of King Henry VIII's marriage to 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. The Church of England is an established church in a stronger sense than the Church of Scotland.

The sixteenth 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 nineteenth century. Attendances were considerably boosted by immigration, especially from Ireland,a nd more recently from Poland.

Other religions

Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, immigration from South Asia and the Middle East has resulted in a considerable growth in Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism in England. Cities and towns with large Muslim communities include Birmingham, Blackburn, Bolton, Bradford, Leicester, London, Luton, Manchester and Oldham. 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 located in the Greater London area, particularly the north west suburbs such as Golders Green;[35] although Manchester and Gateshead also have significant Jewish communities.[36][37]


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 sixth and seventh century respectively. There are at least eight existing schools in England which were founded in the first millennium, including also Beverley Grammar School founded in 700. State and independent schools and colleges exist side by side. Other famous English schools include Eton College (founded 1440), Harrow School (1572) and Winchester College (1382). England is also home to the two oldest universities in the English speaking world: Oxford University (twelfth century) and Cambridge University (early thirteenth century). There are more than ninety universities in England and many of these (most notably the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London) consist of autonomous colleges many of which are world famous in their own right, for example University College, Oxford (founded 1249), Peterhouse, Cambridge (1284) and the London School of Economics (1895).

The state education system in England is run by the Department for Education (DfS). The education is split into two main types; State schools which are funded through taxation and free to all, and independent schools, which provide a paid-for education on top of taxes (including what are known as "Public" schools).

Education is the responsibility of Department for Education at national level. Locally, the Local Education Authorities still have functions, but the tendency has been to reduce these, as publicly funded schools have been encouraged to seek central funding.


BAA Limited runs many of England's airports, its flagship being London Heathrow Airport, the largest airport by traffic volume in Europe and one of the world's busiest airports, and London Gatwick Airport, the second largest. The third largest is Manchester Airport. This is run by Manchester Airport Group, which also owns various other airports. Other major airports include London Stansted Airport in Essex, about thirty miles (50 km) north of London and Birmingham International Airport, in Birmingham.

The growth in private car ownership in the latter half of the twentieth century led to a number of major road-building programmes. Important trunk roads built include the A1 Great North Road from London to Newcastle and Edinburgh, and the A580 road between Liverpool and Manchester. The Preston Bypass was the first section of motorway and opened in 1958 - it now forms part of the M6 motorway, 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.

The National Rail network of 10,072 route miles (16,116 route km) in Great Britain, of which the majority is in England. Urban rail networks are also well developed in London and several other cities, including the Manchester Metro and the London Underground. The London Underground is the oldest and most extensive underground railway in the world, and as of 2007 consists of 253 miles (407 kilometres) of line[38] and serves 275 stations.[39]

There are around 4,400 miles of navigable waterways in England, of which roughly half is owned by British Waterways. It is estimated that 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 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.[40]

The government department overseeing transport is the Department for Transport.

English people

As an ethnic group, the English trace their heritage to the Romano-Britons,[41] Anglo-Saxons,[42] the Danish-Vikings[43] that formed the Danelaw during the time of Alfred the Great and the Normans.[44][45]

Regardless of ethnic connotations, the simplest view is that an English person is someone who is from England and holds British nationality, 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 their neighbours in the wider term of "British", while the Scots and Welsh tend to be more forward about referring to themselves by one of those more specific terms.[46] This reflects a more subtle form of English-specific patriotism in England; St George's Day, the country's national day, is barely celebrated.[47]

It is believed by some historians that the 'natural culture' of England contains the legacies of Brythonic tribes of Celts and Anglo-Saxons that appeared in waves of gradual migration. It also is seen as being influenced by the Scandinavian legends such as Beowulf, and by the Norman Conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a common early location for English identity.[48]

The Scandinavian influences of the Normans are also hotly disputed as the Norse occupants of Normandy spent three to five generations in (Post Roman Frankia) France before advancing to England.[49] Due to the inefficiency in determining the German population of England, which was greatly diminished by William the Conqueror, exactly how many of the Normans took "Celtic" wives preceding this invasion is unknown, and the issue may very well be unsolvable.[50]

Modern celebration of English identity is often found around its sports, one field in which the British Home Nations often compete individually. The English Association football team, Rugby Union team and Cricket team often cause increases in the popularity of celebrating Englishness.

According to research and the analysis of names in the UK in 2006, the town of Ripley in Derbyshire has the highest proportion of people of ethnic-English origin.[51] The analysis put 42.2 million adult voters in mainland Britain into two hundred ethnic groups, based on both given names and surnames. Of Ripley's inhabitants, 88.5% have an English-ethnic background. Heanor, also in Derbyshire, was in second place, followed by Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, and Boston, Lincolnshire.


The country is named after the Angles, one of several Germanic tribes who settled in the country during the fifth and sixth centuries. In other languages, several patterns emerge in the words their speakers use to refer to England; the majority are similar to 'England'; Celtic names mainly come from a reference to the Saxons, another tribe who settled in England; and a third group comprises unique names.

The Celtic names are quite different:

Except for Lloegr, which is an ancient geographic term, these names are all derived from the Saxons, another family of Germanic tribes which arrived at about the same time as the Angles.

The names in Asian languages:

  • 'انگلستان' Inglistan - Persian (Farsi)
  • 'אנגליה' - Anglia Hebrew
  • 'যুক্তরাজ্য’ Juktorajjo - Bangla
  • 'Engalaantha' - Sinhala
  • 'இங்கிலாந்து' Ingilaandhu - Tamil
  • '英格兰' Yīnggélán - Mandarin
  • '英格蘭' Yinggaaklaan - Cantonese
  • 'イングランド' 'Ingurando' - Japanese; the phrase 'English kingdom' (英国 eikoku) in Japanese actually refers to the UK
  • 'Nước Anh' - Vietnamese
  • 'Inggeris' - Indonesian
  • 'อังกฤษ' Ang-grit Thai

Alternative names for England include:

  • the slang ‘Blighty’, from the Hindustani ‘bila yati’ meaning ‘foreign’
  • Albion’, an ancient name, supposedly referring to the white (Latin alba) cliffs of Dover. Originally it referred to the whole island of Great Britain, and is still sometimes seen that way today, but is more often 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.

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"), "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.

National symbols and insignia

The two main traditional symbols of England are the St George's cross (the English flag), and the Three Lions coat of arms.

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.[52]

St George's Cross

For many English people, their nation's flag remains a source of strong national pride.

The St George's Cross is a red cross on a white background. It is the official national flag of England. In the past it was rarely seen flying, but in recent times has experienced an increase in popularity. It is believed to have been adopted for the uniform of English soldiers during the Crusades of the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries. From about 1277 it officially 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, together 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 twelfth and thirteenth 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 all 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. The Flag of St George has gained popularity in recent years, and is widely seen flown out of houses, or on cars during important sporting tournaments in which England is competing. (Paradoxically, the latter is a fairly recent development; until the late twentieth century, it was commonplace for fans of English teams to wave the Union Flag, rather than the St George's Cross).

Three Lions

The arms of England are gules, three lions passant guardant or; the earliest surviving record of their use was by Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) in the late twelfth century.

Since union with Scotland and Ireland (or, today, 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.[53]

The rose is used in a variety of contexts in its use for England's representation. Technically, the rose of England should always be a Tudor, or half-red-half-white rose,[54] symbolising the end of both 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.

National anthem

England does not have an official national anthem, as the United Kingdom as a whole has "God Save the King" as its national anthem.

The following though are widely regarded as unofficial English national hymns:

To a lesser extent, Heart of Oak, the unofficial Royal Navy anthem has also been proposed. Music by Dr. William Boyce (1711–1779). English words by the famous actor David Garrick (1716–1779) in 1759.

"God Save the King", which is the national anthem for the UK as a whole, is usually played for English sporting events against teams from other countries (although "Land of Hope and Glory" has also been used as the English anthem for the Commonwealth Games and the England national rugby league team). "Jerusalem" has been sung before England cricket matches. "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 but more recently "God Save the King" has been used by both the rugby union and football teams.


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