For an explanation of often confusing terms like England, (Great) Britain and United Kingdom see wikipedia:British Isles (terminology).
Flag of England
  • "Dieu et mon droit"(French)
  • "God and my right" [1][2]
  • None (de jure)
  • God Save the Queen (de facto)
Location of  England  (dark green) – in European continent  (light green & dark grey) – in United Kingdom  (light green)
Location of  England  (dark green)

– in European continent  (light green & dark grey)
– in United Kingdom  (light green)

and largest city
51°30′N 0°7′W / 51.5, -0.117
Official languages English (de facto)[nb 1]
Recognised regional languages Cornish
Ethnic groups (2011[3])
  • 85.5% White
  • 7.7% Asian
  • 3.4% Black
  • 2.2% Mixed race
  • 1.0% other
Demonym English
Government Non-devolved constituent country within a constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Elizabeth II
 -  Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson MP
Legislature Parliament of the United Kingdom
 -  Total 130,395 km2
50,346 sq mi 
 -  2011 census 53,013,000[4]
 -  Density 407/km2
1,054.1/sq mi
GDP (nominal) 2009 estimate
 -  Total $2.68 trillion
 -  Per capita $50,566
Currency Pound sterling (GBP)
Time zone GMT (UTC0)
 -  Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)
Date format dd/mm/yyyy (AD)
Drives on the left
Calling code +44
Patron saint Saint George
Internet TLD .uk[nb 2]

England ( /ˈɪŋɡlənd/) is the most populous country in the United Kingdom.[5][6][7] It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, while the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separate it from continental Europe. Most of England comprises the central and southern part of the island of Great Britain in the North Atlantic. The country also includes over 100 smaller islands such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

The area now called England was first inhabited by modern humans during the Upper Palaeolithic period, but it takes its name from the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes who settled during the 5th and 6th centuries. England became a unified state in AD 927, and since the Age of Discovery, which began during the 15th century, has had a significant cultural and legal impact on the wider world.[8] The English language, the Anglican Church, and English law—the basis for the common law legal systems of many other countries around the world—developed in England, and the country's parliamentary system of government has been widely adopted by other nations.[9] The Industrial Revolution began in 18th-century England, transforming its society into the world's first industrialised nation.[10]

England's terrain mostly comprises low hills and plains, especially in central and southern England. However, there are uplands in the north (for example, the mountainous Lake District, Pennines, and Yorkshire Dales) and in the south west (for example, Dartmoor and the Cotswolds). The former capital of England was Winchester until replaced by London in 1066. Today London is the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures.[nb 3] England's population is about 53 million, around 84% of the population of the United Kingdom, and is largely concentrated in London, the South East and conurbations in the Midlands, the North West, the North East and Yorkshire, which each developed as major industrial regions during the 19th century. Meadowlands and pastures are found beyond the major cities.

The Kingdom of England—which after 1284 included Wales—was a sovereign state until 1 May 1707, when the Acts of Union put into effect the terms agreed in the Treaty of Union the previous year, resulting in a political union with the Kingdom of Scotland to create the new Kingdom of Great Britain.[11][12] In 1801, Great Britain was united with the Kingdom of Ireland through another Act of Union to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922, the Irish Free State was established as a separate dominion, but the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927 reincorporated into the kingdom six Irish counties to officially create the current United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.


The name "England" is derived from the Old English name Englaland, which means "land of the Angles".[13] The Angles were one of the Germanic tribes that settled in Great Britain during the Early Middle Ages. The Angles came from the Angeln peninsula in the Bay of Kiel area of the Baltic Sea.[14] According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known use of "England" to refer to the southern part of the island of Great Britain occurs in 897, and its modern spelling was first used in 1538.[15]

The earliest attested mention of the name occurs in the 1st century work by Tacitus, Germania, in which the Latin word Anglii is used.[16] The etymology of the tribal name itself is disputed by scholars; it has been suggested that it derives from the shape of the Angeln peninsula, an angular shape.[17] How and why a term derived from the name of a tribe that was less significant than others, such as the Saxons, came to be used for the entire country and its people is not known, but it seems this is related to the custom of calling the Germanic people in Britain Angli Saxones or English Saxons.[18] In Scottish Gaelic, another language which developed on the island of Great Britain, the Saxon tribe gave their name to the word for England (Sasunn),[19] and the Welsh use "Saesneg" - a form derived from "Saxon" - to describe the English language.

An alternative name for England is Albion. The name Albion originally referred to the entire island of Great Britain. The earliest record of the name appears in the Aristotelian Corpus, specifically the 4th century BC De Mundo:[20] "Beyond the Pillars of Hercules is the ocean that flows round the earth. In it are two very large islands called Britannia; these are Albion and Ierne".[20] The word Albion (Ἀλβίων) or insula Albionum has two possible origins. It either derives from a cognate of the Latin albus meaning white, a reference to the white cliffs of Dover, the only part of Britain visible from the European Continent,[21] or from the phrase in Massaliote Periplus, the "island of the Albiones".[22] Albion is now applied to England in a more poetic capacity.[23] Another romantic name for England is Loegria, related to the Welsh word for England, Lloegr, and made popular by its use in Arthurian legend.


Prehistory and antiquity[]

Sun shining through row of upright standing stones with other stones horizontally on the top.

Stonehenge, a Neolithic monument.

The earliest known evidence of human presence in the area now known as England was that of Homo antecessor, dating to approximately 780,000 years ago. The oldest proto-human bones discovered in England date from 500,000 years ago.[24] Modern humans are known to have first inhabited the area during the Upper Paleolithic period, though permanent settlements were only established within the last 6,000 years.[25][26] After the last ice age only large mammals such as mammoths, bison and woolly rhinoceros remained. Roughly 11,000 years ago, when the ice sheets began to recede, humans repopulated the area; genetic research suggests they came from the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula.[27] The sea level was lower than now, and Britain was connected by land to both Ireland and Eurasia.[28] As the seas rose, it was separated from Ireland 10,000 years ago and from Eurasia two millennia later.

The Beaker culture arrived around 2500 BC, introducing drinking and food vessels constructed from clay, as well as vessels used as reduction pots to smelt copper ores.[29] It was during this time that major Neolithic monuments such as Stonehenge and Avebury were constructed. By heating together tin and copper, both of which were in abundance in the area, the Beaker culture people made bronze, and later iron from iron ores. The development of iron smelting allowed the construction of better ploughs, advancing agriculture (for instance, with Celtic fields), as well as the production of more effective weapons.[30]

According to John T. Koch and others, England in the Late Bronze Age was part of a maritime trading-networked culture called the Atlantic Bronze Age, that included the whole of the British Isles and much of what we now regard as France, together with the Iberian Peninsula. Celtic languages developed in those areas; Tartessian may have been the earliest written Celtic language.[31][32][33]

Painting of woman, with outstretched arm, in white dress with red cloak and helmet, with other human figures to her right and below her to the left.

Boudica led an uprising against the Roman Empire.

During the Iron Age, Celtic culture, deriving from the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures, arrived from Central Europe. Brythonic was the spoken language during this time. Society was tribal; according to Ptolemy's Geographia there were around 20 tribes in the area. Earlier divisions are unknown because the Britons were not literate. Like other regions on the edge of the Empire, Britain had long enjoyed trading links with the Romans. Julius Caesar of the Roman Republic attempted to invade twice in 55 BC; although largely unsuccessful, he managed to set up a client king from the Trinovantes.

The Romans invaded Britain in AD 43 during the reign of Emperor Claudius, subsequently conquering much of Britain, and the area was incorporated into the Roman Empire as Britannia province.[34] The best-known of the native tribes who attempted to resist were the Catuvellauni led by Caratacus. Later, an uprising led by Boudica, Queen of the Iceni, ended with Boudica's suicide following her defeat at the Battle of Watling Street.[35] This era saw a Greco-Roman culture prevail with the introduction of Roman law, Roman architecture, sewage systems, many agricultural items, and silk.[36][37][38] In the 3rd century, Emperor Septimius Severus died at Eboracum (modern-day York), where Constantine was subsequently proclaimed emperor.[39]

There is debate about when Christianity was first introduced; it was no later than the 4th century, with probability lying much earlier. According to Bede, missionaries were sent from Rome by Eleutherius at the request of the chieftain Lucius of Britain in AD 180 to settle differences as to Eastern and Western ceremonials which were disturbing the church. There are traditions linked to Glastonbury claiming an introduction through Joseph of Arimathea, while others claim through Lucius of Britain.[40] By 410, as the Empire declined, Britain was left exposed by the withdrawal of Roman army units, to defend the frontiers in continental Europe and partake in civil wars.[41]

Middle Ages[]

Studded and decorated metallic mask of human face.

Replica of a 7th-century ceremonial helmet from the Kingdom of East Anglia, found at Sutton Hoo.

Roman military withdrawals left Britain open to invasion by pagan, seafaring warriors from north-western continental Europe, chiefly the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who had long raided the coasts of the Roman province and began to settle, initially in the eastern part of the country.[41] Their advance was contained for some decades after the Britons' victory at the Battle of Mount Badon, but subsequently resumed, over-running the fertile lowlands of Britain and reducing the area under Brythonic control to a series of separate enclaves in the more rugged country to the west by the end of the 6th century. Contemporary texts describing this period are extremely scarce, giving rise to its description as a Dark Age. The nature and progression of the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain is consequently subject to considerable disagreement. Christianity had in general disappeared from the conquered territories, but was reintroduced by missionaries from Rome led by Augustine from 597 onwards and by Irish missionaries led by Aidan around the same time.[42] Disputes between the varying influences represented by these missions ended in victory for the Roman tradition.

During the settlement period the lands ruled by the incomers seem to have been fragmented into numerous tribal territories, but by the 7th century, when substantial evidence of the situation again becomes available, these had coalesced into roughly a dozen kingdoms including Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex, East Anglia, Essex, Kent and Sussex. Over the following centuries this process of political consolidation continued.[43] The 7th century saw a struggle for hegemony between Northumbria and Mercia, which in the 8th century gave way to Mercian preeminence.[44] In the early 9th century Mercia was displaced as the foremost kingdom by Wessex. Later in that century escalating attacks by the Danes culminated in the conquest of the north and east of England, overthrowing the kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia. Wessex under Alfred the Great was left as the only surviving English kingdom, and under his successors it steadily expanded at the expense of the kingdoms of the Danelaw. This brought about the political unification of England, first accomplished under Æthelstan in 927 and definitively established after further conflicts by Eadred in 953. A fresh wave of Scandinavian attacks from the late 10th century ended with the conquest of this united kingdom by Sweyn Forkbeard in 1013 and again by his son Cnut in 1016, turning it into the centre of a short-lived North Sea empire that also included Denmark and Norway. However the native royal dynasty was restored with the accession of Edward the Confessor in 1042.

King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt, 1415

King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt, fought on Saint Crispin's Day and concluded with an English victory against a larger French army in the Hundred Years' War.

A dispute over the succession to Edward led to the Norman conquest of England in 1066, accomplished by an army led by Duke William of Normandy.[45] The Normans themselves originated from Scandinavia and had settled in Normandy in the late 9th and early 10th centuries.[46] This conquest led to the almost total dispossession of the English elite and its replacement by a new French-speaking aristocracy, whose speech had a profound and permanent effect on the English language.[47]

The House of Plantagenet from Anjou inherited the English throne under Henry II, adding England to the budding Angevin Empire of fiefs the family had inherited in France including Aquitaine.[48] They reigned for three centuries, proving noted monarchs such as Richard I, Edward I, Edward III and Henry V.[48] The period saw changes in trade and legislation, including the signing of the Magna Carta, an English legal charter used to limit the sovereign's powers by law and protect the privileges of freemen. Catholic monasticism flourished, providing philosophers and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge were founded with royal patronage. The Principality of Wales became a Plantagenet fief during the 13th century[49] and the Lordship of Ireland was gifted to the English monarchy by the Pope.

During the 14th century, the Plantagenets and House of Valois both claimed to be legitimate claimants to House of Capet and with it France—the two powers clashed in the Hundred Years' War.[50] The Black Death epidemic hit England; starting in 1348, it eventually killed up to half of England's inhabitants.[51][52] From 1453 to 1487 civil war between two branches of the royal family occurred—the Yorkists and Lancastrians—known as the Wars of the Roses.[53] Eventually it led to the Yorkists losing the throne entirely to a Welsh noble family the Tudors, a branch of the Lancastrians headed by Henry Tudor who invaded with Welsh and Breton mercenaries, gaining victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field where the Yorkist king Richard III was killed.[54]

Early Modern[]

Painting of large bearded man with fur trimmed cloak, wearing a hat.

King Henry VIII became Supreme Head of the Church of England.

During the Tudor period, the Renaissance reached England through Italian courtiers, who reintroduced artistic, educational and scholarly debate from classical antiquity.[55] During this time England began to develop naval skills, and exploration to the West intensified.[56][57]

Henry VIII broke from communion with the Catholic Church, over issues relating to divorce, under the Acts of Supremacy in 1534 which proclaimed the monarch head of the Church of England. In contrast with much of European Protestantism, the roots of the split were more political than theological.[nb 4] He also legally incorporated his ancestral land Wales into the Kingdom of England with the 1535–1542 acts. There were internal religious conflicts during the reigns of Henry's daughters, Mary I and Elizabeth I. The former brought the country back to Catholicism, while the later broke from it again, more forcefully asserting the supremacy of Anglicanism.

An English fleet under Francis Drake defeated an invading Spanish Armada during the Elizabethan period. Competing with Spain, the first English colony in the Americas was founded in 1585 by explorer Walter Raleigh in Virginia and named Roanoke. The Roanoke colony failed and is known as the lost colony, after it was found abandoned on the return of the late arriving supply ship.[59] With the East India Company, England also competed with the Dutch and French in the East. The political structure of the island was changed in 1603, when the Stuart James VI of Scotland, a kingdom which was a longtime rival, inherited the throne of England as James I—creating a personal union .[60][61] He styled himself King of Great Britain, although this had no basis in English law.[62] Under the auspices of King James VI and I the so-called Authorized King James Version of the Holy Bible was published in 1611. It has not only been ranked with Shakespeare's works as the greatest masterpiece of literature in the English language, but also has been the standard version of the Bible most Christians have read for four hundred years.

Painting of seated male figure, with long black hair wearing a white cape and breeches.

The English Restoration restored the monarchy under King Charles II and peace after the English Civil War.

Based on conflicting political, religious and social positions, the English Civil War was fought between the supporters of Parliament and those of King Charles I, known as Roundheads and Cavaliers respectively. This was an interwoven part of the wider multifaceted Wars of the Three Kingdoms, involving Scotland and Ireland. The Parliamentarians were victorious, Charles I was executed and the kingdom replaced with the Commonwealth. Leader of the Parliament forces, Oliver Cromwell declared himself Lord Protector in 1653, a period of personal rule followed.[63] After Cromwell's death, and his son Richard's resignation as Lord Protector, Charles II was invited to return as monarch in 1660 with the Restoration. It was now constitutionally established that King and Parliament should rule together, though Parliament would have the real power. This was established with the Bill of Rights in 1689. Among the statutes set down were that the law could only be made by Parliament and could not be suspended by the King, and the King could not impose taxes or raise an army without prior approval by Parliament.[64] With the founding of the Royal Society in 1660, science was greatly encouraged.

The Great Fire of London in 1666 gutted the City of London but it was rebuilt shortly afterwards.[65] In Parliament two factions had emerged—the Tories and Whigs. The former were royalists while the latter were classical liberals. Though the Tories initially supported Catholic king James II, some of them, along with the Whigs, deposed him in the Revolution of 1688 and invited Dutch prince William III to become monarch. Some English people, especially in the north, were Jacobites and continued to support James and his sons. After the parliaments of England and Scotland agreed,[66] the two countries joined in political union, to create the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707.[60] To accommodate the union, institutions such as the law and national church of each remained separate.[67]

Late Modern and contemporary[]

A stone factory stands against a vivid blue sky, its reflection mirrored in the waters below.

Saltaire, West Yorkshire, is a model mill town from the Industrial Revolution, and a World Heritage Site.

Under the newly formed Kingdom of Great Britain, output from the Royal Society and other English initiatives combined with the Scottish Enlightenment to create innovations in science and engineering. This paved the way for the establishment of the British Empire. Domestically it drove the Industrial Revolution, a period of profound change in the socioeconomic and cultural conditions of England, resulting in industrialised agriculture, manufacture, engineering and mining, as well as new and pioneering road, rail and water networks to facilitate their expansion and development.[68] The opening of Northwest England's Bridgewater Canal in 1761 ushered in the canal age in Britain.[69][70] In 1825 the world's first permanent steam locomotive-hauled passenger railway—the Stockton and Darlington Railway—opened to the public.[69]

During the Industrial Revolution, many workers moved from England's countryside to new and expanding urban industrial areas to work in factories, for instance at Manchester and Birmingham, dubbed "Warehouse City" and "Workshop of the World" respectively.[71][72] England maintained relative stability throughout the French Revolution; William Pitt the Younger was British Prime Minister for the reign of George III. During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon planned to invade from the south-east. However this failed to manifest and the Napoleonic forces were defeated by the British at sea by Lord Nelson and on land by the Duke of Wellington. The Napoleonic Wars fostered a concept of Britishness and a united national British people, shared with the Scots and Welsh.[73]

A cuboid granite cenotaph.

The Cenotaph, Whitehall is a memorial to members of the British Armed Forces who died during the two World Wars.

London became the largest and most populous metropolitan area in the world during the Victorian era, and trade within the British Empire—as well as the standing of the British military and navy—was prestigious.[74] Political agitation at home from radicals such as the Chartists and the suffragettes enabled legislative reform and universal suffrage.[75] Power shifts in east-central Europe led to World War I; hundreds of thousands of English soldiers died fighting for the United Kingdom as part of the Allies.[nb 5] Two decades later, in World War II, the United Kingdom was again one of the Allies. At the end of the Phoney War, Winston Churchill became the wartime Prime Minister. Developments in warfare technology saw many cities damaged by air-raids during the Blitz. Following the war, the British Empire experienced rapid decolonisation, and there was a speeding up of technological innovations; automobiles became the primary means of transport and Frank Whittle's development of the jet engine led to wider air travel.[77] Residential patterns were altered in England by private motoring, and by the creation of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948. England's NHS provided publicly funded health care to all UK permanent residents free at the point of need, being paid for from general taxation. Combined, these changes prompted the reform of local government in England in the mid-20th century.[78][79]

Since the 20th century there has been significant population movement to England, mostly from other parts of the British Isles, but also from the Commonwealth, particularly the Indian subcontinent.[80] Since the 1970s there has been a large move away from manufacturing and an increasing emphasis on the service industry.[81] As part of the United Kingdom, the area joined a common market initiative called the European Economic Community which became the European Union. Since the late 20th century the administration of the United Kingdom has moved towards devolved governance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.[82] England and Wales continues to exist as a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom.[83] Devolution has stimulated a greater emphasis on a more English-specific identity and patriotism.[84][85] There is no devolved English government, but an attempt to create a similar system on a sub-regional basis was rejected by referendum.[86]



Photograph of rectangular floodlight building, reflected in water. The building has multiple towers including one at each end. The tower on the right includes an illuminated clock face.

The Palace of Westminster, the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

As part of the United Kingdom, the basic political system in England is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary system.[87] 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, joined England and Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.[66] Before the union England was ruled by its monarch and the Parliament of England. Today England is governed directly by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, although other countries of the United Kingdom have devolved governments.[88] In the House of Commons which is the lower house of the British Parliament based at the Palace of Westminster, there are 532 Members of Parliament (MPs) for constituencies in England, out of the 650 total.[89]

In the United Kingdom general election, 2010 the Conservative Party had won an absolute majority in England's 532 contested seats with 61 seats more than all other parties combined (the Speaker of the House not being counted as a Conservative). However, taking Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales into account this was not enough to secure an overall majority, resulting in a hung parliament.[90] In order to achieve a majority the Conservative party, headed by David Cameron, entered into a coalition agreement with the third largest party, the Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg. Subsequently the Labour Party leader, Gordon Brown was forced to step down as prime minister[91] and leader of the Labour party, now led by Ed Miliband.

Lines of men wearing large black bearskin hats and red tunics.

Changing of the Queen's Guard at the royal residence, Buckingham Palace.

As the United Kingdom is a member of the European Union, there are elections held regionally in England to decide who is sent as Members of the European Parliament. The 2009 European Parliament election saw the regions of England elect the following MEPs: 23 Conservatives, ten Labour, nine UK Independence Party (UKIP), nine Liberal Democrats, two Greens and two British National Party (BNP).[92]

Since devolution, in which other countries of the United Kingdom—Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—each have their own devolved parliament or assemblies for local issues, there has been debate about how to counterbalance this in England. Originally it was planned that various regions of England would be devolved, but following the proposal's rejection by the North East in a referendum, this has not been carried out.[86]

One major issue is the West Lothian question, in which MPs from Scotland and Wales are able to vote on legislation affecting only England, while English MPs have no equivalent right to legislate on devolved matters.[93] This when placed in the context of England being the only country of the United Kingdom not to have free cancer treatment, prescriptions, residential care for the elderly and free top-up university fees,[94] has led to a steady rise in English nationalism.[95] Some have suggested the creation of a devolved English parliament,[96] while others have proposed simply limiting voting on legislation which only affects England to English MPs.[97]


Ornate grey stone building.

The Royal Courts of Justice

The English law legal system, developed over the centuries, is the basis of common law[98] legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries[99] and the United States (except Louisiana). Despite now being part of the United Kingdom, the legal system of the Courts of England and Wales continued, under the Treaty of Union, as a separate legal system from the one used in Scotland. The general essence of English law is that it is made by judges sitting in courts, applying their common sense and knowledge of legal precedentstare decisis—to the facts before them.[100]

The court system is headed by the Senior Courts 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.[101] The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the highest court for criminal and civil cases in England and Wales. It was created in 2009 after constitutional changes, taking over the judicial functions of the House of Lords.[102] A decision of the Supreme Court is binding on every other court in the hierarchy, which must follow its directions.[103]

Crime increased between 1981 and 1995, but fell by 42% in the period 1995–2006.[104] The prison population doubled over the same period, giving it the highest incarceration rate in Western Europe at 147 per 100,000.[105] Her Majesty's Prison Service, reporting to the Ministry of Justice, manages most prisons, housing over 85,000 convicts.[106]

Regions, counties, and districts[]

The subdivisions of England consist of up to four levels of subnational division controlled through a variety of types of administrative entities created for the purposes of local government. The highest tier of local government were the nine regions of England: North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands, East, South East, South West, and London. These were created in 1994 as Government Offices, used by the British Government to deliver a wide range of policies and programmes regionally, but there are no elected bodies at this level, except in London, and in 2011 the regional Government offices were abolished.[107] The same boundaries remain in use for electing Members of the European Parliament on a regional basis.

After devolution began to take place in other parts of the United Kingdom it was planned that referendums for the regions of England would take place for their own elected regional assemblies as a counterweight. London accepted in 1998: the London Assembly was created two years later. However, when the proposal was rejected by the northern England devolution referendums, 2004 in the North East, further referendums were cancelled.[86] The regional assemblies outside London were abolished in 2010, and their functions transferred to respective Regional Development Agencies and a new system of local authority leaders' boards.[108]

Below the regional level, all of England is divided into 48 ceremonial counties.[109] These are used primarily as a geographical frame of reference and have developed gradually since the Middle Ages, with some established as recently as 1974.[110] Each has a Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff; these posts are used to represent the British monarch locally.[109] Outside Greater London and the Isles of Scilly, England is also divided into 83 metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties; these correspond to areas used for the purposes of local government[111] and may consist of a single district or be divided into several.

There are six metropolitan counties based on the most heavily urbanised areas, which do not have county councils.[111] In these areas the principal authorities are the councils of the subdivisions, the metropolitan boroughs. Elsewhere, 27 non-metropolitan "shire" counties have a county council and are divided into districts, each with a district council. They are typically, though not always, found in more rural areas. The remaining non-metropolitan counties are of a single district and usually correspond to large towns or sparsely populated counties; they are known as unitary authorities. Greater London has a different system for local government, with 32 London boroughs, plus the City of London covering a small area at the core, governed by the City of London Corporation.[112] At the most localised level, much of England is divided into civil parishes with councils; they do not exist in Greater London.[113]


Landscape and rivers[]

Blue lake between green hills.

Wastwater in the Lake District

Geographically England includes the central and southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain, plus such offshore islands as the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly. It is bordered by two other countries of the United Kingdom—to the north by Scotland and to the west by Wales. England is closer to the European continent than any other part of mainland Britain. It is separated from France by a 34-kilometre (21 mi)[114] sea gap, though the two countries are connected by the Channel Tunnel near Folkestone.[115] England also has shores on the Irish Sea, North Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

The ports of London, Liverpool, and Newcastle lie on the tidal rivers Thames, Mersey and Tyne respectively. At 354 kilometres (220 mi), the Severn is the longest river flowing through England.[116] It empties into the Bristol Channel and is notable for its Severn Bore tidal waves, which can reach 2 metres (6.6 ft) in height.[117] However, the longest river entirely in England is the Thames, which is 346 kilometres (215 mi) in length.[118] There are many lakes in England; the largest is Windermere, within the aptly named Lake District.[119]

Green hills with trees in the foreground.

Terrain of Dartmoor, Devon

In geological terms, the Pennines, known as the "backbone of England", are the oldest range of mountains in the country, originating from the end of the Paleozoic Era around 300 million years ago.[120] Their geological composition includes, among others, sandstone and limestone, and also coal. There are karst landscapes in calcite areas such as parts of Yorkshire and Derbyshire. The Pennine landscape is high moorland in upland areas, indented by fertile valleys of the region's rivers. They contain three national parks, the Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland, and the Peak District. The highest point in England, at 978 metres (3,209 ft), is Scafell Pike in Cumbria.[119] Straddling the border between England and Scotland are the Cheviot Hills.

The English Lowlands are to the south of the Pennines, consisting of green rolling hills, including the Cotswold Hills, Chiltern Hills, North and South Downs—where they meet the sea they form white rock exposures such as the cliffs of Dover. The granite Southwest Peninsula in the West Country includes upland moorland, such as Dartmoor and Exmoor, and enjoys a mild climate; both are national parks.[121]


England has a temperate maritime climate: it is mild with temperatures not much lower than 0 °C (32 °F) in winter and not much higher than 32 °C (90 °F) in summer.[122] The weather is damp relatively frequently and is changeable. The coldest months are January and February, the latter particularly on the English coast, while July is normally the warmest month. Months with mild to warm weather are May, June, September and October.[122] Rainfall is spread fairly evenly throughout the year.

Important influences on the climate of England are its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, its northern latitude and the warming of the sea by the Gulf Stream.[122] Rainfall is higher in the west, and parts of the Lake District receive more rain than anywhere else in the country.[122] Since weather records began, the highest temperature recorded was 38.5 °C (101.3 °F) on 10 August 2003 at Brogdale in Kent,[123] while the lowest was −26.1 °C (−15 °F) on 10 January 1982 in Edgmond, Shropshire.[124]

Climate data for England
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7
Average low °C (°F) 1
Precipitation mm (inches) 83
Source: Met Office[125]

Major conurbations[]

The Greater London Urban Area is by far the largest urban area in England[126] and one of the busiest cities in the world. It is considered a global city and has a population larger than other countries in the United Kingdom besides England itself.[126] Other urban areas of considerable size and influence tend to be in northern England or the English Midlands.[126] There are fifty settlements which have been designated city status in England, while the wider United Kingdom has sixty-six.

While many cities in England are quite large in size, such as Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle, Bradford, Nottingham and others, a large population is not necessarily a prerequisite for a settlement to be afforded city status.[127] Traditionally the status was afforded to towns with diocesan cathedrals and so there are smaller cities like Wells, Ely, Ripon, Truro and Chichester.[127] According to the Office for National Statistics the ten largest, continuous built-up urban areas are:[126]

Rank Urban area Population Localities Major localities
1 Greater London Urban Area 8,278,251 67 Greater London, divided into the City of London and 32 London boroughs including Croydon, Barnet, Ealing, Bromley[128]
2 West Midlands Urban Area 2,284,093 22 Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall, Aldridge
3 Greater Manchester Urban Area 2,240,230 57 Manchester, Salford, Bolton, Stockport, Oldham
4 West Yorkshire Urban Area 1,499,465 26 Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Wakefield
5 Tyneside 879,996 25 Newcastle, North Shields, South Shields, Gateshead, Jarrow
6 Liverpool Urban Area 816,216 8 Liverpool, St Helens, Bootle, Huyton-with-Roby
7 Nottingham Urban Area 666,358 15 Nottingham, Beeston and Stapleford, Carlton, Long Eaton
8 Sheffield Urban Area 640,720 7 Sheffield, Rotherham, Chapeltown, Mosborough
9 Bristol Urban Area 551,066 7 Bristol, Kingswood, Mangotsfield, Stoke Gifford
10 Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton 461,181 10 Brighton, Worthing, Hove, Littlehampton, Shoreham, Lancing


An aerial photograph of the City of London and its surrounding London boroughs.

The City of London is the world's largest financial centre.[129][130]

England's economy is one of the largest in the world, with an average GDP per capita of £22,907.[131] Usually regarded as a mixed market economy, it has adopted many free market principles, yet maintains an advanced social welfare infrastructure.[132] The official currency in England is the pound sterling, whose ISO 4217 code is GBP. Taxation in England is quite competitive when compared to much of the rest of Europe—as of 2009 the basic rate of personal tax is 20% on taxable income up to £37,400, and 40% on any additional earnings above that amount.[133]

The economy of England is the largest part of the UK's economy,[131] which has the 18th highest GDP PPP per capita in the world. England is a leader in the chemical[134] and pharmaceutical sectors and in key technical industries, particularly aerospace, the arms industry, and the manufacturing side of the software industry. London, home to the London Stock Exchange, the United Kingdom's main stock exchange and the largest in Europe, is England's financial centre—100 of Europe's 500 largest corporations are based in London.[135] London is the largest financial centre in Europe, and as of 2009 is also the largest in the world.[136]

A blue coloured car.

The Bentley Mulsanne. Bentley is a well-known English car company.

The Bank of England, founded in 1694 by Scottish banker William Paterson, is the United Kingdom's central bank. Originally established as private banker to the Government of England, since 1946 it has been a state-owned institution.[137] The Bank has a monopoly on the issue of banknotes in England and Wales, although not in other parts of the United Kingdom. The government has devolved responsibility to the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee for managing the monetary policy of the country and setting interest rates.[138]

England is highly industrialised, but since the 1970s there has been a decline in traditional heavy and manufacturing industries, and an increasing emphasis on a more service industry oriented economy.[81] Tourism has become a significant industry, attracting millions of visitors to England each year. The export part of the economy is dominated by pharmaceuticals, cars—although many English marques are now foreign-owned, such as Rolls-Royce, Lotus, Jaguar and Bentleycrude oil and petroleum from the English parts of North Sea oil along with Wytch Farm, aircraft engines and alcoholic beverages.[139] Agriculture is intensive and highly mechanised, producing 60% of food needs with only 2% of the labour force.[140] Two thirds of production is devoted to livestock, the other to arable crops.[141]

Science and technology[]

Torso of man with long white hair and dark coloured jacket

Sir Isaac Newton is one of the most influential figures in the history of science.

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, Paul Dirac, Andrew Wiles and Richard Dawkins. Some experts claim that the earliest concept of a metric system was invented by John Wilkins, the first secretary of the Royal Society, in 1668.[142] As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, England was home to many significant inventors during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. 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.[143] Thomas Newcomen's steam engine helped spawn the Industrial Revolution.[144] The physician Edward Jenner's smallpox vaccine is said to have "saved more lives [...] than were lost in all the wars of mankind since the beginning of recorded history."[145][146][147]

Inventions and discoveries of the English include: the jet engine, the first industrial spinning machine, the first computer and the first modern computer, the World Wide Web along with HTML, the first successful human blood transfusion, the motorised vacuum cleaner,[148] the lawn mower, the seat belt, the hovercraft, the electric motor, steam engines, and theories such as the Darwinian theory of evolution and atomic theory. Newton developed the ideas of universal gravitation, Newtonian mechanics, and infinitesimal calculus, and Robert Hooke his eponymously named law of elasticity. Other inventions include the iron plate railway, the thermosiphon, tarmac, the rubber band, the mousetrap, "cat's eye" road marker, joint development of the light bulb, steam locomotives, the modern seed drill and many modern techniques and technologies used in precision engineering.[149]


Planes congregate by a building.

London Heathrow Airport has more international passenger traffic than any other airport in the world.[150]

The Department for Transport is the government body responsible for overseeing transport in England. There are many motorways in England, and many other trunk roads, such as the A1 Great North Road, which runs through eastern England from London to Newcastle[151] (much of this section is motorway) and onward to the Scottish border. The longest motorway in England is the M6, from Rugby through the North West up to the Anglo-Scottish border.[151] Other major routes include: the M1 from London to Leeds, the M25 which encircles London, the M60 which encircles Manchester, the M4 from London to South Wales, the M62 from Liverpool via Manchester to East Yorkshire, and the M5 from Birmingham to Bristol and the South West.[151]

Bus transport across the country is widespread; major companies include National Express, Arriva and Go-Ahead Group. The red double-decker buses in London have become a symbol of England. There is a rapid rail network in two English cities: the London Underground; and the Tyne and Wear Metro in Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland.[152] There are several tram networks, such as the Blackpool tramway, Manchester Metrolink, Sheffield Supertram and Midland Metro, and the Tramlink system centred on Croydon in South London.[152]

Rail transport in England is the oldest in the world: passenger railways originated in England in 1825.[153] Much of Britain's 16,116 kilometres (10,014 mi) of rail network lies in England, covering the country fairly extensively, although a high proportion of railway lines were closed in the second half of the 20th century. There are plans to reopen lines such as the Varsity Line between Oxford and Cambridge. These lines are mostly standard gauge (single, double or quadruple track) though there are also a few narrow gauge lines. There is rail transport access to France and Belgium through an undersea rail link, the Channel Tunnel, which was completed in 1994.

England has extensive domestic and international aviation links. The largest airport is London Heathrow, which is the world's busiest airport measured by number of international passengers.[154] Other large airports include Manchester Airport, London Stansted Airport, Luton Airport and Birmingham Airport.[150] By sea there is ferry transport, both local and international, including to Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium.[155] There are around 7,100 km (4,400 mi) of navigable waterways in England, half of which is owned by the Canal and River Trust,[155] however water transport is very limited. The Thames is the major waterway in England, with imports and exports focused at the Port of Tilbury in the Thames Estuary, one of the United Kingdom's three major ports.[155]


Birds I view of a large hospital.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, an NHS hospital.

The National Health Service (NHS) is the publicly funded healthcare system in England responsible for providing the majority of healthcare in the country. The NHS began on 5 July 1948, putting into effect the provisions of the National Health Service Act 1946. It was based on the findings of the Beveridge Report, prepared by economist and social reformer William Beveridge.[156] The NHS is largely funded from general taxation including National Insurance payments,[157] and it provides most of its services free at the point of use, although there are charges for some people for eye tests, dental care, prescriptions and aspects of personal care.[158]

The government department responsible for the NHS is the Department of Health, headed by the Secretary of State for Health, who sits in the British Cabinet. Most of the expenditure of the Department of Health is spent on the NHS—£98.6 billion was spent in 2008–2009.[159] In recent years the private sector has been increasingly used to provide more NHS services despite opposition by doctors and trade unions.[160] The average life expectancy of people in England is 77.5 years for males and 81.7 years for females, the highest of the four countries of the United Kingdom.[161]



Map of England with regions shaded in different shades of blue.

The metropolitan, non-metropolitan counties and unitary authorities of England, colour-coded to show population.

England and Wales population cartogram

Population by administrative areas. Their size is approximately in proportion to their population. The darker colour the bigger is the real area.

With over 53 million inhabitants, England is by far the most populous country of the United Kingdom, accounting for 84% of the combined total.[4][162] England taken as a unit and measured against international states has the fourth largest population in the European Union and would be the 25th largest country by population in the world.[163] With a density of 407 people per square kilometre, it would be the second most densely populated country in the European Union after Malta.[164][165]

The English people are a British people.[166] Some genetic evidence suggests that 75–95% descend in the paternal line from prehistoric settlers who originally came from the Iberian Peninsula, as well as a 5% contribution from Angles and Saxons, and a significant Norse element.[167][168][169] However, other geneticists place the Norse-Germanic estimate up to half.[170][171][172] Over time, various cultures have been influential: Prehistoric, Brythonic,[173] Roman, Anglo-Saxon,[174] Norse Viking,[175] Gaelic cultures, as well as a large influence from Normans. There is an English diaspora in former parts of the British Empire; especially the United States, Canada, Australia, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand.[nb 6] Since the late 1990s, many English people have migrated to Spain.[180][181]

Pie chart with main body in blue and multiple smaller segments in other colours.

2009 estimates of ethnic groups in England and Wales.[182]

At the time of the Domesday Book, compiled in 1086, more than 90% of the English population of about two million lived in the countryside.[183] By 1801 the population had grown to 8.3 million, and by 1901 had grown to 30.5 million.[184] Due in particular to the economic prosperity of South East England, it has received many economic migrants from the other parts of the United Kingdom.[166] There has been significant Irish migration.[185] The proportion of ethnically European residents totals at 87.50%, including Germans[186] and Poles.[166]

Other people from much further afield in the former British colonies have arrived since the 1950s: in particular, 6% of people living in England have family origins in the Indian subcontinent, mostly India and Pakistan.[166][186] 2.90% of the population are black, from both the Caribbean and countries in Africa itself, especially former British colonies.[166][186] There is a significant number of Chinese and British Chinese.[166][186] As of 2007, 22% of primary school children in England were from ethnic minority families.[187] About half of the population increase between 1991 and 2001 was due to immigration.[188] Debate over immigration is politically prominent;[189] according to a Home Office poll, 80% of people want to cap it.[190] The ONS has projected that the population will grow by six million between 2004 and 2029.[191]



The English-speaking world. Countries in dark blue have a majority of native speakers. Countries in light blue have English as an official language, de jure or de facto. English is also one of the official languages of the European Union.[192]

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. It is an Indo-European language in the Anglo-Frisian branch of the Germanic family.[193] After the Norman conquest, the Old English language was displaced and confined to the lower social classes as Norman French and Latin were used by the aristocracy.

By the 15th century, English came back into fashion among all classes, though much changed; the Middle English form showed many signs of French influence, both in vocabulary and spelling. During the English Renaissance, many words were coined from Latin and Greek origins.[194] Modern English has extended this custom of flexibility, when it comes to incorporating words from different languages. Thanks in large part to the British Empire, the English language is the world's unofficial lingua franca.[195]

English language learning and teaching is an important economic activity, and includes language schooling, tourism spending, and publishing. There is no legislation mandating an official language for England,[196] but English is the only language used for official business. Despite the country's relatively small size, there are many distinct regional accents, and individuals with particularly strong accents may not be easily understood everywhere in the country.

Cornish, which died out as a community language in the 18th century, is being revived,[197][198][199][200] and is now protected under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.[201] It is spoken by 0.1% of people in Cornwall,[202] and is taught to some degree in several primary and secondary schools.[203][204] State schools teach students a second language, usually French, German or Spanish.[205] Due to immigration, it was reported in 2007 that around 800,000 school students spoke a foreign language at home,[187] the most common being Punjabi and Urdu.[206]


Large yellow stone ornate building with buttresses and square central tower.

Canterbury Cathedral, seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Christianity is the most widely practised religion in England, as it has been since the Early Middle Ages, although it was first introduced much earlier, in Gaelic and Roman times. It continued through Early Insular Christianity, and today about 59% of English people identify as Christians.[207] The largest form practised in the present day is Anglicanism,[208] dating from the 16th century Reformation period, with the 1536 split from Rome over Henry VIII wanting to divorce Catherine of Aragon, and the need for the Bible in the English tongue. The religion regards itself as both Catholic and Reformed.

There are High Church and Low Church traditions, and some Anglicans regard themselves as Anglo-Catholics, after the Tractarian movement. The monarch of the United Kingdom is a titular leader of the Church, acting as its Supreme Governor. It has the status of established church in England. There are around 26 million adherents to the Church of England and they form part of the Anglican Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury acting as the symbolic worldwide head.[209] Many cathedrals and parish churches are historic buildings of significant architectural importance, such as Westminster Abbey, York Minster, Durham Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral.

Icon of man in armour on white horse fighting black dragon to his left.

Saint George, the patron saint of England

The second largest Christian practice is the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, which traces its formal, corporate history in England to the 6th century with Augustine's mission and was the main religion on the entire island for around a thousand years. Since its reintroduction after the Catholic Emancipation, the Church has organised ecclesiastically on an England and Wales basis where there are 4.5 million members (most of whom are English).[210] There has been one Pope from England to date, Adrian IV; while saints Bede and Anselm are regarded as Doctors of the Church.

A form of Protestantism known as Methodism is the third largest Christian practice and grew out of Anglicanism through John Wesley.[211] It gained popularity in the mill towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and amongst tin miners in Cornwall.[212] There are other non-conformist minorities, such as Baptists, Quakers, Congregationalists, Unitarians and The Salvation Army.[213]

The patron saint of England is Saint George; his symbolic cross is included in the flag of England, as well as in the Union Flag as part of a combination.[214][214] There are many other English and associated saints; some of the best known include: Cuthbert, Edmund, Alban, Wilfrid, Aidan, Edward the Confessor, John Fisher, Thomas More, Petroc, Piran, Margaret Clitherow and Thomas Becket. There are non-Christian religions practised. Jews have a history of a small minority on the island since 1070.[215] They were expelled from England in 1290 following the Edict of Expulsion, only to be allowed back in 1656.[215]

Especially since the 1950s, Eastern religions from the former British colonies have begun to appear, due to foreign immigration; Islam is the most common of these, accounting for around 3.1% of the population in England.[216] Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism are next in number, adding up to 2% combined,[216] introduced from India and South East Asia.[216] Around 14.6% have no religion.[216]


Senate House of the University of London.

Senate House, the administrative centre of the University of London

The Department for Education is the government department responsible for issues affecting people in England up to the age of 19, including education.[217] State-run and -funded schools are attended by approximately 93% of English schoolchildren.[218] Of these, a minority are faith schools, primarily Church of England or Catholic. Between three and four is nursery school, 4 and 11 is primary school, and 11 to 16 is secondary school. After finishing compulsory education, pupils take a GCSE examination, following which they may decide to continue in further education for two years. Further education colleges, such as sixth form colleges are either separate or attached to the secondary school institution and prepare students to sit A-Level examinations, for higher education at universities.

Although most English secondary schools are comprehensive, in some areas there are selective intake grammar schools, to which entrance is subject to passing the eleven plus exam. Around 7.2% of English schoolchildren attend private schools, which are funded by private sources.[219] Standards in state schools are monitored by the Office for Standards in Education, and in private schools by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.[220]

Large yellow stone building with an arched window and two towers at the end nearest the photographer. In the foreground is grass and water with people in a punt.

King's College, University of Cambridge

Students normally enter universities in the United Kingdom from 18 onwards, where they study for an academic degree. There are over 90 universities England, all but one of which are public. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is the government department responsible for higher education in England.[221] Students are generally entitled to student loans for maintenance.[nb 7] The first degree offered to undergraduates is the Bachelor's degree, which usually takes three years to complete. Students are then eligible for a postgraduate degree, a Master's degree, taking one year, or a Doctorate degree, which takes three.

England's universities include some of the highest-ranked universities in the world; the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, the University of Oxford and University College London are all ranked in the global top 10 in the 2010 QS World University Rankings.[222] The London School of Economics has been described as the world's leading social science institution for both teaching and research.[223] The London Business School is considered one of the world's leading business schools and in 2010 its MBA programme was ranked best in the world by the Financial Times.[224] Academic degrees in England are usually split into classes: first class (I), upper second class (II:1), lower second class (II:2) and third (III), and unclassified (below third class).

The King's School, Canterbury and King's School, Rochester are the oldest schools in the English-speaking world.[225] Many of England's better-known schools, such as Winchester College, Eton College, St Paul's School, Rugby School, and Harrow School are fee-paying institutions.[226]



White stone building with tower topped with a dome. In the foreground are trees and a red rectangular vertical box with windows.

St Paul's Cathedral, English Baroque, and a red telephone box

Many ancient standing stone monuments were erected during the prehistoric period, amongst the best known are Stonehenge, Devil's Arrows, Rudston Monolith and Castlerigg.[227] With the introduction of Ancient Roman architecture there was a development of basilicas, baths, amphitheaters, triumphal arches, villas, Roman temples, Roman roads, Roman forts, stockades and aqueducts.[228] It was the Romans who founded the first cities and towns such as London, Bath, York, Chester and St Albans. Perhaps the best known example is Hadrian's Wall stretching right across northern England.[228] Another well preserved example is the Roman Baths at Bath, Somerset.[228]

Early Medieval architecture's secular buildings were simple constructions mainly using timber with thatch for roofing. Ecclesiastical architecture ranged from a synthesis of HibernoSaxon monasticism,[229][230] to Early Christian basilica and architecture characterised by pilaster-strips, blank arcading, baluster shafts and triangular headed openings. After the Norman conquest in 1066 various Castles in England were created so law lords could uphold their authority and in the north to protect from invasion. Some of the best known medieval castles include the Tower of London, Warwick Castle, Durham Castle and Windsor Castle amongst others.[231]

Yellow stone tower with two circular turrets which run the height of the building.

The Broadway Tower is a folly, or mock tower, in Worcestershire.

Throughout the Plantagenet era an English Gothic architecture flourished—the medieval cathedrals such as Canterbury Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and York Minster are prime examples.[231] Expanding on the Norman base there was also castles, palaces, great houses, universities and parish churches. Medieval architecture was completed with the 16th century Tudor style; the four-centred arch, now known as the Tudor arch, was a defining feature as were wattle and daub houses domestically. In the aftermath of the Renaissance a form of architecture echoing classical antiquity, synthesised with Christianity appeared—the English Baroque style, architect Christopher Wren was particularly championed.[232]

Georgian architecture followed in a more refined style, evoking a simple Palladian form; the Royal Crescent at Bath is one of the best examples of this. With the emergence of romanticism during Victorian period, a Gothic Revival was launched—in addition to this around the same time the Industrial Revolution paved the way for buildings such as The Crystal Palace. Since the 1930s various modernist forms have appeared whose reception is often controversial, though traditionalist resistance movements continue with support in influential places.[nb 8]


Drawing depicting Robin Hood, wearing Lincoln green clothing, and Sir Guy of Gisbourne, wearing brown furs, in a forest preparing to shoot with bows and arrows.

Robin Hood illustrated in 1912 wearing Lincoln green

English folklore developed over many centuries. Some of the characters and stories are present across England, but most belong to specific regions. Common folkloric beings include pixies, giants, elves, bogeymen, trolls, goblins and dwarves. While many legends and folk-customs are thought to be ancient, for instance the tales featuring Offa of Angel and Wayland the Smith,[234] others date from after the Norman invasion; Robin Hood and his Merry Men of Sherwood and their battles with the Sheriff of Nottingham being, perhaps, the best known.[235]

During the High Middle Ages tales originating from Brythonic traditions entered English folklore—the Arthurian myth.[236][237][238] These were derived from Anglo-Norman, French and Welsh sources,[237] featuring King Arthur, Camelot, Excalibur, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table such as Lancelot. These stories are most centrally brought together within Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae.[nb 9] Another early figure from British tradition, King Cole, may have been based on a real figure from Sub-Roman Britain. Many of the tales and pseudo-histories make up part of the wider Matter of Britain, a collection of shared British folklore.

Men in bright red clothing holding sticks in the air.

Morris dance, an English folk dance

Some folk figures are based on semi or actual historical people whose story has been passed down centuries; Lady Godiva for instance was said to have ridden naked on horseback through Coventry, Hereward the Wake was a heroic English figure resisting the Norman invasion, Herne the Hunter is an equestrian ghost associated with Windsor Forest and Great Park and Mother Shipton is the archetypal witch.[240] On 5 November people make bonfires, set off fireworks and eat toffee apples in commemoration of the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot centred around Guy Fawkes. The chivalrous bandit, such as Dick Turpin, is a recurring character, while Blackbeard is the archetypal pirate. There are various national and regional folk activities, participated in to this day, such as Morris dancing, Maypole dancing, Rapper sword in the North East, Long Sword dance in Yorkshire, Mummers Plays, bottle-kicking in Leicestershire, and cheese-rolling at Cooper's Hill.[241] There is no official national costume, but a few are well established such as the Pearly Kings and Queens associated with cockneys, the Royal Guard, the Morris costume and Beefeaters.[242]


Fish and chips.

Fish and chips is a widely consumed part of English cuisine.

Since the Early Modern Period the food of England has historically been characterised by its simplicity of approach and a reliance on the high quality of natural produce.[243] During the Middle Ages and through the Renaissance period, English cuisine enjoyed an excellent reputation, though a decline began during the Industrial Revolution with the move away from the land and increasing urbanisation of the populace. The cuisine of England has, however, recently undergone a revival, which has been recognised by the food critics with some good ratings in Restaurant's best restaurant in the world charts.[244] An early book of English recipes is the Forme of Cury from the royal court of Richard II.[245]

An apple pie on a red table cloth, with green apples next to it.

Apple pie has been consumed in England since the Middle Ages.

Traditional examples of English food include the Sunday roast, featuring a roasted joint (usually beef, lamb, chicken or pork) served with assorted vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, stuffing and gravy.[246] Other prominent meals include fish and chips and the full English breakfast (generally consisting of bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes, fried bread, black pudding, baked beans, mushrooms, and eggs). Various meat pies are consumed such as steak and kidney pie, steak and ale pie, cottage pie, pork pie (usually eaten cold)[246] and the Cornish Pasty.

Sausages are commonly eaten, either as bangers and mash or toad in the hole. Lancashire hotpot is a well known stew. Some of the most popular cheeses are Cheddar and Wensleydale. Many Anglo-Indian hybrid dishes, curries, have been created such as chicken tikka masala and balti. Sweet English dishes include apple pie, mince pies, spotted dick, scones, Eccles cakes, custard and sticky toffee pudding. Common drinks include tea, whose popularity was increased by Catherine of Braganza,[247] whilst frequently consumed alcoholic drinks include wines, ciders and English beers, such as bitter, mild, stout, and brown ale.[248]

Visual arts[]

A painting of a red haired woman, sitting in a boat, surrounded by trees.

The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse in the Pre-Raphaelite style.

The earliest known examples are the prehistoric rock and cave art pieces, most prominent in North Yorkshire, Northumberland and Cumbria, but also feature further south, for example at Creswell Crags.[249] With the arrival of Roman culture in the 1st century, various forms of art utilising statues, busts, glasswork and mosaics were the norm. There are numerous surviving artefacts, such as those at Lullingstone and Aldborough.[250] During the Early Middle Ages the style was sculpted crosses and ivories, manuscript painting, gold and enamel jewellery, demonstrating a love of intricate, interwoven designs such as in the Staffordshire Hoard discovered in 2009. Some of these blended Gaelic and Anglian styles, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and Vespasian Psalter.[251] Later Gothic art was popular at Winchester and Canterbury, examples survive such as Benedictional of St. Æthelwold and Luttrell Psalter.[252]

The Tudor era saw prominent artists as part of their court, portrait painting which would remain an enduring part of English art, was boosted by German Hans Holbein, natives such as Nicholas Hilliard built on this.[252] Under the Stuarts, Continental artists were influential especially the Flemish, examples from the period include—Anthony van Dyck, Peter Lely, Godfrey Kneller and William Dobson.[252] The 18th century was a time of significance with the founding of the Royal Academy, a classicism based on the High Renaissance prevailed—Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds became two of England's most treasured artists.[252]

The Norwich School continued the landscape tradition, while the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood with their vivid and detailed style revived the Early Renaissance style—Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais were leaders.[252] Prominent amongst 20th-century artists was Henry Moore, regarded as the voice of British sculpture, and of British modernism in general.[253] Contemporary painters include Lucian Freud, whose work Benefits Supervisor Sleeping in 2008 set a world record for sale value of a painting by a living artist.[254]

Literature, poetry and philosophy[]

A man dressed in grey with a beard, holding a rosary, depicted next to a coat of arms.

Geoffrey Chaucer was an English author, poet and philosopher, best remembered for his unfinished frame narrative The Canterbury Tales.

Early authors such as Bede and Alcuin wrote in Latin.[255] The period of Old English literature provided the epic poem Beowulf and the secular prose of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,[256] along with Christian writings such as Judith, Cædmon's Hymn and hagiographies.[255] Following the Norman conquest Latin continued amongst the educated classes, as well as an Anglo-Norman literature.

Middle English literature emerged with Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales, along with Gower, the Pearl Poet and Langland. William of Ockham and Roger Bacon, who were Franciscans, were major philosophers of the Middle Ages. Julian of Norwich, who wrote Revelations of Divine Love, was a prominent Christian mystic. With the English Renaissance literature in the Early Modern English style appeared. William Shakespeare, whose works include Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, remains one of the most championed authors in English literature.[257]

Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Philip Sydney, Thomas Kyd, John Donne, and Ben Jonson are other established authors of the Elizabethan age.[258] Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes wrote on empiricism and materialism, including scientific method and social contract.[258] Filmer wrote on the Divine Right of Kings. Marvell was the best known poet of the Commonwealth,[259] while John Milton authored Paradise Lost during the Restoration.

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden, demi-paradise; this fortress, built by nature for herself. This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

Some of the most prominent philosophers of the Enlightenment were John Locke, Thomas Paine, Samuel Johnson and Jeremy Bentham. More radical elements were later countered by Edmund Burke who is regarded as the founder of conservatism.[261] The poet Alexander Pope with his satirical verse became well regarded. The English played a significant role in romanticism: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, John Keats, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Blake and William Wordsworth were major figures.[262]

In response to the Industrial Revolution, agrarian writers sought a way between liberty and tradition; William Cobbett, G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc were main exponents, while the founder of guild socialism, Arthur Penty, and cooperative movement advocate G. D. H. Cole are somewhat related.[263] Empiricism continued through John Stuart Mill and Bertrand Russell, while Bernard Williams was involved in analytics. Authors from around the Victorian era include Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, H. G. Wells, Lewis Carroll and Evelyn Underhill.[264] Since then England has continued to produce novelists such as C. S. Lewis, George Orwell, D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Enid Blyton, Aldous Huxley, Agatha Christie, Terry Pratchett, J. R. R. Tolkien, and J. K. Rowling.[265]

Performing arts[]

Traditional "Greensleeves"
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The traditional folk music of England is centuries old and has contributed to several genres prominently; mostly sea shanties, jigs, hornpipes and dance music. It has its own distinct variations and regional peculiarities. Wynkyn de Worde printed ballads of Robin Hood from the 16th century are an important artefact, as are John Playford's The Dancing Master and Robert Harley's Roxburghe Ballads collections.[266] Some of the best known songs are The Good Old Way, Pastime with Good Company, Maggie May and Spanish Ladies amongst others. Many nursery rhymes are of English origin such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Roses are red, Jack and Jill, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush and Humpty Dumpty.[267]

Early English composers in classical music include Renaissance artists Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, followed up by Henry Purcell from the Baroque period. German-born George Frideric Handel became a British subject[268] and spent most of his composing life in London, creating some of the most well-known works of classical music, The Messiah, Water Music, and Music for the Royal Fireworks. There was a revival in the profile of composers from England in the 20th century led by Benjamin Britten, Frederick Delius, Edward Elgar, Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams and others.[269] Present-day composers from England include Michael Nyman, best known for The Piano.

In the field of popular music many 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, Rod Stewart and The Rolling Stones are among the highest selling recording artists in the world.[270] Many musical genres have origins or strong associations with England, such as British invasion, hard rock, glam rock, heavy metal, mod, britpop, drum and bass, progressive rock, punk rock, indie rock, gothic rock, shoegazing, acid house, UK garage, trip hop and dubstep.[271]

Large outdoor music festivals in the summer and autumn are popular, such as Glastonbury, V Festival, Reading and Leeds Festivals. The most prominent opera house in England is the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden.[272] The Proms, a season of orchestral classical music concerts held at the Royal Albert Hall, is a major cultural event held annually.[272] The Royal Ballet is one of the world's foremost classical ballet companies, its reputation built on two prominent figures of 20th century dance, prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn and choreographer Frederick Ashton.

Museums, libraries, and galleries[]

A museum building entrance.

The Natural History Museum in London

English Heritage is a governmental body with a broad remit of managing the historic sites, artefacts and environments of England. It is currently sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The charity National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty holds a contrasting role. 17 of the 25 United Kingdom UNESCO World Heritage Sites fall within England.[273] Some of the best known of these include; Hadrian's Wall, Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites, Tower of London, Jurassic Coast, Saltaire, Ironbridge Gorge, Studley Royal Park and various others.[274]

There are many museums in England, but the most notable is London's British Museum. Its collection of more than seven million objects[275] is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world,[276] sourced from every continent, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its beginning to the present. The British Library in London is the national library and is one of the world's largest research libraries, holding over 150 million items in all known languages and formats; including around 25 million books.[277] The most senior art gallery is the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, which houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900.[278] The Tate galleries house the national collections of British and international modern art; they also host the famously controversial Turner Prize.[279]


The interior of an empty stadium as viewed from its upper tier of seating. The seats are a vivid red and the pitch is a vivid green. The pale grey sky is visible through an opening in the ceiling above the pitch.

Inside Wembley Stadium, one of the most expensive stadiums ever built[280]

England has a strong sporting heritage, and during the 19th century codified many sports that are now played around the world. Sports originating in England include association football,[281] cricket, rugby union, rugby league, tennis, badminton, squash,[282] rounders,[283] hockey, boxing, snooker, billiards, darts, table tennis, bowls, netball, thoroughbred horseracing, greyhound racing and fox hunting. It has helped the development of sailing and Formula One. Football is the most popular of these sports. The England national football team, whose home venue is Wembley Stadium, won the 1966 FIFA World Cup against the West Germany national football team where they won 4–2, with Geoff Hurst scoring a hatrick.[284] That was the year the country hosted the competition.

At club level England is recognised by FIFA as the birthplace of club football, due to Sheffield FC founded in 1857 being the oldest club.[281] The Football Association is the oldest of its kind, FA Cup and The Football League were the first cup and league competitions respectively. In the modern day the Premier League is the world's most lucrative football league[285] and amongst the elite.[286] The European Cup (now the UEFA Champions League) has been won by Liverpool, Manchester United, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and Chelsea, while Arsenal, and Leeds United have reached the final.[287]

Men in cricket whites play upon a green grass cricket field amidst a stadium.

England on the way to victory against Australia in the 2009 Ashes series at Lord's Cricket Ground

Cricket is generally thought to have been developed in the early medieval period among the farming and metalworking communities of the Weald.[288] The England cricket team is a composite England and Wales team. One of the game's top rivalries is The Ashes series between England and Australia, contested since 1882. The finale of the 2009 Ashes was watched by nearly 2 million people, although the climax of the 2005 Ashes was viewed by 7.4 million as it was available on terrestrial television.[289] England are the current holders of the trophy and are ranked 1st in Test and 4th in One Day International cricket.[290]

England has hosted four Cricket World Cups (1975, 1979, 1983, 1999) and the ICC World Twenty20 in 2009. There are several domestic level competitions, including the County Championship in which Yorkshire are by far the most successful club having won the competition 31 times.[291] Lord's Cricket Ground situated in London is sometimes referred to as the "Mecca of Cricket".[292] William Penny Brookes was prominent in organising the format for the modern Olympic Games. London has hosted the Summer Olympic Games three times, in 1908, 1948, and 2012. England competes in the Commonwealth Games, held every four years. Sport England is the governing body responsible for distributing funds and providing strategic guidance for sporting activity in England. A Grand Prix is held at Silverstone.[293]

White men in grey suits, pale blue shirts and red ties celebrate upon the top floor of an open-top bus. On man holds a golden trophy in the air with one hand.

The England rugby union team during their victory parade after winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup

The England rugby union team won the 2003 Rugby World Cup, the country was one of the host nations of the competition in the 1991 Rugby World Cup and is set to host the 2015 Rugby World Cup.[294] The top level of club participation is the English Premiership. Leicester Tigers, London Wasps, Bath Rugby and Northampton Saints have had success in the Europe-wide Heineken Cup.

Rugby league was born in Huddersfield in 1895. The England national rugby league team are ranked third in the world and first in Europe. Since 2008 England has been a full test nation in lieu of the Great Britain national rugby league team, which won three World Cups but is now retired. Club sides play in Super League, the present-day embodiment of the Rugby Football League Championship. Some of the most successful clubs include Wigan Warriors, St Helens, Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants; the former three have all won the World Club Challenge previously. The United Kingdom is to host the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.[295]

In tennis, the Wimbledon Championships are the oldest tennis tournament in the world and is widely considered the most prestigious.[296][297]

National symbols[]

A red shield tapers to its bottom end; on it are three stylised golden lions with blue claws.

The Royal Arms of England

The St George's Cross has been the national flag of England since the 13th century. Originally the flag was used by the maritime Republic of Genoa. The English monarch paid a tribute to the Doge of Genoa from 1190 onwards, so that English ships could fly the flag as a means of protection when entering the Mediterranean. A red cross was a symbol for many Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries. It became associated with Saint George, along with countries and cities, which claimed him as their patron saint and used his cross as a banner.[298] Since 1606 the St George's Cross has formed part of the design of the Union Flag, a Pan-British flag designed by King James I.[214]

A red and white flower.

The Tudor rose, England's national floral emblem

There are numerous other symbols and symbolic artefacts, both official and unofficial, including the Tudor rose, the nation's floral emblem, and the Three Lions featured on the Royal Arms of England. The Tudor rose was adopted as a national emblem of England around the time of the Wars of the Roses as a symbol of peace.[299] It is a syncretic symbol in that it merged the white rose of the Yorkists and the red rose of the Lancastrians—cadet branches of the Plantagenets who went to war over control of the nation. It is also known as the Rose of England.[300] The oak tree is a symbol of England, representing strength and endurance. The Royal Oak symbol and Oak Apple Day commemorate the escape of King Charles II from the grasp of the parliamentarians after his father's execution: he hid in an oak tree to avoid detection before safely reaching exile.

The Royal Arms of England, a national coat of arms featuring three lions, originated with its adoption by Richard the Lionheart in 1198. It is blazoned as gules, three lions passant guardant or and it provides one of the most prominent symbols of England; it is similar to the traditional arms of Normandy. 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: Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory (used for England during the 2002 Commonwealth Games),[301] and I Vow to Thee, My Country. England's National Day is 23 April which is St George's Day: St George is the patron saint of England.[302]

See also[]

Flag of England England
  • Outline of England


  1. ^ English is established by de facto usage.
  2. ^ Assigned on a United Kingdom basis, not constituent country.
  3. ^ According to the European Statistical Agency, London is the largest Larger Urban Zone which uses conurbations and areas of high population as its definition. A ranking of population within municipal boundaries places London first. However, the University of Avignon in France claims that Paris is first and London second when including the whole urban area and hinterland, that is the outlying cities as well.
  4. ^ As Roger Scruton explains, "The Reformation must not be confused with the changes introduced into the Church of England during the 'Reformation Parliament' of 1529–36, which were of a political rather than a religious nature, designed to unite the secular and religious sources of authority within a single sovereign power: the Anglican Church did not until later make substantial change in doctrine".[58]
  5. ^ Figure of 550,000 military deaths is for England and Wales[76]
  6. ^ For instance, in 1980 around 50 million Americans claimed English ancestry.[176] In Canada there are around 6.5 million Canadians who claim English ancestry.[177] Around 70% of Australians in 1999 denoted their origins as Anglo-Celtic, a category which includes all peoples from Great Britain and Ireland.[178] Chileans of English descent are somewhat of an anomaly in that Chile itself was never part of the British Empire, but today there are around 420,000 people of English origins living there.[179]
  7. ^ Students attending English universities now have to pay tuition fees towards the cost of their education, as do English students who choose to attend university in Scotland. Scottish students attending Scottish universities have their fees paid by the devolved Scottish Parliament.[94]
  8. ^ While people such as Norman Foster and Richard Rogers represent the modernist movement, Prince Charles since the 1980s has voiced strong views against it in favour of traditional architecture and put his ideas into practice at his Poundbury development in Dorset.[233] Architects like Raymond Erith, Francis Johnson and Quinlan Terry continued to practice in the classical style.
  9. ^ These tales may have come to prominence, at least in part, as an attempt by the Norman ruling elite to legitimise their rule of the British Isles, finding Anglo-Saxon history ill-suited to the task during an era when members of the deposed House of Wessex, especially Edgar the Ætheling and his nephews of the Scottish House of Dunkeld, were still active in the isles.[237][239] Also Michael Wood explains; "Over the centuries the figure of Arthur became a symbol of British history—a way of explaining the matter of Britain, the relationship between the Saxons and the Celts, and a way of exorcising ghosts and healing the wounds of the past."[236]


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