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Prehistory and Antiquity

England Castlerigg Stone CircleEngland Castlerigg Stone CirclePhoto: Public domain

The earliest evidence of human presence in Britain comes from the Clactonian. Artifacts such as hand axes from the Early and Middle Palaeolithic have only been found in the south of England. Northern habitation tracks have been lost through several ice ages. After each ice age, sea levels fell below the previous level, with the result that Britain was freely accessible by land from mainland Europe in cold times. At that time, therefore, there was one complex of related cultures from Eastern England to far into the Baltic region.

Approx. 6000 BC. England was finally separated from the European continent when the last land bridge in the southern North Sea flooded. The earliest farmers entered southwestern England from Brittany and southwestern France, and in a few centuries, peasant settlements had spread to the far corners of all the islands.

Since 2500 BC. The beaker culture is found on the British Isles and from earlier periods the many characteristic monuments such as stone circles, flint mines, quarries and megalithic monuments, including the world famous Stonehenge.

In the Bronze Age, a rich bronze industry developed and there was a lot of trade with peoples up to the Mediterranean. Trade relations also existed with our country, witness the bronze finds from the Dutch-Belgian Hilversum culture.

The round farmhouses originate mainly from the Iron Age, a house type entirely unique to Great Britain. Characteristic for that time were the hill-forts built on hills, centers for the many small tribes from which society was divided at that time. In the late Iron Age, these fortresses were surrounded by ramparts, which made it even better to defend against attackers. From about 500 BC. the British inhabitants of southern England were displaced by Celtic tribes from Gaul. The last were the Belgae, which c. 100 BC. crossed the Channel and settled in southern England.

Britannia and the Romans

Hadrian's WallHadrian's WallPhoto: Vellela in the public domain

About a century and a half later, Britain, hitherto called Albion, was conquered by the Romans, who in turn called the island Britannia (later also Brittania).

After two previous attempts had failed, the order of the Roman emperor Claudius from 43 AD. dispatched an expeditionary army that conquered South Britannia. Under the first governor Aulus Plautius, the province of Britannia was established, surrounded by many puppet states. Despite heavy resistance, Wales and part of Scotland were conquered from 77 to 84, but soon some of the conquests in the north had to be abandoned. To protect the Roman area from the northern Picts and Scots, border lines were established ("limes"), of which the Hadrianuswal is the best known.

The province of Britannia was divided into the western Britannia Inferior and the eastern Britannia Superior by Emperor Septimius Severus.

Under Emperor Honorius, the Roman garrisons were removed from Britannia in 401-402, under threat of the Visigoths, and in 407 Britannia was definitively abandoned by the Romans. In 410, the same king reported to the British that Rome could no longer help them from the continued attacks by the Picts and Scots in the north. During the 5th century, several peoples also moved from the east towards Britannia, such as Germanic Angels, Frisians and Saxons. They gradually pushed westward and many Britons migrated to Brittany and Normandy ("Armorica") on the mainland.


Sutton Hoo Helmet British MuseumSutton Hoo Helmet British MuseumPhoto: Public domain

The so-called Anglo-Saxon peoples settled all over Britain: the Saxons in southern England, the Jutes in the far southeast and along the Channel and the Angles throughout northern and central England. A few Celtic kingdoms in the west managed to survive. When these peoples were well established, the struggle for hegemony between the many small empires began, of course, Kent, Essex, Sussex, Wessex, East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria being the most important. At the end of the 6th century, the preponderance belonged to Kent and from the end of the 6th century to the end of the 7th century to Northumbria. At that time, the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon peoples also started at the initiative of Pope Gregory the Great. In 679, the hegemony of Northumbria passed to the empire of Aethelred of Mercia, which was very powerful throughout the 8th century and, among other things, held back the oppressive Celts in the west.


King Knut EnglandKing Knut EnglandPhoto: Public domain

In the early 9th century, the kingdom of Wessex became increasingly powerful, but increasingly suffered attacks from Scandinavia by Vikings and Danes. Under King Alfred the Great (870-899), the Vikings conquered all of East Anglia and the Eastern Midlands. Alfred managed to preserve the independence of Wessex and in 886 signed a treaty with the Danish king Guthrum, relinquishing an established part of England, which would later become known as "Danelaw". The kings who came after Alfred the Great slowly expanded their power to Northumbria.

Under King Edgar (959-975), the raids of the Vikings decreased and the Old English kingdom managed to restore itself. The Anglo-Saxons and the Scandinavians slowly merged into one people. Towards the end of the 10th century, England was attacked again by the Danes, and in 1016 the Danish king Knut became king of all of England.

However, the occupation of the Danes did not last very long and in 1042 the Wessex dynasty came back to power with King Edward the Confessor (1042-1066). He died in 1066, after which power over England was disputed between Harold, son of Godwin of Wessex, Duke William of Normandy and King Harald III of Norway. A council of sages, the "Witan", decided that Harold of Wessex would become king and he was crowned. He was immediately attacked from Norway, but would eventually be defeated by William of Normandy, the "Conqueror," at the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066. Harold died and the kingdom of Wessex no longer existed.


William the Conqueror EnglandWilliam the Conqueror EnglandPhoto: Public domain

These developments linked England and Normandy through a personal union from 1066 to 1204. A major disadvantage for England was that they got unintentionally involved in wars and struggles in mainland Europe. The English did not like this and a number of rebellions broke out, but were suppressed by William the Conqueror. The peasants in England felt the oppression most because they were ruled by faithful William the Conqueror. In 1087 Willem was succeeded by his son Willem II Rufus. He reigned until 1100, when he was succeeded in turn by Robert III, the eldest son of William the Conqueror and his successor in Normandy. This Robert was attacked and defeated in 1106 by his youngest brother Henry, king of England since 1100. England and Normandy were now united under one king. Hendrik tried to link his daughter Mathilde to someone so that he could succeed him if necessary. In 1135, Hendrik passed away, but his nephew, Stephen of Blois, claimed the throne. Mathilde, who was married to Geoffroy Plantagenet at the time, tried to claim her right to the throne, but the result was a real civil war. Some regions were completely destroyed and in 1148 Mathilde gave up the battle. However, in 1153 Stephen was forced to recognize Mathilde's son Hendrik Plantagenet as his successor.

The Plantagenet Period (1154-1399)

Richard I (Lionheeart) EnglandRichard I (Lionheeart) EnglandPhoto: Public domain

Henry II ascended the throne in 1154 and tried to restore order, meanwhile expanding his power to Ireland, Scotland and Wales. He was succeeded by Richard I Lionheart, who reigned until 1199 but spent most of his time fighting the Saracens and also led the third Crusade.

Lionheart was succeeded by his youngest brother, Jan who lost Normandy and other parts of France to the French.

Jan died in 1216 and was succeeded by his nine-year-old son Henry III, regent Hubert de Burgh. Under Henry III, the English kingship was restored and brought to an even higher level by Edward I, who annexed Wales, among others, and was a true reformer in the administrative field. The so-called "Model Parliament" first met in 1295, which was an important milestone in England's constitutional history.

Edward I was succeeded by his son Edward II, who lost everything that had been accomplished. In the early 14th century, for example, there was anarchy between the king and the oppositional barons. A defeat at Bannockburn in 1314 also ended England's influence in Scotland.

Under the reign of Edward III, the Hundred Years' War raged between England and France and the power of parliament was further expanded. Trade and industry became increasingly important to England's economy, but this positive development was cruelly interrupted by the plague that broke out in 1348 and disrupted the entire country. In addition, the war with France was at the expense of the economy, which in turn led to domestic unrest, after which Edward was pushed aside by his own son Jan van Gent. All this led under Richard II (1377-1399) and the initially very powerful Jan van Gent in 1381 to the great English peasant revolt.

It was not until 1389 that Richard took matters into his own hands and in 1397 he even carried out a kind of coup that gave him a lot of power. This despotic regime was ended by Henry Bolingbroke, a son of Jan van Gent, who became king in 1399 as Henry IV himself, legalized by parliament. He reigned until 1413 and was constantly at war with France, as was his successor Henry V. After the great victory over the French at Azincourt in 1415, Normandy was recaptured and succeeded French King Charles VI. Henry was succeeded by his son Henry VI, under whose rule the Hundred Years' War ended, but internally the so-called Rose Wars broke out, the struggle for power between the Houses of Lancaster and York. It was not until 1471 that the last Lancasters were defeated and Edward IV became the first king of the House of York to take power. After Edward's death, the guardian of Edward V, brother Richard, seized power in 1483. In 1485, Richard was overthrown by Henry Tudor, who became King Henry VII and brought an end to the Wars of the Rose between Lancaster and York.

House Tudor

Henry VII EnglandHenry VII EnglandPhoto: Public domain

During the reign of the House of Tudor, England underwent many religious, economic and political changes. Around 1500, the country had about 3 million souls in a predominantly agricultural society. The cities were still quite modest in size and there was a strong assimilation between gentry and merchants.

Under Henry VIII, the "first" English Reformation, the break with the Church of Rome, took place in 1534. The generally anti-pope population in England was certainly not against that and Protestantism gained more and more ground from that time, despite opposition from Henry VIII.

At this time, the dissolution of the powerful monasteries was also completed, redistributing much land and putting it into lay hands. However, the farmers hardly benefited from this and farmers' uprisings therefore occurred regularly.

The long reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) was the last of the Tudor era, and it affirmed the final English reform by the foundation of the Anglican Church. Under her government, England achieved enormous economic and cultural boom and played a very important role in international politics.

Stuarts and Civil War

Oliver Cromwell EnglandOliver Cromwell EnglandPhoto: Public domain

Elizabeth died in 1603 when the Tudor dynasty died out and was succeeded by the King of Scotland (James VI of Scotland), James I Stuart. Under his reign serious religious, financial, and political problems arose that culminated under Charles I (1625-1649) in the English Civil War (1642-1645), in which the English statesman and strict Puritan Oliver Cromwell emerged victorious. Cromwell's victory over the king, which was also executed, brought about a military dictatorship for England after a battle between the army and parliament. After the beheading of the king, he acted relentlessly against the Catholic Irish and the Presbyterian Scots who recognized Charles II as king, united England, Scotland and Ireland and ruled as "Lord Protector" almost without parliament. After the dictatorship of Cromwell (Interregnum), the restoration of the House of Stuart followed, and the separate parliaments for England, Scotland and Ireland were restored and Anglicanism as a state religion restored.

Restoration and Glorious Revolution

William II of EnglandWilliam II of EnglandPhoto: Public domain

After the reign of Charles II (1660-1685), the so-called Tories and Whigs arose as a result of the succession issue. The Tories supported the heir to the throne of Charles II's brother, Catholic James. The Whigs were for the exclusion of Catholics.

The reign of James II (1685-1688) was short-lived. He tried very prominently to favor the Catholics, provoking opposition from both the Tories and the Whigs. They sought support from Stadtholder William III of Holland, who was married to James' daughter Mary. In this way they wanted to save Protestantism and freedom of England. On November 5, 1688, William (called William by the English) landed in England and James fled to France. This palace revolution yielded the Bill of Rights in 1689, laws that strengthened parliament, and the Act of Settlement of 1701, which ensured the succession to the Protestant throne. This was the end of absolutism in England.

Willem was succeeded in 1702 by his sister-in-law Anne (1702-1714). Her reign was preoccupied with the War of the Spanish Succession and the battle between the Tories and the Whigs. In 1707, the Act of Union united England and Scotland into an empire with one parliament.

The second half of the seventeenth century meant financial, colonial and commercial expansion for England. Significant for this were the founding of the Bank of England in 1694 and the London Stock Exchange in 1698. The first settlements were established in India and North America, which later became vital.

House of Hanover

King George III EnglandKing George III EnglandPhoto: Public domain

In 1714, George I, as the first king of the House of Hanover, ascended the English throne, and was succeeded by his son George II (1727-1760). The Whigs controlled domestic politics until about 1760, after which the Tories came to power. Actual power in domestic and foreign politics, however, was in the hands of Robert Walpole, who sought peace and prosperity. Still, the UK (instead of England) failed to stay outside the European wars; they took part in the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War, among others.

In 1760 George III became king and in the Peace of Paris Canada, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island and a number of West Indian islands fell to Britain. It also received supremacy in the Indies.

The American Freedom War (1775-1783), in which the American colonies freed themselves from Great Britain, was of enormous significance for world history. The Industrial Revolution was also of great significance, which in particular turned the economic world history at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Although the French Revolution initially garnered admiration in Britain, the Franco-British War broke out on February 1, 1793. In 1802 Britain concluded the Peace of Amiens with France, but new hostilities followed in 1803. England acquired the final peace among others the Cape Colony, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Malta and the Ionian Islands near Greece.

19th century

Wedding Queen Victoria and Prince Albert EnglandWedding Queen Victoria and Prince Albert EnglandPhoto: Public domain

In the 19th century, Britain reached the height of its political and economic power. The slave trade was abolished in 1807, slavery only in 1833. After George IV (1820-1830) and William IV (1830-1837) Queen Victoria came to power from the House of Hanover. The great exploitation of the working class had already led to the establishment of workers' organizations, and political and economic liberalism developed in the second half of this century. Since the 1960s, only conservatives and liberals have opposed each other as political movements. Foreign policy was dominated by the Crimean War and the reaction to Italian and German politics led to a policy of intervention and expansion of the British world power. The second half of the 19th century was almost entirely controlled by the conservative Disraeli and the liberal Gladstone.

In 1884 almost all adult men were entitled to vote during the Second Ministry of Disraeli 1874-1880) and he started the imperialist politics of Great Britain. At the end of the 19th century, several political workers' parties were founded, which united in 1906 to the Labor Party. In the early 20th century, the British Empire reached the height of its power and ruled large parts of Africa, Asia and North America.

20th century

Edward VII EnglandEdward VII EnglandPhoto: Public domain

In 1901, Queen Victoria was succeeded by Edward VII of the House of Saxe-Coburg, and from 1905 to 1915, Liberal Prime Ministers Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith ruled. Out of necessity, Britain sided with France in 1904 through the Entete Cordiale, thereby keeping other powers in Europe at bay from hegemony in the world.

In 1915, Britain was swept up in World War I, and in 1916, a coalition government gave way to a cabinet of war led by Lloyd George. Remarkably, the then King George V (1910-1936) gave up all his German titles and changed the name from Saxe-Coburg to Windsor. Ireland's independence was completed during the First World War.

After the war, Britain was faced with very serious political issues, and the first Labor cabinets emerged in the 1920s and 1930s due to major domestic social unrest. In the late 1930s, the global economic crisis drew all political currents together (cabinets MacDonald, Stanley and Chamberlain) in an ultimate attempt to somewhat restore the severely battered economy.

However, the recovery had barely started when fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany cornered Britain. First they experienced a real royal crisis in which Edward VIII was succeeded by his brother George VI (1936-1952). In the foreign field, people were virtually out of control and even concluded in 1938 an agreement with Hitler-Germany, which turned out to be worthless.

Winston Churchill EnglandWinston Churchill EnglandPhoto: Public domain

Despite almost desperate mediation efforts, Britain also became involved in World War II. When Hitler invaded Poland, Britain and France replied with a declaration of war to Germany on September 3, 1939. In May 1940, Winston Churchill formed a coalition cabinet and took charge of the warfare.

On the European mainland, in Asia and in Africa, the battle was initially dramatic, with thousands of British soldiers lost their lives. Despite this, Britain continued to hold its own under the leadership of its great political and military leaders Winston Churchill and General Montgomery. Finally, in May 1945, the Allies, especially the United States, managed to defeat Germany.

After the second World War

Harold Macmillan EnglandHarold Macmillan EnglandPhoto: Public domain

The first post-war elections were gloriously won by Labor, led by Attlee. Health, traffic and mines were nationalized. Decolonization policy was also started in those early years after the war, with Britain withdrawing from India and Burma, among others.

In 1951, the Conservatives returned to government and remained until October 1963, led respectively by Churchill, Anthony Eden and Harold MacMillan. In 1952 George VI was succeeded by his daughter Elizabeth II.

The early years of the MacMillan period (January 1957-October 1963) were initially quite successful, but economic-financial politics lacked a fixed policy and unemployment rose alarmingly, especially since 1962. In 1961 the MacMillan government decided to do so to join the European Economic Community (EEC), but in January 1963 ran into the veto of France, which was then headed by Charles de Gaulle.

MacMillan was succeeded by Douglas-Home in October 1963, but the November elections were won by Labor under Harold Wilson. Economic problems remained severe under Labor and France's accession to the EEC was again blocked. Also there were again many problems with (former) colonies, including Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), which declared itself unilaterally in 1965. Immigration from former colonies took shape and caused many problems and racial contradictions.

As a result of all these problems, the prestige of the Wilson administration crumbled further and further, and the 1970 elections delivered a victory for the conservatives led by Edward Heath.

The Heath government was faced with serious social unrest, but was successful with accession to the EEC on 1 January 1973.

In April 1976, Wilson, who withdrew for personal reasons, was succeeded by Callaghan, formerly Secretary of State. He was confronted with so many economic and social problems that the elections in May 1979 were not surprisingly won by the conservatives. Conservative Party president Margaret Thatcher took the place of Callaghan.

The Eighties

Margareth Thatcher EnglandMargareth Thatcher EnglandPhoto: Public domain

Agreement was reached with all warring parties in Rhodesia in 1980; relations with the Economic Community (EC) remained very tense, in particular because of Thatcher, in Thatch's view, much too high a contribution. In 1982 Argentina occupied the Falkland archipelago claimed by both countries. The islands were recaptured at the cost of many lives, and the Conservative Party won a thunderous election victory in 1983.

In 1984, a conflict with the radical coal miners' union demanded attention. The strikes lasted more than a year and wreaked havoc on the British economy. Thatcher, however, did not budge and in fact intended to deal with the unions' influence, which she said was far too great, once and for all. The eventual defeat indeed meant that the unions would no longer be a significant factor for years.

In October 1984, Thatcher narrowly escaped a bomb attack claiming the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The terrorist government put the government of Ireland under severe pressure from the Thatcher administration. This led to the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1986, which gave the Irish Republic a very limited influence on the state of affairs in Northern Ireland in exchange for a tough fight against the IRA.

The 1987 elections were again won by the conservatives, but Thatcher suffered a loss of face in his own circle due to the resignation of the Minister of Finance, Nigel Lawson, after a serious disagreement with Thatcher. Lawson was a strong supporter of Britain's participation in the European Monetary System (EMS), but Thatcher continued to pursue an independent British monetary policy. From that time, however, European politics was taken over by European-minded ministers Howe, Hurd and John Major, who would later succeed Thatcher.

The Nineties

John Major EbnglandJohn Major EnglandPhoto: Public domain

During the Gulf Crisis in August 1990, Thatcher tried to restore her damaged image. She sent ships, planes and troops to the Persian Gulf, but to no avail. John Major forced accession to the EMS in October 1990 and Howe resigned from the cabinet in November, strongly condemning Thatcher's opposition to further European integration. As a result, resigned Michael Heseltine began to question Thatcher's leadership. After two election rounds in November, it became clear that Thatcher could no longer count on a majority and she kept the honor to herself and resigned on November 22, 1990.

She was succeeded by John Major, who also struggled with greater integration within the EC. At the European summit in Maastricht (9-10 December 1991) an exception was therefore made for the British on important points.

The British royal family, meanwhile, also had major problems, such as the separation of Crown Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and the divorces of Princess Anne and Prince Andrew. At the end of 1996, the marriage between Charles and Diana officially ended.

Northern Ireland Issue

Good friday treaty EnglandGood friday treaty EnglandPhoto: Titanic Hotel Belfast (CC BY 2.0) no changes made

The IRA resigned on August 31, 1994 to promote a peaceful agreement with Britain. Gerry Adams, the head of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, stated that the struggle to end British rule in Northern Ireland had entered a "new" phase. However, problems during the negotiations led to several bombings by the IRA in 1996, ending the 17-month ceasefire.

In 1997, the new Labor government took office under Tony Blair. Northern Ireland peace talks resumed and the IRA decided to resume a ceasefire. In April 1998, a peace agreement (the so-called Good Friday Agreement) was signed by Britain, the Irish Republic and major parties in Northern Ireland. The peace agreement provided guarantees for the Protestant Unionists that Northern Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom as long as the majority of the population wanted it. Furthermore, the Irish Republic waived its claims to the territory of Ulster, while Great Britain removed the legal provisions that hindered a united Ireland; Northern Ireland was given a parliament with limited powers, and a Council of Ministers would be set up to hold members of government from Ireland and Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland, the treaty was accepted after a referendum, followed by elections and the David Trimble's UUP became the largest party. On July 1, 1998, Trimble was elected Prime Minister for Northern Ireland. The peace agreement came under heavy pressure after various acts of violence. But just after a major attack in Omagh, which killed 28 people, several republican splinter groups decided on a ceasefire between Protestant Unionists and Catholic nationalists.

Things started to progress in the second half of 1999. After mediation by the American Mitchell, Sinn Féin was able to participate in the Northern Irish government. Likewise, the Republic of Ireland relinquished its claim to the whole island, and Britain withdrew its claim as a sovereign in power over Northern Ireland. On December 2, Britain declared that it would change the status of Northern Ireland if a majority of people wanted it.

In January 2000, major controversy arose between the IRA and Sinn Féin, on the one hand, and the Protestant Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), on the other, regarding the dismantling of the IRA's weapons stock. Negotiations were unsuccessful and on February 11 the British government decided to restore direct rule from London. Four days later, the IRA withdrew from the talks and the end of the peace agreement seemed to be getting closer. On 1 March, British Prime Minister Blair and Irish Prime Minister Ahern agreed on a timetable for new peace negotiations. A few months later, the IRA stated that it wanted to fully cooperate with the decommissioning of all weapons and receive international weapons inspectors. Partly as a result of this, direct rule of London was lifted on May 30 and the coalition of Trimble, Sinn Féin and UUP, was restored.

As a result of a series of incidents culminating in the 'espionage scandal' starring Sinn Féin / IRA, the British government decided on 14 October 2002 to suspend the political institutions in Northern Ireland and to temporarily 'direct rule' from London again. feed.

British domestic politics

BSE Mad Cow Desease EnglandBSE Mad Cow Desease EnglandPhoto: Public domain

Partly as a result of a number of scandals, the Conservatives of Major suffered some serious defeats in midterm and regional elections. It even got to the point where some conservative House of Commons members switched to Labor, and in late 1996 Major lost his majority in the House of Commons. Meanwhile, youthful Laborman Tony Blair continued to modernize the Labor Party after becoming the leader of the Labor Party in 1994.

1996 was also the year of Mad Cow Disease (BSE), which caused quite a stir worldwide when it became known that the disease might be transmitted to humans. The lax way of acting after the EU's demand for a total export ban caused a lot of bad blood everywhere and ultimately Major was willing to take additional measures. Meanwhile, the EU maintained an import ban on British beef products. Ultimately, the blame for the mad cow crisis was blamed on politics and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

In May 1997, Tony Blair led the Labor Party to the biggest election win ever. He also became the first Labor Prime Minister since 1979. In the early years of Blair's reign, referendums were held on whether Scotland and Wales would have limited self-government. The people's answer was undeniably yes, and as a result, parliaments with limited powers were installed during 1998. For foreign policy, it was important that the British government decided in October 1997 not to join Economic and Monetary Union. Noteworthy, but not unexpected, was the decision to assist Clinton's America to bomb Iraq as a sanction for failing to deliver on promises made to the United Nations.

Parliamentary elections for the new Scottish and Welsh parliament were held for the first time in May 1999. In both cases, Labor became the largest party without gaining a majority.

21st century

Tony Blair EnglandTony Blair EnglandPhoto: Public domain

The parliamentary elections of June 7, 2001 were brilliantly won by Blair's Labor Party (412 out of a total of 659 seats). It was the first time in parliamentary history that a Labor government had a second consecutive term, despite the lowest voter turnout in about a century. Second party with 166 seats became the Conservative Party and third party became the Liberal Democratic Party with 52 seats. There were also eight parties with six seats or less, the most famous of which are from Northern Ireland: the Ulster Uninonist Party and Sinn Féin. Following the election results, the leader of the British conservatives, William Hague, resigned.

In the May 5, 2005 election, Tony Blair led his party to a historic third win in a row. Labor obtained 35.2% of the vote, which accounted for 354 of the 646 seats in parliament. It was striking that Labor did not conquer any new constituency. Furthermore, Labor's absolute majority for a re-elected ruling party is historically small (67 to 161 before the elections). The other major parties in the House of Commons are the Conservative Party (also known as the Tories; 196 seats) and the Liberal Democrats (the "Lib-Dems"; 62 seats), which again booked seat gains. There are also smaller parties: Democratic Unionist (9 seats), Scottish National Party (6), Sinn Fein (5), Social Democratic & Labor Party (3), Plaid Cymru (3), Ulster Unionist (1), Respect ( 1) and 2 independent members. Finally, the speaker / deputies also sit in parliament. However, they do not vote.

Local elections were held on May 4, 2006, resulting in a major loss to Labor, with more than 300 Labor councilors losing their seats. More than 40% of the votes cast went to the Conservative Party, 27% to the Lib. Dems and only 26% to Labor. Prime Minister Blair took advantage of this election defeat to make major changes to his cabinet on 5 May: 15 of the 26 ministers changed positions. Margaret Beckett, formerly Minister of Agriculture and the Environment, was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs. She succeeds Jack Straw, who became Leader of the House of Commons and Lord of the Privy Seal. He succeeded Geoff Hoon, who was appointed Minister for Europe. John Reid, hitherto Minister of Defense, became the new Home Secretary to succeed Charles Clarke.

Prime Minister Blair has announced that he will no longer aspire to a fourth term in office. On September 7, 2006, he stated that he would resign within a year, but he did not specify an exact date. His successor was "Chancellor" Gordon Brown, who since February 2006 presents himself more and more as future prime minister. On July 7, 2005, London was hit by terrorist attacks, which left 56 dead and over 700 injured. British society was shocked and confused by the news that the attacks were committed by suicides who held British nationality and were apparently well integrated into British society. Incidentally, the attacks were claimed by Al-Qaida, who cited British Iraq policy as the reason.

According to Home Secretary John Reid, at least four attacks have since been foiled, such as those at London Underground stations on July 21, 2005, also killing an apparently innocent Brazilian man by the police for behaving suspiciously at a tube station. On August 10, 2006, the arrest of 24 suspects allegedly foiled a major terrorist attack, which would have attempted to blow up at least ten aircraft on the UK-US route using liquids carried in hand luggage. Very strict security measures were introduced at all airports, which have since eased somewhat. Moreover, the risk of terrorist attacks in the UK remains high: according to Minister Reid, at least 24 other plots are currently under investigation.

David Cameron EngelandDavid Cameron EngelandPhoto: Toms Norde, Valts Canceleja CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

On June 27, 2007, Gordon Brown succeeds Tony Blair as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In May 2008 Brown's Labor Party loses the local elections with a big difference. The credit crisis hit the UK in late 2008 and early 2009. Interest will be cut and incentives will be taken. In May 2010, the conservatives led by David Cameron win the election, but do not reach the absolute majority. A coalition is formed in record time with the liberal democrats of Nig Clegg and David Cameron becomes the new prime minister.

Marriage Prince William and Kate Middleton EnglandMarriage Prince William and Kate Middleton EnglandPhoto: Public domain

Prince William married Kate Middleton in April 2011. They are given the title of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In August and September 2012, London will host the Olympic Games. In July 2013, the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a son. The child is called George and is the third in line to the throne. In May 2014, the Anti-Eu party UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) received many votes during the European elections. In September 2014, Scottish voters vote in a referendum to stay within the United Kingdom. In the elections in May 2015, the conservatives win and the advance of UKIP and the Scottish nationalists continues. In February 2016, Cameron is organizing a referendum where the British can choose to stay for or against the EU. He has signed a new deal with the EU and is in favor of an extended stay within the EU. The anti-EU (BREXIT) camp will be the mouthpiece of Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London. In June, the BREXIT camp wins the referendum and Cameron announces his resignation.

Theresa May EnglandTheresa May EnglandPhoto: Raul Mee CC 2.0 no changes made

Theresa May will become the new Prime Minister and Boris Johnson the Secretary of State in July 2016. In May and June 2017, attacks take place in Manchester and London by followers of Islamic State, and 30 people are killed. Early elections will be held in June 2017. May hopes to increase her majority. On the contrary, a conservative minority remains in parliament who can remain in power only with the support of Northern Irish Unionists. Formal negotiations begin to leave the EU.

Boris Johnson EnglandBoris Johnson EnglandPhoto: Estonian Presidency CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Boris Johnson became prime minister in July 2019 after he beat Jeremy Hunt in the race to become leader of the Conservative Party. He took over from, Theresa May, who stood down as Conservative Party leader in June 2019 after failing to get Parliament to agree a way forward on Brexit. Boris Johnson went on to win a convincing majority at a snap general election in December 2019, paving the way for Britain to leave the European Union. On 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom withdrew from the EU, negotiations led by the end of 2020 to a deal with the European union. In 2021 England was hit severely bij the COVID-19 pandemic. Early 2022 Boris Johnson is in trouble because despite severe restrictions for the general public there were a series of alleged rule-breaking parties in Downing Street and Whitehall.

His Majesty King Charles III ascended to the throne in September 2022, on the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II.

In September and October 2022 there was a lot of political unrest. The UK's first British Asian prime minister, Rishi Sunak took over from the previous prime minister, Liz Truss, just 49 days after she herself had taken over from Boris Johnson who left the field after various scandals. Liz Truss lost trust from the party and was forced to resign after proposed big tax cuts prompted financial turmoil.

Larry the CatLarry the CatPhoto: Parrot of Doom CC 4.0

Larry the cat seems to be the only constant resident of 10 Downing Street.


Allport, A. / England
Chelsea House

Bowden, R. / Groot-Brittannië

Engeland, Wales

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Fuller, B. / Britain
Marshall Cavendish

Michelin Reisuitgaven

Locke, T. / Engeland
Van Reemst

Parsons, F.S. / Engeland
Van Reemst,

Schaedtler, K. / Highlights van Engeland en Wales

Somerville, C. / Groot-Brittannië

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Last updated April 2024
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