An island nation, Britain has long been an iconoclast among European nations. In fact, in many ways, the United Kingdom is hardly a European nation at all. It having more in common culturally with countries like Australia, Canada and even the United States. Given this status and with a history unlike that of most of Europe? There was just no way we could get away with not bringing you the 10 things you didn’t know about the United Kingdom.
10: London, United Kingdom
Everyone has heard of London. It’s one of the great cities of the world and if you’ve never been there, you probably have a certain picture of what it’s like. You know, sophisticated Englishman sipping tea and savvy cockney-speaking taxi drivers. But the truth is London is incredibly diverse. The United Kingdom is composed of people from all over the world, many of them not even English. In fact, there’s been a phenomenon called “white flight” which has been ongoing for years. This describes the departure of traditional white Britians from London for suburban areas and places outside of London. Because they feel alienated by what they perceive to be an increasingly foreign population. In 2013, experts actually measure the effects. They came to the striking conclusion that only 45% of London is white British versus 58% in 2001. This trend is likely to continue unabated.
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The United Kingdom is one of the most Euroskeptical countries in Europe. Britain is often being called “awkward partner” in the EU, and countless polls and surveys have shown this. With the Brexit referendum coming up they shouldn’t surprise anyone, but the real question is why this is the case? The United Kingdom has had a history of going its own way, from the creation of the Church of England to its truly unique style of governance. Culturally it has more in common with other English-speaking countries.
This special relationship with other countries, in particular, the United States and Australia? It is often cited by British Eurosceptics as a reason to leave and establish its own rules with which to deal and trade with them. Perhaps the essence of British opposition to the EU lies in its parliamentarian history and respect for order and the rule of law and the participation of the public, which goes back as far as the Magna Carta in 1215. As the EU has shown itself to be greatly undemocratic allowing unelected officials to create laws for any country but without any public input.
Most people have heard of Wales, which is part of the United Kingdom bordering the Irish Sea. Many people don’t know that the Welsh are actually the descendants of the ancient Britons who were present after the last Roman legion had departed. Who had been in Britain centuries before Caesar first landed his ships in 55 BCE. Some people even know that the ancient Britons invited over the infamous Anglo-Saxons and Jutes to aid them in conflicts with the fierce Picts in exchange for a promise of land. Which was followed by betrayal, conquest and destruction at the hands of the people who would later become the English?
Most people don’t know that the name Wales and the term Welsh or the final insult added to injury given to the Welsh people by the English. The name Welsh is derived from the Old English word “Wealh” meaning “foreigner” and sometimes “slave”. Which means in modern English Wales literally is the land of the slaves. This word can also be recognized in the German word “Kauderwelsch”. Which means “gibberish,” originally a reference to words spoken by non-Germanic foreigners.
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7: King Arthur
King Arthur’s a legend around the world. When do you think of the legend? You tend to think of a shining knight wielding the magical sword Excalibur fighting evil. Most people do not know the King Arthur was probably based on a real person. Writing in the 6th century CE, the British monk Gildas describes the battle of Mount Badon. Where Roman descended war leader named Ambrosius Aurelianus defeated the opposing Anglo-Saxon force in a great victory. That might have been the historical Arthur, but the real legend began when the Welsh cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the Historia Regum Britanniae or the history of the Kings of Britain in the 12th century.
Considered a literary work of national myth rather than an actual history? It features cryptic prophecies by the wizard Merlin implying the messianic return of King Arthur. The so-called once and future king, who will rise to redeem the true British. Who knows, maybe Arthur will come back one day to liberate the British people. For now, David Cameron probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
6: Teen Pregnancy
Britain is the first world European nation. It’s also a nation with the youngest parents. Everyone knows about the phenomenon of teenage pregnancy. The United Kingdom is breaking records in this exciting new field all the time. The title of an article from 2015 reads, “Britain’s youngest mom became pregnant when she was just 11. She was back at school within 6 weeks of giving birth and is now getting top marks”. Her mother, the proud grandmother, was just 28 at the time. Another story reads, “killer convict to become Britain’s youngest granddad at the age of just 27”. The British government has made various attempts to limit the number of teen pregnancies but with little success. So, it’s unlikely that this trend will stop anytime soon. You know what they say, kids just want to have fun.
5: Isaac Newton
The Laws of Motion, you all know them and who discovered them, Isaac Newton. Regarded either is the developer or co-developer of calculus alongside the German Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, no one can deny the Englishman’s genius and scientific contributions. Without Isaac Newton, it’s quite possible many aspects of modern technology and civilization would ultimately not exist, such as flight and computer technology.
Newton wasn’t just a scientist. In fact, he was a little bit mad in the head as well. A fanatical student of the occult and a literalist believer in the Bible, Newton spent many an hour in candlelight interpreting Biblical prophecy and its impact on the world. As well as practicing the pseudo-science of alchemy. Scripture was more important to Newton than science. He saw the physical world he studied as a reflection of God’s design. This is not exactly the most rational view. But you don’t get to be famous without your course.
4: Oliver Cromwell
Puritan Englishmen Oliver Cromwell is a name that surely rings a bell. Catholic cleanser, military dictator and unstoppable zealot, he’s best known for his responsibility for the English civil war that was born of his opposition to the English crown, then Charles the first as a staunch parliamentarian. Many people don’t know that the Englishman had just as much impact in Ireland, if not more so than in England. In fact, even to this day, Oliver Cromwell is the national villain of Ireland. Cromwell’s legacy in Ireland is that of terror, oppression, murder and destruction.
After the Irish Catholic confederation has taken control of Ireland, Cromwell launched a crusade against Ireland characterized by unmatched ferocity. Not even civilians were spared as Cromwell marched ever on words in massacre after massacre. In a short time, Cromwell had managed to conquer all of Ireland merging into the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, which led to the destruction of the Irish Catholic landowning class which were replaced by Puritan Englishmen loyal to Cromwell’s cause. The brutality of the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland is still remembered to this day and is often stoke the fires of Irish nationalism against English influence and imperialism.
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Although most people can only think of blood pudding and fish and chips when they think of British food. The United Kingdom is home to a surprising number of sweets. Ranging from confectionery to pastries, from jelly babies to Pontefract Cakes and flapjacks, the UK’s food isn’t just the bland stuff you may think you know. In fact, it offers a wide range of foods to please the sweet tooth.
Maybe you’ve heard of haggis, which is a famous national Scottish dish. You might not want to know what it’s made of. Haggis is typically made of sheep heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion and spices wrapped in the animal’s stomach. Suffice to say, haggis has an acquired taste, but the reality is that the food stands from a time in the Scottish Highlands when there were limited resources and the Highlanders had to make do what they could find, which was sheep in great abundance. Today, haggis has national standing but it’s a little odd when you consider its humble origins.
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The ownership of England has changed hence many times. What most people don’t know is that half of England was occupied by Denmark of all countries for 200 years. This area called the Danelaw, which is to say where the Danes had legal jurisdiction, was the culmination of many forays into England on the part of the Vikings starting in the late 8th century. Which later resulted in full on conflict between the English and the Danish, which lasted until finally establishing a peace settlement. Many English cities and settlements actually have Viking names, as a result, places such as York, Derby, Whitby and many more.
So, that’s a wrap on our list of Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About United Kingdom. What do you guys know about the United Kingdom? Don’t forget to check out our other lists and we’ll see you all next time.