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 has 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.
The United Kingdom is one of the most Euroskeptical countries in Europe. Britain is often being called an “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.
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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”. This 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.
7: King Arthur of United Kingdom
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.
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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.