The Government of the United Kingdom, domestically referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.   The government is led by the prime minister (currently Boris Johnson , since 24 July 2019 [update] ) who selects all the other ministers .
This article lists successive British governments, also referred to as ministries, from the creation of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, continuing through the duration of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1801 to 1922, and since then dealing with those of the present-day United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
- Local Governments
The Government is led by the Prime Minister, who chooses the other Ministers. The Prime Minister and the other most powerful Ministers belong to a group known as the Cabinet, who are the most important decision makers in the Government. These ministers are all members of Parliament (MPs). Laws are made by MPs voting in Parliament, which is called 'legislative authority'. These laws make what is called primary legislation. The Prime Minister now is Boris Johnson, the present leader of the Conservative Party. Theresa May, then the leader, had been Prime Minister from 2016until her resignation in 2019.
The government is chosen by the people indirectly. The people of the United Kingdom vote in a general election, appointing representatives to the Parliament, at least once every five years. The monarch must select as Prime Minister the person who is likely to have the support of Parliament. By convention, that is normally the leader of the party that has the most MPs in the House of Commons.The Prime Minister leads the government and exercises executive power on behalf of the monarch, in accordance with the laws set by Parliament, including appointing Ministers to the executive branches of government. Under the British constitution, laws are made or unmade by Parliament, the power to "give assent" to the laws belongs to the monarch. The policy and administration of the laws is done by the direction of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. This is called executive authority. The monarch is obliged to follow the advice of the government and has not refused to do so since the 17th centur...
There are separate governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, each responsible to their own local parliament. These parliaments have certain limits decided by the main parliament in Westminster. There is no separate English Parliament.
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- Political Structure
- Role of Ireland
- Merging of Scottish and English Parliaments
- Queen Anne, 1702–1714
- Hanoverian Succession: 1714–1760
- Age of George III, 1760–1820
- First British Empire
- Second British Empire
- Battling The French Revolution and Napoleon
The name Britain descends from the Latin name for the island of Great Britain, Britannia or Brittānia, the land of the Britons via the Old French Bretaigne (whence also Modern French Bretagne) and Middle English Bretayne, Breteyne. The term Great Britainwas first used officially in 1474. The use of the word "Great" before "Britain" originates in the French language, which uses Bretagne for both Britain and Brittany. French therefore distinguishes between the two by calling Britain la Grande Bretagne, a distinction which was transferred into English. The Treaty of Union and the subsequent Acts of Union state that England and Scotland were to be "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain", and as such "Great Britain" was the official name of the state, as well as being used in titles such as "Parliament of Great Britain". The websites of the Scottish Parliament, the BBC, and others, including the Historical Association, refer to the state created on 1 May 1707 as the United...
The kingdoms of England and Scotland, both in existence from the 9th century (with England incorporating Wales in the 16th century), were separate states until 1707. However, they had come into a personal union in 1603, when James VI of Scotland became king of England under the name of James I. This Union of the Crowns under the House of Stuart meant that the whole of the island of Great Britain was now ruled by a single monarch, who by virtue of holding the English crown also ruled over the Kingdom of Ireland. Each of the three kingdoms maintained its own parliament and laws. Various smaller islands were in the king's domain, including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. This disposition changed dramatically when the Acts of Union 1707 came into force, with a single unified Crown of Great Britain and a single unified parliament. Ireland remained formally separate, with its own parliament, until the Acts of Union 1800. The Union of 1707 provided for a Protestant-only succession...
As a result of Poynings' Law of 1495, the Parliament of Ireland was subordinate to the Parliament of England, and after 1707 to the Parliament of Great Britain. The Westminster parliament's Declaratory Act 1719 (also called the Dependency of Ireland on Great Britain Act 1719) noted that the Irish House of Lords had recently "assumed to themselves a Power and Jurisdiction to examine, correct and amend" judgements of the Irish courts and declared that as the Kingdom of Ireland was subordinate to and dependent upon the crown of Great Britain, the King, through the Parliament of Great Britain, had "full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient validity to bind the Kingdom and people of Ireland". The Act was repealed by the Repeal of Act for Securing Dependence of Ireland Act 1782. The same year, the Irish constitution of 1782 produced a period of legislative freedom. However, the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which sought to end the subordination and dependency of the coun...
The deeper political integration of her kingdoms was a key policy of Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch of England and Scotland and the first monarch of Great Britain. A Treaty of Union was agreed in 1706, following negotiations between representatives of the parliaments of England and Scotland, and each parliament then passed separate Acts of Union to ratify it. The Acts came into effect on 1 May 1707, uniting the separate Parliaments and uniting the two kingdoms into a kingdom called Great Britain. Anne became the first monarch to occupy the unified British throne, and in line with Article 22 of the Treaty of Union Scotland and England each sent members to the new House of Commons of Great Britain. The Scottish and English ruling classes retained power, and each country kept its legal and educational systems, as well as its established Church. United, they formed a larger economy, and the Scots began to provide soldiers and colonial officials to the new British forces and Empire....
During the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–14) England continued its policy of forming and funding alliances, especially with the Dutch Republic and the Holy Roman Empire against their common enemy, King Louis XIV of France. Queen Anne, who reigned 1702–1714, was the central decision maker, working closely with her advisers, especially her remarkably successful senior general, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. The war was a financial drain, for Britain had to finance its allies and hire foreign soldiers. Stalemate on the battlefield and war weariness on the home front set in toward the end. The anti-war Tory politicians won control of Parliament in 1710 and forced a peace. The concluding Treaty of Utrecht was highly favourable for Britain. Spain lost its empire in Europe and faded away as a great power, while working to better manage its colonies in the Americas. The First British Empire, based upon the English overseas possessions, was enlarged. From France, Great Britai...
In the 18th century England, and after 1707 Great Britain, rose to become the world's dominant colonial power, with France as its main rival on the imperial stage. The pre-1707 English overseas possessions became the nucleus of the First British Empire. "In 1714 the ruling class was so bitterly divided that many feared a civil war might break out on Queen Anne's death", wrote historian W. A. Speck. A few hundred of the richest ruling class and landed gentry families controlled parliament, but were deeply split, with Tories committed to the legitimacy of the Stuart "Old Pretender", then in exile. The Whigs strongly supported the Hanoverians, in order to ensure a Protestant succession. The new king, George I was a foreign prince and had a small English standing army to support him, with military support from his native Hanover and from his allies in the Netherlands. In the Jacobite rising of 1715, based in Scotland, the Earl of Mar led eighteen Jacobite peers and 10,000 men, with the...
Victory in the Seven Years' War, 1756–1763
The Seven Years' War, which began in 1756, was the first war waged on a global scale and saw British involvement in Europe, India, North America, the Caribbean, the Philippines, and coastal Africa. The results were highly favourable for Britain, and a major disaster for France. Key decisions were largely in the hands of William Pitt the Elder. The war started poorly. Britain lost the island of Minorca in 1756, and suffered a series of defeats in North America. After years of setbacks and medi...
Evangelical religion and social reform
The evangelical movement inside and outside the Church of England gained strength in the late 18th and early 19th century. The movement challenged the traditional religious sensibility that emphasized a code of honour for the upper-class, and suitable behaviour for everyone else, together with faithful observances of rituals. John Wesley (1703–1791) and his followers preached revivalist religion, trying to convert individuals to a personal relationship with Christ through Bible reading, regul...
The first British Empire, was based largely in mainland North America and the West Indies, with a growing presence in India. Emigration from Britain went mostly to the Thirteen Colonies and the West Indies, with some to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Few permanent settlers went to British India, although many young men went there in the hope of making money and returning home.
The loss of the Thirteen Colonies marked the transition between the "first" and "second" empires, in which Britain shifted its attention away from the Americas to Asia, the Pacific and later Africa. Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, had argued that colonies were redundant, and that free trade should replace the old mercantilist policies that had characterised the first period of colonial expansion, dating back to the protectionism of Spain and Portugal. The growth of trade between the newly independent United States and Great Britain after 1781confirmed Smith's view that political control was not necessary for economic success.
With the regicide of King Louis XVI in 1793, the French Revolution represented a contest of ideologies between conservative, royalist Britain and radical Republican France.The long bitter wars with France 1793–1815, saw anti-Catholicism emerge as the glue that held the three kingdoms together. From the upper classes to the lower classes, Protestants were brought together from England, Scotland and Ireland into a profound distrust and distaste for all things French. That enemy nation was depicted as the natural home of misery and oppression because of its inherent inability to shed the darkness of Catholic superstition and clerical manipulation.
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The archipelago has been referred to by a single name for over 2000 years: the term 'British Isles' derives from terms used by classical geographers to describe this island group. By 50 BC Greek geographers were using equivalents of Prettanikē as a collective name for the British Isles. However, with the Roman conquest of Britain the Latin term Britannia was used for the island of Great Britain, and later Roman-occupied Britain south of Caledonia. The earliest known name for Great Britain is...
Derivation of Great
The Greco-Egyptian scientist Ptolemy referred to the larger island as great Britain (μεγάλη Βρεττανία megale Brettania) and to Ireland as little Britain (μικρὰ Βρεττανία mikra Brettania) in his work Almagest (147–148 AD). In his later work, Geography (c. 150 AD), he gave the islands the names Alwion, Iwernia, and Mona (the Isle of Man), suggesting these may have been the names of the individual islands not known to him at the time of writing Almagest. The name Albion appears to have fallen ou...
Modern use of the term Great Britain
Great Britain refers geographically to the island of Great Britain. Politically, it may refer to the whole of England, Scotland and Wales, including their smaller offshore islands. It is not correct to use the term to refer to the whole of the United Kingdom which includes Northern Ireland. Similarly, Britain can refer to either all islands in Great Britain, the largest island, or the political grouping of countries. There is no clear distinction, even in government documents: the UK governme...
Great Britain was probably first inhabited by those who crossed on the land bridge from the European mainland. Human footprints have been found from over 800,000 years ago in Norfolk and traces of early humans have been found (at Boxgrove Quarry, Sussex) from some 500,000 years ago and modern humans from about 30,000 years ago. Until about 14,000 years ago, it was connected to Ireland, and as recently as 8,000 years ago it retained a land connection to the continent, with an area of mostly lo...
Roman and medieval period
The Romans conquered most of the island (up to Hadrian's Wall in northern England) and this became the Ancient Roman province of Britannia. In the course of the 500 years after the Roman Empire fell, the Britons of the south and east of the island were assimilated or displaced by invading Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, often referred to collectively as Anglo-Saxons). At about the same time, Gaelic tribes from Ireland invaded the north-west, absorbing both the Picts and Britons of...
Early modern period
On 20 October 1604 King James, who had succeeded separately to the two thrones of England and Scotland, proclaimed himself "King of Great Brittaine, France, and Ireland". When James died in 1625 and the Privy Council of England was drafting the proclamation of the new king, Charles I, a Scottish peer, Thomas Erskine, 1st Earl of Kellie, succeeded in insisting that it use the phrase "King of Great Britain", which James had preferred, rather than King of Scotland and England (or vice versa). Wh...
Great Britain lies on the European continental shelf, part of the Eurasian Plate and off the north-west coast of continental Europe, separated from this European mainland by the North Sea and by the English Channel, which narrows to 34 km (18 nmi; 21 mi) at the Straits of Dover. It stretches over about ten degrees of latitude on its longer, north–south axis and covers 209,331 km2 (80,823 sq mi), excluding the much smaller surrounding islands. The North Channel, Irish Sea, St George's Channel and Celtic Sea separate the island from the island of Ireland to its west. The island is since 1993 joined, via one structure, with continental Europe: the Channel Tunnel, the longest undersea rail tunnel in the world. The island is marked by low, rolling countryside in the east and south, while hills and mountains predominate in the western and northern regions. It is surrounded by over 1,000 smaller islands and islets. The greatest distance between two points is 968.0 km (601+1⁄2 mi) (between...
London is the capital of England and the whole of the United Kingdom, and is the seat of the United Kingdom's government. Edinburgh and Cardiff are the capitals of Scotland and Wales, respectively, and house their devolved governments. Largest urban areas
In the Late Bronze Age, Britain was part of a culture called the Atlantic Bronze Age, held together by maritime trading, which also included Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal. In contrast to the generally accepted view that Celtic originated in the context of the Hallstatt culture, since 2009, John T. Koch and others have proposed that the origins of the Celtic languages are to be sought in Bronze Age Western Europe, especially the Iberian Peninsula.Koch et al.'s proposal has failed to find...
Christianity has been the largest religion by number of adherents since the Early Middle Ages: it was introduced under the ancient Romans, developing as Celtic Christianity. According to tradition, Christianity arrived in the 1st or 2nd century. The most popular form is Anglicanism (known as Episcopalism in Scotland). Dating from the 16th-century Reformation, it regards itself as both Catholic and Reformed. The Head of the Church is the monarch of the United Kingdom, as the Supreme Governor....
System of state administration on a local level in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Local government in the United Kingdom has origins that pre-date the United Kingdom itself, as each of the four countries of the United Kingdom has its own separate system. For an overview, see Administrative geography of the United Kingdom.