UK: Recent Historical Overview                                         


For more in depth history of Europe, including the United Kingdom navigate your way through different time periods here (scroll to Europe and click the down arrow to start)!

  • As the dominant industrial and sea power of the 19th century, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its height, the British Empire stretched over one quarter of the earth's surface.
  • The first half of the 20th century saw the UK's strength seriously depleted in two World Wars and the Irish republic withdraw from the union.
  • The second half of the 20th century witnessed the undoing of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation.
  • As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a founding member of NATO, and of the Commonwealth, the UK pursues a global approach to foreign policy.
  • Constitutional reform is also a significant issue in the UK.
  • The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly were established in 1999, but the latter was suspended until May 2007 due to wrangling over the peace process but was finalized in 2010.
  • In 2014, the Scottish people participated in a referendum vote asking them if they’d like to separate and gain independence from England. The “no” vote won (55% to 45%). During the campaign, the three main parties in the UK Parliament pledged to extend the powers of the Scottish Parliament. 
  • In 2016, the "Brexit" referendum was held to decide whether or not the UK would stay in the European Union. The "leave" vote won by a razor thin majority (51%), much to the surprise of the world and UK citizens alike.