United Kingdom - Country history and economic development

600s B.C. Celts begin to settle the British Isles.

55-44 B.C. Under Julius Caesar, Rome invades and ultimately conquers Britain.

901. The West Saxons, under Alfred the Great, conquer most of England.

1066. The French duke William the Conqueror defeats the Saxon forces under Harold Godwin and establishes a Norman dynasty.

1154-1189. Henry II establishes the Angevin dynasty and consolidates royal power through a series of political and legal reforms. The nation also begins a period of economic growth.

1215. The Magna Carta is signed. The document gives increased political power to the kingdom's nobles while it reduces the power of the king. The Magna Carta forms one of the components of the kingdom's contemporary constitution.

1337. The Hundred Years' War with France begins.

1415. Scottish forces under Robert the Bruce win the Battle of Bannockburn, which guarantees Scottish independence for several centuries.

1509-1547. Henry VIII breaks with the Catholic Church and establishes Anglicanism as the official religion.

1588. Under Elizabeth I, the British become a global power and defeat the Spanish Armada. British merchants begin trading with India and North America.

1600s. Numerous colonies are established in North America and the Caribbean. Trade patterns develop in which Great Britain imports raw materials from its colonies which are converted into manufactured goods and sold back to the colonies.

1642-1649. Civil War between the Royalists—who support the Catholic King Charles I—and the Puritans results in the beheading of the king.

1660. The monarchy is restored under Charles II.

1688. The Stuarts are overthrown during the "Glorious Revolution." The English Bill of Rights is adopted and William and Mary of the House of Orange ascend to the throne.

1707. The Treaty for the Union of Scotland and England creates a single monarchy for the 2 countries.

1760-1820. The reign of George III witnesses the loss of colonies in North America, but the general expansion of the empire. The British lead the coalition that defeats Napoleon in 1815.

1800s. Wide expansion of the empire and industrialization takes place. There is significant emigration from the British Isles to North America and other colonial areas such as Australia.

1832. Slavery is abolished in the empire.

1890s. Nations such as Germany and the United States overtake Great Britain as the dominant industrial powers in the world.

1914-1918. World War I deals major blow to British imperial supremacy.

1922. The 26 counties of southern Ireland are granted independence and form the Irish Free State (later the Irish Republic).

1939-1945. World War II. Alone among the major Western European powers, the British hold out against the Axis and are one of the 3 main powers, along with the United States and the USSR, in the wartime coalition that defeats the Axis.

1945. Widespread economic recession extends throughout the United Kingdom and its empire.

1947. India and Pakistan are granted independence.

1948. The National Health System (NHS) is created. Independence is granted to Burma and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

1952. George VI dies and is succeeded by his daughter, who is crowned Elizabeth II.

1970. Oil is discovered in the North Sea.

1972. As unrest escalates into violence in Northern Ireland, direct rule is imposed by London.

1973. The United Kingdom joins the European Community (now the EU). The Bahamas gains independence.

1975. Full production of offshore oil in the North Sea begins.

1979. Conservatives return to power with a substantial majority under Margaret Thatcher, Western Europe's first female prime minister. Thatcher implements a number of economic reforms which privatize industries and cut corporate taxes.

1982. Argentine military forces invade the Falkland Islands. These forces are defeated by the British during the Falkland Islands War.

1986. The natural gas industry is privatized.

1987. Thatcher wins a third term and ultimately becomes the longest-serving prime minister since Lord Liverpool in the 19th century.

1990. Economic problems and the proposal for an unpopular poll tax cause John Major to replace Margaret Thatcher as prime minister. The United Kingdom participates in the coalition that defeats Iraq in the Persian Gulf War.

1994. The "Chunnel" inaugurates direct transportation between the United Kingdom and France via a tunnel under the English Channel. The outbreak of "mad cow" disease (BSE) significantly harms British agriculture. The coal industry is privatized.

1997. Discontent over the economy leads the Labour Party to win a general election and Tony Blair becomes prime minister. The colony of Hong Kong is returned to China. The Bank of England is granted full autonomy in monetary matters.

1998. Scotland and Wales are granted limited self-government. The Good Friday Peace Accords in Northern Ireland establish a regional assembly.

1999. The House of Lords is reformed and reduced in size. The kingdom declines to join the European Monetary Union. The United Kingdom participates in the NATO-led military campaign against Serbia during the Kosovo Crisis.

2000. Unemployment reaches its lowest level since the 1970s (6 percent). Foot and mouth disease affects almost 50 percent of British livestock, devastating the beef and sheep sectors.

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