Great Britain – Englisch Abi Lernzettel United Kingdom

The United Kingdom



From Empire to Commonwealth and EU


The British Empire


The First British Empire (17th / 18th century)

  • Founding of colonies in all party of the world for commercial and military reasons

  • Boston Tea Party 1773: encouraged the independence movement in the New World and eventually led to American War of Independence (1774-1783)

  • End of the First Empire: separation of the American colonies from Great Britain


The Second British Empire (18th – beginning of 20th century)

  • 18th century: shipping of convicts to Australia, acquisition of territories on the eastern half of the globe, 1801: Colonial Office (imposition of British institutions and methods of government in the colonies)

  • 19th century: Queen Victoria (1819-1901), height of Empire’s wealth and power, 1877: Queen Victoria becomes Empress of India

  • End of 19th / beginning of 20th century: colonies show growing desire for independence, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa gain dominion status, 1910: four dominions gain full independence but keep close links to Great Britain: beginning of Commonwealth

  • End of the Second Empire: Independence of India 1947


The old Commonwealth


  • Voluntary association of 54 former British territories

  • British Empire as a Commonwealth of nations, thoughts behind: decolonization, effects of who world wars, changing outward appereance of international relations.

  • process of decolonization (in 19th cent.) starts in Canada. (Canada became a self-governing domination), racial equality


The new Commonwealth

  • international organisation, aims to advance human rights, democracy, also political advantages for member states

  • about 33 member states

  • Queen as head of the Commonwealth, new goals for the Commonwealth (by Tony Blair): fight against Aids, terrorism, illegal immigration; avoud economic trouble; fix the world trade

  • Pro: bringing countries together, links people of different cultures, better understanding, shared values, adressing problems, good governance

  • Contra: big differences between the countries, traditions get lost, political power, no binding effect of the declarations, has often been compared to a gentlemen's club, historical origings keep fading: historical background gets lost–> negative effect on the member states' feeling of belonging together



From EEC to EU



  • 1957: Treaty of Rome, six original members: France, West Germany, Italy, Benelux

  • 1973: UK, Ireland, Denmark and later Greece, Spain, Portugal joined community

  • 1984: Delors plan

  • 1993: single market => 323 million customers, free exchange of goods, free movement of people

  • 1999: single currency (Euro)



Britain’s Political System


The System of Parliamentary Government

  • Separation of powers: legislative (Parliament), executive (government: Prime Minister + Cabinet), judiciary (courts)


Houses of Parliament

House of Commons

  • 659 members elected in a general election: 529 England, 72 Scotland, 40 Wales, 18 Northern Ireland

  • Chief officer: speaker who presides over the house

  • Powers: control the executive (the government), supervise finances, make laws (Acts of Parliament)


House of Lords

  • Members appointed, not elected: Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal

  • Chief officer: Lord Chancellor

  • Powers: revise amend bills (except money bills), bills can be held up for one year. Supreme Court of Appeal


Prime Minister

  • Leader of the majority party in the House of Commons

  • Head of the executive (the government)

  • Powers: appoints/dismisses ministers, presides over the Cabinet, advises/informs the Queen, recommends a number of appointments to the Queen


Political Parties

  • Conservative Party: formed in 1830, no change for the sake of chance, private enterprise important, rigid policy of Margaret Thatcher (Thatcherism) in the 1980’s

  • Labour Party: formed in 1900, close conection to trade unions, old-style socialism: central role of the state, new Labour (“Third Way”): less interference from the state, more private responsibility and initiative required

  • Liberal Democrats: merger of Britain’s oldest partys, the Liberals and Social Democrats, because of the system of direct representation less influential, only 52 seats in Parliament



  • General election at least every five years

  • Direct representation: MPs are elected in individual constituencies by a majority vote



  • Key part of government’s programme of constitutional reform

  • Decentralization of power, transferring (devolving) power from central government in Westminster so parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

  • Set up in 1999 following referendums and elections




Functions of the Constitutional Monarch

  • To act as Head of the Executive, to play daily part in government of the country – without taking sides or being biased

  • To open and dissolve Parliament

  • So sign bills passed by Parliament so that they become Acts of Parliament

  • To act as Head of State and Commander-in-chief

  • To act as Head of the Judiciary

  • To confer peerages, knighthoods or other honors (on the advice of PM)

  • To act as Head of the Commonwealth

  • To act as Head of the Church of England and appoint bishops


Against the Monarchy

  • House of Windsor lost respect of the people because of the shocking behavior of some younger members of the Royal Family

  • The Royal Family is no longer a “model of Christian family life” – which the Victorians expected them to be

  • The monarchy is an undemocratic institution because of the head of the state is determined by heredity

  • The Royal Family have lost touch with what ordinary people think and worry about

  • The monarchy costs a lot of public money – a president would be cheaper


For the Monarchy

  • Criticism of the low moral standards of the House of Windsor only applies to the younger members of the Royal Family => Queen Elizabeth is a highly-respected Sovereign

  • A monarch is a better figurehead of a country as he/she is above politics

  • A constitutional monarchy makes a dictatorship impossible: the monarch holds the power and hands it on to the Prime Minister

  • A constitutional monarchy is an even-handed, impartial institution

  • The monarch represents the long tradition of the country

  • The ceremonial events are a tourist attraction => through tourism monarchy earns more money than it costs



Trade Unions



  • Early 19th century: formation of „combinations“ to help poor workers

  • Mid-19th century: beginning of trade union movement as Karl Marx and other social reformers campaign against the capitalist system and the exploitation of the labour force

  • 1868: formation of Trade Union Congress, central organization of all trade unions

  • 1871: Trade Union Act, recognition of trade unions as legal associations



  • In Britain: craft or trade principle (all workers belonging to the same craft or trade)

  • In Germany: industrial principle (all workers in the same branch of industry)

  • Shop steward represents workers and union in a factory



  • To protect the rights of the labour force

  • To enter into collective bargaining with the employers about wages, working conditions, working hours

  • To take industrial action: if negotiations fail, union may call a strike after carrying out a strike vote

  • Illegal strike = “wildcat” strike


Situation today

  • 1980s: anti-union laws of the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher weakened the power and the influence of the unions

  • Declining membership


The Welfare State



  • To provide social security for people in times of unemployment, illness, old age



  • 19th century: efforts to bridge the gap between rich and poor

  • 1909: David Llyod George introduces old-age pensions and state pensions

  • 1911: National Insurance Act

  • 1942: Beveridge Report: re-organisation of all social services


National Health Service

  • NHS was set up to provide medical services to all residents, regardless of their income, medical treatment is free, patients pay only a nominal sum for prescriptions, 81% of the costs are financed by state

  • Problems: economic problems because of rising costs and an increasing number of patients, cuts in government funds: nurses and doctors leave

  • Solution: 1998 – Tony Blair’s Labour government announces a ten-year plan to modernize NHS



  • People who are out of work are entitled to unemployment benefit, called Jobseeker’s Allowance => they must be actively seeking work and be capable of and available for work

  • The government encourages unemployed people to take up part-time jobs by granting a Back to Work Bonus

  • The state pays for retraining courses and other measures to move people from welfare into jobs (Welfare-to-Work)


Old Age Pensions

  • Women retire at 60, men at 65 => from 2010 onwards the new state pension age for men and women will be 65, they are entitled to state pension, earnings-related pension, many people also receive occupational pensions by paid employers

  • Problem: increase in taxes for the younger generation to pay for the pensions of growing number of elderly people

  • Solution: private initiative, people must take out private insurances to provide for their old age




The Social Classes

  • Many people like to think that class distinctions are a thing of the past, but social classes still exist in Britain

  • Upper Class: members of the aristocracy

  • Middle class: people In white- collar jobs

  • Working class: manual workers

  • Great social mobility between middle and working class

  • Class signifiers: heredity, wealth, education, occupation, accent


British Core Values


Public school education

  • Public schools have made notable contribution to English education => British public school leavers have big advantage over children from comprehensive schools

  • Education privilege, social prestige and the “old-boy network” or “old-schooltie network” noemally guarantee professional success, public schools for boys: Harrow, Rugby, Eton ..

  • Only a few public schools for girls, most famous of them is Queen’s College in London

  • Public school education aims at ideals and values: the importance of discipline, taking on responsibility, training for leadership, forming character through the practice of sport, emphasizing good social behavior


The British gentlemen

  • British gentlemen was a man of gentle/noble birth or superior social position

  • Concept of British gentlemen not only a social/class designation, there’s also a moral component

  • British gentlemen: well-mannered + considerate man with high standards of proper behavior

  • Recipient of traditional liberal education based on Latin at one of the elite public schools



= ethical doctrine that moral worth of an action is determined by its contribution to overall utility/usefulness

  • British philosopher Jeremy Bentham: humans act out of self-interest according to the pleasure-pain principle => motivation of people is the desire to avoid pain and to seek pleasure

  • To be successful, social policy has to offer reward or punishment => makes it possible to achieve a well-defined societal optimum in allocations and production and achieve the goal: “the greatest good for the greatest number”



= straight forwards, practical way of thinking about thinks / dealing with problems, is concerned with results rather than with theories

= also a philosophical view that a theory or concept should be evaluated in terms of how it works and what consequences it has => experimentation not a method of scientific investigation, but important way for humans to engage with each other and the world



  • Tolerance = essential part of being British

  • Basis of this value can be seen as sub-category of respect, and stands for equality of all under law (made by the democratic British government)

  • Implies equal treatment for all, respect for Great Britain and its shared heritage

  • Tolerance towards diversity => people of Britain should unite politically and culturally




Immigrants from Commonwealth countries

  • Up to 1962 Commonwealth citizens were allowed to enter the UK freely

  • Between 1955 and 1960 about 250000 immigrants arrived looking for work

  • From 1962 onwards several acts to limit the number of immigrants were passed: 1962 first immigration restrictions, 1971 Immigration Act , 1994 New Immigration Rules


Asylum Seekers

  • UK always accepted asylum seekers / refugees fleeing from political persecution

  • Dramatic rise in number of asylum seekers who are motivated more by economic than political reasons made stricter laws necessary

  • 1996 Asylum and Immigration Act: people arriving from “safe” countries (where they don’t run the risk of persecution) are not granted asylum




Ethnic Communities

  • About 3 Million people belong to ethnic minority

  • Two largest groups: the Asians (Indians, Pakistani) and Blacks (Black Caribbeans, Black Africans)

  • Ethnic communities are concentrated in urban and industrial areas

  • Legislation: 1976 Race Relations Act (discrimination illegal), 1986 Public Order Act (to incite racial hatred is a criminal offence), 1998 Crime and Disorder Act (new law against racial harassment and violence)


Men and Women


Women’s Liberation Movement

  • The struggle for the emancipation of women began in the 19th century

  • 1918: women get the right to vote

  • 1970: Equal Pay Act , women are entitled to equal pay with men when doing the same work

  • 1975 and 1986: Sex Discrimination Act, discrimination between men and women is unlawful


Situation today

  • Woman have achieved equal opportunities in politics and in employment

  • Problem areas: women are still underrepresented in occupations at senior level, domestic violence, single mothers still at a disadvantage





  • 1534: King Henry VIII breaks with Rome and found his own church: the Church of England

  • Proclaims himself “Supreme Head of the Church of England”

  • Keeps Catholic doctrines


The Church of England (Anglican Curch)

  • The official church of the State of England: the Sovereign is the Head of the Church, the church is not financed by the state, spiritual leaders: Archbishop of Canterburry and Archbishop of York, the two archbishops and 24 senior bishops have seats in the House of Lords

  • Three streams within the Church of England: High Church (conservative Catholic wing), Low Church (more liberal, Protestant influence), Broad Church (a compromise between the two above)


Free Churches

  • Have their own traditions: no bishops, services are less formal and they allow women priest

  • Methodists, Baptists


Other Faith Communities

  • Large communities of Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims since immigration waves of the 1950s/60s

  • Jews (many refugees from the Third Reich), Jehova’s witnesses, 7th Day Adventists

  • Cults: Church of Scientology, Moonies



Northern Ireland


The Roots of the Conflict

  • Roots of the religious conflict between England and Ireland go back to 16th century

  • English King Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church => England became Protestant

  • King Henry declared himself Head of the new Anglican Church => wanted people of Ireland (who where strict Catholics) to turn away from Catholicism too

  • Henry and his successors met with fierce opposition against their policies to establish Protestantism in Ireland

  • Although Roman Catholic services were forbidden + bishops/priests often outlawed/executed => Irish Catholics became more united and more anti-English than ever

  • Queen Elizabeth sent English settlers to the southern Irish province of Munster to bring country under control =>”Plantation”

  • After rebellion of Irish tribal chiefs: over half a million acres of northern county were taken from Irish earls and given to English and Scottish settlers who were seen as invaders and occupiers => this colonization (“Plantation of Ulster”) marks beginning of the Ulster conflict

  • 19th century: economically hard times for Ireland => after several years of potato crop failures half of the Irish population died of starvation during the Great Famine in 1840s => people fled to US or Britain

  • Towards end of 19th century: political efforts to return all political power to Irish people

  • Prime Minister Gladstone’s Home Rule Bills were defeated in Parliament in Westminster => 1918 radical republican party Sinn Féin won the election with IRA as their military supporters

  • 1919: War of Independence => after two years’ fighting the British government granted Ireland independence

  • Protestant in Ulster didn’t want to be part of a Catholic-dominated Ireland => country was divided into “free Republic of Ireland” and “Northern Ireland”, controlled by the Protestant majority


Efforts to solve the conflict

  • 1921 – 1972: Northern Ireland had its own Parliament (Stormont) where Unionists (Protestants) held permanent majority

  • The Troubles” bagan in 1960s with serious rioting between Protestants and Catholics, principally the Provisional IRA => outbreak of violence made government in London deploy British troops to support local police force (Royal Ulster Constabulary)

  • 1972: “Bloody Sunday” = 13 Catholics are killed by British troops during a protest march

  • Violence/terrorist actions didn’t stop => government abolished the regional Parliament at Stormont in 1973 and introduced direct rule from Westminster


Anglo-Irish Agreement 1998

  • British government always claimed that direct rule was never intended to be permanent => efforts have been made to restore the government of Northern Ireland => how this could be achieved / how the interests of both parties could be persuaded has been the problem since 1973

  • 1985: Irish government in Dublin was given consultative role to protect Catholic’s interests

  • Good Friday Agreement: provided for the creation of of the Northern Ireland Assembly in which Protestants and Catholics should share power

  • 1999: re-opening of Northern Irish Parliament at Stormont => end of direct rule from Westminster

  • Protestants couldn’t accept sitting in the same parliament with IRA fighters => demanded that IRA should hand over all their weapons => refusal of IRA led to temporary re-introduction of direct rule

  • Peace process was revived when IRA eventually declared to put its weapons beyond use

  • People hope, that Belfast agreement will bring an end to conflict of the two communities

  • They agree, that fair power-sharing = only way to achieve durable peace

  • Current problem: celebration of the anniversary of the Battle of Boyne (William of Orange, a Protestant, defeated Catholic King James at the River of Boyne), where Protestants want to display their superiority by marching through Catholic areas => Catholics always try to stop the marching Protestants, while Protestants riot and humiliate the Catholics

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