United Kingdom (Britain)

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, UK

United Kingdom
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Ceremonial Flag of UK as used in the late Interplanetary Age

A fairly major Old Earth polity for some time, both in its own right and as a member of the European Union and later European Federation. Made up of four 'countries', namely England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Despite its diminutive size, the United Kingdom had a major effect on many of Old Earth's cultures.

The first humans arrived in the area to be known as Britain roughly 40,000 years ago, in the form of hunter-gatherer tribes. These groups developed their own culture and language, but did not achieve any level of technological progress for several thousand years.

Although little is known of the culture of the Paleolithic, Neolithic or Bronze Age cultures of the British Isles, it is known that the Celtic culture spreading across Europe during the Iron Age came to predominate in the archipelago around 2500 BT. Around 2100 BT, the expanding Roman Empire conquered much of the island of Great Britain, with the exception of the far north, and governed it for about 400 years. The culture, language and society of the natives was substantially Romanised, and most of the population converted to Christianity.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, and the withdrawal of Roman rule, native Celtic and Romanised Celtic rulers set up their own states. In addition to speakers of Latin and of Brythonic (a Celtic language) there were speakers of Gaelic in the northwest who had arrived from the Celtic populations of Ireland and Picts in the northeast, another Celtic population. Already there were Germanic peoples settled in Britain who had arrived under the employ of the Romans, and their numbers began to expand with increasing migrations from their homeland on the European mainland, ultimately coming to subsume native culture into their own, including turning the populace from Christianity to Anglo-Saxon paganism. They did not, however, come to rule the westernmost regions or the north of Great Britain.

The region returned to Christianity in time, while continuing to absorb the influences of other groups, notably Vikings from Scandinavia, and eventually solidified into a number of countries. The Anglo-Saxon-derived polities settled into the Kingdom of England, while independent Celtic nations remained in the north and west. Norman-French rulers conquered England in 903 BT, bringing a long period of French rule, which had a major impact on the culture and language of the nation. Within the next few centuries, Scotland unified into a single state comprising the north of Great Britain, with both Scots and Gaelic languages spoken, while successive English monarchs conquered the remaining western Brythonic enclaves comprising Wales. Much of neighbouring Ireland was also conquered.

Social changes continued to take place in the British Isles, in part as a result of the Reformation, which replaced Catholicism with forms of Protestant Christianity as the state religions. The Kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland were united in 367 BT, and formally formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 263 BT.

This polity was at the forefront of European colonialism, the spread of Christianity and later the Industrial Revolution. The British Empire colonized parts of North America, which would secede to form the founding culture of the United States of America, and at a later date included South Asia, Australia, large parts of Africa and Canada, while also controlling much of world trade and shipping, overcoming other European powers for world hegemony, in particular France. Britain continued to be a centre for social reform. However, during the 2nd century BT its industrial monopoly was eroded by the rise of Germany and the USA. This culminated in the two World Wars, after which the British Empire essentially collapsed due to economic pressures, growing secessionist movements and the changing nature of the global economy. Nevertheless, the UK remained a powerful polity during the 1st century BT and into the 1st century AT, retaining a great deal of global influence, in part through the Commonwealth of Nations, a club of primarily-post-British-Empire states. The United Kingdom had a complex relationship with the European Union, later the European Federation, its nearest neighbour. With the rise in importance of local subnational governments, Scotland, Wales and England came to separate, abolishing the UK government in 102 AT, while Northern Ireland united with the remainder of its island. However the separate states of the former UK retained close economic, political and ceremonial links until the Great Expulsion.

What's more, the nation increasingly became a multicultural one with immigration from diverse sources. The decline of Anglican Christianity as the predominant religion was a part of the social changes in the UK, with other forms of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, other faiths and in particular irreligious naturalist worldviews growing. The nation's ethnic diversity stemmed from immigration from across the world, but in particular featured South Asian, African, Caribbean, Arabic and Eastern European groups, and the resulting mix of peoples and cultures transformed the social environment, language and many other aspects of British society. The widespread fluency in English across the European Federation led to increased movement of European peoples across it, including into and out of the British Isles, paving the way for the emergence of the pan-European culture, as well as the development of European International English, which became the predominant language in the British urban centres and many others across Europe, and came to replace the native languages in many smaller European states. As well as influences from American English dialects, European International English was heavily based on Standard British English and local southeastern dialects. European International English was one of the dominant forms of the English language as a lingua franca on Old Earth alongside General Indian English, West African International English and North American Commerce English up until the shift to the derived Orbital Standard and other varieties.

Within this context, Britain, and in particular the city of London, remained powerful cultural melting pots and centres for social development right up until the Great Expulsion, although they were somewhat eroded in their status as economic and technological centres within Europe by Istanbul and the Scandinavian, North German and Eastern European conurbations.

In the aftermath of the Great Expulsion, the British mostly dissolved into the other Terragen cultures to an even greater extent than had occurred in the European Federation already, although some retained a distinct identity for some time, usually in conjunction with other European-derived groups. A small number of British-founded interstellar colonies are extant, mostly in the Terragen Federation; a handful of groups here and elsewhere claim to be of British, Scottish, English or Welsh heritage, often with little evidence. New Old York is just one of the retro-historical societeums that exist in the Current Era which recreate an idealised version of old British culture.

Today, the northern areas of the archipelago are once again under an ice sheet, while the lower sea level has increased the area of the islands, allowing a land bridge to form between Ireland and Wales. This is all a result of the Gaiacene Ice Age. The ex-polity is primarily occupied by baselines, gengineered to resemble the original Briton people, as well as bear, wolf and deer rianths, and provolves of many of the forest-dwelling native creatures. While most of the constructs of civilization have been removed by GAIA to make room for the great woodland, a few sites of great cultural and historical importance, such as Stonehenge, have been preserved.

Important figures from British history include King Arthur, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Winston Churchill and Alan Turing (some of whom may have been semi-fictional).

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Development Notes
Text by Kirran Lochhead Strang
Some additional material by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 04 February 2015.