IntroductionEngland’s history and the diversity regarding its landscape make it one of the world’s most popular visitor destinations. There is so much to see in England that it is impossible to do more than just scratch the surface: From prehistoric attractions like Stonehenge to 21st-century must-sees like the London eye and with the variety of landscapes and widely differing urban environments the old tourism cliché ‘something for everyone’ really does apply!
England offers a rich cultural mix, thanks to many settlers and immigrants over the ages and recent years. The country’s heritage is many-faceted and deeply rooted, ranging from famous people like Shakespeare to ‘everyday’ tourist attractions like Buckingham Palace with its changing of the guard.
Places to go in England
HistoryThe twentieth century saw the previously mighty England struggling with defining her role in the world order. The British Empire was being slowly but largely peacefully dismantled, whilst internally the country was suffering the effects of the world wars and the Great Depression leaving somewhat of a power vacuum in Europe.
After WW1 nationalist sentiment in Ireland began increasingly to occupy England's politicians. This continued throughout the century as "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland continued even after the Republic of Ireland gained independence in 1922.
England experienced a severe economic and social downturn after WW1 when reliance on the traditional industries of cotton, coal mining and shipbuilding was heavy. These traditional industries were finding it difficult to compete in world markets and so intensified the effects of the Great Depression of the 1920s and early 1930s. It wasn't until the mid 1930s that some relief came under the all-party government formed by Ramsay MacDonald. English agriculture was protected by tariff and import quotas from, a building boom resulting from the population boom that new health measures made possible created an economic boost whilst newer industries were emerging to compete on the world stage such as the car industry, electrical manufacturing and the chemical industry.
International events then took over from domestic worries as WW2 broke out in 1939 when Britain joined France in declaring war on Germany. Though most of the war was fought on mainland Europe, the Luftwaffe also attacked England directly in a wave of bombings of industrial and supply centres predominantly London, Glasgow, Swansea, Coventry, Manchester, Liverpool, Southampton and Plymouth. The final statistics of WW2 are horrifying with around 300,000 British deaths and quarter of the country's homes destroyed.
The general election after the end of the war proved Britain's desire for a change from the Conservative government of Churchill to the left-wing Labour Party under Clement Attlee. Attlee had set out his intentions to undertake a radical programme of nationalisation of teh country's industry including the coal, gas, and electricity industries. The government proved its socialist credentials when it passed the National Insurance Act and the National Health Service Act which are seen as the beginnings of the welfare state and the National Health System.
England joined much of the rest of Europe and America in becoming part of the arms race associated with the post-war Cold War. It was a key player in the Nuclear industry leading to years of protest and the emergence of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) as an important NGO of the 1970s and 1980s.
Other developments saw a liberalisation of English politics and society in the 1960s such as through the legalisation of homosexuality and abortion. The 1970s by contrast were a period of unrest and discontent as recession gripped the country. This was the turning point in politics finally leading to the election of the first female and strongly right-wing prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.
Margaret Thatcher polarised opinion and precided over a period of english politics which saw reductions in taxes and easy credit benefit the middle classes, but declines in manufacturing and mining industries have an adverse impact on the working classes.
Thatcher's term as Prime Minister ended following rebellion in her own ranks where MPs feared they would lose the next election under her leadership after her introduction of the massively unpopular Poll Tax. Several conservative and labour leaders followed on the political scene when in 1992 the young and vibrant Tony Blair won Labour it's first term in office since the 1970s.
Blair's record 3 election wins followed although his premiership has also been dogged by controversy, perhaps most notably accusations of spin and the repercussions of his decision to back the American invasion of Iraq. Blair stepped down in 2007 and passed the reigns of power to Gordon Brown.
PoliticsBecause of the 'first past the post' electoral system rather than one of proportional representation, English politics have always been dominated by a small number of parties. All national governments of recent times have been led by one of either the Labour Party or the Conservative Party, the third largest party being the Liberal Democrat Party. Local political parties are less significant in England. Other parties in England are for example: Democratic Socialist Alliance, Socialist Green Unity Coalition, Communist Forum, and the United Kingdom Independence Party.
GeographyA lot of England’s countryside is relatively flat, consisting of fertile plains and gentle hills. In the north and the west, you’ll find mountains, moors and steeper hills; the Lake District (Cumbria) and the northwest are divided from the Yorkshire Dales, and the northeast by the high-rising Pennines. The eastern part of the country, particularly East Anglia, is the lowest lying. The country’s coastline is varied, it ranges from long stretches of sandy beaches to steep cliffs and isolated rocky coves.
EconomyEngland is a highly industrialized country as well as an important producer of textiles and chemical products. Automobiles, locomotives, and aircraft are other important industrial products. Since the 1990s the financial services sector has played a significant role in the country’s economy; the City of London is one of the world's largest financial centres. There, banks, insurance companies, commodity and futures exchanges are heavily concentrated.
In England’s past, a poor infrastructure hampered the development of large scale industry- this changed when, in the late 18th Century and early 19th Century, canals and railways were built. England became the world's first industrialized nation; then was also the time of British overseas expansion, England’s colonies (such as America, Canada, or Australia) brought in resources such as cotton and tobacco.
During the second half of the 20th century, heavy industries, such as coal mining, steel production and ship building, and were replaced by service industries and hi-tech industries, such as computer and pharmaceutical industries.
Today England is one of Europe's, wealthiest nations.