The United Kingdom's population in 2004 surpassed 60 million--the third-largest in the European Union. Its overall population density is one of the highest in the world. Almost one-third of the population lives in England's prosperous and fertile southeast and is predominantly urban and suburban--with about 7.5 million in the capital of London, which remains the largest city in Europe. The United Kingdom's high literacy rate (99%) is attributable to universal public education introduced for the primary level in 1870 and secondary level in 1900. Education is mandatory from ages 5 through 16. The Church of England and the Church of Scotland are the official churches in their respective parts of the country, but most religions found in the world are represented in the United Kingdom.
A group of islands close to continental Europe, the British Isles have been subject to many invasions and migrations, especially from Scandinavia and the continent, including Roman occupation for several centuries. Contemporary Britons are descended mainly from the varied ethnic stocks that settled there before the 11th century. The pre-Celtic, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse influences were blended in Britain under the Normans, Scandinavian Vikings who had lived in Northern France. Although Celtic languages persist in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, the predominant language is English, which is primarily a blend of Anglo-Saxon and Norman French.
The United Kingdom is one of the United States' closest allies, and British foreign policy emphasizes close coordination with the United States. Bilateral cooperation reflects the common language, ideals, and democratic practices of the two nations. Relations were strengthened by the United Kingdom's alliance with the United States during both World Wars, and its role as a founding member of NATO, in the Korean conflict, in the Persian Gulf War, and in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The United Kingdom and the United States continually consult on foreign policy issues and global problems and share major foreign and security policy objectives.
The United Kingdom is the sixth-largest market for U.S. goods exports after Canada, Mexico, China, Japan and Germany, and the sixth-largest supplier of U.S. imports after Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, and Germany. U.S. exports of goods and services to the United Kingdom in 2008 totaled $116 billion, while U.S. imports from the U.K. totaled $104 billion. The United Kingdom is a large source of foreign tourists in the United States. In 2008, 2.95 million U.S. residents visited the United Kingdom, while 4 million U.K. residents visited the United States.
The United States and the United Kingdom share the world's largest foreign direct investment partnership. U.S. investment in the United Kingdom reached $421 billion in 2008, while U.K. direct investment in the U.S. totaled $454 billion. This investment sustains more than 1 million American jobs.
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