No other nation on earth holds a closer relationship, or more vital historical link, with the United States than does the United Kingdom. Originally a British colony, the United States was founded largely by British settlers, whose off-spring eventually grew weary of English rule and revolted in 1776. Following independence from the UK, the newly created United States struggled at first with its former colonial master, and even fought a second war (the War of 1812) before relations gradually evolved from hostile to neutral during the 19th century. By the early 20th century, the US and UK were allies, fighting against Germany and its allies in World War I, and again during World War II, when American support for Britain proved vital for its survival. Together, American and British soldiers formed the core of Allied efforts that ultimately defeated Nazi Germany in the Second World War. US economic support after WWII also was key to the UK’s recovery from the destructive conflict, and as the Cold War unfolded against the Soviet Union, the US and UK became key partners in the defense of Western Europe through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Lay of the Land: Composed of England, Scotland, and Wales, Great Britain is an island separated from the European continent by the English Channel and the North Sea. Britain can be roughly divided into two distinct topographic regions, the lowlands in the southeast and the highlands in the west and north.
The English were the first Europeans to establish permanent settlements in America, beginning with Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, and Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. The first Jamestown settlement, comprised of single men hunting for gold and easily exportable goods, flirted with failure until the 1630s when the colony reoriented itself to a stable agricultural economy with lucrative tobacco exports. Many of these early immigrants, most notably the Puritans who settled in Massachusetts Bay and the Quakers in Pennsylvania, came seeking religious freedom. Some even sought refuge from religious persecution within America, such as Roger Williams who founded the state of Rhode Island as a haven for freedom of religion. These religious immigrants characterized the demographic in New England; sometimes whole congregations would pack up and move together. In the South, however, the majority of arrivals came seeking economic opportunity, often signing contracts exchanging their passage over the Atlantic for a few years of labor before acquiring their own tracts of land to till. Besides farmers, these servants worked as craftsmen, tradesmen, and laborers.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, in which a number of UK citizens were also killed, there was an enormous outpouring of sympathy from the United Kingdom for the United States. Accordingly, Prime Minister Tony Blair became President George W. Bush’s strongest international supporter. British forces participated in the 2001 war in Afghanistan and the United Kingdom, as well as Commonwealth nations such as Canada and Australia, supported the United States in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. France, Germany, China and Russia, however, did not show such support. After the United States, the United Kingdom contributed the most troops to the coalition that entered Iraq. But by 2007, British support for the Iraq war had radically declined.
The United Kingdom is the fifth-largest market for US exports, after Canada, Mexico, Japan, and China; and the sixth-largest supplier of US imports after Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, and Germany. US exports of goods and services to the United Kingdom in 2008 totaled $53.7 billion, while US imports from the UK totaled $58.6 billion. The United States has had a trade deficit with the United Kingdom since 1998.
British Officials Outraged over American Renditions on UK Soil
According to the State Department, in July 2008, the British Ministry of Defense agreed to pay 2.8 million pounds (approximately $4 million) to the family of Iraqi civilian Baha Mousa, who died in 2003 after suffering 93 injuries during a 36-hour detention by British troops in Iraq. In 2007 a court martial sentenced a soldier to one year in prison and dismissed him from the army for the inhumane treatment of Mousa. Six other soldiers were acquitted; no one was convicted in the death
Nigel Sheinwald took up his position as British Ambassador to the United States in October 2007. Born in 1953, Sheinwald was educated at Harrow County Grammar School and Balliol College, Oxford.
The position of US Ambassador to the United Kingdom is currently vacant.