The complex relationship between the United States of America and Great Britain centers on a shared history, a common language and legal system, culture and ancestral lines. The "Special Relationship," a phrase coined by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965), is used to describe the close cultural, historical, political, diplomatic, economic and military relations between the two countries.
This relationship started with the foundation in 1607 of the first permanent English colony in North America, which was called Jamestown. More settlers arrived with the years and by 1733 the number of colonies had reached 13. However, Britain's policy constrained the growth of the colonial economy. Tensions between the colonies and Britain escalated from 1765 to 1775 over issues of taxation without representation and control by King George III (1738-1820).
The protests of the colonists ultimately led to the beginning of the American War of Independence (1775-1783). The Second Continental Congress led the colonial effort and made gradual steps towards independence, adopting the U.S. Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. In 1783, with the Treaty of Paris, the independent and sovereign nation of the United States of America, created by the original 13 states, was recognized by the Kingdom of Great Britain.
In 1812, a war was initiated by the United States, partly to protect U.S. trading rights and partly because of American anger over British military support for Native Americans defending their lands from invading American pioneers as the U.S. sought territorial expansion to the north and the west. The war continued until 1814, ending with the Treaty of Ghent. The document, signed on 24 December 1814, largely restored relations between Britain and America to the pre-war status quo.
At the beginning of the American Civil War (1861-1865), Britain proclaimed neutrality in a declaration issued on 13 May 1861. Although the Confederate States of America expected sympathy on the part of Britain, the United Kingdom was not inclined to enter the war. Britain had grown dependent on trade with the U.S., mostly on cheap grain imports. Britain feared that the Russian Empire, America's ally in Europe, would side with the United States in possible war.
The convergence of social and political objectives between the United Kingdom and the United States from 1895 until World War I began in 1914 is known as the Great Rapprochement. The most notable sign of improving relations during the Great Rapprochement was the United Kingdom's support for the U.S. during the Spanish-American War in 1898. In World War I (1914-1918), British and American forces fought together on the Western Front.
Between 1935 and 1937, in the early stages of the conflict between the United Kingdom, France and Nazi Germany - which eventually led to World War II - the U. S. Congress endorsed a series of Neutrality Acts. Following the devastating attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941, America could no longer stay out of the war.
In the years after World War II, the British Empire gradually started to dwindle with the initiation of the process of decolonization. At the same time the United States was experiencing an economic boom. In 1945, the two countries participated in the creation of the United Nations and became two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. In the years of the Cold War (1945-1980), close co-operation between America and Britain led to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
After the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, Britain became one of America's strongest international supporters in the War on Terror declared by President George W. Bush and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The London bombings on 7 July 2005 showed that the sources of the terror threat to each of the two nations were different. The United States had been attacked by Islamic extremists from the Middle East, whereas the bombing in Britain was carried out by homegrown Muslim terrorists.
By 2007, public opinion of the Iraq War had grown largely negative, with the stance of British Prime Minister Tony Blair (b.1953) suffering serious damage in the eyes of many British citizens. Britain has said it considers the relationship with the United States its "most important bilateral relationship" and in February 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (b.1947) said this relationship "stands the test of time".