We have an economy smaller than france and italy thats after you take into account UK GDP is distorted by non doms,banks and most FTSE 100
companies making most of their money abroad.
1. Colonialism. No need to be politically correct about it - Brits had the upper hand, and that permitted an extraordinarily large amount of economic benefit by exploiting the weaker. There's also the benefit of English being the de facto global language. Unlike other European empires...
2. .... UK never suffered any major damage in either wars in terms of infrastructure or industry during the war.
3. UK has always had preferential ties to many trading partners, US, rest of Europe, Commonwealth nations. Again, another leg-up compared to many other countries.
Those are predispositions which gave the UK a huge boost, and is one of the reasons why it arguably is still high up. It takes longer for the first place runner to drop down to last place. Again, bluntly speaking, it has lost some places. So, moving from Britain's historical fortunes:
4. Relatively stable political leadership.
5. Arguably, the conservative, isolationist economic practices, such as not fully participating in the Eurozone. Don't mistake that statement has saying all decisions made were good - the fixed rate was a stupid idea, as it quickly proved to be.
6. Good social welfare system
7. Certain good regulatory steps, that kept politics away from businesses and financial matters, such as independence of BoE in 97-98.
To be honest, I'd recommend studying why UK's been declining more than why it's well off. Problems like declining education levels, unemployment, petty-politics and self-righteousness, not to mention increasing inequality. Be proud of what your country's achieved, but don't get complacent, and think you've somehow contributed to what it is currently - cuz the odds are, if you're on this forum, you've done nothing to actually make Britain great. So instead of wasting time, actually go and do something worthwhile and beneficial for your country.
Stable governments over the last 1,000 years--and the attendant peaceful environment for economic transaction they provide--have probably helped. Developing early as a nation state also made the land-mass that is now Britain comparably richer than the tribal fiefdoms of Europe and much of the rest of the world, long before colonialism reared its head in its more repugnant manifestations.
Because everyone comes to London for the Hot Sex. I know because Michael Gove told me.
I always assumed it was because, in comparison to some other countries, Britain is more democratic and so the Government voted in usually will attempt to meet the needs of the country as a whole than for power.
There's a book called 'Guns, Germs and Steel' which addresses this. There are a number of reasons but needless to say, these reasons have nothing to do with the people themselves and more to do with the geographical situation.