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History of Birmingham




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Birmingham started life in the 6th century as an Anglo-Saxon farming hamlet on the banks of the River Rea. The name 'Birmingham' comes from "Beorma ingas ham", meaning "home of the people of Beorma."

Birmingham was first recorded in written documents by the Domesday Book of 1086 as a small village, worth only 20 shillings. There were many variations on this name. Bermingeham is another version.

In the 12th century, Birmingham was granted a royal charter to hold a market, which in time became known as the Bull Ring, transforming Birmingham from a village to a market town. As early as the 16th century, Birmingham's access to supplies of iron ore and coal meant that metalworking industries became established.

By the time of the English Civil War in the 17th century Birmingham had become an important manufacturing town with a reputation for producing small arms. Arms manufacture in Birmingham became a staple trade and was concentrated in the area known as the Gun Quarter. During the Industrial Revolution (from the mid-18th century onwards), Birmingham grew rapidly into a major industrial centre and the town prospered. During the 18th century, Birmingham was home to the Lunar Society, an important gathering of local thinkers and industrialists.

By the 1820s an extensive canal system had been constructed, giving greater access to natural resources to fuel to industries. Railways arrived in Birmingham in 1837 with the arrival of the Grand Junction Railway, and a year later, the London and Birmingham Railway. During the Victorian era, the population of Birmingham grew rapidly to well over half a million and Birmingham became the second largest population centre in England. Birmingham was granted city status in 1889 by Queen Victoria. The city established its own university in 1900.

Birmingham was originally part of Warwickshire, but expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, absorbing parts of Worcestershire to the south and Staffordshire to the north and west. The city absorbed Sutton Coldfield in 1974. The people of Sutton Coldfield still consider themselves separate from Birmingham. At the same time Birmingham became a metropolitan borough in the new West Midlands county. Up until 1986, the West Midlands County Council was based in Birmingham City Centre.



Birmingham suffered heavy bomb damage during World War II's "Birmingham Blitz", and the city was extensively redeveloped during the 1950s and 1960s. This included the construction of large tower block estates, such as Castle Vale in Erdington. The Bull Ring reconstructed and New Street station was redeveloped. In recent years, Birmingham has been transformed, with the construction of new squares like Centenary Square and Millennium Place. Old streets, buildings and canals have been restored, the pedestrian subways have been removed, and the Bull Ring shopping centre has been redeveloped further.

In the decades following The Second World War, the population of Birmingham changed dramatically, with immigration from the Commonwealth of Nations and beyond. The population peaked in 1951 at 1,113,000 residents.


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