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The main centres of population, power and wealth in the pre-industrial English Midlands lay in the fertile and accessible river valleys of the Trent, the Severn and the Avon.The area of modern Birmingham lay in between, on the upland Birmingham Plateau and within the densely wooded and sparsely populated Forest of Arden.Birmingham's major cultural institutions – including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Library of Birmingham and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts – enjoy international reputations, Birmingham's sporting heritage can be felt worldwide, with the concept of the Football League and tennis both originating from the city.Its most successful football club Aston Villa has won seven league titles and one European Cup with the other professional club being Birmingham City. Birmingham's early history is that of a remote and marginal area.The recession of the early 1980s saw Birmingham's economy collapse, with unprecedented levels of unemployment and outbreaks of social unrest in inner-city districts.

These trading links gave Birmingham's metalworkers access to much wider markets, allowing them to diversify away from lower-skilled trades producing basic goods for local sale, towards a broader range of specialist, higher-skilled and more lucrative activities.

Freeing for the first time the manufacturing capacity of human society from the limited availability of hand, water and animal power, this was arguably the pivotal moment of the entire industrial revolution and a key factor in the worldwide increases in productivity that would follow over the following century.

Birmingham rose to national political prominence in the campaign for political reform in the early 19th century, with Thomas Attwood and the Birmingham Political Union bringing the country to the brink of civil war during the Days of May that preceded the passing of the Great Reform Act in 1832.

Clockwise, from top: skyline of Birmingham City Centre from the south, Birmingham Town Hall, St Martin's church and Selfridges department store in the Bull Ring, the University of Birmingham, St Philip's Cathedral, the Library of Birmingham) is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England, standing on the small River Rea.

It is the largest and most populous British city outside London, with an estimated population of 1,101,360 as of 2014 A medium-sized market town in the medieval period, Birmingham grew to international prominence in the 18th century at the heart of the Midlands Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution, which saw the town at the forefront of worldwide advances in science, technology, and economic development, producing a series of innovations that laid many of the foundations of modern industrial society.

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