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Birmingham ( (listen) BUR-ming-əm) is the largest city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands, England. It is the most populated metropolitan borough and stands as the "Core City" within the second-largest metropolitan area and third-largest urban area in the United Kingdom, with roughly 1.2 million inhabitants within the borough (city-proper) area, 2.8 million inhabitants within the urban area and 4.3 million inhabitants within the larger metropolitan area. Birmingham is commonly referred to as the "second city of the United Kingdom".Located in the West Midlands region in England, approximately 100 miles (160 km) from London, Birmingham, as one of the United Kingdom's major cities, is considered to be the social, cultural, financial and commercial centre of the Midlands. Distinctively, Birmingham only has small rivers flowing through it, mainly the River Tame and its tributaries River Rea and River Cole – one of the closest main rivers is the Severn, approximately 20 miles (32 km) west of the city centre.
Historically a market town in Warwickshire in the medieval period, Birmingham grew during the 18th century during the Midlands Enlightenment and during the Industrial Revolution, which saw advances in science, technology and economic development, producing a series of innovations that laid many of the foundations of modern industrial society. By 1791, it was being hailed as "the first manufacturing town in the world". Birmingham's distinctive economic profile, with thousands of small workshops practising a wide variety of specialised and highly skilled trades, encouraged exceptional levels of creativity and innovation; this provided an economic base for prosperity that was to last into the final quarter of the 20th century. The Watt steam engine was invented in Birmingham.The resulting high level of social mobility also fostered a culture of political radicalism which, under leaders from Thomas Attwood to Joseph Chamberlain, was to give it a political influence unparalleled in Britain outside London and a pivotal role in the development of British democracy. From the summer of 1940 to the spring of 1943, Birmingham was bombed heavily by the German Luftwaffe in what is known as the Birmingham Blitz. The damage done to the city's infrastructure, in addition to a deliberate policy of demolition and new building by planners, led to extensive urban regeneration in subsequent decades.
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