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Dorset ( DOR-sit; archaically: Dorsetshire DOR-sit-sheer, -shər) is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is bordered by Somerset to the north-west, Wiltshire to the north-east, Hampshire to the east, the English Channel to the south, and Devon to the west. The largest settlement is Bournemouth, and the county town is Dorchester.
The county has an area of 2,653 km2 (1,024 sq mi) and a population of 772,268. Around half of the population lives in the South East Dorset conurbation, which contains three of county's largest settlements: Bournemouth (183,491), Poole (151,500), and Christchurch (31,372). The remainder of the county is largely rural, and its principal towns are Weymouth (53,427) and Dorchester (21,366). Dorset contains two unitary authority areas: Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, and Dorset. The county did not historically include Bournemouth and Christchurch, which were part of Hampshire.
There is evidence of Neolithic, Celtic, and Roman settlement in Dorset, and during the Early Middle Ages the region was settled by the Saxons; the county developed in the 7th century. The first recorded Viking raid on the British Isles occurred in Dorset during the eighth century, and the Black Death entered England at Melcombe Regis in 1348. The county has seen much civil unrest: in the English Civil War an uprising of vigilantes was crushed by Oliver Cromwell's forces in a pitched battle near Shaftesbury; the doomed Monmouth Rebellion began at Lyme Regis; and a group of farm labourers from Tolpuddle were instrumental in the formation of the trade union movement. During the Second World War, Dorset was heavily involved in the preparations for the invasion of Normandy, and the large harbours of Portland and Poole were two of the main embarkation points. Agriculture was traditionally the major industry of Dorset, but is now in decline in favour of tourism.
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