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Essex () is a ceremonial county in the East of England. It is bordered by Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, the North Sea to the east, Kent across the Thames Estuary to the south, Greater London to the south-west, and Hertfordshire to the west. The largest settlement is the city of Southend-on-Sea, and the county town is the city of Chelmsford.
The county has an area of 3,670 km2 (1,420 sq mi) and a population of 1,832,751. After Southend (180,686) the largest settlements are the cities of Colchester (192,700) and Chelmsford (181,763), and Basildon (187,659). The south of the county is very densely populated, and the remainder, besides Colchester and Chelmsford, is rural. Essex is divided into fourteen districts; twelve are part of a two-tier non-metropolitan county also called Essex, and the Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea districts are unitary areas. The county historically included the area to the east of the River Lea which is now part of the London boroughs of Waltham Forest, Newham, Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham, and Havering.
Essex is a low-lying county with a flat coastline. It contains pockets of ancient woodland, including Epping Forest in the south-west, and in the north-east shares Dedham Vale area of outstanding natural beauty with Suffolk. The coast is one of the longest of any English county, at 350 miles. It is deeply indented by estuaries, the largest being those of the Stour, which forms the Suffolk border, the Colne, Blackwater, Crouch, and the Thames in the south. Parts of the coast are wetland and salt marsh, including a large expanse at Hamford Water, and it contains several large beaches.What is now Essex was occupied by the Trinovantes tribe during the Iron Age. They established a settlement at Colchester, which is the oldest recorded town in Britain. The town was conquered by the Romans but subsequently sacked by the Trinovantes during the Boudican revolt. In the Early Middle Ages the region was invaded by the Saxons, who formed the Kingdom of Essex; they were followed by the Vikings, who after winning the Battle of Maldon were able to extract the first Danegeld from King Æthelred. After the Norman Conquest much of the county became a royal forest, and in 1381 the populace of the county were heavily involved in the Peasants' Revolt. The subsequent centuries were more settled, and the county's economy became increasingly tied to that of London; in the nineteenth century the railways allowed coastal resorts such as Clacton-on-Sea to develop and the Port of London to shift downriver to Tilbury. Subsequent development has included the new towns of Basildon and Harlow, the development of the Harwich International Port, and petroleum industry.
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