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In 1709 the Birmingham-trained Abraham Darby I moved to Coalbrookdale in Shropshire and built the first blast furnace to successfully smelt iron ore with coke, transforming the quality, volume and scale on which it was possible to produce cast iron.In 1765 Matthew Boulton opened the Soho Manufactory, pioneering the combination and mechanisation under one roof of previously separate manufacturing activities through a system known as "rational manufacture".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.The damage done to the city's infrastructure, in addition to a deliberate policy of demolition and new building by planners, led to extensive demolition and redevelopment in subsequent decades.Today Birmingham's economy is dominated by the service sector.

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.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 and provided a diverse and resilient economic base for industrial prosperity that was to last into the final quarter of the 20th century.Perhaps the most important invention in British history, the industrial steam engine, was invented in Birmingham.Birmingham was the terminus for both of the world's first two long-distance railway lines: the 82 mile Grand Junction Railway of 1837 and the 112 mile London and Birmingham Railway of 1838.By the 1820s, an extensive canal system had been constructed, giving greater access to natural resources and fuel for industries.

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