Introduction

Birmingham (Listeni /ˈbɜrmɪŋəm/ BUR-ming-əm, locally /ˈbɜːmɪŋɡəm/ BUR-ming-gəm[citation needed]) is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands county of England. It is the most populous British city outside London, with a population of 1,028,701 (2009 estimate), and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the United Kingdom's second most populous urban area with a population of 2,284,093 (2001 census). Birmingham's metropolitan area, which includes surrounding towns to which it is closely tied through commuting, is also the United Kingdom's second most populous with a population of 3,683,000.

A medium-sized market town throughout 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 developments in science, technology and industrial organisation, 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 practicing 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 an industrial prosperity that was to last into the final quarter of the 20th century. Its resulting high level of social mobility also fostered a culture of broad-based political radicalism, that 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.

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Today Birmingham is a major international commercial centre, ranked as a gamma− world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network;[9] and an important transport, retail, events and conference hub. With a city GDP of $90bn (2008 estimate, PPP), its urban economy is the second largest in the UK and the 72nd largest in the world. Birmingham's three universities and two university colleges make it the largest centre of higher education in the United Kingdom outside London,[11] and its major cultural institutions, including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, enjoy international reputations.

People from Birmingham are known as 'Brummies', a term derived from the city's nickname of 'Brum'. This may originate from the city's dialect name, Brummagem, which may in turn have been derived from one of the city's earlier names, 'Bromwicham'. There is a distinctive Brummie dialect and accent, both of which differ from the adjacent Black Country.
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