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but its economic diversity and capacity for regeneration declined in the decades that followed World War II as Central Government sought to restrict the city's growth and disperse industry and population to the stagnating areas of Wales and Northern England.
and the city became increasingly dependent on the motor industry.
The main centres of population, power and wealth in the pre-industrial English Midlands lay in the fertile and accessible river valleys of the Trent, the Severn and the Avon.
The area of modern Birmingham lay in between, on the upland Birmingham Plateau and within the densely wooded and sparsely populated Forest of Arden.
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and its leading citizens – particularly the members of the Lunar Society of Birmingham – became influential participants in the circulation of philosophical and scientific ideas among Europe's intellectual elite. Instead of the economies of scale of a low-paid, unskilled workforce producing a single bulk commodity such as cotton or wool in large, mechanised units of production, Birmingham's industrial development was built on the adaptability and creativity of a highly paid workforce with a strong division of labour, practising a broad variety of skilled specialist trades and producing a constantly diversifying range of products, in a highly entrepreneurial economy of small, often self-owned workshops.
This led to exceptional levels of inventiveness: between 17 – the core years of the Industrial Revolution – Birmingham residents registered over three times as many patents as those of any other British town or city.
Relationships were built around pragmatic commercial linkages rather than the rigid paternalism and deference of feudal society, and loyalties to the traditional hierarchies of the established church and aristocracy were weak.
During the Victorian era, the population of Birmingham grew rapidly to well over half a million Joseph Chamberlain, mayor of Birmingham and later an MP, and his son Neville Chamberlain, who was Lord Mayor of Birmingham and later the British Prime Minister, are two of the most well-known political figures who have lived in Birmingham. Details of these two discoveries, together with an outline of the first jet engine invented by Frank Whittle in nearby Rugby, were taken to the United States by the Tizard Mission in September 1940, in a single black box later described by an official American historian as "the most valuable cargo ever brought to our shores".
This included the construction of large tower block estates, such as Castle Vale.
The city's name comes from the Old English Beormingahām, meaning the home or settlement of the Beormingas – indicating that Birmingham was established in the 6th or early 7th century as the primary settlement of an Anglian tribal grouping and regio of that name.
The development of Birmingham into a significant urban and commercial centre began in 1166, when the Lord of the Manor Peter de Bermingham obtained a charter to hold a market at his castle, and followed this with the creation of a planned market town and seigneurial borough within his demesne or manorial estate, around the site that became the Bull Ring.