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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.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.
This established Birmingham as the primary commercial centre for the Birmingham Plateau at a time when the area's economy was expanding rapidly, with population growth nationally leading to the clearance, cultivation and settlement of previously marginal land.
These trading links gave Birmingham's metalworkers access to much wider markets, allowing them to diversify away from lower-skilled trades producing basic goods for local sale, towards a broader range of specialist, higher-skilled and more lucrative activities.
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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.