Birmingham is the second most populous city in the United Kingdom with 1,074,300 residents (2011 census), an increase of 96,000 over the previous decade. The city lies within the West Midlands conurbation, the third most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a population of 2,440,986 (2011 census) of which the Birmingham built-up area was 1,085,810. Its metropolitan area is the United Kingdom’s second most populous with 3,683,000 residents.
A medium-sized market town during 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 economic 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 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. Its resulting high level of social mobility also fostered a culture of broad-based political radicalism, that was to give it a political influence unparalleled in Britain outside London and a pivotal role in the development of British democracy.
People from Birmingham are called ‘Brummies’, a term derived from the city’s nickname of ‘Brum’. This originates 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 accent and dialect.
Birmingham is a major international commercial centre, ranked as a beta-world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, and an important transport, retail, events and conference hub. With a GDP of $90bn (2008 estimate, PPP), the economy of the urban area is the second largest in the UK and the 72nd largest in the world.
Birmingham’s six universities make it the largest centre of higher education and academic research in the United Kingdom outside London. The city’s major cultural institutions, including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, enjoy international reputations, and it has vibrant and influential grassroots art, music and literary scenes. The Big City Plan is a large redevelopment plan currently underway in the city centre with the aim of making Birmingham one of the top 20 most liveable cities in the world within 20 years.