Birmingham is a major city in England’s West Midlands region, with multiple Industrial Revolution-era landmarks that speak to its 18th-century history as a manufacturing powerhouse. It’s also home to a network of canals, many of which radiate from Sherborne Wharf and are now lined with trendy cafes and bars. In the city centre, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery are known for pre-Raphaelite masterpieces.
Birmingham’s early history is that of a remote and marginal area. 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.
There is evidence of early human activity in the Birmingham area dating back to around 8000 BC, with stone age artefacts suggesting seasonal settlements, overnight hunting parties and woodland activities such as tree felling. The many burnt mounds that can still be seen around the city indicate that modern humans first intensively settled and cultivated the area during the bronze age, when a substantial but short-lived influx of population occurred between 1700 BC and 1000 BC, possibly caused by conflict or immigration in the surrounding area. During the 1st-century Roman conquest of Britain, the forested country of the Birmingham Plateau formed a barrier to the advancing Roman legions, who built the large Metchley Fort in the area of modern-day Edgbaston in AD 48, and made it the focus of a network of Roman roads.