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Metropolitan county (pop., 2001: 2,555,596), west-central England. Its main centre is Birmingham. From 1974 to 1986 West Midlands was an administrative metropolitan county; in 1986 its administrative functions were dispersed, and it is now a geographic and ceremonial county without administrative authority. Early settlement was sparse until Saxon colonists arrived; Coventry was the region's only significant town by the late 14th century. Small metalworking industries began in Birmingham in the 16th century, and by the 18th century the area's coalfields were important for ironworking. Many of the West Midlands' traditional metallurgical and manufacturing industries persisted into the 21st century, alongside the growth of electrical engineering and the manufacture of motor vehicles, aircraft, and synthetic fibres. The West Midlands name is also applied to the western portions of the Midlands region comprising Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, and Worcestershire; this combined area constitutes one of England's so-called standard regions.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on West Midlands, visit Britannica.com.