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Metropolitan county (pop., 2001: 2,079,217), northern England. Its main cities are Wakefield and Leeds. From 1974 to 1986 West Yorkshire was an administrative unit; in 1986 the metropolitan county lost its administrative powers, and its constituent boroughs became autonomous unitary authorities. Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians from the east established the first settlements. While baronial power was strong in the medieval period, anarchic conditions often prevailed, and the area was the site of several 15th-century battles. In the same period, the wool textile industry developed. In the 18th and 19th centuries, abundant waterpower, and later steam power based on locally mined coal, stimulated factory-based industry. Worsted and woolen industries remain important, while an engineering industry has developed. Leeds, the area's largest city, is a major commercial and cultural centre.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on West Yorkshire, visit Britannica.com.