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The city of Leeds, England is the third-largest city in the country, the largest in the county of West Yorkshire and it has the second-highest population of any local authority district in the United Kingdom.

Leeds is on the River Aire Valley, in the eastern foothills of the Pennine Hills, about two hundred and seventy miles north-northwest of London. The city center is less than twenty miles from the Yorkshire Dales National Park, although the central areas of the city are quite urban.

The Leeds Inner Ring Road contains the city center, and is formed from portions of A58, A61, A64, A643, and M621. Its main shopping area, known as Briggate, is restricted to pedestrian traffic, and Queen Victoria Street, part of the Victoria Quarter is enclosed within a glass roof. Millennium Square is another significant urban area of the city. Apart from the highly developed areas of Leeds itself, the city contains several suburbs and exurbs. The city is adjacent to Bradford and Wakefield.

In ancient times, the region that was to become Leeds was a forested area in the Celtic kingdom of Elmet. By the time of the Norman conquest of England, there was a settlement there. When the Domesday Book was published in 1086, Leeds had a population of 200.

The town of Leeds was founded by Maurice De Gant, the Lord of the Manor, in 1207. Commerce and trade in England were flourishing at the time, and several new towns were created. New streets were created in Leeds, and the land was platted into building lots. Houses were built, and the people who moved into them paid rent for the land that their houses stood on. Before long, the town had bakers, blacksmiths, butchers, and carpenters, but the town's economy was based on wool. During the Middle Ages, Leeds had a population of about 1,000 people, but the typical village in that time had between 100-200 people.

During the 1500s, Leeds grew much larger, and the woolen cloth industry was larger than ever. Due in large part to this industry, Leeds grew from an insignificant town to one of the largest in Yorkshire, and it was incorporated in 1626.

The first part of the 1600s brought more prosperity and growth, and many of its residents rebuilt their homes in stone, and Saint Johns Church was built during this period. However, in 1642, a civil war pitted the king and parliament. The majority of the residents of Leeds supported the king, and a royalist army occupied the town. In January of 1643, soldiers on the side of parliament captured the town, occupying it until the summer of that year, when they were forced to abandon it. While growth was slowed during this period of unrest, Leeds was a wealthy town by the end of the 17th century. There were outbreaks of the plague, but these were not restricted to Leeds.

During the 1700s, wool continued to be a significant contributor to the economy, but other industries were gaining. Pottery and brick production became important, but there were also booksellers, jewelers, clockmakers, and coachmakers, as well as bakers, barbers, blacksmiths, butchers, carpenters, glaziers, and innkeepers. The Aire and Calder rivers were made navigable from Leeds to Wakefield and, by the end of the 18th century, work has begun on a canal from Leeds to Liverpool, and these brought additional business to town.

The numbers of the middle class and wealthy grew in Leeds, although the town was not without its poor. A newspaper began publishing in 1718. In 1755, the streets of Leeds were lit with oil lamps.

The first census was held in 1801, at which time the population was 30,000. By 1851, there were more than 100,000 people in Leeds. Overcrowding became a problem, a situation that may have contributed to a cholera epidemic in 1832 that led to the deaths of more than 700 people. An 1849 epidemic took another 2,000 people. The town built a sewer system in the 1850s, but it was not until 1899 that homes in Leeds were required to connect to the system.

Nevertheless, the population grew, and life in Leeds gradually improved. Leeds was connected by rail to Selby in 1834, to York in 1839, and to Derby by 1848. A police force was employed in 1836, and a public library opened in 1872. Theaters, music halls, and other entertainment venues were opened. In 1891, Leeds had an electrical system, and Leeds became a city in 1893.

By the late 1800s, the textile industry was less important to the city's economy, but it had a market for tailoring, and a leather industry was thriving.

The 1900s brought World Wars I and II, and Leeds was not spared from the devastation of German bombers in World War II. By the mid-1900s, the city council had become a major employer, with a workforce of about 19,000. By the late 1900s, the city employed 35,000. Tourism and the retail sectors became important during the late 20th century, and after. By 2020, Leeds had a population of 780,000.


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