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Relationships were built around pragmatic commercial linkages rather than the rigid paternalism and deference of feudal society, and loyalties to the traditional hierarchies of the established church and aristocracy were weak.
and its leading citizens – particularly the members of the Lunar Society of Birmingham – became influential participants in the circulation of philosophical and scientific ideas among Europe's intellectual elite. Instead of the economies of scale of a low-paid, unskilled workforce producing a single bulk commodity such as cotton or wool in large, mechanised units of production, Birmingham's industrial development was built on the adaptability and creativity of a highly paid workforce with a strong division of labour, practising a broad variety of skilled specialist trades and producing a constantly diversifying range of products, in a highly entrepreneurial economy of small, often self-owned workshops.
Birmingham's tradition of innovation continued into the 19th century.
Birmingham was the terminus for both of the world's first two long-distance railway lines: the 82 mile Grand Junction Railway of 1837 and the 112-mile London and Birmingham Railway of 1838.
This led to exceptional levels of inventiveness: between 17 – the core years of the Industrial Revolution – Birmingham residents registered over three times as many patents as those of any other British town or city.
This established Birmingham as the primary commercial centre for the Birmingham Plateau at a time when the area's economy was expanding rapidly, with population growth nationally leading to the clearance, cultivation and settlement of previously marginal land.These trading links gave Birmingham's metalworkers access to much wider markets, allowing them to diversify away from lower-skilled trades producing basic goods for local sale, towards a broader range of specialist, higher-skilled and more lucrative activities.By the time of the English Civil War Birmingham's booming economy, its expanding population, and its resulting high levels of social mobility and cultural pluralism, had seen it develop new social structures very different from those of more established areas.In the decades following World War II, the ethnic makeup of Birmingham changed significantly, as it received waves of immigration from the Commonwealth of Nations and beyond.21 people were killed and 182 were injured in a series of bomb attacks in 1974, thought to be carried out by the Provisional IRA.
Birmingham as a settlement dates from the Anglo-Saxon era.