Britain’s second-largest city, Birmingham, has a long history that dates back thousands of years. It was no more than a small hamlet in the 7th century, lying on the edge of the ancient and once vast Forest of Arden. This small hamlet had turned into a medium-sized market town by the Middle Ages and then, skipping forward a few hundred years, became an important cultural and industrial center.
The two events that most shaped modern Birmingham were the Midlands Enlightenment of the late 18th century and the Industrial Revolution, which extended into the first half of the 19th century.
Birmingham became England’s progressive hub during the Age of Enlightenment, to the extent that a parallel movement called the “Midlands Enlightenment” (aka “Birmingham Enlightenment”) was recognized. At the center of this movement was the Lunar Society of Birmingham, which brought together great thinkers from all areas of life to exchange ideas with each and with the intellectual elites of Europe.
The Birmingham area was pivotal to England’s advancement during the 18th century. It was the lens through which the country began to see momentous change and it played a leading role in executing that change. The Midlands Enlightenment was a movement that linked great thinking with more practical concerns, such as scientific and technological advancement. It paved the way for Britain’s Industrial Age and created huge economic growth.
Today, Birmingham is a city that is being modernized, regenerated and renovated. It is dubbed, like several European cities, as the “Venice of the North”, because of its system of canals. There are many attractive waterside resting places and walks around Birmingham, and the architecture is ever being improved. There are modern shopping centers like the Mailbox and the Bullring. The latter includes the famous and oft-photographed Selfridges building with its bubble wrap facade.
Outside of London, there are few more enthralling places to visit than Birmingham, with its deep sense of history and dedication to innovation and growth.