Leicester is the largest city in the East Midlands region of England, the capital of the traditional county of Leicestershire, with a population of some 330,000 in the city area and nearly 500,000 in the metropolitan area.
Leicester (pronounced Less-ter) is one of the oldest English towns, having been founded by the Romans as Ratae Corieltauvorum (latterly Livelli-Castrorum ) in 50 CE. Its role as a Saxon town is less certain, but the medieval town walls and street plan retain exactly those of the Romans. It was rarely centre stage through the middle ages, so lacked political impetus nationally. While other such towns acquired cathedrals and grand civic functions, Leicester gradually built up a small scale industrial prosperity based around framework knitting. This used semi-automated, leased machines, operated in people's own homes, to make stockings. Automation and factory building in the 19th century enabled Leicester to grow in population, land area and prosperity, with knitwear and machine manufacturing providing the bedrock of its economy. In the 1920s, its size and significance was reflected in being granted city status.
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