Birmingham's economy is now dominated by the service sector.
The city is a major international commercial centre, ranked as a beta- world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network the joint highest ranking with Edinburgh and Manchester of all British cities outside of London; Birmingham's major cultural institutions – the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Library of Birmingham and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts – enjoy international reputations, People from Birmingham are called Brummies, a term derived from the city's nickname of "Brum", which originates from the city's old name, Brummagem, which in turn is thought to have derived from "Bromwich-ham".
A market town in the medieval period, Birmingham grew in the 18th-century Midlands Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution, which saw advances in science, technology, and economic development, producing a series of innovations that laid many of the foundations of modern industrial society.
Birmingham's distinctive economic profile, with thousands of small workshops practising a wide variety of specialised and highly skilled trades, encouraged exceptional levels of creativity and innovation and provided an economic base for prosperity that was to last into the final quarter of the 20th century. The resulting high level of social mobility also fostered a culture of political radicalism which, under leaders from Thomas Attwood to Joseph Chamberlain, was to give it a political influence unparalleled in Britain outside London, and a pivotal role in the development of British democracy.
Birmingham as a settlement dates from the Anglo-Saxon era.
The city's name comes from the Old English Beormingahām, meaning the home or settlement of the Beormingas – indicating that Birmingham was established in the 6th or early 7th century as the primary settlement of an Anglian tribal grouping and regio of that name.
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.In 1765 Matthew Boulton opened the Soho Manufactory, pioneering the combination and mechanisation under one roof of previously separate manufacturing activities through a system known as "rational manufacture".Freeing for the first time the manufacturing capacity of human society from the limited availability of hand, water and animal power, this was arguably the pivotal moment of the entire industrial revolution and a key factor in the worldwide increases in productivity that would follow over the following century.The area of modern Birmingham lay in between, on the upland Birmingham Plateau and within the densely wooded and sparsely populated Forest of Arden.The many burnt mounds that can still be seen around the city indicate that modern humans first intensively settled and cultivated the area during the bronze age, when a substantial but short-lived influx of population occurred between 1700 BC and 1000 BC, possibly caused by conflict or immigration in the surrounding area.Birmingham rose to national political prominence in the campaign for political reform in the early 19th century, with Thomas Attwood and the Birmingham Political Union bringing the country to the brink of civil war during the Days of May that preceded the passing of the Great Reform Act in 1832.