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Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about 190 miles (310 km) south west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound. Since 1967 the unitary authority of Plymouth has included the suburbs of Plympton and Plymstock, which are on the east side of the River Plym.
Plymouth's history goes back to the Bronze Age, when its first settlement grew at Mount Batten. This settlement continued to grow as a trading post for the Roman Empire, until the more prosperous village of Sutton, the current Plymouth, surpassed it. In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers left Plymouth for the New World and established Plymouth Colony the second English settlement in what is now the United States of America. During the English Civil War the town was held by the Parliamentarians and was besieged between 1642 and 1646.
Throughout the Industrial Revolution Plymouth grew as a major shipping port, handling imports and passengers from the Americas and the construction of ships for the Royal Navy. The county boroughs of Plymouth and Devonport, and the urban district of East Stonehouse were merged to form a single county borough of Plymouth collectively referred to as The Three Towns. The city's naval importance later led to its targeting and partial destruction during World War II, an act known as the Plymouth Blitz. After the war the city centre was completely rebuilt.
Today the city is home to over 250,000 people, making it the 15th most populous city in England. It is governed localy by Plymouth City Council and is represented nationally by three MPs. Plymouth's economy is still strongly influenced by shipbuilding, but has become a more service-based economy since the 1990s. It has the 11th largest university in the United Kingdom by number of students, the University of Plymouth, and the largest operational naval base in Western Europe HMNB Devonport. Plymouth has ferry links to France and Spain and an airport with European services.
Upper Palaeolithic deposits, including bones of Homo sapiens, have been found in local caves,and artifacts dating from the Bronze Age to the Middle Iron Age have been found at Mount Batten showing that it was one of the main trading ports of the country at that time. The settlement of Plympton, further up the River Plym than the current Plymouth, was also an early trading port, but the river silted up in the early 11th century and forced the mariners and merchants to settle at the current day Barbican near the river mouth. At the time this village was called Sutton, meaning south town in Saxon. The name Plymouth, meaning "mouth of the River Plym" the river name being a back-formation from Plympton ("Plum-tree town"), was first mentioned in a Pipe Roll of 1211.
During the Hundred Years' War a French attack (1340) burned a manor house and took some prisoners, but failed to get into the town. In 1403 the town was burned by Breton raiders. A series of fortifications were built in the Tudor and Elizabethan eras, which include the four round towers featured on the city coat of arms; the remains of two of these can still be found at Mount Batten and at Sutton Pool below the Royal Citadel.
During the 16th century locally produced wool was the major export commodity. Plymouth was the home port for successful maritime traders, among them Sir John Hawkins, who led England's first foray into the Atlantic slave trade, as well as Sir Francis Drake. According to legend, Drake insisted on completing his game of bowls on the Hoe before engaging the Spanish Armada in 1588. In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for the New World from Plymouth, establishing Plymouth Colony the second English colony in what is now the United States of America.
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