Leeds is a city and metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire and its name derives from "Loidis", the name given to a forest covering most of the Brythonic kingdom of Elmet, which existed during the 5th century into the early 7th century; Bede states in the fourteenth chapter of his Historia ecclesiastica, in a discussion of an altar surviving from a church erected by Edwin of Northumbria, that it is located in "...regione quae vocatur Loidis", the region known as Loidis, which may be where the name Loiner came from, which an inhabitant of Leeds is locally known as.
The central area of Leeds is located on the River Aire in a narrow section of the Aire Valley, which is in the eastern foothills of the Pennines; its district ranges from the far west on the slopes of Ilkley Moor to the eastern boundary, which lies on the magnesian limestone belt, where the rivers Aire and Wharfe cross; the northern boundary, which lies on sand and gritstones, follows the River Wharfe for several miles but crosses the river to include the section of Otley which lies north of the river and the southern areas lies on a layer of coal measure sandstones.
Over 65% of the Leeds district is green belt land and the city centre is less than twenty miles (32 kilometres) from the Yorkshire Dales National Park, which offers some of the most spectacular scenery and countryside in the UK; the city centre is contained within the Leeds Inner Ring Road, Briggate, the principal north-south shopping street, is pedestrianised and Queen Victoria Street, a part of the Victoria Quarter, is enclosed under a glass roof.
Leeds was a manor and township in the large ancient parish of Leeds St Peter, in the Skyrack wapentake of the West Riding of Yorkshire; it developed as a market town in the Middle Ages as part of the local agricultural economy, but by the 17th and 18th centuries it became a major centre for the production and trading of wool; prior to the Industrial Revolution it became a co-ordination centre for the making of woollen cloth; with white broadcloth being traded at the Leeds White Cloth Hall and by 1770 Leeds was handling one sixth of England's export trade, then, during the Industrial Revolution, it developed into a major industrial centre; wool was still the dominant industry but flax, engineering, iron foundries, printing and other industries were important too.
Growth, initially in textiles, was accelerated by the building of the Aire and Calder Navigation in 1699, large mills like Marshall's Mill (one of the first of the many factories that were to be constructed in Leeds), the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1816, and then a railway network which was constructed around Leeds, starting with the Leeds and Selby Railway in 1834, provided improved communications with national markets and, significantly for its development, an east-west connection with Manchester and the ports of Liverpool and Hull giving improved access to international markets; the public transport, rail and road communications networks in the region are still focused on and around Leeds; it gained city status in 1893
Alongside technological advances and industrial expansion, Leeds retained an interest in trading in agricultural commodities, with its own Corn Exchange opening in 1864; the most significant of the factories were woollen finishing and flax mills; diversifying by 1914 to printing, engineering, chemicals and clothing manufacture, a decline in manufacturing started during the 1930s, but was temporarily reversed by a switch to producing military uniforms and munitions during World War II; however, by the 1970s the clothing industry was in an irreversible decline, facing cheap foreign competition.
The contemporary economy of Leeds has been shaped by Leeds City Council having the vision of building a '24 hour European city' and a 'capital of the north'; it has developed from the decay of the post-industrial era to become a telephone banking centre, connected to the electronic infrastructure of the modern global economy; it has had a growth in the corporate and legal sectors and increased local affluence has led to an expanding retail sector, including the luxury goods market and in 2011 it was announced that Leeds will become an enterprise zone, which will help small businesses in the region to increase economic growth.
Leeds is now the UK's largest centre for business, legal,
and financial services outside London, it is the cultural, financial
and commercial heart of the West Yorkshire Urban Area and apparently,
its office market is the best in Europe for value; it is also considered
a Gamma World City, alongside cities such as Rotterdam, Phoenix, St.
Petersburg and Valencia.