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History of Birmingham , Economic history of Birmingham , Science and invention in Birmingham , and Timeline of Birmingham history Pre-history and medieval Birmingham's early history is that of a remote and marginal area. The main centres of population, power and wealth in the pre-industrial English Midlands lay in the fertile and accessible river valleys of the Trent , the Severn and the Avon. The area of modern Birmingham lay in between, on the upland Birmingham Plateau and within the densely wooded and sparsely populated Forest of Arden. Instead of the economies of scale of a low-paid, unskilled workforce producing a single bulk commodity such as cotton or wool in large, mechanised units of production, Birmingham's industrial development was built on the adaptability and creativity of a highly paid workforce with a strong division of labour , practising a broad variety of skilled specialist trades and producing a constantly diversifying range of products, in a highly entrepreneurial economy of small, often self-owned workshops.
There was certainly an established trade in the city by the early 16th century, for in , for instance, John Leiand, a churchman, travelling through the Midlands, wrote: This street, as I remember, is called Dirty Deritend. In it dwells smiths and cutlers and there is a brooke that divides this street from Bermingham There be many smiths in the towne, that use to make knives and all manner of cutting tools, and many lorimers that make bittes, and a great many naylours, so that a great part of the towne is maintained by smiths, who have their iron and sea-coal out of Staffordshire. It was not only in arms that England lagged.