History

An aerial view of Belfast harbour (Belfast Harbour Commissioners)

Belfast

Belfast's modern history began on 27 April 1613, when King James I issued a Royal Charter that officially gave it town status.


City status was to follow in 1888, by which time Belfast had emerged as an industrial heavyweight of some economic, strategic and cultural significance.


Following the partition of Ireland in 1921, Belfast became the capital of Northern Ireland, as well as its seat of government.



Photo: An aerial view of Belfast harbour (Belfast Harbour Commissioners)

Features in:

The Troubles
The Troubles

Introduction

An aerial view of Belfast harbour (Belfast Harbour Commissioners) Belfast

Highlights from BBC programmes Video (10)

More information about: Belfast

Belfast (from Irish: Béal Feirste, meaning "mouth of the sandbanks") is the capital of, and largest city in, Northern Ireland. Most of Belfast is in County Antrim, but parts of East and South Belfast are in County Down. It is on the flood plain of the River Lagan.

By population, it is the fourteenth largest city in the United Kingdom and second largest on the island of Ireland. It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly. The city of Belfast has a population of 281,000 and lies at the heart of the Belfast urban area, which has a population of 579,276. The Larger Urban Zone, as defined by the European Union, has a total population 641,638. Belfast was granted city status in 1888.

Historically, Belfast has been a centre for the Irish linen industry (earning the nickname "Linenopolis"), tobacco production, rope-making and shipbuilding: the city's main shipbuilders, Harland and Wolff, which built the well-known RMS Titanic, propelled Belfast on to the global stage in the early 20th century as the biggest and most productive shipyard in the world. Belfast played a key role in the Industrial Revolution, establishing its place as a global industrial centre until the latter half of the 20th century. Industrialisation and the inward migration it brought made Belfast, if briefly, the biggest city in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century and the city's industrial and economic success was cited by Ulster unionist opponents of Home Rule as a reason why Ireland should shun devolution and later why Ulster in particular would fight to resist it.

Today, Belfast remains a centre for industry, as well as the arts, higher education and business, a legal centre, and is the economic engine of Northern Ireland. The city suffered greatly during the period of conflict called the Troubles, but latterly has undergone a sustained period of calm, free from the intense political violence of former years, and substantial economic and commercial growth. Belfast city centre has undergone considerable expansion and regeneration in recent years, notably around Victoria Square. Belfast is served by two airports: George Best Belfast City Airport in the city, and Belfast International Airport 15 miles (24 km) west of the city. Belfast is also a major port, with commercial and industrial docks dominating the Belfast Lough shoreline, including the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard. Belfast is a constituent city of the Dublin-Belfast corridor, which has a population of three million, or half the total population of the island of Ireland.

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