Leicester (i/ˈlɛstə/ LESS-tə) is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England, and the county town of Leicestershire. The city lies on the River Soar and at the edge of the National Forest. In the 2011 census, the population of the Leicester unitary authority was 330,000, the highest in the region, whilst 480,000 people lived in the wider Leicester Urban Area in 2011, making Leicester the tenth largest city in the United Kingdom and the UK's fourteenth largest urban area. It is the largest city in the East Midlands with a population of 330,000 and second largest in the Midlands behind its much larger neighbour Birmingham it has the second largest urban area in the East Midlands region. Eurostat's Larger Urban Zone listed the population of Leicester LUZ at 806,100 people as of 2009. According to the 2011 census Leicester had the largest proportion of people aged 19-and-under in the East Midlands with 27 per cent.
Leicestershire is a major commercial and manufacturing centre. Its economy is the largest in the East Midlands, accounting for almost a quarter of the region's GDP (£11billion) and providing jobs for 437,000 people.
Ancient Roman pavements and baths remain in Leicester from its early settlement as Ratae Corieltauvorum, a Roman military outpost in a region inhabited by the Celtic Corieltauvi tribe. Following the demise of Roman society the early medieval Ratae Corieltauvorum is shrouded in obscurity, but when the settlement was captured by the Danes it became one of five fortified towns important to the Danelaw. The name "Leicester" is thought to derive from the words castra of the "Ligore", meaning camp of the dwellers on the (river) Legro. Leicester appears in the Domesday Book as "Ledecestre". Leicester continued to grow throughout the Early Modern period as a market town, although it was the Industrial Revolution that facilitated a process of rapid unplanned urbanisation in the area.
A newly constructed rail and canal network routed through the area stimulated industrial growth in the 19th century, and Leicester became a major economic centre with a variety of manufacturers engaged in engineering, shoemaking and hosiery production. The economic success of these industries, and businesses ancillary to them, resulted in significant urban expansion into the surrounding countryside. Leicester is one of the oldest cities in England, it was the centre of the bishopric from around 670, endowing it with city status. However, it lost city status in the 11th century during a time of struggle between the church and the aristocracy and did not regain it again until 1919. The boundaries of Leicester were extended several times in the 19th and 20th centuries; it became a county borough in 1889, and was re-granted city status in 1919.
Today, Leicester is located on the Midland Main Line and close to the M1 motorway. The city has a large ethnic minority population, particularly of South Asian origin, a product of immigration to the United Kingdom since the Second World War. To cater for the South Asian community, there are many Hindu, Sikh and Muslim places of worship and the Melton Road district serves as a focus, containing large numbers of Asian restaurants and other small businesses. Leicester is a centre for higher education, with both the University of Leicester and De Montfort University being based in the city.