County in northern England, with an area of 3,208 square miles (8,309 square km). The county has eight districts: Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough, Selby, and York.
The county has two distinctive upland areas. In the west are the Pennines, the major upland region of northern England, reaching more than 2,200 feet (670 m) in the northwest at Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside, Ingleborough, and Mickle Fell and being deeply dissected by valleys (dales) of the Rivers Swale, Ure, Nidd, and Wharfe. In the east, limestones and sandstones form the upland mass of the North York Moors of Pickering. Separating these two regions is the Vale of York, a lowland with glacial clay soils.
Prehistoric sites abound on the eastern uplands. The Roman occupation was mainly military, based on the headquarters at Eboracum (York), which was reached from the south by Ermine Street. Evidence suggests the survival of a Romano-British kingdom, Elmet, in the south of the county until the 7th century. York became the centre of a thriving Anglian civilization in the 8th century, but this was destroyed by subsequent invasions and occupation by Scandinavian peoples. In 1069-70, many settlements of the county were laid waste by William I the Conqueror, following rebellions against his rule.
In the European Middle Ages, northern Yorkshire was very much a peripheral region of England. Numerous castles signify the former power of great landowning families. The remote, empty wastes attracted monastic orders, and the Cistercian foundations at Jervaulx, Fountains, Rievaulx, and Byland grew wealthy from the products of sheep farming. The area, frequently the scene of rebellion and anarchy, played a significant part in the 15th-century Wars of the Roses and the mid-17th-century English Civil Wars.
The modern economy of the county is primarily agricultural. The large landholdings of the Vale of York are major grain producers, while dairy farming is especially important in the wetter, western areas of the Pennine dales and lower slopes. Hill sheep farming is characteristic of the moorlands of the Pennines and North York Moors. Manufacturing, which has close links with agriculture, does not have an important place in the economy and is restricted to the larger towns. York, the principal urban centre, has a variety of light-engineering and food-processing activities. The towns of Harrogate and Scarborough (frequent settings for English political conferences and conventions) are also centres of a growing tourist industry associated with the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors national parks. The major rail and road links connecting London and Edinburgh traverse the county. Pop. (1989 est.) 722,300. (Return to prior page)
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"North Yorkshire" Britannica Online.
[Accessed 28 June 1998].