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The deindustrialisation that followed in the second half of the 20th century hit Northern England hard, and many towns remain deprived compared with those in Southern England.

Urban renewal projects and the transition to a service economy have resulted in strong economic growth in some parts of Northern England, but a definite North–South divide remains both in the economy and the culture of England.

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After the Norman conquest in 1066, the Harrying of the North brought destruction.

The area experienced Anglo-Scottish border fighting until the unification of Britain under the Stuarts, with some parts changing hands between England and Scotland many times.

For some in the northernmost reaches of England, the North starts somewhere in North Yorkshire around the River Tees – the Yorkshire poet Simon Armitage suggests Thirsk, Northallerton or Richmond – and does not include cities like Manchester and Leeds, nor the majority of Yorkshire.

Through the North of England run the Pennines, an upland chain, often referred to as "the backbone of England", which stretches from the Cheviot Hills on the border with Scotland to the Peak District.

Towns in the High Peak borough of Derbyshire are included in the Greater Manchester Built-Up Area, due to their close proximity to the city of Manchester, and before this the borough was considered to be part of the Greater Manchester Statutory City Region.

More recently, the Chesterfield, North East Derbyshire, Bolsover, and Derbyshire Dales districts have joined with districts of South Yorkshire to form the Sheffield City Region, along with the Bassetlaw district of Nottinghamshire, although for all other purposes these districts still remain in their respective East Midlands counties.The geographer Danny Dorling includes most of the West Midlands and part of the East Midlands in his definition of the North, claiming that "ideas of a midlands region add more confusion than light".Though at its height, Northumbria did include the Kingdom of Lindsey, which corresponds to modern day Northern Lincolnshire.and the variety of other rock types is reflected in the architecture of the region, such as the bright red sandstone seen in buildings in Chester, the cream-buff Yorkstone and the distinctive purple Doddington sandstone.Salt mining in Cheshire has a long history, and both remaining rock salt mines in Great Britain are in the North: Winsford Mine in Cheshire and Boulby Mine in North Yorkshire, which also produces half of the UK's potash.The needs of trade and industry have produced an almost continuous thread of urbanisation from the Wirral Peninsula to Doncaster, taking in the cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield, with a population of at least 7.6 million.

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