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Plymouth's history goes back to the Bronze Age, when its first settlement grew at Mount Batten. This settlement continued to grow as a trading post for the Roman Empire, until the more prosperous village of Sutton, the current Plymouth, surpassed it. In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers left Plymouth for the New World and established Plymouth Colony — the second English settlement in what is now the United States of America. During the English Civil War the town was held by the Parliamentarians and was besieged between 1642 and 1646.
Throughout the Industrial Revolution Plymouth grew as a major shipping port, handling imports and passengers from the Americas and the construction of ships for the Royal Navy. This later led to its targeting and partial destruction during World War II, an act known as the Plymouth Blitz. After the war the city centre was completely rebuilt.
Today the city is home to over 250,000 people, making it the 15th most populous city in England. It has its own city council and is represented nationally by three MPs. Plymouth's economy is still strongly influenced by shipbuilding, but has become a more service-based economy since the 1990s. It has the 11th largest university in the United Kingdom by number of students, the University of Plymouth, and the largest operational naval base in Western Europe — HMNB Devonport. Plymouth has ferry links to France and Spain and an airport with international services.