Greater Manchester is a metropolitan county and combined authority area in North West England, with a population of 2.8 million; the third largest in England after Greater London and the West Midlands. It encompasses one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom and comprises ten metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and the cities of Manchester and Salford. Greater Manchester was created on 1 April 1974 as a result of the Local Government Act 1972, and designated a functional city region on 1 April 2011.
Greater Manchester spans 493 square miles, which roughly covers the territory of the Greater Manchester Built-up Area, the second most populous urban area in the UK. It is landlocked and borders Cheshire, Derbyshire, West Yorkshire, Lancashire and Merseyside. There is a mix of high-density urban areas, suburbs, semi-rural and rural locations in Greater Manchester, but land use is mostly urban—the product of concentric urbanisation and industrialisation which occurred mostly during the 19th century when the region flourished as the global centre of the cotton industry.