Leeds is a major city in the northern English county of Yorkshire and the urban core of the City of Leeds metropolitan borough of West Yorkshire. Since 1974 it is the metropolitan borough which holds city status. The River Aire runs through the city. According to the 2001 UK census the Leeds Urban Area had a population of 443,247 while the metropolitan borough had a population of 715,404 and is one of England's core cities.

An inhabitant of Leeds is locally known as a Loiner, a word derived from the 'Loins' (or lanes) around Briggate in the city centre, although the term is rarely used or understood. The mock-classical adjectives Leodensian and Leodiensian are sometimes used by some local sports clubs.

The name "Leeds" came from "Leodis", which was a name recorded in Anglo-Saxon sources for a Celtic kingdom that survived in the area for a while after the Anglo-Saxon invasion.

Leeds has been known since being mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086. Leeds was an agricultural market town in the Middle Ages, and received its first charter in 1207. In the Tudor period Leeds was mainly a merchant town, manufacturing woollen cloths and trading with Europe via the Humber estuary and the population grew from 10,000 at the end of the seventeenth century to 30,000 at the end of the eighteenth. At one point nearly half of England's total export passed through Leeds. The industrial revolution had resulted in the radical growth of Leeds whose population had risen to over 150,000 by 1840. The city's industrial growth was catalysed by the introduction of the Aire & Calder Navigation in 1699, Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1816 and the railway in 1848. In 1893 Leeds had been granted city status. These industries that developed in the industrial revolution had included making machinery for spinning, machine tools, steam engines and gears as well as other industries based on textiles, chemicals and leather and pottery. Coal was extracted on a large scale and the still functioning Middleton Railway, the first commercial railway in the world, transported coal into the centre of Leeds.

By the 20th century this social and economic had started to change with the creation of academic institutions such the academic institutions that are known today as the University of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University and Leeds Trinity & All Saints. This period had also witnessed expansion in medical provision particularly Leeds General Infirmary and St James's Hospital. Following World War Two there was a decline in secondary industries that had thrived in the 19th century. In 1951, half the workforce was still in manufacturing; by 1971 the figure was a third. Leeds lost a third of its manufacturing jobs 1971-81 (Champion & Townsend, 1990, p.82). In 1991, 64,000 were employed in manufacturing. In 2003, 2,103 firms employed 44,500 (10% of workforce) - see Leeds Economy Handbook. But there are still some large engineering firms. The largest make turbine blades, components, alloys, valves and pipelines for the oil industry, switchgear, printers' supplies, copper alloys, surgical and hospital equipment, pumps, motors, radiators.

In the 1980s, the Conservative government designated Urban Development Corporations on a number of UK cities: some declining areas were taken out of local authority control and government funding was provided with the aim of speeding up and concentrating private sector investment in the most run-down areas. Leeds Development Corporation ran from 1988-95 and helped to focus attention on two decayed industrial areas (lower Kirkstall Valley and the riverside area to the south east of the city centre). Achievements of LDC included refurbishment of many riverside properties, the opening up of Granary Wharf and the Royal Armouries development.

Today Leeds is known as one of eight core cities that act as a focus of their respective regions and Leeds is generally regarded as the dominant city of the ceremonial county of West Yorkshire.