Originally, the Ruhr Area was a predominantly rural area characterized by swamplands, fields and grasslands.
Discovery and exploitation of extensive iron ore and coal deposits alongside the banks of the river Ruhr in the early nineteenth century marked the beginning of the development of the region into Germany’s largest urban agglomeration. Mines, furnaces and steelworks were built, the rapidly increasing demand for labor encouraged immigration to the area and large cities emerged.
Both industry and society in the Ruhr region became exclusively geared to the needs of the coal, iron and steel industry. Consequently, the coal crisis of the late nineteen-fifties and the structural weakness of the steel industry in the seventies and eighties of the last century heavily affected the region. Coal production declined dramatically and many production sites had to close down. Despite numerous massive protests and strikes, thousands of miners lost their jobs. Altogether, from the second half of the nineteenth century to the year 2007, the number of pits in the Ruhr region shrank from nearly three hundred to only four.
This crisis led to important structural changes in the Ruhr, which are still continuing. In this context, jobs have been relocated from industry and trade to communications and services. Many of the former industrial ruins have been transformed into tourist attractions, culminating in the Ruhr.2010 European Cultural Capital activities a few years ago.
Nowadays, the Ruhr Metropolis has regained many of its former strengths. Pulsating with life, it benefits from state-of-the-art industries, an extensive road-rail network, a wide range of cultural events and excellent fields of higher education. However, although the process has progressed considerably, the region still holds an enormous potential for further development.