History

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The city’s history can be traced to Roman times. A significant naval port for centuries, Portsmouth has the world’s oldest dry dock and was England’s first line of defence during the French invasion in 1545. Special Palmerston Forts were built in 1859 in anticipation of another invasion from continental Europe. By the early-19th century, Portsmouth was the most heavily fortified city in the world, and was considered “the world’s greatest naval port” at the height of the British Empire throughout Pax Britannica.

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The world’s first mass production line was set up in the city, making it the most industrialised site in the world. During the Second World War, the city was a pivotal embarkation point for the D-Day landings and was bombed extensively in the Portsmouth Blitz, which resulted in the deaths of 930 people. In 1982, a large proportion of the task force dispatched to liberate the Falkland Islands deployed from the city’s naval base. Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia left the city to oversee the transfer of Hong Kong in 1997, which marked for many the end of the empire.

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