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Bedford is the capital of the county of Bedfordshire in England. It is the administrative center of the Bedford district. The population of the district was in 2001 of 147,911 inhabitants. Of these, some 100,000 live in the metropolitan area. The Great Ouse River runs through the center of the city. The river is bordered by attractive gardens, such as the one known as The Embankement. In Bedford the writer John Bunyan, author of the work The Progress of the Pilgrim, lived and was imprisoned. The city has four public schools and two railway stations. Bedford was a commercial city for the agricultural area of the region during the early Middle Ages. In the nineteenth century various industries were developed.
Most of them have closed and the economy of the city has entered a certain setback. However, Bedford is expanding at a faster rate than most English cities. This is partly caused by the proximity to large cities such as London or Milton Keynes. Bedford has become a "bedroom city" for some of those who work in these metropolises. Bedford has the largest concentration of Italian immigrants from all of Britain. According to the census of the year 2000,10% of the population of Bedford was of Italian descent. This immigration was caused by the campaign of recruitment of workers carried out by the company "London Brick Company" in the early 50s. This campaign was carried out in the Italian regions of Apulia, Campania, Calabria and Sicily.
In addition to the Italians, Bedford has also received a significant number of immigrants from South Africa, Greece, Cyprus and India, which has made the city one of the most ethnically diverse in Britain. According to the 2001 census, there were natives living in almost 100 different languages in Bedford.