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The Saxons established a diocese at Sherborne and Dorset was made a shire—an administrative district of Wessex and predecessor to the English county system—with borders that have changed little since.
In 1642, at the commencement of the English Civil War, the Royalists took control of the entire county apart from Poole and Lyme Regis.
Farming has always been central to the economy of Dorset and the county became the birthplace of the modern trade union movement when, in 1834, six farm labourers formed a union to protest against falling wages.
The labourers, who are now known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, were subsequently arrested for administering "unlawful oaths" and sentenced to transportation but they were pardoned following massive protests by the working classes.
The county has a long history of human settlement stretching back to the Neolithic era.
The Romans conquered Dorset's indigenous Celtic tribe, and during the early Middle Ages, the Saxons settled the area and made Dorset a shire in the 7th century.
It is the birthplace of Thomas Hardy, who used the county as the principal setting of his novels, and William Barnes, whose poetry celebrates the ancient Dorset dialect.
The Saxons named the town Dornwaraceaster (the suffix "ceaster" being the Old English name for a Roman town) and Dornsæte came into use as the name for the inhabitants of the area from "Dorn"—a reduced form of Dornwaraceaster—and the Old English word "sæte" meaning people.
The ceremonial county comprises the unitary authority areas of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and Dorset.Dorset has ports at Poole, Weymouth and Portland, and an international airport.The county has a variety of museums, theatres and festivals, and is host to the Great Dorset Steam Fair, one of the biggest events of its kind in Europe.Some 2,000 of these rebels offered battle to Lord Fairfax's Parliamentary army at Hambledon Hill but they were easily routed.Sherborne Castle was taken by Fairfax that same year and in 1646 Corfe Castle, the last remaining Royalist stronghold in Dorset, was captured after an act of betrayal: both were subsequently slighted.
The first recorded Viking raid on the British Isles occurred in Dorset during the eighth century, and the Black Death entered England at Melcombe Regis in 1348.