Cheshire's area is 2,343 square kilometres (905 sq mi) and its population is around 700,000. Apart from the large towns along The River Mersey and the historic city of Chester, it is mostly rural, with a number of small towns and villages that support an agricultural industry. It is historically famous as a former principality and for the production of Cheshire cheese, salt, bulk chemicals, and woven silk.
Cheshire's name was originally derived from an early name for Chester, and was first recorded as Legeceasterscir in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, meaning the shire of the city of legions. Although the name first appears in 980, it is thought that the county was created by Edward the Elder around 920. In the Domesday Book, Chester was recorded as having the name Cestrescir (Chestershire), derived from the name for Chester at the time. A series of changes that occurred as English itself changed, together with some simplifications and elision, resulted in the name Cheshire, as it occurs today.
Because of the historically close links with the land bordering Cheshire to the west, which became Wales, there is a history of interaction between Cheshire and Wales. The Domesday Book records Cheshire as having two complete Hundreds (Atiscross and Exestan) that later became entirely part of Wales. Additionally, another large portion of the Duddestan Hundred later became known as Maelor Saesneg when it was transferred to Wales. For this and other reasons, the Welsh name for Cheshire (Swydd Gaerlleon) is sometimes used within Wales and by Welsh speakers.