Administrative region (German Land) in northwestern Germany, bordered to the north and northeast by Lower Saxony, to the east by Hesse, to the south by the Rhineland-Palatinate, and to the west by Belgium and the Netherlands; area 34,079 sq km/13,158 sq mi; population (2003 est) 17,986,700. A highly industrialized region, it contains the largest industrial concentration in Europe (Ruhr), with one of the largest mining and energy-producing areas in Europe. The capital is Düsseldorf, and other major towns include Cologne, Essen, Dortmund, Gelsekirchen, Münster, and Mönchengladbach.
Physical The region includes the valley of the Rhine, Teutoburger Wald (forest), and the Ruhr industrial district (Ruhrgebiet). The region is drained by the Rhine, Ruhr, Wupper, Lippe, and Ems rivers.
Economy North Rhine-Westphalia is the most industrialized and densely populated Land in Germany. It is the industrial heart of the country, particularly within the triangle extending from Bonn in the south to Hamm in the northeast and Wesel in the northwest. Heavy industry is concentrated in a vast conurbation north of Düsseldorf known as the Ruhrgebiet (or Ruhr for short, after its main river); this includes, among other centres, the cities of Essen, Duisburg, Bochum, and Dortmund. Iron and steel have been produced in the Ruhr since Germany's rapid industrialization from the late 19th century onwards; the Krupp and Thyssen industrial empires were established here. Also within the Ruhr are Germany's principal deep mines, in the coalfields around Gelsenkirchen, Gladbeck, and Oberhausen; elsewhere in North Rhine-Westphalia, notably at Ville to the west of Cologne, there are large deposits of brown coal (lignite), which are extracted by opencast mining. Another main employer operating within the state is the chemical industry; Bayer AG, an important producer of pharmaceuticals, plastics, dyestuffs, synthetic fibres, and fertilizers, has plants at Leverkusen, Uerdingen, and Wuppertal. Other manufacturing includes machines, processed foods, textiles, and clothing. More than half the region's total land ia occupied with commercial farming as well as gardens and orchards. Düsseldorf is a prosperous financial and commercial centre.
History For history before 1945, see Westphalia. The present state, which fell within the British occupation zone after the defeat of the Nazi regime in 1945, was created in 1946 out of the former Prussian province of Westphalia, the north of the former Rhine province, and Lippe. In 1949, the provisional federal capital was established in North Rhine-Westphalia, in the town of Bonn on the Rhine. The region had suffered massive damage to its industry during the war, but rose to prosperity again throughout the 1950s and 1960s.