The largest town in the region is Arendal, and the town began to develop in the 1500s. At the time it had no formal town status, it was not until 1723 that Arendal was granted a full town charter.
Arendal was a loading-place for timber from the 1400s, and the area was first known in Europe by the name of the outport Merdø, which was frequented by the many ships crossing the Skagerrak.
Shipping, shipbuilding and timber trade, as well as mining and ironworks, were important branches of industry in this area for many centuries. Frequent contacts with the world abroad put their mark on the local culture and traditions. In 1880, Arendal was the country's biggest port in terms of tonnage handled.
At the end of the nineteenth century, Arendal was recognised as a major shipping centre with many wealthy shipowners. And in 1939 it had the fourth largest Norwegian tanker fleet; only Oslo, Bergen and Stavanger were larger.
Today the area has small boat manufacturing, mechanical industry, electronics industry, as well as one of the world's largest silicon carbide refining plants. About 40 per cent of the population work in the service sector.
Area: 270 square kilometres
Population: 44 219 (2015)
Area: 218 square kilometres
Population: 6048 (2015)