The history of Aarhus began as a fortified Viking settlement founded in the 8th century and with the first written records stemming from the bishopric seated here from at least 948. The city was founded on the northern shores of a fjord at a natural harbour and the primary driver of growth was for centuries seaborne trade in agricultural products. Market town privileges were granted in 1441, but growth stagnated in the 17th century as the city suffered blockades and bombardments during the Swedish Wars. In the 19th century it was occupied twice by German troops during the Schleswig Wars but avoided destruction. As the industrial revolution took hold, the city grew to become the second-largest in the country by the 20th century.
Today, Aarhus is at the cultural and economic core of the region and the largest centre for trade, services and industry in Jutland. The city ranks as the 92nd largest city in the European Union, and as number 234 among world cities. It is also a top 100 conference city in the world. Aarhus is the principal industrial port of the country in terms of container handling and an important trade hub in Kattegat. Major Danish companies have based their headquarters here and people commute for work and leisure from a wide area in Region Midtjylland. It is a centre for research and education in the Nordic countries and home to Aarhus University, Scandinavia's largest university, including Aarhus University Hospital and INCUBA Science Park. Being the Danish city with the youngest demographics, with 48,482 inhabitants aged under 18, Aarhus is also the second fastest growing Danish city, with an average growth of 4,500 people per annum since 2008.
Aarhus is known for its musical history. In the 1950s many jazz clubs sprang up around the city, fuelled by the young population. By the 1960s, the music scene diversified into rock and other genres. In the 1970s and 1980s, Aarhus became the centre for Denmark's rock music fostering many iconic bands such as TV-2 and Gnags. Aarhus is home to the annual eight-day Aarhus International Jazz Festival, the SPoT Festival and the NorthSide Festival.
In Valdemar's Census Book (1231) the city was called Arus, and in Icelandic it was known as Aros, later written as Aars. It is a compound of the two words ār, genitive of ā ("river", Modern Danish å), and ōss ("mouth", in Modern Icelandic this word is still used for "river delta"). The name originates from the city's location around the mouth of Aarhus Å (Aarhus River). The spelling "Aarhus" is first found in 1406 and gradually became the norm in the 17th century.