Reading (i/ˈrɛdɪŋ/ red-ing) is a large town and unitary authority area in the ceremonial county of Berkshire, England. It is located in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet, and on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway. Reading is located 36 miles (58 km) east from Swindon, 24 miles (39 km) south from Oxford, 36 miles (58 km) west of central London, and 14 miles (23 km) north from Basingstoke. The Borough of Reading has a population of 145,700 (2008 estimate) and the town formed the largest part of the Reading/Wokingham Urban Area which had a population of 369,804 (2001 census).
The town is currently represented in the UK parliament by two members, and has been continuously represented there since 1295. For ceremonial purposes the town is in the county of Berkshire and has served as its county town since 1867, previously sharing this status with Abingdon-on-Thames. The first evidence for Reading as a settlement dates from the 8th century. Reading was an important centre in the medieval period, as the site of Reading Abbey, a monastery with strong royal connections. The town was seriously impacted by the English Civil War, with a major siege and loss of trade, and played a pivotal role in the Revolution of 1688, with that revolution's only significant military action fought on the streets of the town.
Berkshire The 19th century saw the coming of the Great Western Railway and the development of the town's brewing, baking and seed growing businesses. Today Reading is a commercial centre, with involvement in information technology and insurance, and, despite its proximity to London, has a net inward commuter flow. The town is also a retail centre serving a large area of the Thames Valley, and is home to the University of Reading. Every year it hosts the Reading Festival, one of England's biggest music festivals. Sporting teams based in Reading include Reading Football Club and the London Irish rugby union team, and over 15,000 runners annually compete in the Reading Half Marathon.