The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles first recorded Northamptonshire in 1011, as Hamtunscire: the scire (shire) of Hamtun (the homestead). The "North" was added to distinguish Northampton from the other important Hamtun further south: Southampton - though the origins of the two names are in fact different.
The family of the first President of the United States of America, George Washington, lived in Northamptonshire and migrated to America in 1656.
It was popular belief that in 1823 Northamptonshire 'enjoyed a very pure and wholesome air' due to its distance from the sea and its dryness. Its livestock were celebrated: "Horned cattle, and other animals, are fed to extraordinary sizes: and many horses of the large black breed are reared." Nine years later, the county was described as "a county enjoying the reputation of being one of the healthiest and pleasantest parts of England" although the towns were "of small importance" with the exceptions of Peterborough and Northampton. In summer, the county hosted "a great number of wealthy families... country seats and villas are to be seen at every step". This contributed to its nickname ‘the county of spires and squires’.
Changes to Northamptonshire came about in the 18th and 19th centuries as industry became prevalent. Shoemaking and leather became the main industry in Northamptonshire by the end of the 19th century. A large ironstone quarry industry developed in the north of Northamptonshire from 1850. During the 1930s, the town of Corby was established as a major centre of the steel industry. Much of Northamptonshire nevertheless remains largely rural. The gap in the hills at Watford Gap meant that many south-east to north-west routes passed through Northamptonshire. The Roman Road Watling Street (now part of the A5) passes through here, as did later canals, railways and major roads.
Major national roads including the M1 motorway (London to Leeds) and the A14 (Rugby to Ipswich), provide Northamptonshire with transport links, both north-south and east-west. The A43 passes through the south of Northamptonshire and the A45 links Northampton to Peterborough and Wellingborough.
There are many rugby union clubs in Northamptonshire. Its premier team, Northampton Saints, competes in the Aviva Premiership and won the European championship in 2000 by defeating Munster for the Heineken Cup, 9-8. The 13,600 capacity Franklin's Gardens ground houses Saints. Northampton Town are the most prominent football team in Northamptonshire. Other Northamptonshire football teams are Wellingborough Town and Kettering Town. Northamptonshire County Cricket Club is in Division Two of the County Championship. Northamptonshire Cricket Club has signed overseas professionals such as Sourav Ganguly.
Silverstone is a major motor racing circuit, most notably used for the British Grand Prix. Northamptonshire is also home to Rockingham Speedway, the largest stadium in the UK with 130,000 seats. The circuit is an US-style elliptical racing circuit and is used for all kinds of motor racing events.