Northamptonshire (nôrthămpˈtənshĭr) [key] or Northants nôrth-hăntsˈ, county (1991 pop. 568,900), 914 sq mi (2,367 sq km), central England. The county seat is Northampton. The county comprises seven districts: South Northamptonshire, Northampton, Daventry, Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby, and East Northamptonshire. The terrain is undulating agricultural country, devoted to pasture and forests. The principal river is the Nene. The iron and steel industry, which flourished on the basis of local ore from the start of the 20th cent., has dwindled in significance. The county's specialization in boot and shoe production has also withered in the face of competition. The Roman roads Ermine Street and Watling Street crossed the county. In Anglo-Saxon times the area was part of the kingdom of Mercia and was probably organized as a shire in Danish times. In 1974, Northamptonshire was reorganized as a nonmetropolitan county.