Suffolk is an East Anglian county of historic origin. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. The North Sea lies to the east. The county town is Ipswich; other important towns include Lowestoft, Bury St. Edmunds, Newmarket and Felixstowe, one of the largest container ports in Europe.
By the 5th century the Angles, after whom East Anglia and England itself are named, had established control of the region and later became the "north folk" and the "south folk", hence, "Norfolk" and "Suffolk". Suffolk, and several adjacent areas, became the kingdom of East Anglia, which was settled by the Angles in the 5th century AD, later merging with Mercia and then Wessex.
Suffolk was divided into separate Quarter Sessions divisions. These were originally four in number, reduced to two in 1860, the eastern division being administered from Ipswich and the western from Bury St. Edmunds. The two divisions were made separate administrative counties as East Suffolk and West Suffolk under the Local Government Act 1888, with Ipswich becoming a county borough. A few Essex parishes were also added to Suffolk: Ballingdon-with-Brundon, and parts of Haverhill and Kedington.
Under the Local Government Act 1972, East Suffolk, West Suffolk and Ipswich were merged to form a unified county of Suffolk on 1 April 1974. This was divided into several local government districts: Babergh, Forest Heath, Ipswich, Mid Suffolk, St. Edmundsbury, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney. This Act also transferred some land near Great Yarmouth to Norfolk. As introduced in Parliament, the Local Government Bill would have transferred Newmarket and Haverhill to Cambridgeshire, but Colchester would have been transferred in from Essex; but those changes were not included in Act as passed.
In 2007 the Department for Communities and Local Government referred Ipswich Borough Council's bid to become a new unitary authority to the Boundary Committee. The Boundary Committee consulted local bodies and reported in favour of the proposal. It was not, however, approved by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Beginning in February 2008, the Boundary Committee again reviewed local government in the county, with two possible options emerging. One was that of splitting Suffolk into two unitary authorities – Ipswich & Felixstowe and Rural Suffolk; and the other, that of creating a single county-wide controlling authority – the "One Suffolk" option. In February 2010 the then Minister Rosie Winterton announced that there would be no changes imposed on the structure of local government in the county as a result of the Review, but that the Government would be "asking Suffolk councils and MPs to reach a consensus on what unitary solution they want through a countywide constitutional convention". Following the May 2010 General Election, all further moves towards any of the suggested unitary solutions ceased on the instructions of the incoming Coalition Government, and the administrative structures of the county are therefore unchanged.
West Suffolk, like nearby East Cambridgeshire, is renowned for archaeological finds from the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Bronze Age artefacts have been found in the area between Mildenhall and West Row, in Eriswell and in Lakenheath. Many bronze objects, such as swords, spearheads, arrows, axes, palstaves, knives, daggers, rapiers, armour, decorative equipment (in particular for horses) and fragments of sheet bronze, are entrusted to St. Edmundsbury heritage service, housed at West Stow just outside Bury St. Edmunds. Other finds include traces of cremations and barrows.
In the east of the county is Sutton Hoo, the site of one of England's most significant Anglo-Saxon archæological finds; a ship burial containing a collection of treasures including a Sword of State, gold and silver bowls and jewellery and a lyre.