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Nord-Pas-De-Calais Province of France

History of Nord-Pas de Calais

Until the end of the 20th century "Nord" was also the name of the région, as well as that of the departement. The région was once part of the Southern Netherlands, within the Low Countries and became totally French in 1713.

The historical provinces now included in Nord-Pas de Calais are, mainly, Artois and Flanders (Flandre in French, in the singular), a designation which is still frequently used by the inhabitants.


- Travel Guide
- Facts on Region
- History of Region

History on Nord-Pas-De-Calais Province of France

This area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and the Nord-Pas de Calais region has always been one of the most strategic and hence one of the most fought-over regions of France.

French President Charles de Gaulle, who was born in Lille, called the region a "fatal avenue" through which invading armies repeatedly passed.

It was conquered in turn by the Celtic Belgae, the Romans, the barbarian Franks and the Alamanni.  It was bitterly contested by England, France and Burgundy in the Hundred Years' War before finally becoming part of the Kingdom of France in the 15th century.

It was annexed to the Spanish Netherlands in 1598, having been offered as part of a wedding dowry.  The region was re-annexed to France in the 17th century, though not without considerable opposition on the part of the (mostly Flemish) population.  And it was divided into its present two departements following the French Revolution of 1789.

During the 19th century the region underwent major industrialisation and became one of the leading industrial regions of France, second only to Alsace-Lorraine.

Nord-Pas de Calais was barely touched by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and in fact, the war actually helped it to cement its leading role in French industry due to the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany.

However, it suffered catastrophic damage in the two World Wars of the 20th century.

In the First World War much of the region was occupied by Germany and many of its towns and hundreds of square miles of land were wrecked in four years of trench warfare, with the region suffering more damage than any other part of France.

Germany occupied it again in the Second World War and used the region as a launching base for attacks on England by the Luftwaffe.  Heavy Allied bombing and fighting on the ground again devastated many of the region's towns.

Although most of the region was liberated in September 1944, Dunkirk was not liberated until 9 May 1945 making it the last French town to be freed from German occupation. 

The region's conflicted history is memorialised in numerous war cemeteries and memorials, such as the Vimy Memorial.

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