10 largest cities in France


Dunkirk (Dunkerque)



Dunkirk is a French commune, sub-prefecture of the Nord department. With 87,353 inhabitants in 2017, it is the fifth most populous city in the Hauts-de-France region, the second outside the Lille metropolis after Amiens. Its inhabitants are called the Dunkirk and the Dunkirk. The “Cité de Jean Bart” is at the center of the Dunkirk Grand Littoral urban community, which includes 17 municipalities and had 198,814 inhabitants in 2013. It is also at the heart of the 40th urban area in France with 257,259 inhabitants in 2013, spread over 56 municipalities including 4 in Pas-de-Calais.

The history of Dunkirk is linked to the North Sea. The city developed around its port. Because of its position, it aroused much envy and periodically belonged to the county of Flanders, to the kingdoms of Spain, England and France. On June 25, 1658, she changed her nationality three times and became definitively French on October 27, 1662.

The large seaport of Dunkirk, third in France in terms of traffic, represents the city's leading employment sector, ahead of mass distribution. There are the companies ArcelorMittal, Air Liquide, Europipe and petrochemical installations. It is also the leading energy platform in Hauts-de-France via the Gravelines nuclear power plant, the DK6 power plant and the LNG terminal.

The Dunkirk Carnival is the city's most famous event.



From 800 to the year 1297
The history of Dunkirk begins around the year 800, with the creation of a fishing village on the edge of a natural cove, then shortly before the year 1000 a church was built. Around 960, Baudoin III had the town surrounded by a wall.

During the twelfth century, the city obtained the status of "new city".

From 1297 to 1789
On August 20, 1297, Dunkirk became French, but five years later it became Flemish again. At that time, it already had an “alderman body” (the ancestor of the municipal council), made up of a mayor and nine aldermen, on the model of the Flemish cities.

On July 13, 1338 the Hundred Years War broke out. The Count of Flanders Louis de Nevers remained faithful to the throne of France, and decreed the end of trade with England, but the Flemish cities, including Dunkirk, lived on it. They rise up and Flanders rallies to England, whose boats dock in Dunkirk. Its port is already important.

This rapprochement with the English does not last, the region is on the French side. In 1382, Count Louis II of Flanders was fighting against the city of Ghent and requested the help of the King of France Charles VI. This intervenes, which provokes a violent response from England: on May 17, 1383 begins the lightning ride of the bishop of Norwich, Henri Despenser, who left Calais and seizes ten towns, including Dunkirk. A counter-offensive began on September 1, ended on the 17th after having recovered all the towns except Calais. The French army was then dismissed, only Olivier V de Clisson, Jean II Le Meingre and a few troops remained in protection in the region.

In 1395, Robert de Bar authorized the construction of a new wall around Dunkirk. The only trace that remains today is the Leughenaer.

In the middle of the 15th century, a landmark was built, which is the current belfry. Ten years later, the Saint-Éloi church uses it as a bell tower. The city is at this time entirely turned towards the sea and the trade. It inherits the festive traditions of sailors and Flemings, and it is at this time that the ancestor of the Dunkirk carnival was born.

In 1520, Charles Quint made a triumphal entry into the city, as the thirty-first count of Flanders. Dunkirk is involved in the war that the heir of the Habsburgs is waging against the King of France François Ier. In retaliation, its fishermen were attacked by French privateers, which led the city to arm racing boats in order to protect its fishing boats.

Dunkirk had chambers of rhetoric (abolished in May 1584 by the Duke of Parma). That of the Carsonniers was reconstituted later and was made known by an illustrious representative: Michel de Swaen.

Besieged in 1652, it was again on May 25, 1658 by Turenne. June 14 is the Battle of the Dunesa 8. June 25 is a symbolic date for the city, subject to many desires: during the "crazy day", the city is Spanish in the morning, French during during the day and English in the evening.

On October 27, 1662, it was bought by Louis XIV from the King of England, and became definitively French. On November 28, ten cavalry troops officially took possession of the city. On December 2, the Sun King made a triumphal entry there. Vauban surrounded it with a new enclosure and redeveloped its port, which became the largest port of war in the kingdom.

In 1670 the race was encouraged, and the privateer Jean Bart appeared. On June 29, 1694, he saved France from famine during the Battle of Texel.

In 1700 a chamber of commerce was founded in Dunkirk.

In the eighteenth century, the port was one of the hubs of fraud with England (smogglage), associated with Boulogne-sur-Mer. Smugglers come by the hundreds to load alcohol and luxury goods. The smogglage lasted until the Revolution, only to be put on hold with the maritime war against the English.

At the end of the Seven Years' War, a unit of marines, the ephemeral Regiment of Foreigners of Dunkirk, settled down.

From the French Revolution to 1914
During the winter of 1788-1789, a very harsh winter, the boats could not dock in the port, the city was then starved and the revolt roared.

France is at war against Austria, and on August 24, 1793, Duke Frederick besieges the city, until September 8 and the intervention of General Jean Nicolas Houchard. On September 8, the Battle of Hondschoote takes place.

On 4 Frimaire of Year II (ie November 24, 1793), the city adopted the abolition of all cults, Dunkirk meaning "church of the dunes" was renamed Dune libre.

In 1834 Benjamin Morel and Jean Carlier created, like the Société Humaine de Boulogne, the Société Humaine de Dunkirk to help the shipwrecked.


In 1838 the lighthouse was built at the western entrance to the port, and light boats marked the sandbanks.

During the nineteenth century, several characters mark the history of the city: Jean-Baptiste Trystram contributes to a modernization of the port, which is of merchandise and fishing, with cod in particular; Gaspard Malo bought land to the east of the city and built a seaside resort there which became Malo-les-Bains, now part of the city.

The railway line opened in 1838, which greatly vitalized the whole region.

Under the Freycinet Plan, docks are dug. A few years before 1900, the town hall was erected: on its pediment, Louis XIV appears surrounded by famous Dunkirk people.

1872 The Human Society of Dunkirk joins the Central Society for the Rescue of the Shipwrecked

From 1896 to 1952 a tram network operated.

In 1896, out of a population of just under 40,000 inhabitants, Dunkirk had 9,066 poor people, registered with the Charity Office, ie nearly a quarter of the population. The author of the study, doctor for 9 years of the Charity Office, shows the difficult condition of the poorest, who live in some places the deepest misery.

During the World Wars
On August 1, 1914 at 6:00 p.m. the belfry bells rang the tocsin, France had just decreed general mobilization in the face of Kaiser Guillaume II's declaration of war on Russia, an ally of the Republic. On August 2, 1914, Dunkirk was declared under siege, following the invasion of Belgium. General Bidon, commander of the entrenched camp ordered the flooding of the polders. Following the Battle of the Yser, the city avoided occupation, but it was bombarded several times by zeppelins. Its port serves as a supply center, shipyards launch cargo ships, and establishments still standing welcome the wounded. The city received several distinctions at the end of the conflict, but one thousand two hundred and thirteen of its children fell at the Champ-d'Honneur.

In May 1940 the Franco-British forces retreated, which led to the Battle of Dunkirk and Operation Dynamo. The evacuation of the "Dunkirk pocket" made it possible to save 300,000 soldiers from imprisonment, but the city was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe and fell on June 4, 1940. It was again in September 1944, but this time by the Royal Air Force, and among others the Lesieur peanut production plant was wiped out. However, in view of a possible Allied landing in the area, under the command of Admiral Friedrich Frisius the German garrison had prepared for the shock, and had no difficulty in transforming into Festung as a result of the Anglo-American advance in France. Blocked by General Alois Liška, it only capitulated on May 9, 1945 after 1799 days of occupation. The longest occupation on the national territory.

From reconstruction to the present day
In the aftermath of the Second World War, more than 70% of the city was destroyed (its port completely), the inhabitants lived in prefabricated “chalets”. Théodore Leveau and Jean Niermans take care of its reconstruction, which is accelerated in 1957: a new and vast Lesieur factory is born; the docks are enlarged to accommodate tankers; the Usinor company sets up and opens blast furnaces using the Ugine-Perrin process at the cutting edge of stainless steel technology.

In 1962, a 500 MW thermal power plant was inaugurated using gas from Usinor's blast furnaces.

From 1963, and following increasing industrialization, the city and its agglomeration very quickly grew from 70,000 to 200,000 inhabitants.

In 1970, Malo-les-Bains was incorporated into the town. Then in 1972 it was Petite-Synthe and Rosendaël, Mardyck in 1980.

In 1989, following the closure of the shipyards, the city and the CUD decided to reorient the city towards its port, and to urbanize the industrial wastelands: this is the “Neptune project”.