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For centuries war has been an almost constant threat to the inhabitants of Northern France.  They suffered invasion by tribes from neighbouring lands; then by the Romans and, later, the Vikings. Disputes over claims to the throne of France by England and by Spain gave rise to the Hundred Years War and the Thirty Years War, respectively.

The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 brought about the devastation of strategic towns and the deaths of  thousands of soldiers. And the 20th century brought the most devastating wars seen in Europe, with World War I fought over large areas of Northern France, then World War II, with invasion, occupation and battles for liberation.


This history has left a rich legacy of fortified towns, castles, battlefields and war memorials  across the region.


But history is more than conflict.  This part of Northern France was once a place known for the excellence of its textiles.  Later coal-mining dominated the industrial scene, and with its coastline and ports, there has always been seafaring and fishing.  There are museums dedicated to many specific aspects of this history:  Lacemaking in Calais, Deepsea Fishery and Seafaring in Etaples, Pottery and Ceramics in Desvres, Coal mining in Lewarde near Lille and many others  

The walls of Boulogne’s citadel  were originally Roman, now with later medieval improvements

The Grande Place in Arras, a Flanders town once famous for fine tapestry weaving

The Battle of Agincourt is superbly presented at the Azincourt Visitor Centre

Montreuil sur Mer, with its cobbled streets and its well preserved ramparts, is one of the most photographed towns in France

The Thiepval Monument and the huge dome of Hitler’s V2 launching site at La Coupole:  two reminders of 20th century wars