Nord (department)

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Nord (French pronunciation: [nɔʁ]; English: North) is a department in the far north of France. It was created from the western halves of the historical counties of Flanders and Hainaut (the eastern halves being in Belgium), and the Bishopric of Cambrai. The modern coat of arms was inherited from the County of Flanders. Nord is the only French département in which a Dutch dialect (French Flemish) is spoken along with French as a native language. It is the country's most populous department.

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History

Nord was one of the original 83 departments that were created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. It was made up of three regions: the Counties of Flanders and Hainaut, and the Bishopric of Cambrai, which were ceded to France in successive treaties (1659, 1668, and 1678).

During the 4th and 5th centuries, the Roman practice of coopting Germanic tribes to provide military and defense services along the route from Boulogne to Cologne created a Germanic-Romance linguistic border in the region that persisted until the 8th century. Saxon colonization into the region from the 5th to the 8th centuries likely extended the linguistic border somewhat south so that by the 9th century most inhabitants north of Lille spoke a dialect of Middle Dutch, while the inhabitants to the south spoke a variety of Romance dialects. This linguistic border is still evident today in the place names of the region. After the 9th century, the linguistic border began to shift north and east, a process accelerated by modern government policies that recognize French as the country's official language. There are currently 20,000 speakers of a subset of the Dutch dialect West Flemish in the arrondissement of Dunkirk and this particular subset is in danger of extinction within decades.[1]

Geography

Nord is part of the current Nord-Pas-de-Calais region and is surrounded by the French departments of Pas-de-Calais and Aisne, as well as by Belgium and the North Sea.

Situated in the north of the country along the western half of the Belgian frontier, the department is unusually long and narrow. Its principal city is Lille, which with nearby Roubaix, Tourcoing and Villeneuve d'Ascq constitutes the center of a cluster of industrial and former mining towns totalling slightly over a million inhabitants. Other important cities are Valenciennes, Douai, and Dunkirk. The principal rivers are the following:

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