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Summary Article: Calais from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Port in Pas-de-Calaisdépartement, in northern France, 238 km/148 mi north of Paris; population (2005 est) 74,200. Situated on the Strait of Dover, Calais lies on the shortest crossing of the English Channel, being just 34 km/21 mi southeast of Dover, and is a major ferry port. Its strategic position has made it the victim of several conquests from 1347, when it was conquered by the English, until 1940 when it was occupied by German forces. The entry to the Channel Tunnel, completed in 1994, is at Sangatte, 6 km/3.7 mi from Calais, and the station on the new high-speed railway is at Fréthun, a similar distance from the town centre.

Features As well as being a popular tourist resort, the town is a fishing port and a trading and manufacturing centre. Industries include the production of tulle, lace, embroidered goods, flour, and cable. Calais is situated on an island and surrounded by harbours and canals. Points of interest in the town include the church of Notre Dame, a Flemish Renaissance-style town hall, and a statue, The Burghers of Calais, by Auguste Rodin. The old part of the town is called Calais-Nord. The modern town, St-Pierre, lies to the south and southeast.

History In the Middle Ages Calais was a staple town, where English wool was brought for export. It also dealt in leather, tin, and lead. During the Hundred Years' War Calais was besieged for almost a year in 1346 by the English under Edward III. As the town fell, the king agreed to spare the town from massacre if six burghers surrendered themselves for execution. Six burghers offered themselves up, but were later given their freedom. The incident is commemorated in Rodin's sculpture which now stands outside the town hall. The town remained in English hands until it was retaken for France by the duc de Guise in 1558. The Spanish took possession of Calais in 1596 but it was returned to France by the Treaty of Vervins (1598).

During World War I Calais was used as a base for British forces. In World War II the town was the scene of an epic defence when 3,000 British and 800 French troops, assisted by two patrolling British destroyers, held out from 22 to 27 May 1940 against two German panzer divisions, supported by waves of dive-bombers. The purpose of the defence was to support the withdrawal of the main body of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk. Only 30 survivors of the defence were evacuated by the Royal Navy before the town fell. The town was then used by Germany as a launching base for the bombing of Britain. Much of the city was destroyed by Allied bombs dropped in retaliation, and the city has been subsequently rebuilt. In October 1944 Calais was surrendered to the Canadians.

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