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Dunkirk (Dunkerque in French) is a quaint French city located in the region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais. It is the northernmost sub-prefecture in all of France, 70km north of Lille and 295km north of Paris. The city, which has a population of around 93,000 inhabitants, is also less than 300km from four other European capital cities: Amsterdam, Brussels, London and Luxembourg. Dunkirk touches the North Sea and is the third most used port in France. The city and its surroundings belong to the county of Flanders, a Flemish-language area.
Dunkirk dates back over a thousand years, when fishermen decided to settle around its rich port. Originally called Duinkerk (“The church of the dunes” in occidental Flemish), the city’s name eventually evolved into the French Dunkirk (Dunkerque) as it is known today. The city’s history is very closely linked to the sea. A fishing village was built to the extreme west of the city on a long and narrow island on which the Coxyde Dunes Abbey was built. Centuries later, the city became a haven for privateers such as Jean Bart and other heroes of the 17th-century Franco-Dutch battle of Texel. Due to its prime location, Dunkirk was always a source of great envy as well as the scene for many military operations. During WWI, the city remained in the hands of the Allies but suffered heavy bombing. During WWII, it was the site of Operation Dynamo, also known as the “Dunkirk Evacuation”. Devastated by the War, Dunkirk owes its salvation to the installation of the Usinor Steel plant, which helped the city to rebuild and develop.