DOUAI, a town of northern France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Nord, 20 m. S. of Lille on the Northern railway between that city and Cambrai. Pop. (1906) town, 21,679; commune, 33,247. Douai is situated in a marshy plain on the banks of the Scarpe which intersects the town from south to north, and supplies water to a canal skirting it on the west. The old fortifications, of which the Porte de Valenciennes (15th century) is the chief survival, have been demolished to make room for boulevards and public gardens. The industrial towns of Dorignies, Sin-le-Noble and Aniche are practically suburbs of Douai. Of the churches, that of Notre-Dame (12th and 14th centuries) is remarkable for the possession of a fine altarpiece of the early 16th century, composed of wooden panels painted by Jean Bellegambe, a native of Douai. The principal building of the town is a handsome hotel de vile, partly of the 15th century, with a lofty belfry. The Palais de Justice (18th century) was formerly the town house (refuge) of the abbey of Marchiennes. Houses of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries are numerous. There is a statue of Madame Desbordes Valmore, the poet (d. 1859), a native of the town. The municipal museum contains a library of over 85,000 volumes as well as 1800 MSS., and a fine collection of sculpture and paintings. Douai is the seat of a court of appeal, a court of assizes and a subprefect, and has a tribunal of first instance, a board of trade-arbitrators, an exchange, a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France. Its educational institutions include a lycee, training colleges, a school of mines, an artillery school, schools of music, agriculture, drawing, architecture, &c., and a national school for instruction in brewing and other industries connected with agriculture. In addition to other iron and engineering works, Douai has a large cannon foundry and an arsenal; coal-mining and the manufacture of glass and bottles and chemicals are carried on on a large scale in the environs; among the other industries are flax-spinning, rope-making, brewing and the manufacture of farm implements, oil, sugar, soap and leather. Trade, which is largely water-borne, is in grain and agricultural products, coal and building material.
Douai, the site of which was occupied by a castle (Castrum Duacense) as early as the 7th century, belonged in the middle ages to the counts of Flanders, passed in 1384 to the dukes of Burgundy, and so in 1477 with the rest of the Netherlands to Spain. In 1667 it was captured by Louis XIV., and was ultimately ceded to France by the treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Historically Douai is mainly important as the centre of the political and religious propaganda of the exiled English Roman Catholics.
In 1562 Philip II. of Spain founded a university here, in which several English scholars were given chairs; and in connexion with this William Allen in 1568 founded the celebrated English college. It was here that the "Douai Bible" was prepared (see Vol. IV. p. 341). There were also an Irish and a Scots college and houses of English Benedictines and Franciscans. All these survived till 1793, when the university was suppressed. For the Douai Bible see Bible, English.
See F. Brassart, Hist. du chateau et de la chatellenie de Douai (Douai, 1877-87); C. Mine, Hist. pop. de Douai (ib. 1861); B. Ward, Dawn of the Catholic Revival (London, 1909); Handecoeur, Hist. du College anglais, Douai (Reims, 1898); Daucoisne, Etablissements britanniques a Douai (Douai, 1881).
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