Probably a Roman fortress (Duacum) built in the 4th cent., Douai was a possession of the counts of Flanders during the Middle Ages. Because of its prosperity as a center of the cloth trade, the town received a charter (1228) granting some autonomy. With the Hundred Years War (1337–1453) and the resulting curtailment of English wool imports, the town declined and passed in 1384 to the dukes of Burgundy and in 1477 to the Spanish Hapsburgs. Louis XIV seized Douai in 1667, and after the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14), the town was permanently restored to France by the Peace of Utrecht (1713).
Points of interest include the town hall (15th cent.); the belfry (14th cent.); the Palace of Justice (16th and 18th cent.); and St. Peter's Church (16th and 18th cent.). Under the patronage of Philip II of Spain, a Roman Catholic college was established in Douai for English priests. At the college the Old Testament of the Douay Bible was prepared in 1609.
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