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The city of Lille appeared in the Middle Ages. The first document - the Great Charter - dates from 1066. The name Lille comes from Insula , and then Isle , as the city was built on the river Deûle.

Lille was founded by Baldwin V, Count of Flanders.  Traditionally, historians link the foundation of the city with the creation of the Saint Peter’s Chapter in 1055-1065. Lille (or in flemish : Rijsel) becomes the capital of Rijsel-Flanders,  the southern, more or less independent part of the County of Flanders. Already since the 12th century, however, the main language was French, although in the more rural areas surrounding Lille, flemish has been spoken until deep into the 20th century. Together with Dijon and Brussels, the city became one of the capitals of the Burgundy states, which, at the peak of their glory, stretched from Holland to the Mâconnais and the Franche-Comté. 

In 1667 the French king Louis XIV annexed the entire region  to France (against the will of the inhabitants). During the Spanish succession war, Lille briefly returned to the Netherlands, but was given back to France in the Treaty of Utrecht. The city suffered heavily during the French revolution : the St. Peter Church was demolished.  

During the 19th century a new basilica was built.  In the 19 th century, Lille became a major industrial capital; the city expanded rapidly by annexing five towns (Wazemmes, Esquermes, Moulins, Fives and Fbg. Saint Maurice). The surface area of Lille tripled and the number of its inhabitants doubled to 120,000. One century later (in the 1950s), the decline of the textile industry posed serious economic problems for the city, which decided to turn resolutely towards the tertiary sector (banking, insurance, universities, leading schools and administrations). The brand new district of the city, Euralille, which was inaugurated in 1994, is the living example of a highly successful conversion. High speed trains now leave for Brussels, London and Paris - placing Lille at the centre of north western Europe.

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