The main industries in the town are in the chemical and metal engineering sectors. Renault has a large vehicle assembly plant near the town, which has produced many well known Renault vehicles, such as the R14, R11, R19, and the Megane and Scenic of today.
The Gare de Douai railway station is served by regional trains towards Lille, Arras, Lens, Amiens, Saint-Quentin and Valenciennes. It is also connected to the TGV network, with high speed trains to Paris, Lyon, Nantes and other cities.
Its site probably corresponds to that of a 4th-century Roman fortress known as Duacum. From the 10th century the town was a romance fiefdom of the counts of Flanders. The town became a flourishing textile market centre during the Middle Ages, historically known as Douay or Doway in English. In 1384, the county of Flanders passed into the domains of the Dukes of Burgundy and thence in 1477 into Habsburg possessions.
In 1667, Douai was taken by the troops of Louis XIV of France, and by the 1668 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, the town was ceded to France. During successive sieges from 1710 to 1712, Douai was almost completely destroyed by the British Army. By 1713, the town was fully integrated into France. Douai became the seat of the Parliament of Flanders.
Apart from the ferment of the French Revolution, it was again caught up in hostilities in World War I, and in 1918, the town was partly burned, while World War II also brought considerable damage to Douai. The town is still a transportation and commercial center for the area, which was known up to the Sixties for its coalfield, the richest in northern France.
Douai's ornate Gothic style belfry was begun in 1380, on the site of an earlier tower. The 80 m high structure includes an impressive carillon, consisting of 62 bells spanning 5 octaves. The originals, some dating from 1391 were removed in 1917 during World War I by the occupying German forces, who intended to melt them down for the metal. They were reinstalled after repairs in 1924, but 47 of them were replaced in 1954 to obtain a better sound. An additional larger bell in the summit, a La called "Joyeuse", dates from 1471 and weighs 5.5 tonnes. The chimes are rung by a mechanism every quarter-hour, but are also played via a keyboard on Saturday mornings and at certain other times.
The substantial Porte de Valenciennes town gate, a reminder of the town's past military importance, was built in 1453. One face is built in Gothic style, while the other is of Classical design.
The University of Douai was founded under the patronage of Phillip II, when Douai belonged to the Spanish Netherlands.
It was prominent, from the 1560s until the French Revolution, as a centre for the education of English Catholics escaping the persecution in England. Connected with the University were not only the English College, Douai, founded by William Allen, but also the Irish and Scottish colleges and the Benedictine, Franciscan and Jesuit houses.
The Benedictine priory of St Gregory the Great was founded by Saint John Roberts at Douai in 1605, with a handful of exiled English Benedictines who had entered various monasteries in Spain, as the first house after the Reformation to begin conventual life. The community was established within the English Benedictine Congregation and started a college for English Catholic boys who were unable to find a Catholic education at home, and pursued studies in the University of Douai. However, the community was expelled at the time of the French Revolution in 1793 and, after some years of wandering, finally settled at Downside Abbey, Somerset, in 1814.
Another English Benedictine community, the Priory of St. Edmund, which had been formed in Paris in 1615 by Dom Gabriel Gifford, later Archbishop of Rheims and primate of France, was expelled from Paris during the Revolution, and eventually took over the vacant buildings of the community of St Gregory's in 1818. Later, following Waldeck-Rousseau's Law of Associations (1901), this community also returned to England in 1903, where it was established at Douai Abbey, near Reading. Douai School continued as an educational establishment for boys until 1999.
In 1609 the English College published a translation of the Old Testament, which, together with the New Testament published at Rheims 27 years earlier, was the Douay-Rheims Bible used by Anglophone Roman Catholics almost exclusively for more than 300 years.
For a time there was a Carthusian monastery (charterhouse) in Douai, which is now the Musée de la Chartreuse de Douai.
Founded as University of Douai in 1562, the state university in Northern France was renamed Université impériale de Douai-Lille in 1808, then as Université de Lille with faculty expansion from Douai to Lille from mid-19th century onwards.Université Lille Nord de France-Artois University
Douai Business School, established in 1991
École des Mines de Douai
Douai was the birthplace of:Jehan Bellegambe early Flemish painter
Henri-Edmond Cross, pointillist, painter
Gaston Crunelle (1898–1990), classical flautist
Charles Alexandre de Calonne, statesman
Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, poet
Giambologna, born as Jean Boulogne, sculptor
Jacky Henin, politician and Member of the European Parliament
Corinne Masiero, actor
André Obey, playwright
Michel Warlop, jazz violinist
Douai is twinned with: Harrow, United Kingdom
Kenosha, United States
Dédougou, Burkina Faso