(Flemish Ryssel) Industrial city (textiles, chemicals, engineering, distilling), capital of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, on the river Deűle; metropolitan area 936,000. The world's first entirely automatic underground system was opened here 1982. The Eurostar train stops here, at the new Eurolille station.
Originally a village on an island (l’île island), it was fortified in the 11th century. During the Middle Ages it was capital of Flanders. Claimed by Louis XIV 1667, it was captured by the duke of Marlborough 1708, and ceded to France by the Treaty of Utrecht 1713. There is a 17th-century fortress (built by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban), a Pasteur Institute, and a university (1887). It was occupied by the Germans in World War I.
The French declared it an open city Sept 1914 in order to protect the city's industry which was vital to the economy of N France and for the same reason the Allies refrained from bombarding it throughout the war. However, when the Germans retreated Oct 1918 they did considerable damage to Lille's industrial and transport infrastructure.