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Prefecture building of the Pas-de-Calais department, in Arras
Prefecture building of the Pas-de-Calais department, in Arras
Flag of Pas-de-Calais
Coat of arms of Pas-de-Calais
Location of Pas-de-Calais in France
Location of Pas-de-Calais in France
Coordinates: 50°57′N 1°51′E / 50.950°N 1.850°E / 50.950; 1.850Coordinates: 50°57′N 1°51′E / 50.950°N 1.850°E / 50.950; 1.850
SubprefecturesBéthune, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais, Lens, Montreuil, Saint-Omer
 • President of the General CouncilJean-Claude Leroy
 • Total6,671 km2 (2,576 sq mi)
 • Total1,468,018
 • Rank8th
 • Density220/km2 (570/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Department number62
^1 French Land Register data, which exclude estuaries, and lakes, ponds, and glaciers larger than 1 km2

Pas-de-Calais (French: [pɑ d(ə) kalɛ] (About this soundlisten), "strait of Calais"; Picard: Pas-Calés; also Dutch: Nauw van Kales) is a department in northern France named after the French designation of the Strait of Dover, which it borders. It has the most communes than any other department of France, 890, and is the 8th most populous. The Calais Passage connects to the Port of Calais on the English Channel. Pas-de-Calais borders the departments of Nord and Somme and is connected to the English county of Kent via the Channel Tunnel.[1]


Inhabited since prehistoric times, the Pas-de-Calais region was populated in turn by the Celtic Belgae, the Romans, the Germanic Franks and the Alemanni. During the fourth and fifth centuries, the Roman practice of co-opting Germanic tribes to provide military and defence services along the route from Boulogne-sur-Mer to Cologne created a Germanic-Romance linguistic border in the region that persisted until the eighth century.

Saxon colonization into the region from the fifth to the eighth centuries likely extended the linguistic border somewhat south and west so that by the ninth century most inhabitants north of the line between Béthune and Berck spoke a dialect of Middle Dutch, while the inhabitants to the south spoke Picard, a variety of Romance dialects.

This linguistic border is still evident today in the toponyms and patronyms of the region. Beginning in the ninth century, the linguistic border began a steady move to north and the east, and by the end of the 15th century Romance dialects had completely displaced those of Dutch.

Pas-de-Calais is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Calaisis, formerly English, Boulonnais, Ponthieu and Artois, this last formerly part of the Spanish Netherlands.

Some of the costliest battles of World War I were fought in the region. The Canadian National Vimy Memorial, eight kilometres from Arras, commemorates the Battle of Vimy Ridge assault during the Battle of Arras (1917) and is Canada's most important memorial in Europe to its fallen soldiers.[2]

Pas-de-Calais was also the target of Operation Fortitude during World War II, which was an Allied plan to deceive the Germans that the invasion of Europe at D-Day was to occur here, rather than in Normandy.[3]


Cities > 10,000 inhabitants
View of the English coast, from Pas-de-Calais

Pas-de-Calais is in the current region of Hauts-de-France and is surrounded by the departments of Nord and Somme, the English Channel, and the North Sea. It shares a nominal border with the English county of Kent halfway through the Channel Tunnel.

Its principal towns are, on the coast, Calais, Boulogne-sur-Mer and Étaples, and in Artois, Lens, Liévin, Arras, and Saint-Omer.

The principal rivers are the following:


The economy of the department was long dependent on mining, primarily the coal mines near the town of Lens, Pas-de-Calais where coal was discovered in 1849.[4] However, since World War II, the economy has become more diversified.


The inhabitants of the department are called Pas-de-Calaisiens.

Pas-de-Calais is one of the most densely populated departments of France, and yet it has no large cities. Calais has only about 80,000 inhabitants, followed closely by Arras, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Lens and Liévin. The remaining population is primarily concentrated along the border with the department of Nord in the mining district, where a string of small towns constitutes an urban area with a population of about 1.2 million. The centre and south of the department are more rural, but still quite heavily populated, with many villages and small towns.

Although the department saw some of the heaviest fighting of World War I, its population rebounded quickly after both world wars. However, many of the mining towns have seen dramatic decreases in population, some up to half of their population.

Population development since 1801:

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.


In the second round of the French presidential elections of 2017 Pas-de-Calais was one of only two departments in which the candidate of the Front National, Marine Le Pen, received a majority of the votes cast: 52.05%.[6]

Current National Assembly Representatives[edit]

Constituency Member[7] Party
Pas-de-Calais's 1st constituency Bruno Duvergé MoDem
Pas-de-Calais's 2nd constituency Jacqueline Maquet La République En Marche!
Pas-de-Calais's 3rd constituency José Évrard National Rally
Pas-de-Calais's 4th constituency Daniel Fasquelle The Republicans
Pas-de-Calais's 5th constituency Jean-Pierre Pont La République En Marche!
Pas-de-Calais's 6th constituency Brigitte Bourguignon La République En Marche!
Pas-de-Calais's 7th constituency Pierre-Henri Dumont The Republicans
Pas-de-Calais's 8th constituency Benoît Potterie La République En Marche!
Pas-de-Calais's 9th constituency Marguerite Deprez-Audebert MoDem
Pas-de-Calais's 10th constituency Ludovic Pajot National Rally
Pas-de-Calais's 11th constituency Marine Le Pen National Rally
Pas-de-Calais's 12th constituency Bruno Bilde National Rally


The Université d'Artois' campus in Lens sits in the ancient headquarters of Compagnie des mines.

There are currently two public universities in the department. Although it is one of the most populous departments of France, Pas-de-Calais did not contain a university until 1991 when the French government created two universities: ULCO (Université du Littoral Côte d'Opale)[8] on the western part of the department, and Université d'Artois[9] on the eastern part.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jackson, Mark (2021-09-01). "Colt and Getlink to Deploy New Fibre Optic Network via Channel Tunnel". ISPreview UK. Retrieved 2021-09-12.
  2. ^ "Canadian National Vimy Memorial, France". The Great War UK. The Great War UK. 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2017. The ridge runs in a direction from Givenchy-en-Gohelle in the north-west to Farbus in the south-east.
  3. ^ Hakim, Joy (1995). A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509514-6.
  4. ^ "Discovery of Coal". Ville de Lens. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  5. ^ Site sur la Population et les Limites Administratives de la France
  6. ^ Le Monde
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Décret no 91-1161 du 7 novembre 1991 portant création et organisation provisoire de l'université du Littoral".
  9. ^ "Décret no 91-1160 du 7 novembre 1991 portant création et organisation provisoire de l'université d'Artois".

External links[edit]