Départment du Nord
The Nord is France's northernmost and most populous department. Minority languages include Picard (a dialect of French), Flemish (a dialect of Dutch), and Dunkerquois (a French dialect borrowing a lot from Flemish).
It has a surface area of 5,743 km², a population of 2,577,000 inhabitants, and is divided into six administrative districts (arrondissements in French) for a total of 79 cantons and 652 municipalities.
It borders (clockwise from the North) the Belgian provinces of West Flanders and Hainaut, and the French départments of Aisne, Pas-de-Calais and Somme.
The Nord is composed of the historical counties of Flanders (Lille, Douai, Dunkirk) and Hainault (Valenciennes, Maubeuge, Avesnes), half of which lying now across the border in Belgium, and the Prince-bishopric of Cambrai. This territory was part of the Southern Netherlands (Burgundian then Spanish), but was ceded to France in successive treaties (1659, 1668, and 1678).
The County of Flanders used to be predominantly Flemish (i.e. Ducth) speaking. Nowadays, French has almost completely replaced Flemish. The last place where Flemish is still spoken in France is in the Dunkirk district - mostly in the countryside. Most places between Dunkirke and Lille have Dutch names (sometimes with gallicised spellings), like Rosendael, Mardyck, Uxem, Brouckerque, Bergues, Hondscoot, Rexpoede, Eringhem, Drincham, Wormhout, Herzeele, Zuytpeene, Blaringhem, Merckeghem, Lederzeele, Zegerscappel, Steenvoorde, Hazebrouck, Steenbecque, Morbecque, Isbergues, etc.
In ancient times, the Nord belonged to the Roman Province of Gallia Belgica. From the 4th century, the Salian Franks settled in the region. It is in Tournai, just across the Belgian border, that the Merovingian dynasty originated (=> see History of the Franks)