Douai, Or Donay, a town of France, in the department of Le Nord, 18 m. S. of Lille; pop. in 1866, 24,105. It is situated on the river Scarpe, the canal de la Sensee, and the Northern railway. It is surrounded by walls, is strongly fortified, and contains several literary and scientific institutions, important educational establishments, among them a normal school, a public library, school of artillery, an arsenal and cannon foundery belonging to the government, and has manufactories of lace, embroidery, cotton, linen, leather, delft ware, glass, paper, refined sugar, salt, etc, several breweries, distilleries, and oil mills, and an extensive trade. Douai, according to some, existed under the Romans. It was important when in possession of the counts of Flanders, from whom it came into the power of the king of Spain, and in 1667 passed into the hands of Louis XIV. Taken by the duke of Marlborough in 1710, it was soon retaken by the French, and its possession was confirmed to them by the treaty of Utrecht in 1713. During the religious troubles in England in the 16th and 17th centuries, it acquired considerable celebrity as the seat of a Roman Catholic college and ecclesiastical seminary, founded by Dr. William (afterward Cardinal) Allen, for the education of English youth.
Studies were commenced at this institution in 1568, and for about ten years its prosperity was uninterrupted. But in course of time the townspeople of Douai, then subjects of the king of Spain, grew jealous of their English neighbors, and disturbances were frequent. To prevent further mischief the college was removed to Rheims in 1578, where it was protected by the Guise family. In 1593 it was again established at Douai, and remained there until broken up by the French revolution in 1793.