Dunkirk (Fr. Dunkerque), the most northern town of France, in the department of Le Nord, on the strait of Dover, 150 m. N. of Paris; lat. 51° 2' N., Ion. 2° 22' E.; pop. in 1866, 33,083. It is a flourishing place, with an active commerce and manufactories of soap, beet-root sugar, leather, and starch, besides iron works and yards for ship building. Its fisheries are important, especially those of cod and herring, and employ about 100 vessels. The town contains many public buildings, including the town hall built in 1642, the church of St. Eloi, a high bell tower, hospitals, prisons, etc. The port is shallow, but the roadstead is good, and the progress of the commerce of the town since it was made a free port in 1826 has been rapid. The entrances in 1870 were 2,917 vessels, of which 872 were steamers, with a tonnage of 494,576. - The origin of Dunkirk is said to have been a chapel founded by St. Eloi in the 7th century, around which a number of fishing huts were erected. Charles V. defended it with a castle, which has been demolished.
It was afterward taken by the English, who lost it again in 1558; and in 1559 it was acquired from the French by the Spaniards, whom the duke d'Enghien (afterward the renowned Conde) drove out in 1646. It soon passed again into the hands of Spain, and was once more taken by the French in 1658, who gave it up to Cromwell in accordance with a previous treaty. Charles II. sold it to France in 1662, and Louis XIV. strengthened its defences. The English made an ineffectual attempt to bombard it in 1695. After the peace of Utrecht its fortifications were dismantled and its port was filled up; the former, having been restored, were again demolished at the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, and again repaired in 1783. Ten years later it withstood a siege by the duke of York.
Dunkirk, a village and port of entry of Chautauqua co., New York, 35 m. S. W. of Buffalo; pop. in 1870, 5,231. The Erie and the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern railroads connect it with the principal points both east and west, and the Dunkirk, Alleghany Valley, and Pittsburgh line gives access to the coal and oil regions of Pennsylvania. It is beautifully situated on rising ground on the shore of Lake Erie, and has an excellent harbor, protected by a breakwater. It is a port of refuge during bad weather, and has the advantage of being free from ice earlier than Buffalo. At the western extremity of the bay is a lighthouse, and at the main channel a beacon. For the year ending June 30, 1872, 31 vessels of 3,595 tons entered from, and 30 of 3,548 tons cleared for foreign ports; 61 vessels of 11,946 tons entered, and 64 of 12,258 tons cleared in the coastwise trade. Dunkirk contains extensive iron works, machine shops of the Erie railway, a glue factory, a brandy distillery, 3 breweries, several oil refineries, manufactories of sashes, doors and blinds, flouring mills, etc.
There are 2 banks, 4 hotels, 6 public schools, 2 weekly newspapers, and 10 churches.