Lille, Or Lisle (Originally L, 'Isle, the island; Flem. Ryssel), a fortified city of France, capital of the department of Le Nord, formerly of French Flanders, 7 m. from the Belgian frontier, 58 m. S. E. of Calais, and 127 m. N. N. E. of Paris; pop. in 1872, 158,117. The annexation of several adjacent communes in 1858 more than doubled its population. It is traversed by the river Deule and connected with the sea by a canal, and has ample railway communication. The fortifications of Lille are considered to be Vauban's masterwork, and the city is one of the most important of France, both in a military and industrial point of view. It has seven gates, one of which has a triumphal arch in honor of Louis XIV., and contains more than 30 public squares and as many bridges. The hotel de ville was mostly rebuilt in 1849, but a brick Gothic gate house with towers is part of a palace built by John the Fearless, and inhabited by the emperor Charles V. Part of the building is devoted to a school of art, containing in its collection of drawings by old masters 86 by Raphael and nearly 200 by Michel Angelo. Lille is the seat of the prefect and other departmental authorities, a military division, a court of primary jurisdiction, a commercial court, a chamber of commerce, a lyceum, an academy, a medical and pharmaceutical school, schools of design, sculpture, and architecture, a botanical garden, and several literary societies.
Lille rivals English manufacturing towns in the spinning of cotton; there are more than 30 establishments for the purpose in active operation. Flax is largely grown in the vicinity, and the manufacture of linens is the most important branch of industry; ribbons and woollens are also produced; but the manufacture of tulles and cotton lace has greatly declined. The tobacco manufactory of the government produces about 11,000,000 lbs. annually. The trade in domestic products, and in wine, oil, madder, and brandies, is very brisk. Fairs are held annually in February and December. - Part of the site on which the city now stands is said to have been anciently occupied by a castle built by Julius Caesar. The city was founded in the 9th century, and it was enlarged and fortified in the course of the 11th. Henry III. of Germany seized it in the middle of the 11th century, and Philip Augustus of France in 1213. Destroyed by the latter on account of the revolt of the citizens, Lille was rebuilt by the countess Jeanne. In 1297 it was conquered by King Philip the Fair. Afterward it alternately gave its allegiance to France and the counts of Flanders until the end of the 14th century, when it passed into the possession of the house of Burgundy. In the latter part of the 15th century it passed into that of Austria, and in the next century of Spain; but Louis XIV. reconquered it in 1667, and made it the capital of French Flanders. In 1708 Lille was taken by Prince Eugene and the duke of Marlborough, notwithstanding the heroic defence of Marshal Bouflers. It was restored to France by the peace of Utrecht in 1713. It was besieged in 1792 by the Austrians, who after a heavy bombardment, which destroyed many houses, were repulsed with great loss by the citizens.