Calais (UK: KAL-ay, US: kal-AY, traditionally KAL-iss, French: [kalɛ] (listen)) is a port city in the Pas-de-Calais department, of which it is a subprefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's prefecture is its third-largest city of Arras. The population of the city proper is 72,929; that of the urban area is 149,673 (2018). Calais overlooks the Strait of Dover, the narrowest point in the English Channel, which is only 34 km (21 mi) wide here, and is the closest French town to England. The White Cliffs of Dover can easily be seen on a clear day from Calais. Calais is a major port for ferries between France and England, and since 1994, the Channel Tunnel has linked nearby Coquelles to Folkestone by rail.
Due to its position, Calais since the Middle Ages has been a major port and a very important centre for transport and trading with England. Calais came under English control after Edward III of England captured the city in 1347, followed by a treaty in 1360 that formally assigned Calais to English rule. Calais grew into a thriving centre for wool production, and came to be called the "brightest jewel in the English crown" owing to its great importance as the gateway for the tin, lead, lace and wool trades (or "staples"). Calais remained under English control until its capture by France in 1558. During World War II, the town was virtually razed to the ground: in May 1940, it was a strategic bombing target of the invading German forces who took it during the siege of Calais. The Germans built massive bunkers along the coast in preparation for launching missiles at England.
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