ARRAS, northern France, chief town of the department of Pas-de-Calais, 38m. N.N.E. of Amiens on the railway between that city and Lille. Pop. (1931) 25,615. Arras is situated on the right bank of the Scarpe, at its junction with the Crinchon, which skirts the town on the south and east.
Most of the town was destroyed by four years of bombardment during the World War. The celebrated' Hotel de Ville with its fine Gothic facade, the cathedral and the Abbaye de St. Vaast were among the ruins. For details of its military and strategic importance see ARRAS, BATTLE OF.
Its industrial establishments include oilworks, dyeworks and breweries, and manufactories of hosiery, railings and other iron work, and of oilcake. For the tapestry manufacture formerly flourishing at Arras see TAPESTRY. The trade of the town is facili tated by the canalization of the Scarpe, the basin of which forms the port. It is the seat of a bishop and a prefect and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce as well as a chamber of com merce.
Before the Christian era Arras was the chief town of the Atre bates, from whose name the word Arras is derived. It became important under Roman rule, and shared the fortunes of north east Gaul during the troubles of the 5th century. Its bishopric, promoted by St. Vedast (Vaast) was soon transferred to Cambrai, but brought back to its original seat about I I oo. As the chief town of Artois, Arras passed to Baldwin I., count of Flanders, in 863. The woollen manufacture was established there at an early date, and a commune was founded early in the 12th century, but the earliest known charter only dates from about 1180; owing to the importance of Arras, this soon became a model for many neighbouring communes. When Philip Augustus, king of France, married Isabella, niece of Philip, count of Flanders, Arras came under the rule of the French king, who confirmed its privileges in 1194. As part of Artois it came in 1237 to Robert, son of Louis VIII., king of France, and in 1384 to Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy, who promised to respect its privileges. Anxious to recover the city for France, Louis XI. placed a garrison therein after the death of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, in This was driven out by the inhabitants, and Louis then stormed Arras, razed the walls, deported the citizens, whose places were taken by Frenchmen, and changed the name to Franchise. The successor of Louis, Charles VIII. restored the city to its former name and position, and as part of the inheritance of Mary, daugh ter and heiress of Charles the Bold, it was contended for by the French king and his rival, the German king, Maximilian I. The peace of Senlis in 1493 gave Arras to Maximilian, and in spite of attacks by the French, it remained under the rule of the Habsburgs until 1640. Taken in this year by the French, this capture was ratified by the peace of the Pyrenees in 1659, and henceforward it remained part of France. It suffered severely during the French Revolution.
See E. Lecesne, Histoire d'Arras jusqu'en 1789 (Arras, 188o) ; Arras sous la Revolution (Arras, 1882-83) .