Béthune was born before the 7th century. Defended by the Lawe river that it dominates and by the marshes that surround it, it became important very early on among the other cities of Artois and Flanders. The name of the city is made up of two words of Celtic origin: (coming from Bey) would mean "near", while Thune (Thunen) would mean "hedge" or "bush".

The year 1000 marks the beginning of the line of the Lords of Bethune. The existence of a castle on Place Foch has been attested since 970. At the same time, the church of Saint-Barthélemy was built on the current 73rd square. A church, a castle, all the conditions are met to see a population in search of security and sedentarization, especially merchants. The city will thus prosper thanks to the development of the cloth industry and trade and take advantage of its position to enrich itself, which leads to the lust of enemy neighbours and thus to invasion attempts. From its origins, Bethune appears as a fortified town surrounded by a simple wall preceded by a moat that the lords reinforced over the centuries to resist the various attacks. The town definitively organized its fortifications at the beginning of the 16th century under Charles V, with the arrangement of external works. Then Vauban built a stronghold in the 17th century, of which some remains remain in various places. The 1870s will mark a profound restructuring of the city and more particularly of its periphery, following the downgrading of the city as a stronghold and the demolition of its fortifications. At the same time, the coal mines made the wealth of the region. Béthune develops its trade and becomes a powerful inland waterway port, particularly for the transport of coal. Finally, during the First World War, the city lived in British time. Placed in a military zone a few kilometres from the trenches, Béthune served as an allied rear base. The city centre became the symbolic target of the bombings and was 90% destroyed in May 1918. Modernity and tradition will be the watchwords for reconstruction in the 1920s and 1930s. The city of Béthune stands out today for its dynamism, its events and its innovative cultural projects. It has the particularity of having three theatres: the municipal theatre, the Comédie and the Poche.

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