Abbeville, France

City on the Somme River, in the Picardie region, northern France, 12 miles from the English Channel. It is one of the three sous-préfectures of the Somme département. It lies in a fertile valley, and is built partly on an island and partly on both sides of the river. It first appeared in history during the 9th century, growing up around Saint Riquier’s abbey. Civil government was by the counts of Ponthieu, later the house of Castile, and in 1272 to King Edward I of England. In 1435 it was ceded to the Duke of Burgundy, then annexed by King Louis XI of France in 1477. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries work was done on the Gothic church of Saint Vulfran, and the town became noted for structures many centuries old. It became a relatively important commercial center in the 18th and 19th centuries with cloth manufacturing, hemp spinning, sugar making, ship building, locksmithing, and grain production. Voltaire, among others, wrote about the class conflicts created by industrialization there. In early World War II the was bombed nearly to rubble in one night by the Germans, and is now mostly modern and rebuilt. See also