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The modern history of Caen dates back sometime to the middle, but it was during the late 11th century during which time William I of England made it his capital, that the city first gained some notoriety.
At the beginning of the 13th century, the French regained control of most of Normandy , including the area of Caen . For more than a century, the French ruled Caen without much trouble, but during the 100 Years War in 1346, the English came back and destroyed the city, killing thousands in the process. During the years of rebuilding, the king began building stronger defense around the city.
During World War II, the well-known Battle at Normandy affected much of Caen , as heavy battle raged through the city. The rebuilding that was needed as a result of years of fighting ensued shortly after the war. In total, it is said that the rebuilding of the city took around 14 years. Much of the architecture and city planning seen in the city today is a result of these rebuilding years.
In 1944, the city of Caen was once again bombed, and nearly three quarters of the city was destroyed. The rebuilding process was not completed until 1960.
For more information, check out this detailed history of Caen.