Hainaut Province is closely linked with the French nation it borders. Pieces of what was once a larger county of Hainaut during the Middle Ages are now part of France. The city of Tournai, one of the oldest in Belgium, is the birthplace of the Chlodowetch, also known as Clovis, who led the Frankish conquest of Gaul in the 5th century, settling ultimately in Paris. A sizeable proportion of the numerous palaces in the Hainaut province are French in style.
Coal mining was extremely active in Hainaut for a century or so, and resulted in robust growth for the principle cities of Charleroi and Mons. However, the mines have all been decommissioned as the quality of the ore has diminished. Farming, dairy, and livestock production remain important economic activites in the rural portions of Hainaut.