History of Montreal
Archaeological evidence demonstrates that First Nations native people occupied the island of Montreal as early as 4,000 years ago. By the year AD 1000, they had started to cultivate maize. Within a few hundred years, they had built fortified villages. The Saint Lawrence Iroquoians, an ethnicity distinct from the Iroquois nations of theHaudenosaunee then based in present-day New York, established the village ofHochelaga at the foot of Mount Royal two centuries before the French arrived. Archeologists have found evidence of their habitation there and at other locations in the valley since at least the 14th century. The French explorer Jacques Cartier visitedHochelaga on October 2, 1535, and estimated the population of the native people at Hochelaga to be "over a thousand people".
La Place Royale
Seventy years later, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain reported that the St Lawrence Iroquoians and their settlements had disappeared altogether from the St Lawrence valley. This is believed to be due to outmigration, epidemics of European diseases, or intertribal wars. In 1611 Champlain established a fur trading post on the Island of Montreal, on a site initially named La Place Royale. At the confluence ofPetite Riviere and St. Lawrence River, it is where present-day Pointe-à-Callièrestands. On his 1616 map, Samuel de Champlain named the island Lille de Villemenon, in honour of the sieur de Villemenon, a French dignitary who was seeking the viceroyship of New France. In 1639 Jérôme Le Royer de La Dauversièreobtained the Seigneurial title to the Island of Montreal in the name of the Notre Dame Society of Montreal to establish a Roman Catholic mission to evangelize natives.
Dauversiere hired Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, then 30, to lead a group of colonists to build a mission on his new seigneury. The colonists left France in 1641 for Quebec, and arrived on the island the following year. On May 17, 1642, Ville-Marie was founded on the southern shore of Montreal island, with Maisonneuve as its first governor. The settlement included a chapel and a hospital, under the command of Jeanne Mance. By 1643, Ville-Marie had already been attacked by Iroquois raids. In the spring of 1651, the Iroquois attacks became so frequent and so violent that Ville Marie thought its end had come. Maisonneuve made all the settlers take refuge in the fort. By 1652, the colony at Montreal had been so reduced that he was forced to return to France to raise 100 volunteers to go with him to the colony the following year. If the effort had failed, Montreal was to be abandoned and the survivors re-located downriver to Quebec City. Before these 100 arrived in the fall of 1653, the population of Montreal was barely 50 people.
By 1685, Ville Marie was home to some 600 colonists, most of them living in modest wooden houses. Ville Marie became a centre for the fur trade and a base for furtherexploration. In 1689, the English-allied Iroquois attacked Lachine on the Island of Montreal, committing the worst massacre in the history of New France. By the early 18th century, the Sulpician Order was established there. To encourage French settlement, they wanted the Mohawk to move away from the fur trading post at Ville Marie. They had a mission village, known as Kahnewake, south of the St Lawrence River. The fathers persuaded some Mohawk to make a new settlement at their former hunting grounds north of the Ottawa River. This became Kanesatake. In 1745 several Mohawk families moved upriver to create another settlement, known asAkwesasne. All three are now Mohawk reserves in Canada. The Canadian territory was ruled as a French colony until 1760, when it was surrendered to Great Britain after the Seven Years' War.
Ville Marie was the name for the settlement that appeared in all official documents until 1705, when Montreal appeared for the first time, although people referred to the "Island of Montreal" long before then.
Montreal was incorporated as a city in 1832. The opening of the Lachine Canal permitted ships to bypass the unnavigable Lachine Rapids, while the construction of the Victoria Bridge established Montreal as a major railway hub. The leaders of Montreal's business community had started to build their homes in the Golden Square Mile (~2.6 km2) from about 1850. By 1860, it was the largest municipality in British North America and the undisputed economic and cultural centre of Canada.
In the 19th century maintaining Montreal’s drinking water became increasingly difficult with the rapid increase in population. A majority of the drinking water was still coming from the city's harbor, which was busy and heavily trafficked leading to the deterioration of the water within. In the mid 1840s the City of Montreal installed a water system that would pump water from the St. Lawrence and into cisterns. The cisterns would then be transported to the desired location. This was not the first water system of its type in Montreal as there had been one in private ownership since 1801. In the middle of the 19th century water distribution was carried out by “fontainiers.” The fountainiers would open and close water valves outside of buildings, as directed, all over the city. As they lacked modern plumbing systems it was impossible to connect all buildings at once and it also acted as a conservation method. The population was not finished rising yet however, from 58,000 in 1852 it rose to 267,000 by 1901.
Montreal was the capital of the Province of Canada from 1844 to 1849, but lost its status when a Tory mob burnt down the Parliament building to protest the passage of the Rebellion Losses Bill. For strategic reasons, Queen Victoria herself established Ottawa as the capital. The reasons were twofold; as it was located more in the interior of the nation, it was less susceptible to US attack. Perhaps more importantly, as it lay on the border between French and English Canada, the then small town of Ottawa was seen as a compromise between Montreal, Toronto, Kingston and Quebec City, who were all vying to become the young nation's official capital.
An internment camp was set up at Immigration Hall in Montreal from August 1914 to November 1918.
After World War I, the prohibition movement in the United States led to Montreal becoming a destination for Americans looking for alcohol. Unemployment remained high in the city, and was exacerbated by theStock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression.
During World War II, Mayor Camillien Houde protested against conscription and urged Montrealers to disobey the federal government's registry of all men and women. The Government, part of the Allied forces, was furious over Houde's stand and held him at a prison camp until 1944. That year the government decided to institute conscription to expand the armed forces and fight the Nazis. (See Conscription Crisis of 1944.)
Montreal was the official residence of the Luxembourg royal family in exile during World War II.
By 1951, Montreal's population had surpassed one million. However, Toronto's growth had begun challenging Montreal's status as the economic capital of Canada. Indeed, the volume of stocks traded at the Toronto Stock Exchange had already surpassed that traded at the Montreal Stock Exchange in the 1940s. The Saint Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, allowing vessels to bypass Montreal. In time this development led to the end of the city's economic dominance as businesses moved to other areas. During the 1960s there was continued growth, including the World's Fair known as Expo 67, and the construction of Canada's tallest skyscrapers, new expressways and the subway system known as the Montreal Metro.
The 1970s ushered in a period of wide-ranging social and political changes, stemming largely from the concerns of the French speaking majority about the conservation of their culture and language, given the traditional predominance of the English Canadian minority in the business arena. The October Crisis and the 1976 election of the Parti Québécois, supporting sovereign status for Quebec, resulted in the departure of many businesses and people from the city. In 1976, Montreal was the host of the Olympics. During the 1980s and early 1990s, Montreal experienced a slower rate of economic growth than many other major Canadian cities.
Montreal was merged with the 27 surrounding municipalities on the Island of Montreal on January 1, 2002, creating a unified city covering the entire island. There was great resistance from the suburbs to the merger, with the perception being that it was forced on the mostly English suburbs by the Parti Québécois. As expected, this move proved unpopular and several mergers were later rescinded. Several former municipalities, totalling 13% of the population of the island, voted to leave the unified city in separate referendums in June 2004. The demerger took place on January 1, 2006, leaving 15 municipalities on the island, including Montreal. De-merged municipalities remain affiliated with the city through an agglomeration council that collects taxes from them to pay for numerous shared services. The 2002 mergers were not the first in the city's history. Montreal annexed 27 other cities, towns, and villages beginning with Hochelaga in 1883 with the last prior to 2002 being Pointe-aux-Trembles in 1982.
The 21st century has brought with it a revival of the city's economic and cultural landscape. The construction of new residential skyscrapers, two super-hospitals (the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montreal and McGill University Health Centre), the creation of the Quartier des Spectacles, reconstruction of the Turcot Interchange, reconfiguration of the Decarie and Dorval interchanges, construction of the new Réseau électrique métropolitain, gentrification of Griffintown, subway line extensions and the purchase of new subway cars, the complete revitalization and expansion of Trudeau International Airport, the completion of Quebec Autoroute 30, the reconstruction of the Champlain Bridge, and the construction of a new toll bridge to Laval are helping Montreal continue to grow.