Montreal is a city in the Canadian province of Quebec. It is the largest city in the province, the second-largest in the country (after Toronto) and the fifteenth-largest in North America. Originally called Ville-Marie, or "City of Mary", named after Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill located in the heart of the city, or Mont Réal as it was spelled in Middle French (Mont Royal in present French). The city is located on the Island of Montreal, which took its name from the same source as the city, and a few much smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which is Île Bizard.
As of 2011, the city of Montreal had a population of 1,649,519. Montreal's metropolitan area (CMA) (land area ) had an estimated metropolitan population of 3,824,221 and a population of 1,886,481 in the urban agglomeration of Montreal, all of the municipalities on the Island of Montreal included.
French is the city's official language and is also the language spoken at home by 56.9% of the population in the city of Montreal proper, followed by English at 18.6% and 19.8% other languages (as of 2006 census). In the larger Montreal Census Metropolitan Area, 67.9% of the population speaks French at home, compared to 16.5% who speak English. 56% of the population are able to speak both English and French. Montreal is the second largest primarily French-speaking city in the world after Paris.
In 2010, Montreal was named a hub city, ranked 34th globally out of 289 cities for innovation across multiple sectors of the urban economy, in the Innovation Cities Index by 2thinknow. In 2009, Montreal was named North America's number one host city for international association events, according to the 2009 preliminary rankings of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). In 2012, QS World University Rankings ranked Montreal the 10th-best place in world to be a university student.
Archaeological evidence demonstrates that various 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, a people distinct from the Iroquois nations of the Haudenosaunee then based in present-day New York, established the village of Hochelaga at the foot of Mount Royal 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 visited Hochelaga on October 2, 1535, and estimated the population of the native people at Hochelaga to be "over a thousand people".
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 due to outmigration, epidemic 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 of Petite Rivière and St. Lawrence River, it is where present-day Pointe-à-Callière stands. In 1639 Jérôme Le Royer de La Dauversière obtained the Seigneurial title to the Island of Montreal in the name of the Société de Notre-Dame de Montréal to establish a Roman Catholic mission to evangelize natives. Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve was the governor of the colony, which was established on May 17, 1642. In 1689, the English–allied Iroquois attacked Lachine on the Island of Montreal, committing the worst massacre in the history of New France.
Ville-Marie became a centre for the fur trade and a base for further French exploration in North America. 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 as Akwesasne. 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 their victory in the Seven Years War.
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 from about 1850. By 1860, it was the largest city in British North America and the undisputed economic and cultural centre of Canada.
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 the Stock 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 at Ottawa was furious over Houde's stand and held him at a prison camp until 1944. That year the government decided to institute conscription to be able to expand the armed forces. (see Conscription Crisis of 1944).
By 1951, Montreal's population had surpassed one million people. 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 in large part 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. The merger created a unified city of Montreal 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, totaling 13% of the population of the island, voted to leave the newly 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, however, affiliated with the city through an agglomeration council that collects taxes from them to pay for numerous shared services.
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 (both of which are the largest in Canada), the creation of the Quartier des Spectacles, reconstruction of the Turcot Interchange, reconfiguration of the Decarie and Dorval interchanges, gentrification of Griffintown, subway line extensions and the purchase of new subway cars, the complete revitalization and expansion of Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, the completion of Quebec Autoroute 30, and the construction of a new toll-bridge to Laval are helping Montreal move into the 21st century.