Montreuil (sometimes unofficially called Montreuil-sous-Bois) is a commune in the eastern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located from the center of Paris. It is the third most populous suburb of Paris (after Boulogne-Billancourt and Argenteuil). Montreuil is located near the Bois de Vincennes park.
The name Montreuil may be derived from the Latin Monasteriolum (small monastery). The existence of such a pace has been established by a 772 decree from a Merovingian king, Theuderic IV. Another possible etymology is the combination of monticulum (mound) and -ialo (clearing).
As everywhere around Paris fruit growing was particularly important. On the heights, Montreuil residents wouls produce grapes and especially peaches; around the 18th century, the invention of peach walls allowed an increased production by protecting trees from the cold. Montreuil peaches became famous and supplied the tables of European monarchs until the beginning of the 20th century.
From the beginning of the 12th century, thanks to the proximity of the Château de Vincennes, Montreuil regulatly hosts French kings. Louis IX comes to Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul Church to pray, and both Charle V (1338-1380) and his wife Joanna of Bourbon (1337-1378) are baptized there. At that time Montreuil includes the current locations of Bagnolet and Vincennes. The water supply of the Vincennes castle is provided by springs located in Montreuil. In return for the maintenance of these springs, Montreuil residents receive tax advantages.
In the 19th century industry gets established in Montreuil: factories of wood and pelt works; toy manufacturing; and brick and plaster works which seek to exploit the gypsum underground of Montreuil. In 1871 numerous Montreuil residents take part in the fight to establish the Commune de Paris.
In 1876 Montreuil resident Émile Reynaud invents the praxinoscope. In 1896 another Montreuillois, Georges Méliès builds the first cinema studios in the world. The Lumière brothers and Charles Pathé also have studios there in Montreuil. Several of the great successes of the early 20th century are made in Montreuil: Christopher Columbus, Fire in the Chicago Theatre, Conquering the Pole by Méliès; Gribiche by Jacques Feyder; A Straw Hat from Italy by René Clair etc... and the town will also witness the debuts of great actors such as Charles Vanel. The success of Cinema in Montreuil is halted by the arrival of talking movies.
Montreuil is the first city in the Paris area to be liberated at the end of World War II, on 19 August, 1944, by several hundred partisans, after a violent fight against the German army.
From the 1950s to 1970s, a large number of public housing high rise buildings are built to satisfy the demand for low cost housing. The town contains a large Mali community. It encounters the social problems typical of the region. At the turn of the new century, Montreuil undergoes a beginning of gentrification, as young urban professionals renovate old buildings in Lower Montreuil.