AOL Travel

Montreal History

The most fascinating and dynamic island in North America besides Manhattan, the Island of Montréal is situated on a bend of the mighty St. Lawrence River. It’s the river’s currents that have given the city its shape—both geographically and politically. Early explorers recognized its strategic position as a vital gateway to the Great Lakes. The territory of the Huron, Iroquois and Algonquin nations, then the heart of New France—a vast entity that stretched from Hudson Bay in the north, all the way south to Louisiana—what is now the city of Montréal began life as an aboriginal village called Hochelaga. Jacques Cartier was the first European to set eyes on it in 1535, when looking for a route to Asia. A mission was built to further French interests in 1642, but the city really began growing when the British won the city in 1759 and the fur trade brought profits. English, Irish and Scottish settlers flocked to the province and Montréal’s population outnumbered that of Québec City by the 1830s. By the mid 1800s, Montréal was the largest and most important city in Canada, and a golden age reigned. The 1920s saw Montréal become a major destination for Americans who eagerly scampered across the border to escape the sober confines of Prohibition; however, the Anglophone hold on the city began slipping in the 1960s, when the Québec independence movement grew in strength. A considerable amount of  English-speaking Québeckers left the province during the 1960s and 1970s—taking much of Québec’s financial might with them—and Toronto became the country’s commercial capital. Today, this resilient city has shrugged off the economic troubles that fell in the wake of these upheavals and is in a new golden age—once again confident, energetic, optimistic, but most of all, fun.