There has been human habitation in and around the area of Montreal for about 8,000 years, with indigenous peoples making their homes throughout the region. In 1535 Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, arrived in the region, the first European explorer to do so. He visited some native villages and noted the existence of others. He was followed some seventy years later by Samuel de Champlain, who found that the native villages had since vanished without a trace, probably because of Mohawk aggression. Attempts to established a fur trading post in the region failed because of fierce armed opposition by the Mohawk inhabitants. In 1639 a successful settlement was finally established on the Island of Montreal. Ville-Marie, as it was called, was largely inhabited by missionaries for the next few decades, with the population growing slowly as settlers arrived, despite opposition and occasional attacks by native peoples. It began to grow in importance as a base for the fur trade, flourishing under the protection of the Great Peace, and in 1725 the settlement was fortified. During the Seven Years War, France's North American holdings were hotly contested, and in 1760 Ville-Marie was surrendered to the British Army. When the war was concluded three years later, Ville-Marie and all other French holdings were formerly ceded to the British. Under British rule and no longer restricted to Roman Catholic settlers, the population grew massively. In 1765 a quarter of the town was destroyed by fire, but it was rapidly rebuilt. In 1774 the right of the French inhabitants to maintain their language and tradition were affirmed in the Quebec Act. The town was briefly captured by American revolutionaries in 1775, but they found they couldn't hold the area and retreated from the city. Following the conclusion of the Revolutionary War the are was flooded with anglophone Loyalists, causing tensions with the largely francophone population. Anglophones were encouraged to resettle in Upper Canada. Despite this, the English language grew in influence in the town, and soon became the commonly used language of trade. Around this time the region began to be referred to as Montreal.
In 1832 it was officially incorporated as a city, and in 1844 it was named as the capital of the United Province of Canada. It remained so until 1849, when a Tory mob burnt down its parliament building in protest, and the status of capital passed to the city of Ottawa. Montreal grew rapidly as a city throughout this time, with growing prominence as a transport thanks to the Lachine Canal and Victoria Bridge. Throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century the city underwent a period of rapid industrialization and subsequent economic boom that drew immigrants from both language groups into the city. Though eventually stabilizing as a largely francophone city thanks to the absorption of nearby towns, the city maintained anglophone pockets. Following the First World War, the Prohibition movement in America proved a great boon to Montreal's economy, and though Montreal suffered during the Great Depression along with the rest of the country, it was relatively quick to rebound from economic losses. During the Second World War, Montreal offered some opposition to conscription, leading to the imprisonment of its mayor for treason. In 1959 the St Lawrence Seaway opened, ending Montreal's importance as a transportation hub.
In the 1960s and 1970s Montreal was impacted by the political and cultural changes sweeping Quebec, the Quiet Revolution, which sought to establish the importance of the French culture and language. In 1967 Montreal hosted Expo 67. In 1970 Montreal was swept up in the October Crisis, in which radical separatists called the Front de libération du Québec took two hostages. This lead to the implementation of martial law and the deployment of the Canadian Forces in the city. The crisis lasted until early December, with the death of one hostage and the rescue of the other. In 1976 the city played host to the Summer Olympics. That same year the Parti Québecois, a separatist party, enjoyed political success, which played a part, in conjunction with the Crisis, in spurring the departure of many businesses and anglophone residents from the city. In the following decade Montreal suffered a much slower rate of growth than other Canadian cities. It began to recover economically in the late 1990s. In 2002 the entirety of the Island of Montreal was merged into one city, unifying the whole island under one government. This move proved unpopular, and several of the municipalities voted to leave the megacity. In 2006 the island was de-merged, with fifteen other municipalities currently on the island that share some administrative elements with the city. The city has continued to flourish and grow into the 2010s.
Montreal is the largest city in Quebec, and the second largest in Canada, after Toronto. It has a population of just under 1,650,000 living in the city proper. A majority of the population reports a European ethnicity, with some 26% reporting being a visible minority. A majority of the population speaks French at home, about 57%, while 18% speak English and 19% speak other languages. Almost 85% of the population report being Christian, with most of these adhering to Roman Catholicism despite relatively low church attendance rates. Just under 8% of the population reports no religion. Other religions, such as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, do not make up more than 3% of the population.
Montreal is located in the province of Quebec, on the Island of Montreal at the confluence of the St Lawrence and the Ottawa Rivers. The city is divided into 19 large boroughs which are further subdivided into numerous neighbourhoods