A stockaded Native American village, Hochelaga, was found on the site (1535) by Cartier, and the island was visited in 1603 by Champlain, but it was not settled by the French until 1642, when a band of priests, nuns, and settlers under Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve, founded the Ville Marie de Montréal. The settlement grew to become an important center of the fur trade and the starting point for the western expeditions of Jolliet, Marquette, La Salle, Vérendrye, and Duluth. It was fortified in 1725 and remained in French possession until 1760, when Vaudreuil de Cavagnal surrendered it to British forces under Amherst. Americans under Richard Montgomery occupied it briefly (1775–76) during the American Revolution.
The city's growth was aided by the opening in 1825 of the Lachine Canal, making possible water communications with the Great Lakes. From 1844 to 1849, Montreal was the capital of United Canada. The Canadian Pacific Railway established its headquarters here in the 1880s. Montreal held the much-praised international exposition of 1967, known as Expo '67, and further increased its international stature by hosting the 1976 Summer Olympics, although the provincial debt incurred in undertaking the latter was not retired until 2006.