Building Montréal

© Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaelogy and History 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

We characterized this period by the building of fortifications and the military role of Montréal, initially as part of the French Empire in the Americas and later as a British colony after the fall of Montréal, in 1760. Montréal was the first city in New France to be fortified, gaining its stone ramparts even before Québec City . Unlike the wood fortifications they replaced, the stone walls created two separate urban entities-the fortified city within the walls, and the faubourgs , or suburbs, outside the walls. The latter truly came into existence only with the construction of the ramparts and with the changes necessitated by the numerous major fires that swept through Montréal around this time. Ironically, though the fortifications never came under attack, and Montréal was spared any damage related to the war with the British, these fires were just as destructive as any war. But the fires also paved the way for the rebuilding of most of the city's dwellings in new ways and for new purposes, resulting in significant changes to the urban landscape during this period.

Montréal's surrender to the British in September 1760, a year after Québec City , signaled the end of New France . It did not mean the end of the fur trade, however. English merchants took over the trade with great success, in part due to the French-Canadian "infrastructure," consisting of the voyageurs and their Aboriginal partners, already in place. Since the beginning of the century, the fur trade had been based on a network of forts scattered throughout the Pays d'en Haut , or back country, extending west to the Rocky Mountains and south to the Gulf of Mexico . With this network now under the control of British merchants in Montréal, the city continued its control over the fur trade, still the colony's most profitable venture.

The three scenarios chosen to represent this period hinge on issues and realities related to this "city of stone," or fortified city.
  • Military hub of New France
  • Daily life in a French town
  • Large-scale fur trade

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