Quebec City was considered to be the first European-built city in North America not under Spanish rule. Though there were many other cities throughout North America founded prior to Quebec, it was the first to be founded without the pretense of simply becoming a commercial outpost.
In 1535 the French explorer Jacques Cartier arrived at the site that would later become Quebec City and built a fort. He stayed there for the winter and returned to France in the spring of 1536. A few years later, in 1541, Cartier returned with the hopes of establishing a permanent settlement. However less than a year later, in 1542, due to the harsh winter conditions and the animosity of the natives, the settlement was abandoned.
During Jacques Cartier’s 1535 expedition on the Saint Lawrence River, he came across the Iroquois. As the Iroquois were showing Cartier how to get to the village of Stadacona, (where Quebec City would eventually be,) they called it “kanata,” meaning “village”. This later developed into the name of the country that we now know today: “Canada”. On July 3, 1608 Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec on the site of the abandoned village. During this period it was used as a trading post.
In 1759 Quebec City was captured by the British, who held it until 1763. During the Seven Years War it became the site of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham at Battlefields Park, in which British troops, under General James Wolfe, defeated the French general Louis-Joseph de Montcalm and took the city. In 1763, France ceded New France (the territory’s name at the time), including the city, to Britain.
After it was ceded to Britain, the city became a study in contrasts. The town had nearly 8,000 citizens at this time, but the city was still surrounded by fields, pastures, and forests, which kept its rural ties close. Citizens still engaged in trade offers of their farm surpluses for French imported goods at the local markets as well. However, as a booming town on the Saint Lawrence River, it began to distinguish itself through its architecture, fortifications, suburbs, and drastic separation of societal levels.
Quebec During the American Revolution
Quebec City played a large role in the American Revolution. Troops from the southern American colonies thought that if they liberated Quebec from its Canadian oppressors then they would have a chance of winning the war. They were under the impression that the liberated citizens of Quebec would rise up and join the revolution and eventually become part of the United States.
The French-Canadians, however, were unwilling to provoke their British governors. In what is now known as the Battle of Quebec, the American revolutionaries attacked the British garrison and were defeated. In the end, British North America was politically split into two separate entities.
Following the attack, however, the Mayor of Quebec City, General Isaac Brock, began strengthening the walls of the city and built an elevated artillery before the War of 1812, known as the Citadelle of Quebec. Beyond the city walls, the Martello towers were also built to provide additional artillery support in case of attack.
The city was never attacked during the War of 1812 and until 1871 it was the home of a large British garrison. Today, the Citadelle is still used by the military, while three of the artillery towers have been reincarnated as museums and tourist attractions.
Quebec City became the capital of the Province of Quebec in 1867.
The Twentieth Century in Quebec
In the early days of the twentieth century, Quebec City became one of the main cities affected by the major Charlevoix-Kamouraska earthquake in 1925. The earthquake was one of the most powerful measured in the twentieth century for Canada and the epicenter itself was in the area surrounding the city, damaging the city and the nearby [[Saint Lawrence River]](le fleuve Saint-Laurent). For weeks after the earthquake, a total of 55 aftershocks were recorded, varying in strength from a 5 to a 2 in magnitude.
World War II Comes to Quebec
Quebec City was the site of two major conferences during World War II. The first, held in 1943, was between international leaders Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, William Lyon Mackenzie King, and T.V. Soong. The second conference was held one year later in 1944, between Roosevelt and Churchill.
Both conferences took place in the Citadelle and in the Château Frontenac. During these conferences a large part of the D-Day landing plans were put together.
The Summit of the Americas took place in Quebec City in 2001 where representatives from North America, Central America, and South America met to discuss the Free Trade Areas of America.
In 2002 Quebec City was expanded to include new areas and since then has been known as “The New Quebec City.” New Quebec City now includes the regions of Beauport, Cap-Rouge, Charlesbourg, Lac-Saint-Charles, Loretteville, Sainte-Foy, Saint-Emile, Sillery, Val-Bélair, and Vanier.
In 2008, Quebec City played co-host to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship alongside Halifax, the first time such a championship had been held in North America since 1962. Quebec City hosted Groups A and D in that championship, as well as the semi-finals, the bronze game, and the finals.
Also in 2008, Quebec was the location of the Special Olympics Canada National Winter Games from February 26 to March 1, bringing over 1,000 participants made up of athletes, coaches, staff members, and volunteers.