There has been human habitation in the area of Edmonton since at least 3,000 BCE, and perhaps longer. The first European arrived in the area in about 1754 under the auspices of the Hudson's Bay Company, for whom he explored the area and established contact with native populations. In 1795 Fort Edmonton was established by the Hudson's Bay Company. This Fort acted as a major centre for trade in the region for the next century or so, growing slowly in size until 1885 when the Canadian Pacific Railway ran a track through the town. This brought increased immigration to the region, as well as stimulating the economy. The town of Edmonton was established in 1894, following the settlement of land around the Fort, and it was incorporated as a city in 1904. The city grew steadily into the twentieth century, with the Hudson's Bay Company selling much of their holdings to Edmonton by 1910. Edmonton continued to swell, amalgamating with the neighbouring city of Strathcona in 1912 and stretching across the river. The population suddenly declined in 1914 following a collapse of the real estate market, as well as the beginning of the First World War. The city had difficulty recovering following the conclusion of the war, and suffered along with the rest of the country during the Great Depression. However, during this time Edmonton did develop a growing place as the 'Gateway to the North,' ferrying supplies to Northern Canada from the first Canadian licensed airfield. During the Second World War Edmonton was further strengthened by the construction of the Alaska Highway and Northwest Staging Route. In early 1947 the first major oil reserve was discovered near Edmonton. There followed a period of oil boom through the 1950s, with Edmonton taking the title of 'Oil Capital of Canada' and growing substantially. Prosperity continued through the 1960s and accelerated in the 1970s. It was suddenly halted in the 1980s with a severe drop in oil prices and the introduction of the National Energy Program. The city underwent a period of economic downturn throughout the 1980s. Despite this, the largest mall in North America, at that time the largest mall in the world, the West Edmonton Mall was opened in 1981. In 1987 the city was struck by a devastating tornado that killed over two dozen people. Through the 1990s Edmonton underwent a slow economic recovery, entering a period of renewed prosperity towards the end of the decade thanks both to the recovery of the oil market and the diversification of industry. The city has continued to grow and develop into the 2000s, and attracts increasing numbers of immigrants both from within the country and without.
Edmonton is the capital city of Alberta, and it is that province's second-largest city, behind Calgary. It has a population of just over 812,000 living in the city proper. A majority of the population reports a European ethnic origin. Just over 22% report being a visible minority, and 5% are aboriginal. Over 66% of the population reports adherence to some Christian denomination. Just under 25% reports having no religion. Other religions, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism do not make up more than 3% of the population.
Edmonton is located in the province of Alberta, along the North Saskatchewan River in roughly the centre of the province. The city is comprised of 375 neighbourhoods, broadly separated into 7 sectors.