There has been human habitation in and around modern-day Ottawa for thousands of years, beginning with the First Nations populations. European settlers first passed through the region in 1610, but little interest was shown in the region beyond basic exploration until 1800, when the first English settlement was established in the area, across the river in modern-day Hull. The area soon saw rapid development as a timber resource. The city of Bytown was founded in 1826 as an effect of the work on the Rideau Canal, a vital trade route. Beginning in 1835 and lasting ten years, the Shiner's War, between Irish Catholic and French residents of the city, caused periodic violence and disturbance throughout the city. In 1849 the Stony Monday riot occurred as a result of the compensations that were being paid to people who had been affected by the Rebellions of 1837-38; Loyalists objected to the payments given to rebels, and so rioted. The rioting was put down two days later. In 1855 Bytown was officially incorporated as a city, and given the name Ottawa.
In 1857, Ottawa was proposed as the seat of the government of the Province of Canada, and was officially selected as such by Queen Victoria in late December of that year. This lead to an influx in workers as preparations were made for the work of government, and the city grew massively, with the lumber industry in particular thriving through the mid to late 19th century. The railway, which got underway in 1854, helped to connect Ottawa with the growing country. 1860 saw the beginning of the construction of the Parliament buildings, which concluded in 1876. In 1867 the Province of Canada was dissolved and Ottawa found itself the capital of the newly-formed Dominion of Canada. In 1900 a fire in the city of Hull leapt across the river and destroyed about a fifth of Ottawa. Sixteen years later, another fire destroyed the Centre Block of the Parliament, which was repaired by 1922. Ottawa continued to expand, undergoing a massive shift in urban design in the 1940s that saw the creation of the Greenbelt, revitalization of the downtown core, and other aesthetic and functional changes.
Economic and industrial shifts occurred into the 1980s, when Ottawa became a high tech centre, gaining the name Silicon Valley North. This boom continued until the early 2000s. In 2001 the city's borders swelled when it amalgamated with the twelve surrounding regional municipalities.
Ottawa is the capital city of Canada, and the fourth-largest city in that country. It has a population of just under 883,400 living the the city proper. A majority of the population reports being white, with just under 24% identifying as a visible minority. Ethnic origins reported include Black, Chinese, South Asian, Arab, and Aboriginal, amongst numerous others. A majority of the population speaks English, with 62% identifying it as their mother tongue, while 14% speak French. Over a third of the population reports being bilingual in both official languages. Some 20% of the population reports some other mother tongue, such as Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and Italian. About 65% of the population reports adherence to come denomination of Christianity. Small populations of religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism also exist. About 23% of the population reports no religion.
Ottawa is located in the province of Ontario, on the south bank of the Ottawa River. The city is organized into 23 wards, which are further broken down into dozens of neighbourhoods.