The city of Detroit, the largest city in the state of Michigan, was settled in 1701 by French colonists. It is the first European settlement above tidewater in North America. Founded as a New France fur trading post, it began to expand with British and American settlement around the Great Lakes in the nineteenth century, and resource exploitation. But industrialization drove its becoming a world-class industrial powerhouse and the fourth-largest American city by 1920, based on the auto industry. It held that standing through the mid-20th century.
The first Europeans to settle here were French traders and colonists from the New Orleans (the La Louisiane colony. Traders from Montreal and Quebec had to contend with the powerful Five Nations of the League of the Iroquois, who took control of the southern shores of Lakes Erie and Huron through the Beaver Wars of the 17th century, during which they conquered or pushed out lesser tribes.
The region grew initially based on the lucrative inland and Great Lakes connected fur trade, based on continuing relations with influential Native American chiefs and interpreters. The Crown’s administration of New France offered free land to colonists to attract families to the region of Detroit.