In the Middle Ages the area was inhabited by the Pirkka, a devil-may-care guild of hunters, trappers and vigilante tax collectors. Modern Tampere was founded in 1779; during the 19th century its Tammerkoski rapids, which today supply abundant hydroelectric power, were a magnet for textile industries, and industrialists – including James Finlayson, a Scot – established huge mills here.

The 1917 Russian Revolution struck a chord with Tampere's large working-class population; the city became capital of the ‘Reds’ during the Finnish civil war and the scene of their biggest defeat.

As the textile industry dwindled, the city was forced to reinvent itself; its urban renewal is one of Finland’s success stories.