Island Life   

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History of Jersey

Neolithic Man

Originally part of the mainland, the islands were formed after the Ice Age around 8000 BC. Jersey like the other Channel Islands, is steeped in history and discoveries in the 20th century have shown evidence of mankind dating back to 4000 BC (New Stone Age) when tribes, possibly from Spain moved here. Although most traces of ancient tombstones have been broken up in centuries gone by, the most famous of the remaining is at La Hougue Bie. These first inhabitants were probably a small dark pre-Celtic race and were later followed by fair haired Gauls.

See Ancient Monuments for more details.


During the next five hundred years, the Romans occupied Jersey (named Caesarea) from around 56AD although it was not a significant outpost. The ending on the current name of Jersey "ey" is viking meaning island. The islands enjoyed a fair amount of independence although technically ruled from Lyons.

Christianity arrives 

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, came the Dark Ages. It is known that St Magloire went to Sark in 550AD and from there friars were dispatched to the other Channel Islands. St Helier arrived in Jersey at around the same time but was murdered in 556. Until the arrival of the Vikings these were relatively peaceful times.


The Vikings started to make their mark around the Seine and Loire areas. In 911 Rollo took control of Caen from the inhabitants of Breton and history tells us that it was ceded to him by Charles the Simple. This was the beginning of the Duchy of Normandy and William Longsword added the Cotentin pensinsular in 933. A Viking longhouse was found in St Helier. In 933 Rollo's son William Longsword added the islands to the dukedom of Normandy and the inhabitants of Jersey have been answerable only to the Duke of Normandy and his successors, the British sovereign. When Guillaume  le b’tard, Duke of Normandy conquered England in 1066, he became King William I as well as Duke of Normandy and Jerseymen were part of those forces..

When King John lost the territory of Normandy to his cousin Philippe Auguste (Philip II of France), Jersey remained loyal to the English crown. In return for this loyalty, King John granted to the island, certain rights and privileges in 1215 which enabled them to be virtually self-governing, subject only to Royal assent and enactments through the Privy Council. Thankfully these were written down and remain an important part of the island’s constitution today

Being so close to France, Jersey was invaded several times by the French over the ensuing centuries with possession of the island switching back and forth between the English and French six times. In the fifteenth century, Jersey was occupied by the French for seven years who took control of the castles, many of which had origins from Norman times. Many of those castles still survive today.

In 1338 the Hundred Years war began but in1356, the French formally abandoned claims to the island in the Treaty of  Calais having held the island for several months in that year. In 1373, the French again invaded Jersey but lasted only a few weeks.

In 1455 the War of the Roses began and was not to end until 1486.

However during this period, Margaret of Anjou the wife or Edward IV, left the entire Channel Islands to her cousin Pierre  de Breze. Afraid that they would lose their independence under French rule, Jersey and the other Channel islanders fought back under the leadership of Philippe de Carteret. He seized Mont Orgueil Castle in Jersey with the English naval fleet assisting. Later Edward IV and King Louis XI of France reconfirmed the treaty of Calais and the Channel Islands were declared neutral territory.

In 1468 a further Royal Charter was granted to Jersey by Edward IV. 

In the 1600's privateering became commonplace and considerable wealth started to build up in the islands. This was legalised piracy licensed by the Crown to seize foreign ships.

English Civil War

 In 1642, t       The English Civil war began and the aristocracy of Jersey not surprisingly backed the Crown. It was not until 1644 that Parliamentarian forces invaded Jersey but did not defeat the Royalist forts until 15 December 1651.

A painstaking reproduction of the 17th-century survey of the Channel Islands in a leather bound book has been published by The King's Survey of the Channel Islands has been produced using the three known copies of the Legge Report commissioned by King Charles II in 1679. The original work was commissioned mainly as a survey of the islands' military defences but also contained a raft of information about Guernsey society, geography and constitution. The new book contains 40 fold-out prints of paintings by Thomas Phillips and is priced at £1,250 (July 2011).


In the 1800's, wealthy French residents fleeing the revolution,  set up home in the islands and many of the Town houses one sees today were built during this era. 

German Occupation 

During 1940-1945, the islands were occupied by German forces and huge numbers of defensive positions were built as part of Hitler's Atlantic Wall. By1944, most islanders were near to starvation and a Red Cross ship carrying supplies in 1944 was a very welcome sight. The islands were liberated in May 1945 and every year islanders celebrate their freedom on 9th May. 

When the British interned Germans living in Iraq, Hitler retaliated by ordering the deportation of mainly English citizens from the Channel Islands and again following a British commando raid on Sark. in February 1943. In total 2,192 people were deported to Germany. Most were English born mean and their families and those who had previously served in the armed forces. Also deported were families of men sentenced to hard labour by military courts, Jews and others who had committed acts of defiance against the Germans. Forty-five Channel Island deportees died in the camps. They are commemorated in Biberach. Free French forces liberated the camps in April 1945 and the surviving deportees eventually returned home.

Books on the German Occupation are available from

Offshore Finance

The 1960's onwards have seen large increases in population in most of the Channel Islands. Stable government and a lack of party politics has encouraged Banking and Finance generally, to be the main income earners  from the 1970's onwards and has brought huge wealth to Guernsey and Jersey and a respectable standing in the world of Offshore Finance centres. 

New Millennium

As with elsewhere in the World, fast technological change has been a feature of the 1980s and 1990s and as the new Millennium appeared, the islands were gearing themselves up for e-commerce.



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