Jersey is an island situated in the English Channels measuring approx 45 miles square. The population of the island currently stands at just over 100,000 people.
A Brief History
Jersey was once connected to the European mainland and there is evidence of the land was one of the last bastions of Neanderthals as recently as 47,000 years ago. A settlement at La Cotte de St Brelade, currently under water, reveals shelters constructed of mammoth bones.
The Romans occupied Jersey, then named Caesarea, before being evicted by the Goths at the end of Empire. A hoard of an estimated 70,000 late Iron Age and Roman coins was discovered in June 2012 in the parish of Grouville on the east side of Jersey in the Channel Islands. It is thought that the hoard belonged to a Curiosolitae tribe fleeing Julius Caesar's armies around the time of 50 BC to 60 BC.
In 831 AD it formed part of the territory ceded by the King of France to the Normans. When the rest of Normandy was lost to the English crown, the people of Jersey chose to remain under English rather than French sovereignty and arrangement which was not formalised by treaty until 1239.
During the English Civil War the future King Charles II hid in Jersey which remained Royalist, and when the monarchy was restored he awarded Jersey the right to set its own customs tariffs .
Jersey staged its own revolution in 1769, a mass led by Tom Gruchy, a pensions clerk, marched from Trinity storming the Royal Court and demanding an end to corruption. This resulted in intervention from Westminster and the first codification of Jersey Law in the Code of 1771.
The French continued to invade periodically the last time being in 1781, the Battle of Jersey is the only war of the War of American Independence fought in Europe as the French sought to distract the English from the war in America. A war which the French eventually won defeating the British at Yorktown, with assistance from the American militia.
In the early 19th Century, the Emperor Napoleon wrote to London to complain about the amount of wrecking which the people of Jersey were inflicting upon the French merchant fleets.
In the 1850’s the first major immigration took place. The United Kingdom began to develop the island laying roads and defensive works against a future French invasion which never occurred. The revolutionary zeal that swept through Europe from 1848 largely bypassed Jersey whose economy was very strong, based around farming, fishing, woollens, cider production and wrecking ships on the treacherous reefs which surrounded the island. Smuggling was rife into France, the island benefitted from being able to set low tariffs for goods, so it was a destination of choice for merchant ships, these goods were then sailed over to France and landed tariff free in France.
The early 20th Century saw Jersey develop as a honeymoon island and destination of choice for British holidaymakers . This continued on into the 1990’s where tax haven and duty free paradise low price alcohol, cigarettes and petrol continued to act as a draw.
The island was occupied by Germany from 1941 to 1945. The island was split between those who left to fight in the war and those who chose to remain. All English people were rounded up and exported to concentration camps, whilst life for Jersey people was largely unchanged and at least under the D-Day landings in 1944 relatively peaceful.
The government of Jersey capitulated without a fight and welcomed the Germans who began their own infrastructure improvements to the island, largely completed by Spanish and Russian slave labour.
At the end of the war many Jersey families became extremely rich as the British government agreed to swap all occupation marks for British pounds on a one for one basis. Those who had most closely collaborated with the Germans therefore saw the greatest rewards. Those same families continued to dominate Jersey life, although most of the old Jersey families sold up and left at the end of the 1990’s.
In the 1970’s the banks arrived seeking to exploit the low level of taxation and in the 1990’s the mail order companies arrived for the same reason.
Jersey has long profited from the profligacy and waste of the United Kingdom government. In the 1990’s the Jersey government began to inflict their own tyranny of taxation on the people of Jersey and throughout the 21st Century Jersey has been in steady but unavoidable decline.