Formerly under the control of Brittany and named Angia, Jersey became subject to Viking influence and settlement and was eventually annexed to the Duchy of Normandy by William Longsword, Duke of Normandy in 933. His descendant, William the Conqueror, conquered England in 1066, which led to the Duchy of Normandy and the kingdom of England being governed under one monarch. King John lost all his territories in mainland Normandy in 1204 to the King of France, but retained possession of Jersey, along with Guernsey and the other Channel Islands which have been internally self-governing since.
Islanders became involved with the Newfoundland fisheries in the 17th century. In recognition for all the help given to him during his exile in Jersey in the 1640s, Charles II gave George Carteret, Bailiff and governor, a large grant of land in the American colonies, which he promptly named New Jersey, now part of the United States of America.
Trade, aided by neutrality between England and France, laid the foundations of prosperity. The Jersey way of life involved agriculture, fishing, shipbuilding, and production of woollen goods until 19th century improvements in transport links brought tourism to the Island.
Jersey's legislature is the States of Jersey. It includes 53 elected members - 12 senators (elected for 6-year terms), 12 constables (heads of parishes elected for 3-year terms), 29 deputies (elected for 3-year terms); the Bailiff and the Deputy Bailiff (appointed to preside over the assembly and having a casting vote in favour of the status quo when presiding); and 3 non-voting members - the Dean of Jersey, the Attorney General, and the Solicitor General all appointed by the Crown. Government departments are run by a cabinet of ministers under a Chief Minister. The civil head of the Island is the Bailiff.
Most States Members are elected as independents. The only political party currently claiming representation in the States is the Jersey Democratic Alliance, although their members stood for election as independents.
Elizabeth II's traditional title as head of state is that of Duke of Normandy, but she does not hold that title formally. She reigns by her position as Queen over a crown dependency. Her representative on the island is the Lieutenant Govenor, Sir John Cheshire who has little but a token involvement in island politics.
Administratively, Jersey is divided into 12 parishes, all having access to the sea and named after the dedications of their ancient parish churches:
The parishes of Jersey are further divided into vingtaines (or, in St. Ouen, cueillettes), divisions which are historic and nowadays mostly used for purposes of local administration and electoral constituency.
The Constable (or Connétable) is the head of each parish, elected at a public election for a three year term to run the parish and to represent the municipality in the States. The Procureur du Bien Public (two in each parish) is the legal and financial representative of the parish, elected at a public election (since 2003 in accordance with the Public Elections (Amendment) (Jersey) Law 2003; prior to that an Assembly of Electors of each parish elected the Procureurs in accordance with the Loi (1804) au sujet des assemblées paroissiales). A Procureur du Bien Public is elected for a mandate of three years as a public trustee for the funds and property of the parish and to be empowered to pass contract on behalf of the parish if so authorised by a Parish Assembly.
Centeniers are elected at a public election within each parish for a term of three years to undertake policing within the parish. The Centenier is the only officer authorised to charge and bail offenders. Formerly, the senior Centenier of each parish (known as the Chef de Police) deputised for the Constable in the States of Jersey when the Constable was unable to attend a sitting of the States - this function has been abolished.
Jersey is an island measuring 118.2 km² (65,569 vergee / 46 sq. mi.), including reclaimed land and intertidal zone. It lies in the English Channel, approximately 22.5 km (12 mi.) from the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy, France, and 161km (100 mi. approx.) south of Great Britain. It is the largest and southernmost of the Channel Islands.
The climate is temperate with mild winters and cool summers, it also averages the most sunshine per year in the British Isles. The terrain consists of a plateau sloping from long sandy bays in the south to rugged cliffs in the north. The plateau is cut by valleys running generally north-south.