Jersey's economy is based on financial services, tourism, internet trade and agriculture. Financial services contribute approximately half of the Island's economy.
Major agricultural products are potatoes and dairy produce. The source of milk is Jersey cattle, a small breed of cow that has also been acknowledged (though not widely so) for the quality of its meat. Small-scale organic beef production has been reintroduced in an effort to diversify the industry.
Farmers and growers often sell surplus food and flowers in boxes on the roadside, relying on the honesty of those who pass to drop the correct change into the money box and take what they want.
The absence of VAT has led to the recent growth of the 'fulfilment' industry, whereby low-value luxury items, such as videos, lingerie and contact lenses are exported to the UK, avoiding VAT on arrival and thus undercutting UK prices on the same products. The States of Jersey announced in 2005 limits on licences granted to non-resident companies trading in this way.
Duty free goods are available for purchase on travel to and from the Island.
Aside from its banking and finance underpinnings Jersey also depends on tourism. Notable hotels include:The Pomme d’Or overlooking Liberation Square in St. Helier, from whose balcony the Liberation force raised the Union Flag on Liberation Day, 9 May 1945; the Hotel de France, formerly the Imperial and the Jesuit college, in St. Saviour overlooking the town of St. Helier; the Hotel L'Horizon in St. Brelade's Bay.
La Grande Vere, in St. Helier overlooking St. Aubins Bay, with views of Elizabeth Castle and the Waterfront
Jèrriais, the island's indigenous language is a variety of Norman. It is spoken by a minority of the population, although it was the majority language in the 19th century. Though there are efforts to revive the language in schools, it is still spoken mostly by older people (most commonly in the country parishes, although the capital has the highest number of declared Jèrriais speakers). The dialects of Jèrriais differ in phonology and, to a lesser extent, lexis between parishes, with the most marked differences to be heard between those of the west and east. Many place names are in Jèrriais, and French and English place names are also to be found. Anglicisation of the toponymy increased apace with the migration of English people into the island.
Some Neolithic carvings are the earliest works of artistic character to be found in Jersey. Only fragmentary wall-paintings remain from the rich mediaeval artistic heritage, after the wholesale iconoclasm of the Calvinist reformation of the 16th century.
Printing only arrived in Jersey in the 1780s, but the Island supported a multitude of regular publications in French (and Jèrriais) and English throughout the 19th century, in which poetry, most usually topical and satirical, flourished. See Jèrriais literature.
John Everett Millais, Elinor Glyn, and Wace are among Jersey's artistic figures. Lillie Langtry, the Jersey Lily, is the Island's most widely recognised cultural icon. The famous French writer, Victor Hugo, lived in exile in Jersey 1852-1855.
Jersey's only newspaper, the Jersey Evening Post, is widely read, being the main printed source of local news and official notices. BBC Radio Jersey provides a radio service, and television news. Channel Television is a regional ITV franchise shared with the Bailiwick of Guernsey but with its headquarters in Jersey. Channel 103 is a popular local radio station.
Jersey has been an island for approximately 8,000 years and at its extremes it measures 10 miles east to west and six miles north to south. the earliest evidence of human activity in the island dates to about 250,000 years ago when bands of hunters used the caves at La Cotte de St Brelade as a base for hunting mammoth. There was sporadic activity in the area by nomadic bands of hunters until the introduction of settled communities in the Neolithic period, which is marked by the building of the ritual burial sites known as dolmens. The number, size and visible locations of these megalithic monuments (especially La Hougue Bie) have suggested that social organisation over a wide area, including surrounding coasts, was required for the construction. Archaeological evidence shows that there were trading links with Brittany and the south coast of England during this time. It would appear that the island was significant enough to inspire large-scale construction projects
Although part of the Roman world, we know very little about the island until the 11th century. The tradition that the Island was called Caesarea by the Romans appears to have no basis in fact. Various saints such as the Celts Samson of Dol and Branwaldr (Brelade) were active in the region, although tradition has it that it was Saint Helier from Tongres in modern-day Belgium who first brought Christianity to the Island in the 6th century, and Charlemagne sent his emissary to the island (at that time called Angia) in 803.
The island took the name Jersey as a result of Viking activity in the area between the 9th and 10th centuries. The Channel Islands remained politically linked to Brittany until 933 when William Longsword, Duke of Normandy seized the Cotentin and the islands and added them to his domain. In 1066 Duke William II of Normandy defeated harold at Hastings to become king of England however he continued to rule his French possessions as a separate entity.
The islands remained part of the Duchy of Normandy until 1204 when King Philippe Auguste of France conquered the duchy from King John of England. The islands remained in the personal possession of the king and were described as being a Peculiar of the Crown. The so-called Constitutions of King John are the foundation of modern self-government.
From 1204 onwards the Channel Islands ceased to be a peaceful backwater and was thrown into the spotlight as a potential flashpoint on the international stage between England and France. Mont Orgueil castle was built at this time to serve as a Royal fortress and military base. During the Hundred Years War the island was attacked many times and was even occupied for a couple of years in the 1380s. Because of the island's strategic importance to the English Crown the islanders were able to negotiate a number of benefits for themselves from the king. During the Wars of the Roses the island was occupied by the French for seven years (1461-68) before Sir Richard Harliston arrived in the island to claim it back for the English king
During the 16th century the islanders adopted the Protestant religion and life became very austere. The increasing use of gunpowder on the battlefield meant that the fortifications on the island had to be adapted and a new fortress built to defend St Aubin's Bay. The new Elizabeth Castle was named after the queen by Sir Walter Raleigh when he was governor. The island militia was reorganised on a parish basis and each parish had two cannon which were usually housed in the church - one of the St Peter cannon can still be seen at the bottom of Beaumont Hill.
The production of knitwear reached such a scale that it threatened the island's ability to produce its own food and so laws were passed regulating who could knit with whom and when. The islanders also became involved with the Newfoundland fisheries at this time. The boats left the island in February/March following a church service in St Brelade's church and they wouldn't return again until September/October. During the 1640s England was split by Civil War and hostilities spread into Scotland and Ireland as well. Jersey was divided and while the sympathy of islanders lay with Parliament the de Carterets held the island for the king.
The futureCharles II visited the island in 1646 and again in 1649 following the execution of his father. It was in the Royal Square in St. Helier on February 17 1649 that Charles was first publicly proclaimed king after his father's death. The Parliamentarians eventually captured the island in 1651 and in recognition for all the help given to him during his exile, Charles II gave George Carteret a large grant of land in the American colonies, which he promptly named New Jersey. Towards the end of the 17th century Jersey strengthened its links with the Americas when many islanders emigrated to New England and north east Canada. The Jersey merchants built up a thriving business empire in the Newfoundland and GaspŽ fisheries. Companies such as Robins and the Le Boutilliers set up thriving businesses.
The Chamber of commerce founded 24 February 1768 is the oldest in the Commonwealth. The 18th century was a period of political tension between Britain and France as the two nations clashed all over the world as their ambitions grew. Because of its position Jersey was more or less on a continuous war footing.
During the American Wars of Independence there were two attempted invasions of the island. In 1779 the Prince of Nassau was prevented from landing at St Ouen's Bay; on January 6, 1781, a force lead by Baron de Rullecourt captured St Helier in a daring dawn raid, but was defeated by a British army lead by Major Peirson. A short lived peace was followed by the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars which when they had ended had changed Jersey for ever. the first printing press was introduced to Jersey in 1784.
The livre tournois had been used as the legal currency for centuries. However, it was abolished during the French Revolutionary period. Although the coins were no longer minted, it remained the legal currency in Jersey until 1837 when dwindling supplies of livres tournois and consequent difficulties in trade and payment obliged the adoption of the pound sterling as legal tender.
The military roads constructed (on occasion at gunpoint in the face of opposition from landowners) by the Governor, General George Don, to link coastal fortifications with St. Helier harbour had an unexpected effect on agriculture once peace restored reliable trade links. Farmers in previously isolated valleys were able to swiftly transport crops grown in the Island's microclimate to waiting ships and then on to the markets of London and Paris ahead of the competition. In conjunction with the introduction of steamships and the development of the French and British railway systems, Jersey's agriculture was no longer as isolated as before. The new transport links also saw the arrival of the first tourists.
The number of English speaking soldiers stationed in the island and the number of retired officers and English speaking labourers who came to the islands in the 1820s saw the island gradually moving towards an English-speaking culture.
Jersey became one of the largest wooden ship-building areas in the British Isles, building over 900 vessels around the island. In the late 19th century as the former thriving cider and wool industries declined, island farmers benefited from the development of two luxury products - the Jersey cow and the Jersey Royal potato. The former was the product of careful and selective breeding programmes; the latter being a total fluke.
The 19th century also saw the rise of tourism as an important industry, which reached its climax in the period from the end of the Second World War to the 1980s
English was first permitted in debates in the States of Jersey in 1901 and the first legislation to be drawn up primarily in English was the Income Tax Law of 1928.
Emotionally, the 20th century has been dominated by the Occupation of the island by German troops between 1940 and 1945 which saw about 8,000 islanders evacuated, 1,200 islanders deported to camps in Germany and over 300 islanders being sentenced to the prison and concentration camps of mainland Europe (it depended on Neuengamme). 20 died as a result. Liberation Day - May 9th is marked as a public holiday. The Channel Islands were the only British soil occupied by German troops in World War II.
The event which has had the most far reaching effect on Jersey in modern times, is the growth of the finance industry in the island from the 1960s onwards.