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A map of the location of the Channel Islands, located between southern Great Britain and Northern France.

The Channel Islands (Norman: Îles d'la Manche, French: Îles Anglo-Normandes or Îles de la Manche) are an archipelago in the English Channelmarker, off the Frenchmarker coast of Normandy. They include two separate bailiwicks: the Bailiwick of Guernseymarker and the Bailiwick of Jerseymarker. According to the official website of the British Monarchy, they are British Crown dependencies, but neither is part of the United Kingdommarker; rather they are considered the remnants of the Duchy of Normandy. They have a total population of about 158,000. Their respective capitals, St. Peter Portmarker and St. Heliermarker, have populations of 16,488 and 28,310.

The Bailiwicks have been administered separately from each other since the late 13th century, and although those unacquainted with the islands often assume they form one political unit, common institutions are the exception rather than the rule. The two Bailiwicks have no common laws, no common elections, and no common representative body (although their politicians consult regularly). There is no common newspaper or radio station, but a common television station, ITV Channel Television.


Map of Channel Islands and adjacent coast of France.

The inhabited islands of the Channel Islands are Jerseymarker, Guernseymarker, Alderneymarker, Sarkmarker, Hermmarker (the main islands); Jethoumarker, Brecqhoumarker (Brechou), and Lihou. All of these except Jersey are in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. In addition there are the following uninhabited islets: the Minquiersmarker, Écréhousmarker, Les Dirouilles and Les Pierres de Lecq (the Paternosters), are part of the Bailiwick of Jersey, and Burhoumarker and the Casquets lie off Alderney. As a general rule, the larger islands have the -ey suffix, and the smaller ones have the -hou suffix; this is believed to be from the Old Norse ey and holmr, respectively.

The Chauseymarker Islands south of Jersey are not generally included in the geographical definition of the Channel Islands but occasionally described as 'French Channel Islands' in English in view of their French jurisdiction. They were historically linked to the Duchy of Normandy, but they are part of the French territory along with continental Normandy, and not part of the British Islesmarker or of the Channel Islands in a political sense. They are an incorporated part of the commune of Granville (Manchemarker), and although popular with visitors from France, they are rarely visited by Channel Islanders, as there are no direct transport links from the other islands.

In official Jersey French (see Jersey Legal French), the islands are called 'Îles de la Manche', while in France, the term 'Îles anglo-normandes' (Anglo-Norman isles) is used to refer to the British 'Channel Islands' in contrast to other islands in the Channel. Chausey is referred to as an 'Île normande' (as opposed to anglo-normande). 'Îles Normandes' and 'Archipel Normand' have also, historically, been used in Channel Island French to refer to the islands as a whole.

The very large tidal variation provides an environmentally rich inter-tidal zone around the islands, and some sites have received Ramsar Convention designation (see :Category:Ramsar sites in the Channel Islands).

The waters around the islands include the following:
  • The Swingemarker (between Alderney and Burhou)
  • The Little Swinge (between Burhou and Les Nannels)
  • La Déroute (between Jersey and Sark, and Jersey and the Cotentin)
  • Le Raz Blanchard, or Race of Alderney (between Alderney and the Cotentin)
  • The Great Russel (between Sark, Jéthou and Herm)
  • The Little Russel (between Guernsey, Herm and Jéthou)
  • Souachehouais (between Le Rigdon and L'Étacq, Jersey)
  • Le Gouliot (between Sark and Brecqhou)
  • La Percée (between Herm and Jéthou)



The earliest evidence of human occupation of the Channel Islands has been dated to 25,000 years ago when they were attached to the landmass of continental Europe. The islands became detached by rising sea-levels in the Neolithic period. The numerous dolmens and other archaeological sites extant and recorded in history demonstrate the existence of a population large enough and organised enough to undertake constructions of considerable size and sophistication, such as the burial mound at La Hougue Biemarker in Jersey or the statue menhirs of Guernsey.

From the Iron Age

Hoards of Armorican coins have been excavated, providing evidence of trade and contact in the Iron Age period. Evidence for Roman settlement is sparse, although evidently the islands were visited by Roman officials and traders. The traditional Latin names of the islands (Caesarea for Jersey; Sarnia for Guernsey, Riduna for Alderney) derive (possibly mistakenly) from the Antonine Itinerary. Gallo-Roman culture was adopted to an unknown extent in the islands.

In the 6th century Christian missionaries visited the islands. Samson of Dol, Helier, Marculf and Magloire are among saints associated with the islands. Although originally included within the diocese of Dol, in the 6th century the islands were transferred to the diocese of Coutances, perhaps under the influence of Prætextatus.

From the beginning of the 9th century Norse raiders appeared on the coasts. Norse settlement succeeded initial attacks, and it is from this period that many placenames of Norse origin appear, including the modern names of the islands.

From the Duchy of Normandy

The islands were annexed to the Duchy of Normandy in 933. In 1066, William II of Normandy, a vassal to the king of France, invaded and conquered Englandmarker, becoming William I of England, also known as William the Conqueror. Since 1204, the loss of the rest of the monarch's lands in mainland Normandy has meant that the Channel Islands have been governed as separate possessions of the Crown.

The islands were invaded by the French in 1338 who held some territory until 1345. Owen of Wales attacked Jersey and Guernsey in 1372, and in 1373 Bertrand du Guesclin besieged Mont Orgueilmarker. Jersey was occupied by the French (as part of the Wars of the Roses) from 1461-1468. In 1483 a Papal Bull decreed that the islands would be neutral during time of war. This privilege of neutrality enabled islanders to trade with both France and England and was respected until 1689 when it was abolished by Order in Council following the Glorious Revolution in Great Britain.

Various attempts to transfer the islands from the diocese of Coutances (to Nantes (1400), Salisbury (1496) and Winchester (1499)) had little effect until an Order in Council of 1569 brought the islands formally into the diocese of Winchestermarker. Control by the bishop of Winchester was ineffectual as the islands had turned overwhelmingly Calvinist and the episcopacy was not restored until 1620 in Jersey and 1663 in Guernsey.

Sark in the 16th century was uninhabited until colonised from Jersey in the 1560s. The grant of seigneurship from Elizabeth I of England forms the basis of Sark's constitution today.

Over a dozen windmills are known to have existed in the Channel Isles. They were mostly tower mills used for grinding corn.

From the 17th century

During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Jersey held out strongly for the Royalist cause, providing refuge for Charles, Prince of Wales in 1646 and 1649-1650, while the more strongly Presbyterian Guernsey more generally favoured the parliamentary cause (although Castle Cornetmarker was, on 15 December 1651, the last Royalist stronghold in the British Isles to surrender).

The islands acquired commercial and political interests in the North American colonies. Islanders became involved with the Newfoundlandmarker 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 Jerseymarker, now part of the United States of Americamarker. Edmund Andros of Guernsey was an early colonial governor in North America, and head of the short-lived Dominion of New England.

20th century

World War II

During the Second World War, the islands were the only part of the British Commonwealth occupied by Germany. The German occupation of 1940–45 was harsh: over 2,000 Islanders were deported by the Germans, Jews sent to concentration camps; partisan resistance and retribution; accusations of collaboration; and slave labour (primarily Russiansmarker and eastern Europeans) brought to the islands to build fortifications, with65,718 landmines laid in Jersey alone.

The British government demilitarised the islands in June 1940 and the Lieutenant-Governors were withdrawn on 21 June, leaving the insular administrations to continue government as best they could under impending military occupation.

Before German troops landed 30 June-4 July 1940, evacuation took place (many young men had already left to join the Allied forces): 6,600 left Jersey (out of 50,000); 17,000 left Guernsey (out of 42,000); the population of Sark remained overwhelmingly; but in Alderney, the entire population, save for six persons, left. In Alderney, the occupying Germans built four concentration camps in which over 700 people died (out of a total inmate population of about 6,000). Due to the destruction of documents, it is impossible to state how many forced workers died in the other islands. These were the only Nazi concentration camps on British soil .

The Royal Navy blockaded the islands from time to time, particularly following the liberation of mainland Normandymarker in 1944. There was considerable hunger and privation during the five years of German occupation, particularly in the final months when the population was close to starvation. Intense negotiations resulted in some Red Crossmarker humanitarian aid, leading to the arrival of the Red Crossmarker supply ship Vega in December 1944.

The end of the occupation only came after VE-Day on 8 May 1945. Jersey and Guernsey were liberated on 9 May 1945. The German garrison in Alderney did not surrender until 16 May 1945 and was one of the last of the Nazi German remnants to surrender. The first evacuees returned on the first sailing from the UK on 23 June , but the population of Alderney was unable to start returning until December 1945.


Following the Liberation of 1945, reconstruction led to a transformation of the economies of the islands, attracting immigration and developing tourism. The legislatures were reformed and non-party governments embarked on social programmes, aided by the incomes from offshore finance which grew rapidly from the 1960s.

The islands decided not to join the European Economic Community when the UK joined, and remain outside.

Since the 1990s declining profitability of agriculture and tourism have challenged the governments of the islands.


Image:Flag of Jersey.svg|Flag of JerseymarkerImage:Flag of Guernsey.svg|Flag of GuernseymarkerImage:Flag of Sark.svg|Flag of SarkmarkerImage:Flag of Herm.svg|Flag of HermmarkerImage:Flag of Alderney.svg|Flag of Alderneymarker

The Channel Islands fall into two separate self-governing bailiwicks. Both the Bailiwick of Guernseymarker and the Bailiwick of Jerseymarker are British Crown Dependencies, but neither is part of the United Kingdommarker. They have been part of the Duchy of Normandy since the 10th century and Queen Elizabeth II is often referred to by her traditional and conventional title of Duke of Normandy. However, pursuant to the Treaty of Paris she is not the Duke in a constitutional capacity and instead governs in her right as Queen. This notwithstanding, it is a matter of local pride for monarchists to treat the situation otherwise: the Loyal Toast at formal dinners is to 'The Queen, our Duke', rather than 'Her Majesty, the Queen' as in the UK.

Entrance to the public gallery of the States Chamber in Jersey.
The Channel Islands are not represented in the UK Parliamentmarker but each island has its own primary legislature, known as the States of Guernsey and the States of Jerseymarker, with Chief Pleas in Sark and the States of Alderney. Laws passed by the States are given Royal Assent by the Queen in Council, to whom the islands' governments are responsible.

The systems of government date from Norman times, which accounts for the names of the legislatures, the States, derived from the Norman 'États' or 'estates' (i.e. the Crown, the Church, and the people). The States have evolved over the centuries into democratic parliaments.

A bailiwick is a territory administered by a bailiff. The Bailiff in each bailiwick is the civil head, presiding officer of the States, and also head of the judiciary.

In 2001, responsibility for links between the Channel Islands (together with the Isle of Manmarker) and the Crown passed from the Home Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Department, replaced in 2003 by the Department of Constitutional Affairs and in 2007 by the Ministry of Justice.

In addition, Acts of the UK Parliament may be extended to any of the Channel Islands by Order-in-Council (thus giving the UK Government some responsibility for good governance in the islands). By constitutional convention this is only done at the request of the Insular Authorities, and has become a rare option (thus giving the Insular Authorities themselves the responsibility for good governance in the islands), the islands usually preferring nowadays to pass localised versions of laws giving effect to international treaties.

Matters reserved to the Crown (i.e. acting through the United Kingdom Government) are limited to defence, citizenship, and diplomatic representation. The islands are not bound by treaties concluded by the United Kingdom (unless they so request) and may separately conclude treaties with foreign governments (except concerning matters reserved to the Crown). The United Kingdom conceded at the end of the 20th century that the islands may establish direct political (non-diplomatic) contacts with foreign governments to avoid the situation whereby British embassies were obliged to pass on communications from the governments of the Bailiwicks that were in conflict with United Kingdom government policy.

The islands are not part of the European Union, but are part of the Customs Territory of the European Community, by virtue of Protocol Three to the Treaty on European Union.

Islanders are full British citizens, but not all are European citizens. Any British citizen who applies for a passport in Jersey or Guernsey receives a passport bearing the words "British Islands, Bailiwick of Jersey" or "British Islands, Bailiwick of Guernsey". Under the provisions of Protocol Three, Channel Islanders who do not have a close connection with the UK (no parent or grandparent from the UK, and have never been resident in Great Britain or Northern Ireland for any five-year period) do not automatically benefit from the EU provisions on free movement within the EU and consequently their passports receive an endorsement to that effect. This only affects a minority of islanders.

Under the Interpretation Act 1978, the Channel Islands are deemed to be part of the British Islands, not to be confused with the British Islesmarker. But according to Schedule 1. of the British Nationality Act 1981, s. 50 (1) the United Kingdom means Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, taken together.

Both Bailiwicks are members of the British-Irish Council, and Jèrriais and Dgèrnésiais are recognised regional languages of the Isles.

The legal courts are separate; separate courts of appeal have been in place since 1961. Among the legal heritage from Norman law is the Clameur de Haro.


Tourism is the major industry in the smaller islands (with some agriculture). Jersey and Guernsey have, since the 1960s, relied on financial services. Guernsey's horticultural and greenhouse activities have been more significant than in Jersey, and Guernsey has maintained light industry as a higher proportion of its economy than Jersey. Jersey's economy since the 1980s has been substantially more reliant on finance.

Both Bailiwicks issue their own banknotes and coins, which circulate freely in all the islands alongside UK coinage and Bank of England and Scottish banknotes.

There are many exports, largely consisting of crafted goods and farmed produce. The Genuine Jersey Products Association certify products as being locally made/sourced.

Transport and communications

Since 1969, Jersey and Guernsey have operated postal administrations independently of the UK's Royal Mail, with their own postage stamps, which can only be used for postage in their respective Bailiwicks. UK stamps are no longer valid, but mail to the islands, and to the Isle of Manmarker, is still charged at UK inland rates. However, it was not until the early 1990s that the islands joined the UK's postcode system, Jersey postcodes using the initials JE and Guernsey using GY.

Alderneymarker, Guernseymarker and Jerseymarker are connected by what could be called an aerial bus service operated and competed on by Blue Islands and Aurigny. The latter use the incredibly rare Britten-Norman Trislander on the route while the former use BAe Jetstream 32s

The islands are connected to the radio and television system of the UK. They are part of BBC Channel Islands, and have since 2000 had regular opt-outs from the main Spotlight programme - 15 minutes at 18.30 and a full late bulletin at 22.25. There are also two local BBC radio stations, BBC Radio Guernsey and BBC Radio Jerseymarker.

Alderney has its own radio station, QUAY-FM, which operates in the summer tourist season and at Christmas.

The islands have had their own ITV franchise, Channel Television, since September 1962. The islands will switch to digital-only transmissions in November 2010.

Jersey always operated its own telephone services independently of the UK's national systems, but Guernsey did not establish its own telephone services until 1969. Both islands still form part of the UK telephone numbering plan, but Ofcommarker in the UK does not have responsibility for regulatory and licensing issues on the islands.

The Channel Islands have their own country-code top-level-domains (ccTLDs) on the internet, managed by a Network Information Centre in Alderney. The ccTLDs are .gg for the Bailiwick of Guernsey (including Alderney and Sark) and .je for the Bailiwick of Jersey. The codes were established on the Internet in 1996, and were entered on to the official ISO-3166 list of country codes in 2006.

Alderney has a large and growing internet gambling industry with a full regulatory authority in operation.

Each of the three largest islands has a distinct vehicle registration scheme:
  • Guernsey (GBG): simply a number, up to five digits;
  • Jersey (GBJ): J followed by up to six digits (JSY vanity plates are also issued);
  • Alderney (GBA): AY followed by up to five digits (four digits are the most that have been used, as redundant numbers are re-issued).

In Sarkmarker, where most motor traffic is prohibited, the few vehicles on the island nearly all tractors do not display plates.

In the 1960s, names used for the cross-Channel ferries plying the mail route between the islands and Weymouth, Dorsetmarker were taken from the popular Latin names for the islands: "Caesarea" (Jersey), "Sarnia" (Guernsey) and "Riduna" (Alderney).

Today, the ferry route between the Channel Islands and the UK is operated by Condor Ferries from both St Helier, Jersey and St Peter Port, Guernsey using high speed catamarans fast craft to Weymouth, and Poolemarker in the UK. A regular passenger ferry service on the Commodore Clipper goes from both Channel Island ports to Portsmouthmarker daily which carries both passengers and freight.

Ferry services to mainland Normandy are operated by Manche Îles Express, and a service between Jersey and Saint Malomarker is also operated by Compagnie Corsaire. Condor also operate a service to Saint Malo.


Culturally, the Norman language predominated in the islands until the 19th century, when increasing influence from English-speaking settlers and easier transport links led to Anglicisation. There are four main dialects/languages of Norman in the islands, Auregnais (Alderney, extinct in late 20th century), Dgèrnésiais (Guernsey), Jèrriais (Jersey) and Sercquiais (Sark, an offshoot of Jèrriais).

Victor Hugo spent many years in exile, first in Jersey and then in Guernsey, where he wrote Les Misérables. Guernsey is also the setting of Hugo's later novel, Les Travailleurs De La Mer (The Toilers of the Sea). A "Guernsey-man" also makes an appearance in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick.

The annual "Muratti", the inter-island football match, is considered the sporting event of the year—although, due to broadcast coverage, it no longer attracts the crowds of spectators, travelling between the islands, that occurred during the 20th century.

Channel Island sportsmen and women compete in the Commonwealth Games for their respective islands and the islands have also been enthusiastic supporters of the Island Games. Shooting is a popular sport, in which islanders have won Commonwealth medals.

Guernsey's traditional colour for sporting and other purposes is green and Jersey's is red.

The main islanders have traditional animal nicknames:

  • Guernsey: les ânes ("donkeys" in French and Norman): the steepness of St. Peter Port streets required beasts of burden, but Guernsey people also claim it is a symbol of their strength of character which Jersey people traditionally interpret as stubbornness.
  • Jersey: les crapauds ("toads" in French and Jèrriais): Jersey has toads and snakes that Guernsey lacks.
  • Sark: les corbins ("crows" in Sercquiais, Dgèrnésiais and Jèrriais, les corbeaux in French): crows could be seen from sea on the island's coast.
  • Alderney: les lapins ("rabbits" in French and Auregnais): the island is noted for its warrens.

Christianity was brought to the islands around the 6th century; according to tradition, Jersey was evangelised by Saint Helier, Guernsey by Saint Samson of Dol and other smaller islands were occupied at various times by monastic communities representing strands of Celtic Christianity. At the Reformation, the islands turned Calvinist under the influence of an influx of French-language pamphlets published in Genevamarker. Anglicanism was imposed in the 17th century, but the Non-Conformist tendency re-emerged with a strong adoption of Methodism. The presence of long-term Catholic communities from France and seasonal workers from Brittany and Normandy added to the mix of denominations among the population.

Other islands in the English Channel

There are other islands in other stretches of the English Channel that are not traditionally included within the grouping of Channel Islands. Among these are Ouessant/Ushantmarker, Bréhat, Île de Batz, Chauseymarker, Grande-Îlemarker, Tatihoumarker and Îles Saint-Marcoufmarker (under French jurisdiction) and the Isle of Wightmarker and Isles of Scillymarker (both part of Englandmarker and under UK jurisdiction).

See also

External links


  4. Balleine's History of Jersey, Marguerite Syvret and Joan Stevens (1998) ISBN 1-86077-065-7
  6. Portrait of the Channel Islands, Lemprière, London 1970
  7. The German Occupation of the Channel Islands, Cruikshank, Oxford 1975 ISBN 0192850873
  9. German Fortifications in Jersey, Ginns & Bryans, Jersey 1975
  10. The German Occupation of the Channel Islands, Cruikshank, Oxford 1975 ISBN 0192850873
  11. The German Occupation of the Channel Islands, Cruikshank, Oxford 1975 ISBN 0192850873
  12. The German Occupation of the Channel Islands, Cruikshank, Oxford 1975 ISBN 0192850873
  13. The German Occupation of the Channel Islands, Cruikshank, Oxford 1975 ISBN 0192850873
  24. Dictionnaire Jersiais-Français, 1966


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