The island of Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands. Although the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey are often referred to collectively as the Channel Islands, the "Channel Islands" are not a constitutional or political unit. Jersey has a separate relationship to the British Crown from the other Crown dependencies of Guernsey and the Isle of Man. It is not part of the United Kingdom, and has an international identity separate from that of the UK but the United Kingdom is constitutionally responsible for the defence of Jersey. Jersey is not a part of the European Union but has a special relationship with it, being treated as part of the European Community for the purposes of free trade in goods.
Jersey history is influenced by its strategic location between the northern coast of France and the southern coast of England; the island's recorded history extends over a thousand years.
La Cotte de St Brelade is a Palaeolithic site inhabited before rising sea levels transformed Jersey into an island. Jersey was a centre of Neolithic activity, as demonstrated by the concentration of dolmens. Evidence of Bronze Age and early Iron Age settlements can be found in many locations around the island. In June 2012 it was announced that two metal detectorists had uncovered in Grouville what could be Europe's largest hoard of Iron Age coins, which may be worth up to £10 M, after a search spanning 30 years. It was reported that the hoard weighed about three quarters of a tonne and could contain up to 50,000 Roman and Celtic coins. This came after an earlier find of 60 Iron Age coins, in the same area, by the same men.
Further archaeological evidence of Roman influence has been found, in particular the coastal headland site at Le Pinacle, Les Landes, where remains of a primitive structure are attributed to Gallo-roman temple worship (fanum). Evidence for settled Roman occupation has yet to be established.
Jersey was part of Neustria with the same Gallo-Frankish population as the continental mainland. Jersey, the whole Channel Islands and the Cotentin peninsula (probably with the Avranchin) came formerly under the control of the duke of Brittany during the Viking invasions, because the king of the Franks was unable to defend them, however they remained in the archbishopric of Rouen. Jersey was invaded by Vikings in the ninth century, and was eventually annexed to the future Duchy of Normandy, together with the other Channel Islands, Cotentin and Avranchin, by William Longsword, count of Rouen in 933 and it became one of the Norman Islands. When William's descendant, William the Conqueror, conquered England in 1066, the Duchy of Normandy and the kingdom of England were governed under one monarch. The Dukes of Normandy owned considerable estates in the island, and Norman families living on their estates established many of the historical Norman-French Jersey family names. King John lost all his territories in mainland Normandy in 1204 to King Philip II Augustus, but retained possession of Jersey and the other Channel Islands. The islands have been internally self-governing since then.
Islanders travelled across the North Atlantic to participate in the Newfoundland fisheries in the late 16th century. In recognition for 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 in between the Hudson and Delaware rivers which he promptly named New Jersey. It is now a state in the United States of America.
On 6 January 1781, a French invasion force of 2,000 men set out to take over the island – only half of the force arrived and landed. The battle by 9,000 men to defend the Island, although touch-and-go, and decisive, only lasted about half an hour. There were about thirty casualties on each side, and 600 French prisoners were taken. Both commanders were slain.
Trade laid the foundations of prosperity, aided by neutrality between England and France. The Jersey way of life involved agriculture, milling, fishing, shipbuilding, and production of woollen goods. 19th-century improvements in transport links brought tourism to the island.
During World War II, citizens were evacuated to the UK and Jersey was occupied by Germany from 1 July 1940 until 9 May 1945, when Germany surrendered. During this time the Germans constructed many fortifications using Soviet slave labour. After 1944 supplies from mainland France were interrupted by the D-Day landings and food on the island became scarce. The SS Vega was sent to the island carrying Red Cross supplies and news of the success of the Allied advance in Europe. The Channel Islands were one of the last places in Europe to be liberated.