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Guernsey Facts

An Introduction to the Location, History and Culture of Guernsey

Located in the Bay of St Malo, on the edge of the English Channel, Guernsey is less than a hundred miles south of the English south coast and thirty or so miles from the French Coast.
It is around 24 square miles in area, with one airport and one harbour, which caters for passenger and freight traffic, and a smaller harbour, which is used for materials such as coal and fuel.
Guernsey is part of a Bailiwick, a group of Islands under the control of a Bailiff, the head of the legal system. The other Islands include Sark, Alderney, Herm, Breqhou and Jethou. Guernsey is a short, 15 minute flight from Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands.  

Prehistoric Dolmen

The History of Guernsey is as long as it is unique and fascinating. Ownership of property on the Island helps us understand some of the history with records dating back to before 1066. The lands of Normandy in France were at one time under the control of the Bretons and subsequently taken over by Vikings, under the leadership of Rollo. Their conquests led to the creation of the Duchy of Normandy, which would have included the Channel Islands. 
It is conceivable that when William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, invaded England and fought Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, that people from the Islands were part of his army. Certainly after the battle, Guernsey landowners also became the owners of land in England and that impacted on the future nationality of the Islands and the prosperity the Islands enjoy today.    

As part of the Duchy of Normandy, the Islands existed in relative peace and tranquillity for many years, but in 1204 King John lost Normandy to Phillippe Augustus of France and for a while the Islands were forgotten. The story is told that the wealthy landowners were asked to decide if the Islands wanted to remain as part of Great Britain or France. It seems the landowners must have had more interests in England as they chose to be part of Great Britain and they have remained such ever since, despite attempts by the French to seize them back.
In 1214 King John grants formal rights and privileges to the islands. The French seized the Islands in 1217 and held on to them until 1254, when Henry III, King of England, claimed title. After many turbulent years the Treaty of Calais in 1356 saw the French relinquish all claims over the Islands.
As a reward for their loyalty to the British Crown, the Islands were given the right to make their own laws.
That moment in history has allowed the Islands to retain their status as Crown Dependencies, answerable to the British Monarchy as opposed to the British Government.   

Restored German Coastal Gun

The current Government of Guernsey is carried out by the States of Deliberation, which consists of 45 members from Guernsey, elected by the local residents. There are no party politics and each member stands for election on their own mandate. The Island is split into ten parishes and each has a certain amount of control over such things as refuse collection, street lighting and the like.
Voters in their parish elect each member of the States of Deliberation and population levels dictate how many representatives each parish should have.
The States of Guernsey is divided into Departments, each responsible for different aspects of the Islands management, such as Education, Health and the Environment. A Minister is elected to head up each Department. With such strong links to France the Island has retained its own patois language, closely linked to Norman French. Usage is limited these days though attempts to revive it through the Islands school children are being made.
Guernsey Laws also have their origin in Norman Law and local Advocates (lawyers) have to study in France for a period of time. Road names and house names are still mostly in French. Because of the Island’s position between England and France, Guernsey has a strong trading and nautical history which has made the Island an important location and worth defending.
When travelling around Guernsey you can’t miss the Islands defences, which date back over 800 years. However, arguably even more striking are the German defences left after the Occupation of the Islands during the Second World War. The Channel Islands are the only British territories to be occupied by the Germans during the war. 

Southcoast Impression

Over the last 50 years the Islands have developed in many ways, from exporting tomatoes to the current financial dependence on the Finance Industry in all its many forms. This has seen the construction of many new office buildings in and around the Island’s capital, St Peter Port. However, the local planners have confined most new development to the areas around St Peter Port, St Sampson’s and the North of Guernsey, leaving the south of the Island, and the southern cliffs almost unchanged over the last few decades. 

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Geschichte und Gegenwart

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