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The rural community in nineteenth century Jersey

By John D. Kelleher


After centuries of relative isolation as an outpost loyal to the English Crown\ud the small Island of Jersey was, in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, opened to\ud the twin forces of large-scale immigration and economic expansion. Jersey was a\ud product of peculiar historical circumstance, which resulted in a cossetted\ud existence and a high degree of independence. Economic growth, founded on a\ud merchant-based economy and on agriculture, was both fuelled by and attracted\ud English and French immigrants. The presence of a large urban population, many\ud of who were non-local, and wealth, created friction in a society whose\ud institutions were designed for a dispersed rural population. An identifiable\ud urban bloc developed and demanded access to power proportional to its wealth\ud and size and the reform of certain structures along lines more conducive to\ud economic life. Alongside direct political challenge was a more subtle linguistic\ud and cultural challenge. This thesis examines these forces at work in Jersey\ud society and assesses their impact. Emphasis is placed on the rural community,\ud as the representative of traditional Jersey society and the guardians of local\ud power and independence. It is argued that the potential forces of change and\ud challenge were, by the end of the century, fairly comfortably assimilated or\ud contained. With the exception of a Nonconformist challenge in the countryside,\ud the challenges to Jersey society were inseparably linked to immigration and\ud economic expansion, yet never provided a coherent and concerted attack on all\ud fronts. The rural community was most successful at defending its institutions,\ud yet was unable to stem the flow of English language and culture. In the short\ud term Jersey succeeded in controlling the forces ranged against its society, but\ud in the long tern institutional strength belied a weakening at the foundations

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