An exploration of Guernsey's relationship with the British Empire in the age of imperialism c.1880s-c.1920s

  • Margaret Evelyn Macdonald

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


The Channel Islands are the surviving relics of the Duchy of Normandy. As such, their relationship to Britain and position within the Empire were unique. Fundamental to the constitutional relationship was the British monarch, who embodied the roles of both King/Emperor and Duke of Normandy. The royal visit of George V and Queen Mary to Guernsey in 1921 acted as a focus for the strong sense of loyalty felt by the Islanders towards the monarchy. It also revealed underlying discontent among many of Guernsey’s ex-servicemen who had recently served on the Western Front. A British Government demand in 1922 for an annual contribution from the Crown Dependencies towards the repayment of the War Debt provoked a six-year dispute. The resolution of this dispute provides insights into the way that Whitehall negotiated with the Island leaders and also the influence of public opinion and the press. The status of the Islands as small autonomous units within the British Empire provoked comparisons with the dominions and with Ireland. In some respects, they seemed similar to the metropolitan centre of the Empire, in other ways more like colonies. During the nineteenth century, Guernsey underwent significant anglicisation. Victorian innovations in communications and the immigration of settlers from Britain transformed its economy, society and culture. Its everyday language changed from French to English. Elizabeth College, Guernsey’s only public school, displayed much of the imperial culture of British public schools. Supported by strong family networks and the Old Elizabethan Association, the Empire gave its former students scope to be ambitious. Guernsey developed extensive links throughout the Empire, which helped it to achieve a far greater reach than its very small size might otherwise have warranted. Patriotism, militarism and loyalty to the Crown were closely entwined with a strong sense of Guernsey’s own identity.
Date of Award13 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorChandrika Kaul (Supervisor)


  • Guernsey
  • Channel Islands
  • British Empire
  • Imperialism
  • British monarchy
  • Public schools
  • Communications
  • Crown dependencies
  • Militarism
  • Anglicisation

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 5 December 2028

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