Much of the island is wild, covered by dense shrubs called maquis, whose flowers produce a fragrance that carries far out to sea and has earned for Corsica the name "the scented isle." The maquis also long provided hideouts for bandits, and banditry was not suppressed until the 1930s. Blood feuds between clans also persisted into modern times.
Fruit, cork, cigarettes, wine, and cheese are the main exports. Much wheat is produced, and sheep are raised. Tourism is important, with good air and sea transport from continental France.
After having belonged to the Romans (3d cent. B.C.-5th cent. A.D.), the Vandals, the Byzantines, and the Lombards, the island was granted (late 8th cent.) by the Franks to the papacy. It was threatened by the Arabs from c.800 to 1100. In 1077, Pope Gregory VII ceded Corsica to Pisa. Pisa and Genoa, later Genoa and Aragón, battled for control. In the mid-15th cent. actual administration of the island was taken up by the Bank of San Giorgio in Genoa. Genoese rule was harsh and unpopular, and unrest was typified by the 1730s episode of "King" Theodore I (see Neuhof, Theodor, Baron von).
In 1755, Pasquale Paoli headed a rebellion against Genoa, but its success resulted only in the cession (1768) of Corsica to France. One consequence of the transfer was the French citizenship of Napoleon I, who was born in 1769 at Ajaccio. With British support Paoli expelled the French in 1793, and in 1794 Corsica voted its union with the British crown. The French (under Napoleon) recovered it, however, in 1796, and French possession was guaranteed at the Congress of Vienna (1815). French rule brought education and relative order, but economic life remained agrarian and primitive.
In World War II, Corsica was occupied by Italian and German troops. Late in 1943 the population revolted, and, joined by a Free French task force, drove Axis forces out. A postwar population exodus caused the French government to announce a program of economic development. In 1958 a right-wing coup, similar to that in Algeria, contributed to the return to power in France of Charles de Gaulle. Since the French took control in 1768, Corsica has seen separatist movements, with repeated incidents of violence, notably the Feb., 1998, assassination of the French prefect. Beginning in the 1990s the roles of true nationalists and of criminal gangs appeared to blur. In 2001, France's parliament voted to give the island's regional parliament power to amend some national legislation and regulations and to permit the Corsican language to be taught in schools, but the amending of national laws by regional parliaments was declared unconstitutional. In 2003, after constitutional amendments permitting greater local autonomy were approved, a referendum on autonomy was held, but Corsican voters narrowly defeated it.
There were 145 households out of which 30.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.2% were married couples living together, 4.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.5% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.08.
In the borough the population was spread out with 26.6% under the age of 18, 11.0% from 18 to 24, 28.0% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 14.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 114.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.6 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $30,625, and the median income for a family was $38,438. Males had a median income of $27,813 versus $18,125 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $13,752. About 7.1% of families and 11.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.2% of those under age 18 and 17.8% of those age 65 or over.