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The Isle of Man (Ellan Vannin in Manx) or Mann (Mannin in
Manx), is a self-governing democracy located in the Irish Sea at the
geographical centre of the British Isles. Although it is not part of the United
Kingdom, it is a Crown dependency.
History of the Isle of Man
The history of the Isle of Man falls naturally into four
periods. In the first of these a Celtic people inhabited the island. The next
period features the Viking invasions and the establishment of Scandinavian rule.
The third period comprises English dominion. Since 1866 the island has had an
increasing measure of Home Rule.
The secular history of the Isle of Man during the Celtic
period remains mysterious: we have no surviving trustworthy record of any event
whatever before the incursions of the Northmen, since the exploits attributed to
Baetan MacCairill, king of Ulster, at the end of the 6th century, formally
supposed to have taken place in the Isle of Man, really occurred in the country
between the Firths of Clyde and Forth. Even if the supposed conquest of the
Menavian islands -- Man and Anglesey -- by Edwin of Northumbria, in 616, did
take place, it could not have led to any permanent results; for, when the
English were driven from the coasts of Cumberland and Lancashire soon
afterwards, they could not well have retained their hold on the island to the
west of these coasts. One can speculate, however, that when Ecfrid's
Northumbrians laid Ireland waste from Dublin to Drogheda in 684, they
temporarily occupied Man.
In the later part of the first millennium AD colonists from Ireland settled in
Man. Manx, a Goidelic language, provides the main evidence of this; earlier
evidence suggests that a Welsh-speaking people lived there. One big historical
argument addresses whether the present Manx language survived from pre-Norse
days, or whether it reflects a linguistic reintroduction after the Norse
Tradition attributes the island's conversion to Christianity to St Maughold (Maccul),
an Irish missionary who gives his name to a parish. The island's name derives
from Mannanan, the Celtic equivalent of Neptune.
During the period of Scandinavian domination there are two
main epochs -- one before the conquest of Man by Godred Crovan in 1079, and the
other after it. Warfare and unsettled rule characterise the earlier epoch; the
later saw comparatively more peace.
Between about A.D. 800 and 815 the Vikings came to Man chiefly for plunder;
between about 850 and 990, when they settled in it, the island fell under the
rule of the Scandinavian kings of Dublin; and between 990 and 1079, it became
subject to the powerful earls of Orkney.
There was a mint producing coins on Man between c.1025 and c.1065. These Manx
coins were minted from an imported type 2 Hiberno-Norse penny die from Dublin.
Hiberno-Norse coins were first minted under Sihtric, king of Dublin. This
illustrates that Man may have in fact been under the thumb of Dublin at this
The conqueror Godred Crovan was evidently a remarkable man, though little
information about him is attainable. According to the Chronicon Manniae he
subdued Dublin, and a great part of Leinster, and held the Scots in such
subjection that no one who built a vessel dared to insert more than three bolts.
The memory of such a ruler would be likely to survive in tradition, and it seems
probable therefore that he is the person commemorated in Manx legend under the
name of King Gorse or Orry. The islands which were under his rule were called
the Sullr-eyjar (Sudreys or the south isles, in contradistinction to the
Norsr-eyjar, or the "north isles," i.e. the Orkneys and Shetlands, and they
consisted of the Hebrides, and of all the smaller western islands of Scotland,
with Man. At a later date his successors took the title of Rex Manniae et
Insularum (King of Man and the Isles).
Olaf, Godred's son, exercised considerable power, and according to the
Chronicle, maintained such close alliance with the kings of Ireland and Scotland
that no one ventured to disturb the Isles during his time (1113 - 1152). His
son, Godred (reigned 1153 - 1158), who for a short period ruled over Dublin
also, as a result of a quarrel with Somerled, the ruler of Argyll, in 1156, lost
the smaller islands off the coast of Argyll. An independent sovereignty thus
appeared between the two divisions of his kingdom.
In the 1130s the Church sent a small mission to establish the first bishopric on
the Isle of Man, and appointed Wimund as the first Bishop. He soon after gave up
his role as fisher of men, and became the hunter of men, embarking with a band
of followers on a career of murder and looting throughout Scotland and the
Early in the 13th century, when Reginald of Man (reigned 1187 - 1229) did homage
to King John of England (reigned 1199 - 1216), we hear for the first time of
English intervention in the affairs of Man. But a period of Scots domination
would precede the establishment of full English control. During the whole of the
Scandinavian period the isles remained nominally under the suzerainty of the
kings of Norway, but the Norwegians only occasionally asserted it with any
vigour. Harold Haarfager did so first about 885, then came Magnus Barfod about
1100: both of these conquered the isles. From the middle of the 12th century
till 1217 the suzerainty, owing to the fact that Norway had become a prey to
civil dissensions, had remained of a very shadowy character. But after that date
it became a reality and Norway consequently came into collision with the growing
power of Scotland.
Finally, in 1261, Alexander III of Scotland sent envoys to Norway to negotiate
for the cession of the isles, but their efforts led to no result. He therefore
initiated hostilities which terminated in the complete defeat of the Norwegian
fleet at Largs in 1263. Magnus, king of Man and the Isles (reigned 1252 - 1265),
who had fought on the Norwegian side, had to surrender all the islands over
which he had ruled, except Man, for which he did homage. Two years later Magnus
died and in 1266 King Magnus VI of Norway ceded the islands, including Man, to
Scotland in the Treaty of Perth in consideration of the sum of 4000 marks (known
as "merks" in Scotland) and an annuity of 100 marks. But Scotland's rule over
Man did not become firmly established till 1275, when the Manx suffered defeat
in a decisive battle at Ronaldsway, near Castletown.
In 1290 we find king Edward I of England in possession of
Man, and it remained in English hands till 1313, when Robert Bruce took it after
besieging Castle Rushen for five weeks. Then, till 1346, when the battle of
Nevilles Cross decided the long struggle between England and Scotland in
England's favor, there followed a confused period when Man sometimes experienced
English rule and sometimes Scottish.
About 1333 King Edward III of England granted Man to William de Montacute, 3rd
Baron Montacute, (later the 1st Earl of Salisbury), as his absolute possession,
without reserving any service to be rendered to him. In 1392 his son sold the
island with the crown to Sir William Le Scroope. In 1399 King Henry IV brought
about the beheading of Le Scroope, who had taken the side of Richard II. The
island then came into the possession of the crown, which granted it to Henry
Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, but following his attainder, Henry IV, in
1406, made a grant of it, with the patronage of the bishopric, to Sir John
Stanley, his heirs and assigns, on the service of rendering two falcons on
paying homage and two falcons to all future kings of England on their
With the accession of the Stanleys to the throne there begins a better epoch in
Manx history. Though the island's new rulers rarely visited its shores, they
placed it under responsible governors, who, in the main, seem to have treated it
with justice. Of the thirteen members of the family who ruled in Man, the second
Sir John Stanley (1414 - 1432), James, the 7th earl (1627 - 1651), and the 10th
earl of the same name (1702 - 1736) had the most important influence on it. The
first curbed the power of the spiritual barons, introduced trial by jury,
instead of trial by battle, and ordered the laws to be written. The second,
known as the Great Stanley, and his wife, Charlotte de la Tremoille (or
Tremouille), are probably the most striking figures in Manx history. In 1643
Charles I ordered him to go to Man, where the people, who were no doubt
influenced by what was taking place in England, threatened to revolt. But his
arrival, with English soldiers, soon put a stop to anything of this kind. He
conciliated the people by his affability, brought in Englishmen to teach various
handicrafts and tried to help the farmers by improving the breed of Manx horses,
and, at the same time, he restricted the exactions of the Church. But the Manx
people never had less liberty than under his rule. They were heavily taxed;
troops were quartered upon them; and they also had the more lasting grievance of
being compelled to accept leases for three lives instead of holding their land
by the straw tenure which they considered to be equivalent to a customary
inheritance. Six months after the death of King Charles (30 January 1649)
Stanley received a summons from General Ireton to surrender the island, which he
haughtily declined. In August 1651 he went to England with some of his troops,
among whom were 300 Manxmen, to join King Charles II, and he and they shared in
the decisive defeat of the Royalists at Worcester. He was captured and confined
in Chester Castle, and, after being tried by court martial, was executed at
Soon after his death the Manx Militia, under the command of William Christian,
rose against the Countess and captured all the insular forts except Rushen and
Peel. They were then joined by a parliamentary force under Colonel Duckenfield,
to whom the Countess surrendered after a brief resistance. Fairfax had been
appointed Lord of Man and the Isles in September, so that Man continued under a
monarchical government and remained in the same relation to England as before.
The restoration of Stanley government in 1660 therefore caused as little
friction and alteration as its temporary cessation had. One of the first acts of
the new lord, Charles (the 8th earl), was to order Christian to be tried. He was
found guilty and executed. Of the other persons implicated in the rebellion only
three were excepted from the general amnesty. But by order in Council they were
pardoned, and the judges responsible for the sentence on Christian were
punished. His next act was to dispute the permanency of the tenants' holdings,
which they had not at first regarded as being affected by the acceptance of
leases, a proceeding which led to an almost open rebellion against his authority
and to the neglect of agriculture. In lieu of it the people devoted themselves
to the fisheries and to contraband trade.
The agrarian question subsided only in 1704, when James, Charles's brother and
successor, largely through the influence of Bishop Wilson, entered into a
compact with his tenants, which became embodied in an act, called the Act of
Settlement. Their compact secured the tenants in the possession of their estates
in perpetuity on condition of a fixed rent, and a small fine on succession or
alienation. From the great importance of this act to the Manx people it has been
called their Magna Carta. As time went on, and the value of the estates
increased, the rent payable to the lord became so small in proportion as to be
James died in 1736, and the sovereignty of the isle passed to James Murray, 2nd
duke of Atholl. In 1764 there succeeded him his only surviving child Charlotte,
Baroness Strange, and her husband, John Murray, who (in right of his wife)
became Lord of Man. About 1720 the contraband trade greatly increased. In 1726
parliament checked it somewhat for a time, but during the last ten years of the
Atholl régime (1756 - 1765) it assumed such proportions that, in the interests
of the imperial revenue, it became necessary to suppress it. With a view to so
doing, Parliament in 1765 passed the Revesting Act, under which it purchased the
sovereign rights of the Atholls and the customs revenues of the island for the
sum of 70,000 pounds, and granted an annuity to the duke and duchess. The
Atholls still retained their manorial rights, the patronage of the See, and
certain other perquisites, until they sold them for the excessive sum of 417,144
pounds in 1828.
Up to the time of the Revestment, the Tynwald Court passed laws concerning the
government of the island in all respects and had control over its finances,
subject to the approval of the lord. After the Revestment, or rather after the
passage of the Mischief Act in the same year, the British Parliament legislated
with respect to customs, harbours and merchant shipping, and, in measures of a
general character, it occasionally inserted clauses permitting the enforcement
in the island of penalties in contravention of the acts of which they formed
part. It also assumed the control of the insular customs duties. Such changes,
rather than the transference of the sovereignty from the lord to the king of
Great Britain and Ireland, modified the Constitution of the Isle of Man. Its
ancient laws and tenures remained untouched, but in many ways the Revestment
affected it adversely. The hereditary lords seldom if ever functioned as model
rulers, but most of them had taken some personal share in its government, and
had interested themselves in the well-being of its inhabitants. But now the
whole direction of its affairs became the work of officials who regarded the
island as a pestilent nest of smugglers, from which it seemed their duty to
extract as much revenue as possible.
Some alleviation of this state of things happened between 1793 and 1826 when
John Murray, 4th Duke of Atholl served as governor, since, though he quarrelled
with the House of Keys and unduly cared for his own pecuniary interests, he did
occasionally exert himself to promote the welfare of the island. After his
departure the English officials resumed their sway. But they showed more
consideration than before. Moreover, since smuggling, which the Revesting Act
had only checked -- not suppressed -- had by that time almost disappeared, and
since the Manx revenue had started to produce a large and increasing surplus,
the authorities looked more favourably on the Isle of Man, and, thanks to this
fact and to the representations of the Manx people to English ministers in 1837,
1844 and 1853, it obtained a somewhat less stringent customs tariff and an
occasional dole towards erecting its much neglected public works.
Modern PeriodAfter 1866, when the Isle of Man obtained a
measure of at least nominal Home Rule, the Manx people have made remarkable
progress, and at the present day form a prosperous community, with tax haven
status and a thriving tourist industry.
The early 20th century saw a revival of music, dance, and the Manx language, but
this proved only partially successful, as the last native speaker of Manx died
in the 1970s. In the middle part of the 20th century, the Taoiseach Eamon de
Valera visited, and became so distressed at the lack of support for Manx that he
immediately had two recording vans sent over. As the century progressed, the
Manx tourist economy declined greatly, as the English and Irish started flying
to Spain for package holidays. The Manx government responded to this situation
by making the island a tax haven. While this has had beneficial effects on the
Manx economy, it has had its detractors, who have pointed to corruption in the
finance industry and money laundering. This has given the biggest impetus to
Manx nationalism in recent years, spawning the parties Mec Vannin and the MNP,
as well as the now defunct Fo Halloo (literally "Underground"), which mounted a
direct-action campaign of spray-painting and attempted house-burning.
The 1990s and early 21st century have seen a greater recognition of indigenous
Manx culture, such as the first Manx language primary school, as well as a
general re-evaluation of the island's economy.
The Isle of Man is part of the British Isles, an archipelago
off the north-western coast of mainland Europe. The island lies in the Irish
Sea, approximately equidistant between England, Scotland and Ireland.
Approximately 48 km (32 miles) long and between 13 and 24 km (8 and 15 miles) in
breadth, the island has an area of around 572 km² (221 square miles).
Hills in the north and south are bisected by a central valley. The extreme north
is exceptionally flat, consisting mainly of deposits built up by gradual
deposition of material by the sea. It has one mountain, Snaefell, with a height
of 621 m (2,036 ft). According to an old saying, from the summit one can see
seven kingdoms: those of Mann, Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, Heaven and
According to the 2001 census, the Isle of Man is home to
76,315 people, of whom around 25,347 reside in the Island's capital, Douglas.
The culture of the Isle of Man is strongly influenced by its
Celtic and Norse origins. It is currently enjoying a revival of the Goidelic
Manx language, although the last native speaker died in 1974. Manx is closely
related to the Scottish Gaelic and Irish languages.
The Isle of Man is a self-governing crown dependency. The head of state is
currently HM The Queen, her title on the island is Lord of Mann. She is
represented by the island's Lieutenant Governor. The United Kingdom is
responsible for the island's defence and for representing the island in
international forums, while the island's own parliament has competence over
almost all domestic matters.
The island's parliament is the Tynwald, which dates from 979 A.D. Tynwald is a
bicameral legislature, comprising the House of Keys (directly elected by
universal suffrage) and the Legislative Council (consisting of indirectly
elected and ex officio members). There is a Council of Ministers, which is
headed by the Chief Minister, currently Donald Gelling.
As of 2005, the island's system of government is under review — there are plans
to transform the Legislative Council into a directly-elected chamber, echoing
the push for reform in the UK's House of Lords and the abolition of indirectly
elected Conseillers in Guernsey. In October 2005 Tynwald accepted a proposal to
change the title of the Lieutenant Governor to "Crown Commissioner" or "Barrantagh
y Chrooin" in Manx (the title would also be "Barrantagh ny Benrein," or "Queen's
Commissioner"; when Prince Charles takes the throne, it will be "Barrantagh ny
Ree," or "King's Commissioner"). It now has to go to the Queen for her approval
but the United Kingdom Department for Constitutional Affairs indicated early in
2005 that this was likely to be given.
A common misconception exists that Mann forms part of the United Kingdom. Under
British law it does not, although the United Kingdom takes care of its external
and defence affairs. The Isle of Man had a dispute with the European Court of
Human Rights in the 1970s because it was reluctant to change its laws concerning
birching (corporal punishment for male offenders). The law on sodomy (sexual
relations between adult men) might have also led down this road had it not been
changed in the early 1990s.
The Isle of Man holds neither membership nor associate membership of the
European Union, and lies outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Nonetheless,
Protocol Three of the treaty of accession of the United Kingdom permits trade
for Manx goods without non-EU tariffs. In conjunction with the Customs and
Excise agreement with the UK, this facilitates free trade with the UK. While
Manx goods can be freely moved within the EEA, people, capital and services
There is no Manx citizenship. Manx people are classed as British citizens but
those defined as Manx under Protocol Three have a special endorsement placed in
their passports preventing them from freely living or working in EU states. This
is anomalous in that the treaty establishing the EU (formerly EEC) clearly
states that all citizens of member states will also be citizens of the EU.
Travel to the Isle of Man is regulated by the local government laws. Visitors
from countries who require a UK visa may also require a special Manx visa,
obtainable from a British diplomatic mission. All non-Manx, including UK
citizens, are required to obtain a work permit to take up employment on the
Most Manx politicians stand for election as independents rather than as
representatives of political parties. Though political parties do exist, their
influence is not nearly as strong as is the case in the United Kingdom.
Consequently, much Manx legislation develops through consensus among the members
of Tynwald, which contrasts with the much more adversarial nature of the UK
One political party, Mec Vannin, advocates the establishment of a sovereign
republic. A Manx Labour Party also exists, unaffiliated to the UK Labour Party.
The island formerly had a Manx National Party and a Manx Communist party. There
are Manx members in the Celtic League, a political pressure group that advocates
greater co-operation between and political autonomy for the Celtic nations. The
main political issues include the island's relationship with the finance sector,
housing prices and shortages, and the Manx language. The vast majority of the
members of the House of Keys are non-partisan (19), with two representatives
from the Manx Labour Party and three from the Alliance for Progressive
Government. The next scheduled election is in 2006.
The Isle of Man is divided into six administrative districts, called sheadings.
The six sheadings are Ayre, Glenfaba, Garff, Michael, Rushen and Middle. The
sheadings form the basis of some constituencies and each has a Coroner. This
office must not be confused with the Coronor for Inquests, a role usually
fulfilled by the High Bailiff. A person may fulfil the role of coroner for more
than one sheading at the same time.
The term 'sheading' is thought to be a Norse word for 'ship division'; each
district was believed to be responsible for producing a certain number of
warships. It could also be a Celtic word meaning 'sixth part'.