Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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. The Manx language, a form of Gaelic, provides the main evidence of this; earlier evidence suggests that a Welsh-speaking people lived there. One big historical argument addresses the question as to whether the present Manx language survived from pre-Norse days, or whether it reflects a linguistic reintroduction after the Norse invasion.
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.
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 surrounding islands.
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 coronation.
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 Wigan.
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 almost nominal.
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.
After 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.
- List of Kings of the Isle of Man and the Isles (1079 - 1164)
- List of Kings of the Isle of Man (1164 - 1504)
- List of Lords of the Isle of Man (1504 - 1765)
- Act of Settlement.
- List of Governors of the Isle of Man (1696 - 1828)
- List of Lieutenant Governors of the Isle of Man (1773 - present)
- Wimund (bishop) - 12th century, first Bishop of the Isle of Man, war-lord.
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