Part of the Norwegian Kingdom of the Hebrides until the 13th century when it was ceded to Scotland, the isle came under the British crown in 1765. Current concerns include reviving the almost extinct Manx Gaelic language.
The history of the Isle of Man falls naturally into three periods. In the first of these the island was inhabited by a Celtic people. The next is marked by the Viking invasions and the establishment of Scandinavian rule. The third period is that of the English dominion.
The secular history of the Isle of Man during the Celtic period is an absolute blank, there being no 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, which were formally supposed to have been performed in the Isle of Man, really occurred in the country between the
Firths of Clyde and Forth. And it is clear that, even if the supposed conquest of the Menavian islands Man and Angleseyby 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.
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.
The earlier epoch is characterized by warfare and unsettled rule, the later is comparatively peaceful. 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 was 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. At a later date his successors took the title of Rex Manniae at Insularum. Olaf, Godred's son, was a powerful monarch, who, 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, 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 was thus interposed between the two divisions of his kingdom.
Early in the 13th century, when Reginald of Man did homage to King John, we hear for the first time of English intervention in the affairs of Man. But it was into the hands of Scotland that the islands were ultimately to fall. During the whole of the Scandinavian period the isles were nominally under the suzerainty of the kings of Norway, but they only occasionally asserted it with any vigour.
The first to do so was Harold Haarfager about 885, then came Magnus Barfod about 1100, both of whom conquered the isles. From the middle of the 12th century till 1217 the suzerainty, owing to the fact that Norway was a prey to civil dissensions, had been 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, who had fought on the Norwegian side, was compelled 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 the king of Norway, in consideration of the sum of 4000 marks, ceded the islands, including Man, to Scotland. But Scotland's rule over Man was not firmly established till 1275, when the Manx were defeated in a decisive battle at Ronaldsway, near Castletown.
In 1290 we find Edward I. of England in possession of Man, and it remained in English hands till 1313, when it was taken by Robert Bruce after besieging Castle Rushen for five weeks. Then, till 1346, when the battle of Neville's Cross decided the long struggle between England and Scotland in England's favour, there followed a confused period when Man was sometimes under English and sometimes
under Scottish rule. About 1333 it had been granted by King Edward III. to William de Montacute, 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 crowne" to Sir William Le Scroope. In 1399 Henry IV. caused Le Scroope, who had taken Richard's side, to be beheaded. The island then came into the
possession of the crown and was granted to Henry de Percy, earl of Northumberland, but, he having been attainted, 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 l0th
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 the king 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 Manx-men, 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 was not settled till 1704, when James, Charles's brother and successor, largely through the influence of Bishop Wilson, entered into a compact with his tenants, which was 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.
Since 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. Offshore banking, manufacturing, and tourism are key sectors of the economy. The government's policy of offering incentives to high-technology companies and financial institutions to locate on the island has
paid off in expanding employment opportunities in high-income industries. As a result, agriculture and fishing, once the mainstays of the economy, have declined in their shares of GDP. Trade is mostly with the UK. The Isle of Man enjoys free access to EU markets.
* A portion of the text originated from the public domain print version of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.