views updated May 23 2018


ETHNONYM: Manks (archaic)



The Isle of Man is located in the Irish Sea and is politically and legally separate from the United Kingdom. The indigenous Manx population shares the island with populations of Irish, Scots, and English, along with seasonal influxes of tourists.

Location. The Isle of Man is roughly equidistant from Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales at approximately 54° 25 by 54°05 N and 4°50 by 4°20 W. The island is 21 kilometers wide at its broadest east-west point and 50 kilometers long north to south. Geographically, the Isle of Man has a Mountainous interior (the highest elevation is 610 meters) with low-lying coastal plains. The island is part of the larger geographical zone that includes the Highlands of Scotland. The climate is generally mild because of the Gulf Stream. The growing season begins in April and runs through October. The average annual precipitation is 100-127 centimeters, although considerable local variation exists. Average temperatures vary from a high of 15° C in August to 5.5° C in January, the coldest month.

Demography. The population in the Isle of Man in 1981 was 64,679. At this time, approximately 47,000 individuals (73 percent) listed themselves as Manx, making them the largest ethnic group on the island. The next largest group is the English who number some 17,000 (1986) and represent the fastest-growing population in the island. The total Population increased by 16 percent from 1971 to 1981.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Manx speak English, and in Recent years some have revived Manx Gaelic, which virtually had disappeared by 1973 with the death of the last native speaker. Manx is a branch of Goidelic Gaelic, which includes Scottish and Irish. Although there are currently no native speakers of Manx, the linguistic revival has been successful enough so that some families now use Manx in household communication. The Manx prefer using the Latin alphabet for both English and Manx. In recent years, bilingual street signs, place-names, and some publications have appeared.

History and Cultural Relations

The area that is now the Isle of Man was inhabited by hunters and gatherers after the last glaciation, around 9,000 b.c. The rise of agriculture occurred around 4,000 b.c., and later the people developed the use of bronze (c. 2,000 b.c. to 600 b.c.). The Celtic culture developed shortly before the Roman occupation of Britain (55 b.c.). Although the Romans were aware of the Isle of Man, no archaeological evidence exists to show they ever visited the island. The historical period dates to the late fifth to early sixth century a.d. and roughly marks the Beginning of the Early Christian period (a.d. 450-800). In the eighth century, Vikings used the island as a staging area for raids against Ireland, and later they conquered the Manx, incorporating the island into various rulers' kingdoms. Many existing institutions, place-names, and linguistic features date from this period. In 1266, the period of Viking dynastic kings ended, and the Scots and the Irish vied for the island, until Edward III defeated the Scots and established the isle as a separate kingdom. The island continued to change hands until 1405, when John Stanley acquired it and began a 300-year dynasty. In 1651, the Manx, led by Illiam Dhone (William Christian) rebelled against the island's rulers, an event that facilitated the island's surrender to Cromwellian forces. The Stanley family was reinstated after the restoration of the monarchy, but the island came under Crown dominion in 1765, when John Murray, then Lord of Man, sold his sovereignty rights.

The Isle of Man remains an ethnically diverse and complicated society. The island has long attracted Irish, English, and Scottish immigrants. Economic hardships following World War II resulted in Tynwald (the Manx government) legislating tax reforms and offering economic incentives to attract the wealthy (known locally as "New Residents") to settle. This legislation has brought economic prosperity, but economic opportunism among New Residents, land speculation, and rising living costs have heightened ethnic tensions. Since the late 1960s, nationalism among the Manx has grown, sometimes resulting in vandalism of New Residents' property.


Traditionally, Manx coastal towns and villages developed as farming, fishing, administrative, and religious centers. In addition, isolated farmsteads were established in the interior agricultural lands. Today, the population is predominantly urban, residing in the four principal towns of Douglas-Onchan, Castletown, Ramsey, and Port Saint Mary-Port Erin. Smaller towns are expanded villages serving as parish administrative and economic centers. Ramsey, the largest town in the north, was partially razed to make room for Modern dwellings intended for New Residents. Houses are ideally two-storied, thick-walled, wood-frame structures with interior chimneys, stucco exteriors, and tile roofs. Newer construction employs a diversity of modern building materials and can include apartment or condominium dwellings.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Manx economy has historically been subservient to the rise of English Industrial production. Hence, many Manx enterprises have Declined. The most stable sectors are fishing, agriculture, and summer tourism. Because of the strategic location, restriction on Manx trade, and lack of viable alternatives, Manx coastal sailors engaged in smuggling in the eighteenth century. The fishing fleet engages in seasonal harvesting (scallops, prawns, herring, and mackerel). In agriculture, the Manx raise lambs, sheep, and dairy cattle and grow grains, potatoes, and other vegetables. The summer tourist trade developed in the nineteenth century and today caters to the working classes of northern England. Associated with the tourist season are a number of motorcycle, bicycle, and car races drawing many thousands of spectators from the United Kingdom and Europe. Tynwald legislation has encouraged the development of a financial sector, involving banking, insurance, and other fiduciary enterprises.

Industrial Arts. Many people engage in small crafts Production, and a thriving antiques trade keeps many people employed in restoration work. Artisans also engage in textile production, painting, woodworking, and sculpting.

Trade. Each village and town has a shopping district where individual stores and food markets are located. In other areas of the towns, some residents run small commodity shops. At Saint Johns, a livestock auction is held weekly. An open-air market is held on Thursdays in most towns. Open-air markets are also held during festivals and special events.

Division of Labor. Despite a growing feminist consciousness, the division of labor is based on gender. Women perform household maintenance and familial work, and men perform most occupational work. Fishing, construction, and agriculture tend to be dominated by men, while school teaching, restaurant work, and health care tend to be dominated by women. In addition to the gender division of labor, certain ethnic groups tend to dominate different sectors of the Economy. For example, English workers predominate in the financial sector, while Manx engage in agriculture.

Land Tenure. All land is held privately, except that held by the Manx National Trust, a government agency. In recent years, land speculation and extensive residential development has resulted in rising land values, taxation, and loss of Manx ownership of land. After the razing of Ramsey, many Manx called for limitations on land development, and in response Tynwald has initiated a growth-management plan to control future development. Considerable disagreement surrounds this plan.

Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. The Manx reckon descent bilaterally with patrilineal surnames. The most important domestic unit is the Nuclear, monogamous family, which is the main unit for socializing offspring and of production and consumption of family resources. Strong ties are maintained with kin groups outside the nuclear family, and frequent visiting and sharing of resources reaffirms recognition and support of consanguineal and affinal kin. Formerly, the Manx were organized in geographically localized patrilineages, although lacking the corporate features of true unilineal descent systems. Today, many Manx can trace descent bilineally to their patrilineage, despite complicated changes in surname spellings and pronunciations. Some can point to ruined ancestral farm houses (tholtan ). Tynwald has sponsored genealogical programs to assist people in tracing connections to their original lineages. Manx formal kinship terminology is identical to English Kinship terminology. Informally, the Manx use nicknames to distinguish living and dead relatives. Formerly, nicknames were added through patrilineal descent, so a son would earn his own nickname and also be ascribed his father's nickname. This process could be repeated over many generations, so that a man might have eight or more nicknames representing a public display of descent.

Marriage. Marriage marks an important change of status to adulthood, so the age of marriage is low. Both men and women marry in their early twenties and immediately start a family. Postmarital residence is ideally neolocal, except among agricultural families where the eldest son is expected to reside patrilocally. However, many young couples working in agriculture attempt to relocate to an abode close to the family farm. The choice of marriage partner is at the discretion of young adults. Divorce is becoming increasingly Common, and remarriage after a divorce or the death of a spouse is accepted.

Inheritance . Land as a heritable resource ideally has been kept intact in intergenerational transfers, and typically it is given to the oldest son. Other resources, such as houses, money, and belongings, are divided equally between the other male and the female heirs.

Socialization. Children are well disciplined at home and are expected to participate in household chores. However, corporal punishment is not common and is reserved for the gravest disobedience. Young adults are expected to contribute to the household, either through labor or earnings, but in other respects they are allowed considerable latitude in their free-time behavior.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The class structure is based on occupational and ethnic divisions. Wage labor tends to be performed by Manx, while professional occupations tend to be filled by ethnic English. Both socially mobile and landless Manx tend to leave, seeking education opportunities elsewhere. Highly educated and trained Manx who return often accept employment below their qualifications. Local Tynwald officials wield power, but they find their power increasingly challenged by members of the growing financial sector.

Political Organization. The Isle of Man is a Crown dependency with political and legal autonomy from the United Kingdom. In actual practice, however, the United Kingdom holds considerable power over the Manx. The island's Government, Tynwald, is divided into a bicameral parliamentary body (the House of Keyes and the Legislative Council), and an executive branch (the Queen of England as Lord of Man and the resident lieutenant-governor as her representative in the island). No Manx representatives sit in the British Parliament. Tynwald makes laws concerning insular affairs, while the British Home Office maintains jurisdiction over all International affairs. Even in domestic legislation, the Crown holds veto power, although it rarely exercises it. The Isle of Man has been included in the European Community, thus blurring the distinction between domestic and international matters. Below Tynwald, administration is handled by village and town councils. Village boards are locally elected by a complicated process and are responsible for deciding local affairs. Manx political parties reflect British political parties, but also include the Manx National party and the nationalist party, Mec Vannin. Despite the existence of political parties, most Manx prefer nonpartisan elections. Consequently, many candidates successfully run as independents.

Social Control. Tradition and Manx informal communication networks effectively express public opinion and Control deviance. In addition, a well-developed court system and police force serve to punish criminal behavior.

Conflict. Despite the ongoing ethnic tensions in the Islands, the Manx have avoided becoming embroiled in the ethnic violence in Northern Ireland and Wales. Manx ethnic conflict has been expressed through destruction of property and political opposition. In other areas of conflict, homicide is very rare, but domestic violence and brawling do occur. Summer tourists sometimes fight among themselves, and tourist racing events often result in injuries and fatalities, although these are not considered instances of conflict.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. The principal religion among the Manx is Protestantism, as practiced either by the Church of England or by Wesleyan Methodists. A small but visible enclave of witches practice on the island. In addition, many islanders express belief in Celtic supernatural beings and forces and regularly observe taboos and customs associated with averting misfortune. The most important seasonal holidays include Christmas, Easter, and Tynwald Day (a both secular and sacred midsummer festival). Important religious life ceremonies include baptism, marriage, and death.

Arts. Many Manx make ritual objects, such as straw crosses, for protection against malevolent forces.

Medicine. Modern medicine is available to all. Home cures and medicine are strictly limited to treatment of minor ailments. The witches, however, regularly practice healing Rituals among themselves.

Death and Afterlife. The Manx believe in an afterlife as described in Protestant doctrine. Upon death, a wake is held for the corpse, and relatives, neighbors, and friends attend. A wake will last 24 hours and can be mildly boisterous, but not overly so. After the wake, the corpse is buried in the church graveyard in a formal religious ceremony.


Birch, J. W. (1964). The Isle of Man: A Study in Economic Geography. Cambridge: University of Bristol.

Isle of Man, Government of (1987). Digest of Economic and Social Statistics.

Kermode, D. G. (1979). Devolution at Work: A Case Study of the Isle of Man. Westmead: Saxon House.

Kinvig, R. H. (1975). The Isle of Man: A Social, Cultural, and Political History. Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle.



views updated Jun 08 2018

Manx / mangks/ • adj. of or relating to the Isle of Man.• n. 1. the now extinct Goidelic language formerly spoken in the Isle of Man, still used for some ceremonial purposes.2. (the Manx) the Manx people collectively.DERIVATIVES: Manx·man / -mən/ n. (pl. -men) .Manx·wom·an / -ˌwoŏmən/ n. (pl. -wom·en) .


views updated May 23 2018

Manx Language formerly spoken in the Isle of Man. Closely related to Scottish Gaelic, it was spoken by most of the native inhabitants until c.1700, when English was introduced. By 1900, there were only a few thousand speakers left.


views updated May 14 2018

Manx XVI. Earlier Manks — (with metathesis) ON. *Manskr, f. Man- (nom. Mǫn :- *Manu — OIr. Manu) + -skr -ISH1.