Man, Isle of

Man, Isle of, island and dependency of the British crown (2015 est. pop. 83,000), 227 sq mi (588 sq km), off Great Britain, in the Irish Sea. The coast is rocky with precipitous cliffs; the Calf of Man is a detached rocky islet off the southwest coast. The island's towns include Douglas (the capital), Peel, Ramsey, and Castletown. The rounded hills in the center of the island rise to 2,034 ft (620 m) at Snaefell. The beautiful scenery and extremely mild climate (subtropical plants are grown without protection) make the island a popular resort. The people are mainly of Manx (Norse-Celtic) and British descent, Christian (Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, and other denominations), and speak English and Manx Gaelic.

The economy relies on offshore banking, financial services, high-tech manufacturing, and tourism. Agriculture and fishing, once the economic mainstays, have declined. Nonetheless, oats, barley, turnips, and potatoes are grown, and cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry are raised. Dairying and fishing remain somewhat important, and Manx tweeds are made from local wool.

The monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by the lieutenant governor, is the head of state. The government is headed by the chief minister, who is elected by the legislature. The Isle of Man's bicameral legislature, the Tynwald, consists of the 11-seat Legislative Council, whose members are appointed, and the 24-seat House of Keys, whose members are popularly elected for five-year terms. Dating to the 10th cent., the Tynwald is the world's oldest continuous legislative assembly (Iceland's Althing was established earlier but was abolished for several decades in the 19th cent.).

Traces of occupants of the isle from Neolithic times exist. Of interest are ancient crosses and other stone monuments, a round tower, an old fort, and castles. Occupied by Vikings in the 9th cent., the island was a dependency of Norway until 1266, when it passed to Scotland. From the 14th to the 18th cent. (except for brief periods when it reverted to the English crown) it belonged to the earls of Salisbury and of Derby. Since 1765, when Parliament purchased it from the Duke of Atholl, the isle has been a dependency of the crown, but it is not subject to acts of the British Parliament.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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