Isle of Man: Country and Foreign Investment
Population, Language and Culture
This page was last updated on 11 January 2020.
The Iron Age on the Isle of Man lasted from around 500 BC to 500 AD and the Celtic traditions, probably originating in Ireland, established during this period still influence the culture today. The island has also seen cultural influence from Scandinavia, continental Europe, Britain and Ireland. Sea trade developed and flourished due to the island's strategic location in the middle of the Irish Sea. Christianity was introduced as early as the sixth century and became an integral part of the lives of the Manx people.
Viking raids began around 800. By 850 the Norwegians began to settle the island, and it later fell under the rule of the kings of Dublin (then a Viking city). It was the Vikings who founded Tynwald, in 979.
In the 13th century, war between the Norwegian Kingdom of Man and Scotland ended in Norway selling suzerainty of the Isle of Man in 1266. However, England took control of the island in 1341, and it became the domain of John Stanley, who style himself Lord of Man, a title now held by the British monarch.
In the eighteenth century the island's offshore semi-independence made it a major centre for smuggling, causing considerable loss of revenue to the English treasury. The British government intervened and in 1765 purchased the entire island for GB£70,000. A period of direct rule from Westminster followed and it was not until the mid-1800s that the island regained a measure of control over its internal finances. Since that time, political power has gradually devolved from London and a colonial-style administration has given way to a modern democratic government.
The people of the Isle of Man have a great respect for their rich cultural heritage which is testimony to their ability to adapt and exploit the changing circumstances of history.
The Isle of Man has a population of 84,600 (2019 estimate). The four settlements that are officially designated towns are Douglas, the capital and by far the largest (population 26,200 in a 2019 estimate) in the east, Ramsey (7,300) in the north, Peel (3,800) in the west and Castletown (3,100) in the south. The fairly rapid increase in population since the 1970s has largely been fuelled by the immigration of working English people, reflecting the expansion in the Manx economy over the previous years. Just over a half of the population has Manx heritage, with around a third being English. Population density is only 147 people per square km.
English is an official language, mostly spoken in a distinctive Manx dialect. The other language used is Manx Gaelic, or simply Manx, which when spoken is similar to Irish and Scots Gaelic, though the written form is very different as it is mostly based on English orthography. Manx was the everyday language of the people until the nineteenth century, when it went into sharp decline, actually becoming extinct in 1974. Since then, Manx has since undergone something of a revival and is now also an official language of the island.