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Title Page
General Notes
1. Agriculture
2. Famine
3. Hardships
4. Governing
Appendix A
Appendix B
2003 Update
Manx flag (14k) ‘Considering the extraordinary dearth and scarcity of bread…’: Aspects of life on the Isle of Man in the years 1647 to 1651


The starting point for this piece of research was a single document. Taken from Lib. Scacc., the document recorded an order made by the Court at Tynwald in June 1649. It is transcribed in Appendix A, and will be discussed later. It begins:

Considering the extraordinarie dearth and scarsetie of bread and all manor of victual this present yeare, And comisseratinge the sadd condic[i]on of the poorer soarte of people of this Island who have not breade to eate or any other victuall to sustaine nature w[i]thall, By meanes whereof greate numbers of them are alreadie deade as starved by meere hunger and many alsoe – yea the most p[ar]te of the poorer soart of the Island scarse able to stand upon their ffeete for want of sustenance... [9]

This graphic description of the poorest people starving led to this attempt to discover as much as possible about the food shortage and how it was dealt with by the Government. This dissertation considers the lives of the residents of the Isle of Man at that time, trying to discover how much, if any, real suffering there was as a result of the scarcity. It also looks at other events and pressures that faced the Island at the time and compares them to England during the seventeenth century.

Taking the date of the Tynwald Act (June 1649) as the crisis point, a period from 1647 to 1651 was considered. This would, hopefully, provide a sufficiently lengthy period that would reveal changes taking place in many areas and confirm or refute the crisis reported in Lib. Scacc. When considering this period, the effects of the English civil war on the Island had also to be taken into account. While no fighting took place on the Island itself, the Island was on a war footing for many years and soldiers were recruited here to fight for the Royalist cause. The Island’s “Lord”, James Stanley, Lord Strange, later the 7th Earl of Derby (for consistency he is referred to as ‘Derby’ throughout) was a devoted Royalist who was in residence on Man from 1643 until 1651 [10]. He was, therefore, present throughout most of the period under consideration. Some of the effects of his presence on the Island will be discussed.

Chapter One starts with a brief look at agricultural changes taking place in England and on the Island in the period and discusses a number of harvest years where the harvest on Man was possibly deficient. It continues by discussing poverty and how it was dealt with in England, and on Man.

Chapter Two applies a detailed method for determining whether or not deaths from famine took place on Man in the period considered. Whether or not any conclusions can be reached as to deaths from starvation, Appleby’s eight-point method will provide structure for the discussion of the available evidence.

Chapter Three contains a discussion of some of the other stresses on the Island during the period. This will help to place the food shortages into a stronger context.

Chapter Four discusses how the Island was governed at the time. Secondly, it considers how the Island’s administration dealt with the shortages.

Summaries will be made in each chapter. The final conclusion will highlight some of the difficulties experienced by the Island’s residents in the period and discuss whether Derby’s presence was an advantage or a disadvantage to them.

9Lib. Scacc., 1649, 74 (MF/RB444).
10Dickinson, LMUS, 24.

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