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The rise and fall of the Kingdom of Man - Andrew McDonald


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On a small island in the Irish Sea, fortresses preside over the rugged shores. This unlikely location was the birthplace of a medieval empire that lasted 200 years. Rulers built coastal fortresses on cliffs, roved the seaways, and threw themselves into epic battles to consolidate control over an impressive maritime kingdom. Andrew McDonald uncovers this forgotten dynasty of sea kings.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

The Chronicles of the Kings of Man and the Isles that is our single most important source for the history of the kingdom of Man and the Isles. Read an accessible but older translation of the thirteenth-century text here. It was most likely composed in the 1250s in Rushen Abbey in the Isle of Man, and it takes as its focus the deeds of the Manx rulers. It tells us much of what we know of the history of the kingdom, although there are many gaps in its coverage. The Chronicle’s story of the colossal civil war between the brothers Rognvald and Olaf between 1223 and 1229 is detailed and dramatic and has the appearance of being written by an eye-witness. It highlights the extent to which such internecine feuding could destabilize the kingdom and send create wide-ranging shock waves. This section of the Chronicle is referred to specifically in the lesson and a link to it would provide an opportunity to gain first hand insight into the events described.

Explore a digitized version of the Chronicles of the kings of Man and the Isles from the British Library, which now holds the original manuscript. Although it doesn’t provide a full translation of the document, there are images of several folios (pages) which illustrate the appearance of the original text. Worth noting: it’s handwritten, in Latin (like many medieval texts), highlighting some of the challenges of working with historical documents from this period.

This nineteenth-century collection of materials relating to the medieval history of the Isle of Man. Volume 2 contains many documents relating to the history of the kingdom of Man and the Isles, including some documents issued by the sea kings. These documents often relate to either ecclesiastical history in the Isles or to the foreign relations of the sea kings and provide a great deal of important information that supplements the Chronicle mentioned above. Practice your skills of source analysis and historical interpretation on some of these important documents:

·      Charter of King Olaf Godredsson – the son of Godred Crovan – of AD 1134, establishing a bishopric within his territory and founding a monastery (Rushen Abbey) on the Isle of Man. What does the document reveal about King Olaf, his brand of kingship, and his conception of his kingdom?·      King Henry III of England informs his officials in Ireland that King Olaf of Man (d. 1237) is to perform coast guard duty in the Irish Sea; AD 1235. (This document is referred to in the Lesson and would offer a good opportunity to connect a specific document to a point in the lesson.) What are the terms on which King Olaf is to assist King Henry III? What does the document suggest about the relations between the two kingdoms, and about the nature of the Kingdom of Man and the Isles?

Manx National Heritage is the government organization responsible for the Isle of Man’s special places, heritage sites, archives and museum collections. There is information on their website about important historical sites in the Isle of Man including some of those dating from the period of the kingdom of Man and the Isles. Here is another resource about Thing Sites across the Viking world and including detailed information on Tynwald in the Isle of Man.

To learn more about this subject, read the book The Sea Kings: The Late Norse Kingdoms of Man and the Isles, c. 1066-1275 by Andrew McDonald who is the educator of this TED-Ed lesson.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Andrew McDonald
  • Director WOW-HOW Studio
  • Narrator Jack Cutmore-Scott
  • Storyboard Artist Dmitry Novitskiy
  • Animator Zhenya Gor
  • Art Director Marianna Murashko
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • WOW-HOW Studio Producer Anastasia Puhachova
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma

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