The Oxford Companion to British History

By John Cannon | Go to book overview


Oakboys in Ireland were the northern and protestant equivalent of the *Whiteboys in 1771, protesting against compulsory service as road-menders. The campaign of intimidation was less violent than in Munster and lasted only a few months.


Oastler, Richard ( 1789-1861). Factory reformer and antiPoor Law agitator. Born in Leeds, the son of a leading Wesleyan, Oastler was educated by the Moravians at Fulneck, but became Church of England when he succeeded his father in 1820 as steward for Thomas Thornhill, the absentee landlord of Fixby Hall near Halifax. He was a romantic Tory, defending old values against utilitarian radicalism and political economy, attacking the vicar of Halifax over tithes in 1827, criticizing the employment of children in Bradford worsted mills in 1830, leading the *Ten Hours campaign for factory reform, and denouncing the New *Poor Law of 1834. His extreme language and immense popularity alienated his employer who had him imprisoned for debt ( 1840-4). As a staunch protestant, he opposed *catholic emancipation but supported the movement to restore *convocation for the government of the Church of England. His motto was 'Altar, Throne and Cottage'.


Oates, Lawrence Edward Grace ( 1880-1912). Having entered the army in 1898, Oates saw service in the South African War. His interest in sailing, hunting, and kindred pursuits led him to apply for a post on *Scott's 1910 expedition to the Antarctic. He was in charge of the ponies and was chosen as one of the party of five which reached the South Pole in January 1912. On the return journey, Oates, unable to walk properly because of severely frost-bitten feet, decided that he was lessening his companions' chances of survival and on 17 March 1912 walked out into a blizzard saying, 'I am just going outside and may be some time.' His body was never found.


Oates, Titus ( 1649-1705). Perjurer and fabricator of the *'Popish plot'. Despite his status as an Anglican priest, Oates's penchant was for lies and petty crime. Recognizing by the mid-1670s that the surest way to advancement was to feed the public taste for catholic scare-mongering, he wormed his way into catholic counsels, learning their secrets, and became a member of the faith himself in 1677. In 1678, he unveiled to the government his highly wrought tale of a conspiracy to overturn the protestant establishment for which corroborative evidence soon came to light. A wave of hysteria swept the country, the political impact of which was the *Exclusion crisis, and Oates's accusations resulted in the execution of 35, including 9 Jesuit priests. From 1681, however, his testimony was increasingly discredited and he lost the court's protection. Tried in 1685 for perjury and condemned to life imprisonment, he was pardoned in 1689.


oaths. From early days the taking of solemn religious oaths was regarded as an essential part of the political and social order. Monarchs swore oaths at their *coronations, vassals swore oaths on doing homage, jurors swore oaths on being empanelled. Difficulties began at the Reformation when oaths were devised to make it impossible for catholics to take them: the Elizabethan Act of *Supremacy in 1559 demanded an oath from all ministers, judges, graduates, or mayors that they acknowledged the queen as supreme governor of the church. The next century saw torment by oaths. Right-thinking persons in 1644 were required to take an oath to support the *Solemn League and Covenant and in 1662 to repudiate it. *Quakers were in the most disagreeable of all positions since their refusal to take oaths on principle was regarded as utterly subversive, and they suffered imprisonment and loss of property. James II, when duke of York, was forced to resign as lord high admiral because the oath of office under the *Test Act contained a declaration against transubstantiation which, as a catholic, he could not take. The first group to obtain concessions was the quakers, who lobbied hard after the Glorious Revolution. In 1689 they were allowed to make a solemn declaration of loyalty, in 1696 they were permitted to affirm in civil cases, and in 1749 to affirm whenever an oath was required by statute, though they were still excluded from public office. A collision of oaths kept catholics out of Parliament until 1829, since George III insisted that any concession would damage the protestant constitution and breach his coronation oath. Jews remained ineligible for Parliament after 1829 since the oath was on the true faith of a Christian, and were not admitted until 1858. Atheists had to wait until after the *Bradlaugh case. In 1888 the Oath Act cleared up the whole matter by permitting a solemn affirmation in all cases.


O'Brien, James (Bronterre) ( 1805-64). Dubbed 'the schoolmaster of chartism'. An Irish barrister, O'Brien was


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The Oxford Companion to British History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Ppreace vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Note to the Reader xii
  • A 1
  • B 71
  • C 149
  • D 273
  • E 318
  • F 363
  • G 399
  • H 445
  • I 503
  • J 523
  • K 541
  • L 553
  • M 602
  • N 666
  • O 701
  • P 717
  • Q 782
  • R 785
  • S 831
  • T 907
  • U 941
  • V 951
  • W 960
  • Y 1008
  • Z 1015
  • Subject Index 1034


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