The Oxford Companion to British History

By John Cannon | Go to book overview


Pacifico, David ( 1784-1854). The case of ' Don Pacifico' provided * Palmerston with a great oratorical triumph. A Portuguese Jew, Pacifico was born in Gibraltar and was therefore a British subject. In 1847, while a merchant in Athens, his house was destroyed in an anti-Jewish riot. The Greek government refused compensation, believing that his claim was inflated, whereupon Palmerston sent a naval squadron to the Piraeus and seized all. Greek vessels. The House of Lords censured Palmerston's actions by 169 votes to 132 but in the House of Commons, 29 June 1850, Palmerston carried the day by 310 votes to 264. His speech of 41/2 hours concluded that as a Roman could say 'Civis Romanus sum', 'so also a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feet confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him against injustice and wrong'. Palmerston's stand earned him vast popularity and established his domination of politics for the rest of his life.


paganism. In the late Roman world a paganus was a 'rustic', and the word's shift to mean 'non-Christian' reflects a period when Christianity had spread among the upper classes and within towns, but not to the rural peasantry. In the Middle Ages the term was applied indiscriminately to any religious beliefs or practices which were felt to be incompatible with Christianity. Pagans need not share any common ground, but in the case of Britain the AngloSaxons and Vikings recognized the same major gods and goddesses, but with slight variations in name (e.g. Woden/Odin), and although the native British had different deities these had responsibility for similar aspects of life such as warfare and fertility. The Romans had no trouble in assimilating the deities of either group with their own pantheon.

It is impossible to reconstruct fully the pagan beliefs and practices of either Celts or Germans as these were not written down. We have to rely either on the accounts of foreign observers such as *Caesar or *Tacitus, or on collections of legends recorded sometime after conversion to Christianity such as the Irish mythological literature or the Prose Edda of the Icelandic writer Snorri Sturluson. Occasionally parallels can be found between the written myths and archaeological evidence from periods of pagan practice; Scandinavian-influenced sculptures from Britain, for instance, appear to depict tales recorded by Snorri such as Odin's battle with the wolf Fenrir.

However, one should not envisage either Celtic or Germanic paganism as having structures or doctrines comparable to those of the Christian church. The building of temples and existence of a professional class of priests seems to have been more a feature of Celtic than Germanic practice which, when these are to be found, seem to have been associated with kings or other secular leaders who may have had cultic functions. What may have mattered far more to the majority of people were localized guardian spirits who might be honoured at natural sites such as a spring, a grove of trees, or a hilltop. However, the need to ensure the support of deities with a wider remit for fertility or good weather would lead to some commonality of practice at key points of the agricultural and calendar year.

Christianity saw off the major pantheons of gods and goddesses without too much difficulty and major festivals of the pagan year such as midwinter could be replaced with appropriate Christian celebrations like Christmas. What was harder to eradicate was the attachment to local holy places, though healing springs, for instance, were sometimes absorbed into local saints' cults. What came to be described as superstitious or magical practices by which people tried to control their destinies, heal illnesses, or see into the future persisted longest of all and have faint echoes today when we touch wood or throw a coin into a wishingwell.


Paget, William, 1st Baron Paget ( 1505-63). Paget, founder of a distinguished aristocratic family, was of modest origins. He was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where Stephen *Gardiner, later bishop of Winchester, was master, and began his career in Gardiner's service. He acted as secretary to *Jane Seymour and *Anne of Cleves, as ambassador to France, and then as secretary of state 1543-7. After Henry VIII's death, Paget allied with Protector * Somerset, was given the Garter, and served as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and as comptroller of the household. He was in disgrace in 1552 and degraded from the Garter, but restored to favour by Mary, whom he served as lord privy seal 1556-8. He retired from public life at the accession of Elizabeth.


Paine, Thomas ( 1737-1809). Radical writer and revolutionary activist. Paine led an uneventful life as a stay-maker and


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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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