Glossary


H&P has prepared a glossary to explain historical terms that are not in common use today. This is designed for readers of H&P's policy papers, opinion articles and Number 10 guest historian features, as well as students, journalists and policy makers.

All entries have been prepared by the editors of H&P's Number 10 guest historian series: Whitfield prize-winner Dr Ben Griffin and Dr Andrew Thompson of Cambridge University and Dr Andrew Blick, of King's College London.

P

Patriot

Literally, a 'lover of country'. Often used in the eighteenth century as a label for those who disagreed with government policy, claiming that it was not in the national interest. Initially concerned with the perceived corruption of Sir Robert Walpole's regime, it became particularly linked to William Pitt the Elder, in his periods of opposition. The term was linked to fears that the foreign origins of the monarchy meant that Hanoverian affairs were being prioritised over British interests. Patriots were sceptical about the value of intervening in Europe and worried about the costs of supporting foreign troops financially and the growth of the national debt to to pay for foreign wars. George III (1760-1820) sought to distance himself from these policies with an emphasis on his patriot credentials.

Patronage

The process that was central to political advancement for much of the eighteenth century. In exchange for loyalty from clients, patrons would dispense favours and help clients secure good jobs and political promotion. Patrons might control the elections to parliamentary seats or be able to recommend candidates for other positions within government.

Paymaster-General

Government post created through the merger of the positions of Paymaster of the Forces, Treasurer of the Navy and Treasurer of Ordnance in 1836.

Paymaster of the Forces

Responsible for the financing of the army, handling parliamentary grants used to fund forces. As the funds were the personal responsibility of the Paymaster, it was possible to use the money for both public and private purposes and to enrich the postholder. Often an office held by those who went on to become First Lord of the Treasury - Robert Walpole, Henry Pelham, William Pitt the Elder and Lord North being prominent examples.

Pittites

In the late eighteenth century, when the old labels of Whig and Tory had lost their previous meanings, political alignments were largely defined by loyalty to particular leading figures rather than to party labels. The Pittites were those politicians who identified themselves with the person and principles of William Pitt the Younger. They dominated British politics from the fall of the Fox-North coalition in 1783 to the Reform Crisis of 1830-1832. After Pitt's death in 1806 the Pittites were increasingly divided, especially over economic policy, foreign policy and Catholic emancipation. These divisions prompted a sharpening of party labels, with those resisting the liberal policies associated with George Canning increasingly identifying themselves as Tories. The dual crises of Catholic emancipation in 1829 and the Reform Act in 1832 shattered the unity of the Pittites, destroyed their electoral dominance, and polarised politics, giving rise to new party labels. After 1832 most former Pittites described themselves as 'Tories', or more frequently, 'Conservatives', but loyalty to the memory of Pitt remained an important source of unity for Conservatives until the party split in 1846 over the repeal of the Corn Laws.

Pocket Borough

Polite term for Rotten borough.

Privy Council

Formal body of advisors to the monarch, now constituted from senior politicians within the House of Lords and Commons. During the course of the eighteenth century, the cabinet emerged from the larger Privy Council as the effective executive body at the heart of government, overtaking it in importance.

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