The Perse School

2013 Josef Behrmann Lecture

11 Jan 2013

This year's lecture was given by former Perse pupil, Professor Derek Taylor, OBE. The Behrmann Lecture is given in honour of Josef Behrmann, a former pupil in the School's Jewish boarding house, who survived 14 concentration camps during World War II, and went on to enjoy a successful film career.

Professor Taylor's talk focused on the Don Pacifico affair of 1850, when Lord Palmerston ordered the British fleet to blockade Athens harbour in order to obtain compensation for Pacifico, a Jewish trader, following an attack on his home. Professor Taylor used archive evidence to make the case that Pacifico had been wronged by the Greek government, and that Palmerston's gun boat intervention was justified after lengthy diplomatic discussions failed to achieve a resolution.

Professor Taylor quoted the famous words of William Gladstone in an 1850 parliamentary debate, in which he said that: "no person could dare to stand up among us and allege his (Pacifico's) religion as a ground for mistrust or for the denial of justice, without drawing down upon himself, from all quarters of the House alike, universal scorn and indignation."

Professor Taylor highlighted Britain's leading role in promoting parliamentary democracy and religious tolerance.

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