Scattering of protons of several hundred MeV is a promising new spectroscopic tool for the study of electric dipole strength in nuclei. A case study of 208Pb shows that, at very forward angles, Jπ=1- states are strongly populated via Coulomb excitation. A separation from nuclear excitation of other modes is achieved by a multipole decomposition analysis of the experimental cross sections based on theoretical angular distributions calculated within the quasiparticle-phonon model. The B(E1) transition strength distribution is extracted for excitation energies up to 9 MeV; that is, in the region of the so-called pygmy dipole resonance (PDR). The Coulomb-nuclear interference shows sensitivity to the underlying structure of the E1 transitions, which allows for the first time an experimental extraction of the electromagnetic transition strength and the energy centroid of the PDR.