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Oft hung John Lee and an urban legend June 30, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Oft hung John Lee and an urban legend

                    Beachcombing has recently had a bit of a thing about human sacrifice and capital punishment. But it is. he promises, a passing phase and has now reached its climax with a reading of Mike Holgate and Ian David Waugh’s superb The Man They Could Not Hang: The True Story of […]

German Crusaders lost in Central Asia? June 29, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
German Crusaders lost in Central Asia?

Beachcombing often stretches himself pretty thin in covering the centuries and sometimes he just doesn’t have the languages to check up properly on a story. With these caveats he offers his readers the following tale that reads like a late Victorian or Edwardian boy’s own adventure. The text comes from Richard Halliburton’s Seven League Boots, […]

Review: Strange Histories June 28, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Review: Strange Histories

          Strange Histories: the trial of the pig, the walking dead, and other matters of fact from the medieval and Renaissance worlds by Darren Oldridge (Routledge 2005) caught Beachcombing’s attention in Little Snoring’s charity shop. The book, in truth, stood out like a sore thumb among all the Mills and Boons, […]

Nazi Kurt captured in Arctic Circle in 1981 June 27, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Nazi Kurt captured in Arctic Circle in 1981

                    Beachcombing has long been fascinated by the last Japanese soldiers to surrender in the Second World War, several of whom crawled around the jungle islands of the Pacific for decades. Indeed, the very last, Nakamura, only came in from the cold in December 1974 after […]

Jesuits and Altitude Sickness June 26, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Jesuits and Altitude Sickness

Beachcombing was reading Lost on Everest (London 1999) by Peter Firstbrook last night when he came across a description of the Jesuit Antonio de Andrade crossing the Himalayas in 1624. De Andrade and his men had a nasty experience up in the passes, several feeling ill and De Andrade wrote: ‘According to the natives, many […]

The return of Mayan-style human sacrifice June 25, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The return of Mayan-style human sacrifice

                    Beachcombing loves the way that some of the best historical stories hide behind the most oblique academic titles. Take, for example, Vera Tiesler and Andrea Cucina, ‘Procedures in Human Heart Extraction and Ritual Meaning: A Taphonomic Assessment of Anthropogenic Marks in Classic Maya Skeletons’ (Latin […]

The God Mars and Florence June 24, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The God Mars and Florence

                    Beachcombing has a special place in his heart for Florence and today, in celebration of the Arno’s flower, on the day of St John no less, he sets out a Florentine mystery: the fate and idenity of Mars on Horseback. We hear of this particular statue […]

World’s Last Latin Speakers in Africa? June 23, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
World's Last Latin Speakers in Africa?

Yes, yes, Beachcombing knows that those bores in the Vatican and some Finnish broadcasters still speak Latin. He’s even been into monastic libraries where they won’t give you a manuscript unless you babble something from Lewis and Short. But what Beachcombing wants to know – and he doesn’t think he’ll get an intelligent response for […]

Totalitarian Trees June 22, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Totalitarian Trees

          Beachcombing learnt today, from his daily graze across the newspapers, that Colonel Ghadaffi of Libya has adopted the Italian village of Antrodoco near l’Aquila [Italian article]. For a moment Beachcombing felt lyrical about the eccentric Colonel and about how much MG has brought to the study of the bizarre – it almost makes the […]

American Pilot Purloins World’s Last Roman Eagle? June 21, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
American Pilot Purloins World's Last Roman Eagle?

                      Ahhh… Beachcombing comes running back to the classics, diving into their sparkling clean waters – leaving his rather dirty mark on those tranquil, traced surfaces. Now Roman Eagles. Each legion had one carried by the aquilifer. The troops would defend their eagle to the […]

Surviving Hanging June 20, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Surviving Hanging

                  Beachcombing has a file on ‘failed executions’: men and women who were sent to meet their maker but whom, thanks to chance, and, more often than not, the stupidity of their executioners, lived to die another day. Of course, survival rates were always small but the […]

The American Civil War and a Coincidence June 19, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The American Civil War and a Coincidence

                    Beachcombing has never really got his head around coincidences. So can it really be a ‘coincidence’ that he shares a birthday with another sixteen million human beings? Is it just dumb ‘luck’ that he has the same middle name as his wife’s American cousin? And is it mere ’fluke’ that he […]

A Medieval Christian Fairy World June 18, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A Medieval Christian Fairy World

          Beachcombing greatly enjoys those doctrinal eccentricities that, from time to time, leak out of the mother church and its conglomerates. Who could forget, for example, the early Christian writer Origen mentioning matter-of-factly that  souls might be reincarnated Hindu-style ? The early modern church accidentally canonising the Buddha? Or, indeed, some modern mainstream beliefs – […]

Review: Curiosities of British Archaeology June 17, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Prehistoric
Review: Curiosities of British Archaeology

                    Beachcombing has long looked for books that fit his stated mission: ‘the outlandish, the anomalous and the curious from the last five thousand years’. But he has almost invariably been disappointed by just how few books pass muster and also at the poverty or lunacy of those few […]

The Last Cavalry Charge in History? June 16, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Last Cavalry Charge in History?

                    It is a long ago Sunday and Beachcombing, aged ten, is playing with his plastic Napoleonic soldiers. In walks Beachcombing’s father with his dangerous pacifist tendencies and pointing to a group of charging cavalry observes: ‘They must have suffered terribly when their horses were shot […]

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