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  • Prospero the Etruscan and Lying Historians February 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Prospero the Etruscan and Lying Historians

    Liars and history go together like a horse and carriage. Beachcombing gave a chance reference to Herodotus as ‘Father of Lies’ in yesterday’s post. ‘Pseudo-‘ and ‘Mythic-History’, typically found in tribal societies, are porkies by modern standards. But most interestingly, at least for Beachcombing, are the scholars/antiquarians who betray the very rules that they claim themselves to […]

    Total Eclipse February 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Total Eclipse

      A reader – Moonman to friends – has written in to remind Beachcombing of the old ‘cover thy face’ trick whereby ‘the civilised’ with knowledge of an eclipse, show their power over the elements by ‘ordering’ the sun to disappear in the presence of the unenlightened. Beachcombing knows this trick from Hergé’s Prisoners of […]

    America Come Lately: Why? February 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    America Come Lately: Why?

    Forget Moses praying in the Desert, Luther getting temperamental at Wittenberg, the sword of Islam lifting above Medina, the signing of the Bill of Rights, the opening of the Bridgewater Canal and the explosion of Little Boy at Hiroshima. In the last three thousand years by far the most important historical event was the discovery of America […]

    Diodorus’ Island February 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Diodorus' Island

    Perhaps next to Forgotten Kingdoms Beachcombing should set up a tag on Invisible Kingdoms: realms that very likely only ever existed in the imagination of ancient and medieval writers. There would be Atlantis, of course, the land of Prester John, the Seven Cities of Gold and El Dorado. And to these it would be a cinch […]

    Review: Myth or Legend? February 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Review: Myth or Legend?

    C.E. Daniel et alii, Myth or Legend? (New York/London 1956) What is the difference between myth and a legend? Well, according to this little BBC miscellany from the 1950s a myth is ‘invention and fancy’, while legend is ‘some kind of history’. This distinction gets right at our main concerns with so many of those […]

    Painted Snowballs February 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Painted Snowballs

    For various reasons beginning with health and ending with this blog, passing through children, changing interests and daily walks in the woods Beachcombing has not sat down to write an academic article for two years. And when he thinks of the two or three pieces on his hard drive that just need some work and […]

    Atlantean ‘Flying Boats’ February 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Atlantean 'Flying Boats'

    Beachcombing sometimes likes to jot down contents lists for books that he will never write: a further rather melancholy contribution to his Invisible Library collection. He has recently been playing around with Old Atlantis: A Miscellany of Atlantean Madness. The work would have three parts: a bibliography of every book every written on the lost Continent – […]

    Lavoisier Blinks February 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Lavoisier Blinks

    Today a continuation of the decapitation series with the life and unusual death of Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1794). Lavoisier was a dreamy French chemist responsible, in part, for the metric system and a few other crimes against humanity (‘hydrogen’, the elementary table…). The facts of Lavoisier’s death are, meanwhile, suitably enough, a mix of brutal […]

    Sex Life of Unicorns February 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Sex Life of Unicorns

    Unicorns have a claim, in Beachcombing’s mind, to be the most interesting of all mythical creatures. There is, after all, a fascinating combination of the mundane – the unicorn is surely based on the rhinoceros? – and the fantastic: think of all that nonsense about a dilating horn and floating hooves. Then there is the […]

    Bow Your Hamms to Chocolate February 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Bow Your Hamms to Chocolate

    [[an onion]] Dieticians and quacks have long tried to convince humanity that certain foods can work wonders on our failing bodies. Beachcombing’s favourite example is Baldini’s De sorbetti (1775) where it is argued that Neapolitan ice-cream will cure everything from sniffles to tumours (another post another day). But there are others from, in the nineteenth […]

    Obscene Riddles from the Book of Exeter February 3, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Obscene Riddles from the Book of Exeter

    Beachcombing has been driven to the edge of sanity by term papers and 90 plus students this semester. So he tried to relax earlier today with a collection of Anglo-Saxon riddles from the Book of Exeter – a ‘treasure’ that was used as a beer coaster for much of its history (another day, another post). How long it […]

    Image: Napoleon’s Lost Sword February 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Image: Napoleon's Lost Sword

      This image is unfortunately not a photograph, but German text-book fodder from the early part of the nineteenth century. Yet it captures perfectly one of the most painful encounters in modern history. 2 September 1870 the French army, goaded foolishly into a war with little Prussia, surrendered at Sedan and the balance of power […]

    Beachcombed 8 February 1, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed
    Beachcombed 8

    Dear Readers, 1 Feb 2011 Some tawdry bits of news. It is now the season to search for a new web address – Beachcombing books cannot be sold on WordPress… – and so Beach is looking for the right name. Is there anyone versed in the dark arts of SEO who can give advice on a […]

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