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  • Cannibalism and Syphilis December 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Cannibalism and Syphilis

    Syphilis (unless, of course, you have the misfortune to be a sufferer) is one of the most interesting of illnesses. Historians still, for example, argue about whether it crossed from Europe to the Americas or whether, on the contrary, it was a gift from the New to the Old World: the balance of opinion seems […]

    Fairy Death Bed Conversion December 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

    Beachcombing’s fairy year continues. In his grazing through the accounts of the fairy faith on the western and northern fringe of Europe one of the things that has most fascinated him is the belief of the connection between Catholicism and things fairy. There is a famous early modern comment – irritatingly Beach can’t remember by […]

    Christian Cannibalism in the Middle Ages December 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Christian Cannibalism in the Middle Ages

    Beachcombing sometimes begins his posts with naff excuses about why he can’t write much on this or that occasion, but today the pressure is really on: exams to be marked, the ill to be visited, books to be sent, syllabi to be written, course packs to be checked, the trauma of saying goodbye to much […]

    Dunkirk and Golden Bridges December 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary

    Dunkirk is one of those moments in recent history that you have to look at sideways to have even a modest chance of understanding and still then there is something that defies analysis. How was it that the British Expeditionary Force, demoralized, bloodied and on the run, with the greatest army of the twentieth century […]

    White Horses, Sex and Sovereignty December 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    White Horses, Sex and Sovereignty

    Inspired by Southern Man’s comment on yesterday’s post Beach thought he would today quote from some of the passages relating to Irish sovereignty. There was in pre-Norman Ireland the idea that the land is a woman, Sovereignty, who must be courted and seduced by the successful king. Take, for example, this rather tame passage relating […]

    Britain, Europe and Wife-swapping December 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Britain, Europe and Wife-swapping

    A rather off-the-wall post reflecting on some of the imagery used in the last few days as the UK begins its long, hard crash out of the European Union. While little Miss B continues to play with her new rabbit and the family opens another door on their electronic advent calendar, history is being made. […]

    Luftwaffe Kills A Rabbit, Perhaps December 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Luftwaffe Kills A Rabbit, Perhaps

    Little Miss B in seventh heaven last night and this morning as the family has been gifted a small black rabbit. This black rabbit is not destined to have the happiest of lives as LMB insists on watching Disney cartoons with it. Beachcombing, in any case, fell asleep with rabbits and woke up thinking of […]

    The Everliving Child December 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Everliving Child

    Exams are pressing and so a short African post from an early nineteenth-century British adventurer: In Cromantine [Ghana?] there exists a tradition, or rather a tale, to deceive strangers, that they have still in their possession a male child, who has existed ever since the beginning of the world. This child, they declare, neither eats, […]

    Rhyming with Death December 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Rhyming with Death

      Death concentrates the mind wonderfully and, at least in the east, a longstanding custom has been to pen a final poem: a last communiqué to the world. This custom stretches far back into the Middle Ages  and perhaps the greatest thing to recommend it is the brevity of the works in question So we […]

    Dud Eighteenth-Century Ghosts December 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dud Eighteenth-Century Ghosts

    On previous occasions Beachcombing has celebrated the way that eighteenth-century and nineteenth century Britons, at least before the spiritualists and Tibetano-philes got started, attempt to mock the superstitious out of existence. He recently came across several examples involving ghosts and fakery that amused him and that involve Somerset on the edge of the south-west. These […]

    Turkish in Medieval Cambodia? December 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Turkish in Medieval Cambodia?

    An incredibly busy day today – exams are drawing near – and so Beach is going to put up a cheat post with apologies, using an extract sent in by a reader. This appeared a couple of weeks ago and was pasted under a previous post on Amazons. However, Beachcombing is not interested, at least […]

    Flying to the Moon on Geese December 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flying to the Moon on Geese

    Beach has heard rumours over the years of Domingo Gonsales’ strange voyage to the moon in the early seventeenth century [1620s], carried thither by a flock of enormous geese. But it was only this morning that he finally settled down to read DG’s adventures: perhaps inspired by the equally fantastic Zambian moon programme. For those […]

    The Zambian Space Programme of 1962 December 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Zambian Space Programme of 1962

    One of the problems of looking for the bizarre in history is that, after a while, you’ve read everything before: mermaid funerals in the Hebrides, tick; bats used in bombs against Japan, tick; Roman legionaries in China, tick… But then every so often something comes along that is fresh and that has completely escaped your […]

    Swearing to Mermaids December 3, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Swearing to Mermaids

    A further Scottish Mermaid sighting, dating to October 1809. This one is particularly interesting because there seems to have been a concerted effort to get the local ‘yokels’ – whose testimony is usually reckoned at less than naught – to swear to what they saw. Neil McIntosh in Sandy Island, Canna, states that he has […]

    Case of the Cottingley Fairies December 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Case of the Cottingley Fairies

    Joe Cooper, The Cottingley Fairies, 1990. The story is a simple one. In the First World War a young girl named Frances Griffith saw fairies at the brook where she played in the Yorkshire village of Cottingley. In 1917 she and her older friend Elsie Wright were stung by their parents’ refusal to believe Frances. […]

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