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  • Intelligence vs Wisdom in Public Debate July 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Intelligence vs Wisdom in Public Debate

    Beach has previously railed against the tyranny of experts, pointing out that experts should be proffered as much respect as they have knowledge of their field: a dentist knows a lot more about teeth than a neurologist knows about the brain; a garage mechanic knows a lot more about cars than a sociologist knows about […]

    Twin Countries July 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Twin Countries

    This is an idea that has been going around and around in Beach’s head for a few years, the way that certain pairs of countries seem to have a strange sense of reciprocated fascination with each other. Three examples from Europe: Ireland and Germany; France and Poland; Italy and Britain. All these pairings include an […]

    Tony, Where Are Your Footnotes?! April 25, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Tony, Where Are Your Footnotes?!

    Tony Judt’s Postwar (2005) is one of the most important history books of the last generation. However, the book that runs to over eight hundred pages has a strange lacuna. It lacks notes and it lacks bibliography. Judt was quite open about this lack of reference apparatus and explains it in his introduction (in a […]

    History by Kilowat: Humanity Glimpsed from Space January 27, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    History by Kilowat: Humanity Glimpsed from Space

    ‘The first day or so we all pointed to our countries. The third or fourth day we were pointing to our continents. By the fifth day, we were aware of only one Earth.’ Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud These sentiments do Sultan bin Salman credit, but the earth at night is rather less democratic than the […]

    Cellphones and the Paranormal January 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Cellphones and the Paranormal

    Beach this last weekend enjoyed re-reading one of the greatest books ever written on the supernatural, Andrew Lang’s Cock Lane and Common-Sense (1894). Lang, an extremely learned Victorian Scot, has a simple position. There are, he believed, a core of paranormal experiences that repeat themselves in every culture at every time: invisible knocking, levitation, throwing […]

    The World in 2030: Predictions January 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    The World in 2030: Predictions

    Perhaps the most interesting read this Christmas were the CIA’s predictions, in 2000, for 2015. Fifteen years ago a lot of very intelligent men and women sat down, chewed the geo-political cud and they still got a good deal wrong. Here in 2015 Beach thought that he would go with his gut on a series of […]

    How to Get Rid of a Poltergeist December 30, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    How to Get Rid of a Poltergeist

    James McClenon is a sociologist who has written on the paranormal and parapsychology. His books are to be recommended in the highest terms, not just for their arguments, put perhaps most of all for their reasonable yet never irritating openness to the unexplained; something which does not offend even a hoary old materialist like Beach. […]

    History, Ignorance and American University Students December 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    History, Ignorance and American University Students

    How well do American and European secondary schools train children in history? Beach is a world-weary type and so is rarely surprised by just how badly his students do: but he does sometimes find himself wondering whether we couldn’t do better. Here is a nice example of the low levels of general knowledge among university […]

    Why Experts Should Not Necessarily Be Trusted December 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Why Experts Should Not Necessarily Be Trusted

    ‘He/she is an expert, he or she should know’: is one of the leitmotifs of the modern world, not least its particularly annoying variant ‘I’m an expert, I should know.’ In the good old days we were all knights, peasants, mothers or priests and so these claims rarely came up: save on, respectively, the battlefield, […]

    Historians Predict the Past: An Academic Urban Legend? October 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Historians Predict the Past: An Academic Urban Legend?

    Here is a nice passage from Tony Judt’s Postwar (2005), a wonderful book if you’ve not yet had a chance. Unlike memory, which confirms and reinforces itself, history contributes to the disenchantment of the world. Most of what it has to offer is discomforting, even disruptive – which is why it is not always politically […]

    What Makes a Good Historian? October 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    What Makes a Good Historian?

    What makes a good historian? Here are a few thoughts that have come up in reading and conversation. A good historian is someone who reads so much in his or her period that they can anticipate what this or that writer will write next. (The present blogger having published on several different periods recognizes this phenomenon well. […]

    In Search of the Most Beautiful Pictures Ever Seen August 30, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    In Search of the Most Beautiful Pictures Ever Seen

    One of the nice things about running a blog is that you can ask people things and as Beach is now at a point of nervous desperation on this issue he is going to open this obsession to a wider public. In 1993, 1994 or possibly 1995 Beach was walking down a street in a […]

    Living in Interesting Times: Britain’s Next Five Years August 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Living in Interesting Times: Britain's Next Five Years

    This blogger has followed British politics for the best part of thirty years and things have never been so ‘interesting’: there is a storm building up around the UK, which Britain’s neighbours and allies have been slow to recognise. What has created this storm? Put simply two big things have happened at once: important existential […]

    The Imitation Game August 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    The Imitation Game

    The earliest and greatest British victory in the Second World War (building on crucial Polish breakthroughs) was the breaking of the new German code machine Enigma, 22 May 1940, just as the British Expeditionary Force was being surrounded by the Wehrmacht in France. For those of an academic persuasion the achievement is particularly sweet because […]

    Don’t Blame Germany July 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Don't Blame Germany

    Germany has never been a very popular country. But it is fair to say that Germany is perhaps more unpopular in 2015 than at any time since the bush fire memories of the Second World War started to die down in the mid 1950s. In several countries Germany is loathed: top of the list here […]

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