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  • In Search of Enys Tregarthen: ‘The Little Cripple’ August 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    In Search of Enys Tregarthen: 'The Little Cripple'

    Imagine being born, in the winter of 1850, while your father is away at sea. You find yourself in a vulnerable but aspirational household, perhaps the worst nineteenth-century social gradient of them all in Britain. As you slowly emerge into consciousness you start to understand that your father, a seaman, is rarely present and by the time […]

    Searching for the Author of ‘Do Not Stand at My Grave’ August 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Searching for the Author of 'Do Not Stand at My Grave'

    ‘Do not stand at my grave and weep’ is one of the most quoted twentieth-century poems in English. It is not Auden or Elliot or Ted Hughes or Geoffrey Hill. It is what Orwell called ‘good bad poety’: and Beach says this without any sense of judgement having listened obsessively to Abba all week. What […]

    Hidden Flags August 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Hidden Flags

    There’s a scene in that very good Powell and Pressburger film One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942), where downed British pilots in occupied Holland establish the loyalty of their hosts through a trick commode. A line of orange flowers (the Dutch colour) leads to a swing picture that reveals a disguised portrait of the […]

    Prince Jean Comes Home August 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Prince Jean Comes Home

    One of the great pictures of the liberation of Europe: from one of Europe’s least known states. Luxembourg, the tiny country, caught in a threeway squash between Germany, Belgium and France, straddling the most contested line in modern history, was never going to have an easy twentieth century. It was occupied immediately by the Germans in WW1 and […]

    Prophetic German Poster, 1918 August 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Prophetic German Poster, 1918

    Great War posters are often, say it quietly, not very good. Nations had just not had enough experience at propagandizing young men when war broke in 1914 and even the best poster makers – the Americans? – still put out plenty of numbers that would make advertising execs pale today. However, the combatant states learnt and […]

    Review: The Adventures of Hergé August 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: The Adventures of Hergé

    Georges ‘Hergé’ Rémi (obit 1983) was an exceptional draughtsman who published, between 1930 and 1976, twenty three comic books that contained the essence of the short twentieth century. It was all there: continental totalitarianism, arms dealing, South American dictatorships, the death of colonialism, the Cold War, Arab nationalism, the internatonal drug trade and the battle […]

    The Great War Begins: The 10 Most Resonant Moments August 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Great War Begins: The 10 Most Resonant Moments

    Historical anniversaries are not normally to Beach’s taste. They vulgarise, they trivialise, they misstate…. Like an ardent monarchist who can’t stand royal weddings he would be anywhere but there when the minister appears with the scissors for a ribbon and a vapid speech. But this blogger has been filled with a sense of awe as […]

    Spying Commandments, 1918 July 30, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Spying Commandments, 1918

    Britain’s foreign intelligence body MI6 (aka SIS) was one of the reasons that the Allies won WW2. In its early days MI6 though had practically to invent the spying rule book: founded in 1909 it was put through its paces in WW1 where it had only mixed achievements. The boiled down and often painfully acquired […]

    The Golden Ghost of Mold #6: A Cornish Parallel July 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    The Golden Ghost of Mold #6: A Cornish Parallel

    The Rillaton Cup was a prehistoric gold beaten vessel that was discovered in a barrow in Cornwall (the cairn on the map below to the north east of the Hurlers). It is beautiful and antiquarians have compared it to the fabulous Mold cape, which is probably roughly contemporary. However, there is another connection between the […]

    The Singing War July 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Singing War

    Revolutions are normally violent affairs. Popular anger leads to stupid and brutal acts. The French Revolution might stand as the archetype here with nice ideas thrashing out of control: liberty, fraternity and equality turning all too quickly into horror, fratricide and indiscriminate killing. But there are a select group of revolutions where a determined population […]

    Migration, Inundation… Top Scorers July 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Migration, Inundation... Top Scorers

    Migration – seasonal, circular, forced, permanent… – is as old as history. Folks from one community cross the river and go and live with folks on the other side. They work together, live together and eventually have children together. This stuff has been going on for tens of thousands of years. However, in modern times […]

    Meteorite Weapons July 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Meteorite Weapons

    ***Thanks to Radko for inspiring this post*** Imagine a blade made from a star. Now this is not actually as far fetched as it might first seem. After all, ‘stars’ (aka meteorites) sometimes fall to earth and some of them have enough iron content to make a blade practical. These blades are not necessarily exceptional: […]

    Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe? July 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe?

    At least twice a year there are news stories about zombie-proof burials. Archaeologists dig up a body that has been given special treatment by gravediggers: we have enjoyed some of these stories at StrangeHistory in the past including a particularly haunting one from Ireland. Sometimes corpses are decapitated and the head placed between the legs; sometimes […]

    Female Poison Circles July 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Female Poison Circles

    As is well known periodically through history groups of frustrated women have banded together to poison their violent, somnolent, poor or idiotic husbands. Six or sixty or one hundred and fifty would  find a local gypsy who sold tastless, colourless (in short undetectable) poisons and then run home and start dosing gins and tonics or […]

    Close Encounter of the Zeppelin Kind July 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Close Encounter of the Zeppelin Kind

    In the 1960s, date unspecified, a southern English paper the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette published the following letter, a memoir from one Mr S.C. Thomas, who had lived in the area in the First World War. His memories had taken him back to October 1916 when he and Hilda Cavanagh had gone out for a […]

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