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  • The Dauphin’s Heart June 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Dauphin's Heart

    Beachcombing is for ever rabbiting on (and on) about how time destroys memory, how everything we are told is unreliable. But the untrustworthiness of history applies not only to memory but also to objects. And what better example of this than the heart of the last dauphin, poor Louis XVII. Louis was collateral damage in […]

    Destroying Cassino June 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Destroying Cassino

    There is a demolition expert in all of us. After all, who doesn’t enjoy seeing something large and complex being blasted to a million smithereens? Beachcombing, certainly, finds architectural snuff movies relaxing. In the hope then of soothing his readers – with the possible exception of medievalists whose blood will run icy cold – he […]

    Ancient Beliefs in Modern Egypt June 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Ancient Beliefs in Modern Egypt

    Time brings its chopper down on generation after generation, annihilating almost all memory. How little we know of our grandparents’ lives, how very little of our great grandparents’: while most people living in the west today have no idea where their great grandparents lived or, indeed, their names. Yet every so often history gives evidence […]

    Roman Mosaics and Bras in 1930s Leicester June 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    Roman Mosaics and Bras in 1930s Leicester

    A busy day for Beach today – the hunt for mice, newspaper columns and the ongoing search for an aupair – and so he thought that he would just quote from this 1930s guide to Roman Britain for a strange archaeological visit. Leicester, for those who don’t know it, is a rather frightening English Midland […]

    The Strangest Instrument June 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Strangest Instrument

    In his forlorn attempts to bring the bizarre into melody Beachcombing has done a little browsing through music-history books in the last six months. And one of the manila files that he consequently opened – now stored in the rusty filing cabinet in the downstairs bathroom – was entitled ‘weird instruments’. Beachcombing is going to […]

    The Impostor June 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern

    For ten years a mother and son are separated – war, a prison sentence, the grand tour… – and then  reunited. Only there is a problem. The son is not actually the son, but an impostor. What are the chances that the mother will be taken in? This scenario and the subsequent question appear asinine. […]

    Converting Martians May 31, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Converting Martians

    ***This post is dedicated to Ypres Soup*** When scientists speculate today about whether intelligent life exists on other worlds the  questions that come up reflect typical modern preconceptions: Will they like us? Will they dress like us? Will they eat us? Etc etc. And these questions have changed little since the late nineteenth century when […]

    Last Words of the Executed May 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Last Words of the Executed

    Beachcombing will not deny it: he’s been in a real Last Words mood recently. So when a friendly book dealer sent him Robert K. Elder’s Last Words of the Executed he was hardly going to complain: even if, by a bizarre error of the printer’s art, the index had ended up being bound in the […]

    Against All Odds May 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern

    Another in the Weird Wars series: what victory in military history was achieved against the greatest odds? First some ground rules. 1) The two armies have to have comparable technologies. So the British and Empire troops at Rourke’s Drift (1879) were outnumbered by something like twenty to one by their Zulu adversaries. However, the British […]

    True Lies May 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    True Lies

    Beachcombing has recently been reading and enjoying David Aaronovitch’s Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory has Shaped Modern History. For those who have not heard of the book, AD takes an unremittingly hostile look at the many conspiracy theories that have characterized the last two broken centuries. Beach certainly doesn’t always like DA’s caustic tone. But, […]

    Air Mines on the Salonika Front May 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Air Mines on the Salonika Front

    It has been a while since Beachcombing has added anything to his weird wars tag – though past ww posts including Bats Fight Japan, the Last Scalping in History and the Soccer War of 1969 have been among his most popular. Today, in any case, he thought he would pay tribute to the balloonatics, the […]

    Occam’s Razor and Flying Bombs May 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Occam's Razor and Flying Bombs

    Beachcombing always feels niggles of annoyance when Occam’s Razor comes up. It is not that he dislikes the principle of succinctness per se: indeed, most of the time this principle is a useful brake on our imagination. After all, if Beachcombing opens his door in Little Snoring and finds no tiger then it is surely […]

    Origins of the Two-finger Insult May 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Origins of the Two-finger Insult

    The sun is in the heaven, term is over and with the good luck that characterises him Beachcombing has come down with a cracking summer cold. Indeed, as he walks up and down the stairs he feels as if his head is banging on the walls on either side. In this emergency situation he thought […]

    Superman versus Hitler May 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Superman versus Hitler

    Oh those happy, innocent afternoons a few decades ago! Home from school /college Beachcombing would sit through the junk that British children’s television had to offer. He would quickly take in the news headlines on BBC 1 at 6.00 pm (cruise missiles, inflation, cricket defeats…) and then turn over at 6.02 pm to BBC 2 […]

    Saving and Murdering in the Holocaust May 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Saving and Murdering in the Holocaust

    Beachcombing noted in this place a month ago – death-dealer of Kovno – that an important new book on Germany’s wartime atrocities is coming out: Hitler’s Foreign Executioners: Europe’s Dirty Secret by Chris Hale. CH argues in this work that subject populations of the occupied territories often partook enthusiastically in the Final Solution or ‘Outdoor […]

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