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  • Mud, Blood and Poppycock October 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Mud, Blood and Poppycock

    Beach has a question that he always enjoys asking first year American university students:  did World War One/World War Two/the Cold War represent a fight between good and evil? Class after class, semester after semester the pattern repeats itself. The Second World War is almost universally held up as such a war. Usually a quarter […]

    Suicide at Saipan: How Many? September 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Suicide at Saipan: How Many?

    The most famous act of mass suicide in the twentieth century, are probably the extraordinary deaths that followed on the fall of Nazi Germany and the Jones Town massacre. However, one localised example from the Second World War in Asia trumps both of these in horror and intensity. Though not a ‘home’ island, Saipan had […]

    Long-Knife Victims September 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Long-Knife Victims

    Beach has several times over the years enjoyed the nonsense that historians spout about numbers. How many people lived in Roman Britain. How many witches were dragged to the stake in the burning years. How many Christians were sold in the slave markets of northern Africa in modern times? The sheer range of numbers is […]

    Crowds #5: POWs September 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Crowds #5: POWs

    Beach has offered several posts showing crowds: orators, crowd art, off-to-war and religion. Here is the fifth in the series, crowds of men who have just been captured by the enemy. Pictures are mostly from the two world wars, because POWs do not seem to have excited much interest prior to this and because photographs […]

    Review: Walter Starkie, Raggle Taggle September 19, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: Walter Starkie, Raggle Taggle

    When Beach first picked up Walter Starkie’s Raggle-Taggle: Adentures with a Fiddle in Hungary and Roumania (1947) he was looking for a reference to fairies. The book was to be a literary one night stand: 300 closely printed sides, ten minutes of flicking. But already in ‘the Preface to New Edition’ a more serious relationship […]

    Earliest Flying messengers September 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval
    Earliest Flying messengers

    Beachcombing has a few bizarre carrier pigeon stories in a mauve file under the staircase: I mean are pigeon stories ever going to be normal? He thought though that he’d start his pigeon campaign with a simple even tedious question. When were pigeons first used as messengers? Their role carrying messages in the two world […]

    Prison Breaks with Planes September 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Prison Breaks with Planes

    You are in prison and you have a friend with a plane. How can that plane get you out of prison? Well, at Colditz they built a glider in the castle attic; a glider that perhaps fortunately was never used. Then there are the various helicopter escapes, for which Beachcombing recommends an excellent wikipedia page. […]

    Are Societies What They Eat? September 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Are Societies What They Eat?

    There is no question that food and drink change us. If you begin to drink two litres of coca-cola a day, instead of a litre of fizzy water or if you start chewing on cocoa leaves instead of making banana smoothies your family will quickly notice a difference. Here there is and can be no […]

    The Man Who Accidentally Started WW2 Five Days Too Early September 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    "El Tercer Reich". Tomo III. La Guerra antes de la Guerra

    The last days of August 1939 were particularly painful for the leaders of the western democracies and their allies. Though most Poles, Britons and French citizens out in the streets did not realise it, the signing of the pact between the Soviet Union and Germany, 23 August, meant that the war had as good as […]

    Generals, Entrepreneurs or Politicians? September 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Generals, Entrepreneurs or Politicians?

    Paul Johnson is a journalist and historian who Beachcombing considers the single most irritating Englishman alive. However, and this is perhaps part of why Beachcombing finds PJ so irritating, he can be extraordinarily perceptive: though anyone with their finger hovering over an amazon buy button should know that this is far from an inevitable outcome. […]

    Stay Alive to 1975! September 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Stay Alive to 1975!

    Messianic religions have long faced a simple problem with final calamity. If you predict the end of the world you are going to get lots of new members: that’s humanity. But, God help you when the world’s end does not come. Not, of course, that this has stopped the faithful from trying. Despite said problem […]

    Casualties and Memory September 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Casualties and Memory

    This post was written as a response to a memory that has been whirling around and around in the last few days. The only time Beach ever saw his grandmother – a fine old English matron – weep was when she talked about the First World War. She had, in fact, no direct experience of […]

    Eating Prisoners of War? Ten Thousand Years of ‘I Surrender’ August 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Eating Prisoners of War? Ten Thousand Years of 'I Surrender'

    ***This post is dedicated to A.G. who sent in the following question*** A.G. writes ‘I have often wondered what happened to the wounded left behind during the Napoleonic wars and earlier.  Did the locals come along and kill them for their personal belongings, were they cared for and held for ransom, what? I am speaking […]

    Prolific Souvestre and Allain August 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Prolific Souvestre and Allain

    Beachcombing is back from his time at the top of the mountain. His ‘restful’ reading material there included Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain’s Fantômas, the first in a series of French pulp novels from the teens of the last century. For those who have not been initiated Fantômas is a master criminal who works without […]

    Baring-Goulds’ Pixies August 23, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Baring-Goulds' Pixies

    Anyone interested in fairies will read in many places of Sabine Baring-Gould’s childhood encounter with pixies. But how many will have actually read the original? In an effort to correct this Beach sat this afternoon tapping out the following text only to discover that someone else got there first: a bunch of heroes over at […]

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