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  • The Index Biography 5#: Prize = A Good Book March 31, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Index Biography 5#: Prize = A Good Book

    The Index Biography is a new form of biography pioneered by this blog and introduced in a previous post. The creator must find a biography of a famous individual from history, they must turn to the index and write down eight peripheral facts about the individual’s life. We offered up previously here Sheridan le Fanu and Joseph […]

    Totalitarian Leaders, Urban Legends and Motorbikes March 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Totalitarian Leaders, Urban Legends and Motorbikes

    Totalitarian states put their leaders at the very heart of civic life as symbol and reality of fascism/Nazism/communism (or whatever other nightmare a country has fallen into). One of the consequences of the popular focus on the duce/fuhrer/stalin is that the individual citizen comes to feel a special warmth for the head that they might […]

    Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall March 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall

    Of course, medical and scientific opinion more generally has been proved wrong time and time again over the centuries with red faces enough all around. But Beach stumbled on an early twentieth-century example that had entirely escaped his notice. He quotes from Peter Hearn’s excellent Sky High Irvin: The Story of a Parachute Pioneer. Strange […]

    Declaring War in WW2: National Styles March 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Declaring War in WW2: National Styles

    The characters of countries are reflected in their cuisines, their clothes, and their soap operas, so why not in their declarations of war? Thought it might be fun to see whether this notion stands up and so this morning ran through every WW2 declaration of war that I could find from 1 September 1939 through […]

    Forgotten Kingdom: Inbetween Saddleworth March 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Forgotten Kingdom: Inbetween Saddleworth

    Saddleworth is a late entrant in the Forgotten Kingdoms series. A stupendously beautiful patch of Pennine land in the north of England, it sits uneasily on the border between the White Rose County, Yorkshire and the Red Rose County, Lancashire. Saddleworth is, in fact, a reminder of how differences between communities are messy not clean-cut: […]

    Unofficial Law and Order March 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Unofficial Law and Order

    Beach has recently been researching out in the bogs of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ireland so far beyond the pale that children are occasionally incinerated as changelings and there is one alleged case of a legal agent being stoned to death! This was a traditional rural society ruled over as much by priests as by the […]

    The Stalags: Israeli Holocaust Erotica March 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Stalags: Israeli Holocaust Erotica

    Literature has some pretty bizarre dust balls under the bed – roadkill cookbooks, Marxist-Leninist poetry… – but there are few things that compete with the so-called ‘stalags’, Israeli erotica based around Nazi murder camps. In the late 1960s Israel was experiencing holocaust delerium: sweating out the killing of six million Jewish Europeans just two decades […]

    Molotov, Poetic Justice and Outer Mongolia March 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Molotov, Poetic Justice and Outer Mongolia

    There is always some fun seeing people placed in hells of their own making, hells that they amply deserve. Of course, there is the whole ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ thing: Samuel K. Doe, president of Liberia being tortured to death on celluloid; Gaddafi meeting his end in a culvert (‘God forbids […]

    A Letter Between Enemies, 1915 March 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    A Letter Between Enemies, 1915

    This letter came in the spring of 1915 to the Michon family house in France. It arrived from a Naples address, but it had come ultimately from Berlin: direct letters from Berlin to France where, of course, out of the question by this date. The writer was one Charlotte von Dassel. Very dear Madame, In […]

    Fairies, Arson and Banknotes in Co. Donegal March 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Fairies, Arson and Banknotes in Co. Donegal

    One of the great things about fairies in traditional communities is that they make for the perfect alibi. If someone pushes down the landlord’s fence then, of course, it was the fairies that did it. If a man is a beaten out walking along a midnight lane then the fairies did it. If a boy […]

    Jasper Maskelyne and Magic Machine Guns in WW2 March 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Jasper Maskelyne and Magic Machine Guns in WW2

    ***Dedicated to Moon Man who put me onto Jasper Maskelyne*** Jasper Maskelyne is a fascinating character from the ranks of fighting WW2 Britons. A stage magician, he found himself in the Royal Engineers at the start of the War and gave himself over to camouflage work. His book, Magic Top Secret (1949), which I’m itching […]

    McConnel’s Passing: An At Death Encounter? March 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    McConnel's Passing: An At Death Encounter?

    11 December 1918 was a sad day in the McConnel family. Eighteen-year-old David McConnel (aka M’Connel in some publications) had perished four days before in a plane crash: just three months after the end of the worst war in history, at a time when his family might reasonably have hoped that he would be safe. Flying from […]

    Review: Walter Starkie, An Odyssey February 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: Walter Starkie, An Odyssey

    Walter Starkie is an in between figure. Born to the last of the Anglo-Irish in 1894, he added to his initial liminal state by: marrying an Italian (one of his better decisions); living abroad in Spain, Italy and the US; dividing loyalties between some of the twentieth-centuries less attractive regimes (Fascist Italy and Franco’s Spain) […]

    The Most Exciting School Trip in History: 21 June 1919 February 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Most Exciting School Trip in History: 21 June 1919

    School trips are often fairly maudlin affairs: go to a local zoo, don’t pet the lions; walk through a city park, buddy up as you pass the homeless people; polish the sun-washed floors of the local museum with fifty infant feet… But one school trip that any of us would have wanted to be on […]

    Interview: Invasion Scares (Harry Wood) February 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Interview: Invasion Scares (Harry Wood)

    I am very happy today to be able to invite Harry Wood of the University of Liverpool, historian and blogger, to talk about his speciality, British invasion scares, something we looked at last month. Harry, thanks so much for joining us for this brief discussion. You run a very enjoyable blog, Island Mentalities, and you […]

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