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  • Tony Judt: A Reluctant Historian? November 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Tony Judt: A Reluctant Historian?

    Tony Judt wrote twelve fine history books* before his untimely death in 2010, one of them ‘the unmatched and perhaps unmatchable’ (Snyder) Postwar (2005). When he died, after a courageous fight with an impossible illness, eulogiums rained down. But there was a minority opinion that Judt was something less than a new Gibbon. Dylan Riley wrote […]

    Ritual Murders in Nyasaland November 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Ritual Murders in Nyasaland

    The following was a written answer given in a written exchange in the British parliament 13 March 1962. At this date Nyasaland (aka Malawi) was a British territory and would be for another two years. (In the postwar period the British government was often put under pressure over the question of responsibility for colonial possessions […]

    Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft November 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Persuasions of the Witch's Craft

    ***Thanks to Stephen D for bringing this book to my attention*** Most anthropologists choose an exotic destination and then head off to live with the Kwang or the Baiga for a couple of years, subsequently using the material they gather there for their doctorates. In the 1980s Tanya Marie Luhrmann, instead, headed from Cambridge in […]

    Dealing with Double Agents The British Way November 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Dealing with Double Agents The British Way

    From the 1920s to the 1940s Britain had perhaps the best spy agencies in the world: this was particularly true of its foreign spy agency, SIS or MI6. Ian Fleming, Graham Greene and even John Le Carré’s fiction carry the distilled essence (albeit sometimes shifted to later times) of British triumph against Nazi Germany, Imperial […]

    Review: A Trojan Feast November 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: A Trojan Feast

    Now here’s an easy question on mythology. Tomorrow at noon you will be taken off to the infernal regions by an underworld spirit. You have twenty four hours to prep from the seventy or eighty volumes of mythology on your shelves. What one lesson do you bring away from your reading before you are taken below? It’s […]

    Improving the Twentieth Century November 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Improving the Twentieth Century

    The IEA, one of Britain’s most serious think tanks, has recently published a list, a very stimulating list, of the thirteen great economic mistakes in British economic policy in the last century. All this got Beach thinking about the great mistakes in public policy generally since 1900. Here is a very limited list of points […]

    Clearing Minefields with Human Beings November 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Clearing Minefields with Human Beings

    So a hundred infantry have to get across a field to their objective and safety, only they know that the field has been planted with mines. How do you clear the field? The simplest (and most horrible) thing to do would be to send your troops forward down a plotted route with gaps of ten […]

    Review: The Truth about Donald McCormick? November 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: The Truth about Donald McCormick?

    Hayek: A Collaborative Biography: Part III Fraud, Fascism, and Free Market Religion (ed) Robert Leeson What in God’s name…!?! This is a website which prides itself on investigating the seedy and bizarre in history. So why bother with reviewing volume three in a series of six on Friedrich von Hayek, an Austrian economist who died […]

    The Longest Modern War: The Greco-Albanian War 1940-1987 November 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Longest Modern War: The Greco-Albanian War 1940-1987

    The longest war between states in modern history? Well, Wikipedia has a page and there are several freelance attempts to elevate this or that conflict to the most protracted, but what about the Greek-Albanian war of 1940-1987? Albania, in 1940, was an Italian satrapy and in October of that year when the Italians decided to […]

    Murder, McCormick, Murray and the Witches October 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Murder, McCormick, Murray and the Witches

    In 1968 Donald McCormick published  Murder by Witchcraft (Arrow Books), it was one of about forty books that he wrote (under his own name or that of ‘Richard Deacon’) and it was, like many, perhaps all of the others, shot through with falsehoods and lies. Beach has examined Donald’s porkies on Jack the Ripper and on Madoc […]

    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 […]

    Mussolini and Cole Porter October 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Mussolini and Cole Porter

    Bit of possible cobblers for the end of the month. In 1934 Cole Porter wrote the musical Anything Goes, the most famous song of which is surely ‘You’re the Top’. In that song the following lyrics are alleged to appear. You’re the top! You’re a Coolidge dollar. You’re the nimble tread Of the feet of […]

    In Search of Chinese Tooth Worms October 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    In Search of Chinese Tooth Worms

    Last month Beach took some time to look up, while recovering from toothache agony, traditional tooth cures. He was particularly impressed by the widespread belief in tooth worms, the little parasites which apparently cause toothaches. These non-existent parasites were believed in throughout Euro-Asia-Africa and can be traced back to Babylonian times: it is always a […]

    Counter Factual: Pre-War Politicians and Television October 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Counter Factual: Pre-War Politicians and Television

    A modern politician needs to be convincing on television. That these qualities matter was famously demonstrated in the first debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960, where radio listeners believed that Nixon had won the contest, but television watchers, shocked by Nixon’s five o’clock shadow, claimed that Kennedy had beaten his Republican […]

    Real Tree Trunk Deaths October 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Real Tree Trunk Deaths

    There are several nineteenth century legends about bodies trapped in the hollow of trees. These seem to be, for the most part, urban legends. But there are some unquestionably factual accounts. It must be quite difficult to die within a tree, but clearly some people managed it. Beach concentrated on Britain. Are there other factual […]

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