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  • The Missing Autobiography of Mario Esposito October 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Missing Autobiography of Mario Esposito

    Mario Esposito (obit 1975) was a talented medievalist born to an Italian family in that glittering Dublin of Joyce, Yeats and Beckett. ME got involved with the struggle for Irish independence, was a keen mountaineer, but above all published on Irish manuscripts. His first academic article was written when he was 18, a rather misinformed […]

    Fairy Jousting? October 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Fairy Jousting?

    This tale comes from an early thirteenth-century Latin collection of mirabilia. It has not, to the best of Beach’s knowledge been associated with fairies, but reading it eight hundred years after its composition, there seem to be some fey hints worth flagging up. Note that the Latin below comes from an early edition where there […]

    Flying with Diana October 23, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Flying with Diana

    One of the most fascinating questions about witchcraft belief is the extent to which it was invented by the Inquisition (and other bogey men of our own imaginations); or to what extent it reflected common beliefs held by medieval and early modern European populations. If we accept that the idea of the sabbat and devil-sex, […]

    Indonesians in Medieval Africa October 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Indonesians in Medieval Africa

    Despite all the excitement about the use of DNA in history, those elusive strands have so far proved surprisingly unhelpful in our text books. The problem is that populations with similar DNA live close to each other and that it is next to impossible to give a chronological breakdown of when a given locality changes […]

    Immortal Meals #10: Love Feast in Fifteenth-century Florence October 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Immortal Meals #10: Love Feast in Fifteenth-century Florence

    If you could visit any dinner in history, where the mighty of the earth were gathered, what would you choose? One of Nero’s shindigs in ancient Rome, Giordano Bruno’s Ash Wednesday Supper, the Banquet of the Chestnuts to watch the Borgias having sex, Churchill and Stalin‘s snarl show at Tehran, Mannerheim blowing cigar smoke into […]

    Out of Place Artefacts: Eyebrow-Raisers and Eye-Poppers October 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Out of Place Artefacts: Eyebrow-Raisers and Eye-Poppers

    ***Dedicated to Amanda and BFM*** Bad Archaeology, a necessarily quarrelsome but very worthwhile corner of the internet, is presently hosting an article on Out of Place Artefacts: objects that have turned up in places or in times where they would not be expected. As readers of Strange History will know the present author has frequently […]

    How Big Are Fairies? October 12, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    How Big Are Fairies?

    There is a lot of confusion about the size of fairies in tradition and we often read that ‘small’ fairies were the invention of Shakespeare and his hangers on. The proof that small fairies were there all along comes, instead, in Gervase of Tilbury’s Otia Imperialia written and ‘published’ in the early thirteenth century: long […]

    Roman Empire vs Caliphate in Sub-Saharan Africa October 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Roman Empire vs Caliphate in Sub-Saharan Africa

    By the mid first century AD the Roman Empire had run against four limits, limits that its subjects would never overcome: in the west, the Atlantic; in the north, the German tribes (thanks Varus); in the east, the ‘Persian’ Empire and its successors; and in the south, the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert beyond. […]

    A Phantom Inventor: Flavio Gioia October 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Phantom Inventor: Flavio Gioia

    Who invented the compass? The Chinese, of course. Sometime between 800 and 1000 that people began to use their lodestones to navigate at sea. But the compass also appears in Europe in the eleventh or twelfth centuries and do we have a case of borrowing (from the far orient, as with playing cards) or independent […]

    Holy Gunpowder October 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Holy Gunpowder

    ***Thanks to Chris*** Beach was recently sent a link to Io9 and a remarkable couple of late renaissance images of devils and angels using gunpowder. As the Io9 writer notes – a writer who deserves most of the credit for what follows – the devil ‘packing heat’ is particularly delicious. We include below the wood cut and […]

    The Origins of One-Foot September 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Origins of One-Foot

    ***Dedicated to Leif*** Humanity has the habit of peopling the edges of its maps with unusual creatures: the ‘there-be-dragons’ phenomenon. We have previously on this blog looked at dog-heads, for example, both in relation to India and Ethiopia. Dog-heads can be explained, as perhaps can unicorns and even dragons and cyclops. But how do you […]

    Hostage Taking in Ancient and Medieval Times September 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Hostage Taking in Ancient and Medieval Times

    When we think of hostages today we tend to think of men with pistols using some poor innocent as a human shield. But in the ancient and medieval world hostage-taking was formalised. Conquered territories would give up children of notables who would be conveyed to an enemy capital or castle and who would then be […]

    Fusion and Confusion in Post Roman Britain September 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Fusion and Confusion in Post Roman Britain

     ***This extended essay was written as a sequel to a previous post on Roman Britain signalled in the first link*** We have looked before in the place at the darkness that descends on Britain after Rome decamps from the island. Our ignorance about this period of British history is simply astounding. We know that there […]

    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 […]

    English King Discovered Under Carpark September 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    English King Discovered Under Carpark

    ***Dedicated to Roundj*** Beach does his very best not to be topical on this blog. But the news coming from Leicester (UK) yesterday is hard to ignore. At the end of August archaeologists began to dig in a car park there in search of the body of Richard III, the last English king to die […]

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