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  • A Dragon in Medieval East Anglia September 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Dragon in Medieval East Anglia

    Beach had a fabulous evening trying to convince his elder daughter (3) that dragons do exist. This involved placing a small bean bag draco at various inaccessible points of the house and creating a domestic dragon mythology: dragons only eat salted foods; dragons hate men; dragon baby’s mothers steal keys etc etc. The picture above […]

    Strange Historical Personal Names September 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Strange Historical Personal Names

    Full crisis here. A think tank that Beachcombing sometimes works for needs some urgent help with a text: in a format that no program on his computer can open… And Mrs B has a pressing deadline – more help needed – with a project she has worked up about what good Europeans (ha!) the young […]

    Death in the Garden September 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Death in the Garden

    It is a gentle summer evening in York in 1108. Archbishop Gerard nods his head at a couple of monks, smiles beatifically at the veiled wife of a local well-to-do and then passes into the cathedral rose garden. Here, however, his expression changes. He now has the face of a man who knows what he […]

    Did You Hear the One about the Fairy and the Alien? September 9, 2011

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

    Beachcombing has never bothered to write them down, but he has a mental list of irritating academic titles ranging from ‘The Erotics of Medieval Backgammon’ to the ‘Semiotics of Transgression in Aquitanian Saints Lives’ etc etc etc. When he recently then stumbled across ‘Between One Eye Blink and the Next: Fairies, UFOs and Problems of […]

    Population Games and Rorschach Tests September 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Population Games and Rorschach Tests

    Beachcombing had some fun the other day writing about ancient history and population estimates. Last night reading in the ‘wee hours’ he came across another lovely example of this: the insane modern debate about the population of Roman Britain. Now post-war estimates for the population of Roman Britain  have gone as low as 200,000 and […]

    Dubious Archaeology September 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Dubious Archaeology

    Reading Kenneth Feder’s Encylopedia of Dubious Archaeology Beach was reminded of an adage by Benjamin Franklin. Franklin once said that before you start arguing with someone you need to make a fundamental decision: do you want to change that person’s opinion or do you want to draw blood? It is a frightening question because 90% […]

    Favourite Historical Cities September 3, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Favourite Historical Cities

    And so it begins… Three hours sleep, arguments about syllabi, a terrifying public-speaking engagement, a walk in the wood (six snakes spotted – an omen?), sleep and stress. In short, the students are back and the cycle of sow/reap/harvest (lesson/field-trip/exam) is starting up once again. They look (as always) like nice kids. But in an […]

    Skraelings and Demons August 30, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Skraelings and Demons

    Here’s a nice example of how intelligent men and women were able to create beasts/demons from a compounded misinterpretation. First, in the early Middle Ages, some of the Viking dragon boats sailing out of Scandinavia missed the party to the south, where the pointy-headed ones were wrecking settlements in Britain, the Baltic, northern France, Spain […]

    Christopher Columbus’s Origins August 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Christopher Columbus's Origins

    There are many different kinds of historical controversies. But Beachcombing’s favourite by far are what he thinks of as ‘identity debates’: nice examples of which include the arguments over the location of Atlantis, the ‘real’ King Arthur and the ‘true’  Shakespeare. Identity debates are characterized by four things: (i) an orthodox academic position; (ii) multiple […]

    Naval Blunders August 20, 2011

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

    Beachcombing has been having a bit of a naval season and it was in celebration of this that he picked up Naval Blunders by Geoffrey Regan. Now, of course, books on blunders in history are commonplace. But this is arguably the best of all those with which Beach is familiar, in part because of the […]

    Female Flyting in the Raj? August 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern

    It has been a long day and Beach has not had time to look for this in all the normal works of reference. However, this story (or fiction?) rang no bells and as Beach has – disgrace upon disgrace – never had a Pakistani story before he thought he’d take a risk. A curious custom, […]

    Flight in Eleventh-Century England August 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Flight in Eleventh-Century England

    As regular readers will know Beachcombing is one of those irritating sceptics, who looks askance at most historical records of the ‘impossible’. But every so often even he has to shake his head and admit that the evidence for the ‘impossible’ is frighteningly good. Take this record from William of Malmesbury’s Deeds of the Kings […]

    Dried Cats August 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Dried Cats

    In prehistory there were, by definition, no written records. In antiquity there were few. In the Middle Ages few or several. And, then, from the invention of the printing press onwards, in Western Europe at least, the flood of the written word is almost painful. Yet notwithstanding this deluge, incredibly, there are whole facets of […]

    Battle of Maldon and Overheart August 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Battle of Maldon and Overheart

    Beachcombing has a long tradition of screwing up anniversaries – wrong days, wrong months, wrong years… But just for once he thought that he would get things right and offer his readers a story on the right day – 10 August– and hopefully in the right tone. What we have here is a Weird War, […]

    Fifteenth-century European Knowledge of Australia? August 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Fifteenth-century European Knowledge of Australia?

    Here is one of these sources that Beachcombing just doesn’t know that to do with. It seems to show knowledge of southern Australia/ Antarctica being shared with a European in Java at the end of the fifteenth century. Perhaps this is not so extraordinary as, after all, knowledge is not discovery: and ‘knowledge’ here could […]

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