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  • Aggressive Ghost in Fourteenth-Century Germany May 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Aggressive Ghost in Fourteenth-Century Germany

    Beach is taking a long trip today on a plane with his three-year-old daughter: a first visit to the patria with Little Miss B who is thrilled because she is going to see otters AND eat fish and chips. In this time of holiday and reduced writing he has lined up several reserve posts taken […]

    Indecent Lifting and Heaving May 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Indecent Lifting and Heaving

    Beach recently came across the custom of ‘lifting’ for the first time courtesy of Invisible and Two Nerdy History Girls (an excellent blog should you get the chance). The girls describe an instance of lifting in Shrewsbury. This is part of the relevant extract: the full extract is to be found chez Nerd following the […]

    Lost in Transmission May 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Lost in Transmission

    Words echo through the centuries like coins dropped down an infinite well. And as they are passed on they are smoothed and confused in the mouths of the people. The best examples we have of this are, of course, placenames: in the space of eighty generations Londinium becomes London, Mamucium becomes Manchester and Euboricum becomes […]

    The Babel of History May 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Babel of History

      The past according to a much worn-line is ‘a foreign country, they do things differently there’. Of course, if this were all then history would be a doddle. It would be enough to fill the Cutty Sark with sabres and give the natives music sheets for their acres. But, unfortunately for those who like […]

    The Popess: A Female Pope? April 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Popess: A Female Pope?

    There are popes who had children, there are popes who took part in orgies, there are popes (at least one) who did not believe in God. However, Beachcombing has so far avoided the most remarkable pope of all: Pope Joan. The story is quickly told. Pope John VIII went out to bless the people of […]

    Honey and the Anvils of Women’s Thighs April 25, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Honey and the Anvils of Women's Thighs

    Beachcombing has been enjoying some reading in Arabic aphrodisiacs: aphrodisiacs understood as any food that creates desire or that deals with problems of desire from impotence to disinterest. The Arab world seems to have been pre-eminent in this field and opusculi were written with such wonderful titles as the medieval The Book of Exposition in […]

    A Witch’s Secret Letter April 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Witch's Secret Letter

    This is perhaps the most extraordinary ‘witch’ source of them all. In 1628 Johannes Junius, aged fifty five, burgomaster of Bamberg was taken in by the local authorities as a witch. After days of interrogation he writes a secret letter to his daughter explaining his decision to confess to witchcraft. Here is the voice of the victim that […]

    Frau Feie and Jousting April 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Frau Feie and Jousting

    Another book from the burning libraries file, this time from thirteenth-century Saxony. The book is, as the burning library tag suggests, lost but we learn something of its subject matter from a surviving town chronicle. In 1281-1282 Magdeburg decided to hold a jousting tournament with an unusual prize: a woman. Now it must be remembered […]

    How Many Burnt in the Burning Years? April 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    How Many Burnt in the Burning Years?

    Beachcombing has made fun in the past of historians and numbers: be they numbers for the population of Britain in Roman times or numbers of prisoners taken by the barbary pirates. Most historical numbers are simply partial facts or very partial facts multiplied by guesses. A classic example of this are the numbers of ‘witches’ […]

    Britain as Island of the Dead March 31, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Britain as Island of the Dead

    *** dedicated to Pam*** Here come Beach’s third and final extract from Procopius’ mad writings on Brittia (aka Britain): something that gets even crazier than Scotland without oxygen. The ‘men of this place’ in the following extract refers to a group of sailors from the coast of Gaul [France] who are let off their taxes […]

    Dark Age Scotland Without Oxygen? March 25, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Dark Age Scotland Without Oxygen?

    First of all huge apologies for lack of coverage in these days: the Beachcombing household really is in a it-doesn’t-rain-it-pours month. In less than 48 hours their beloved aupair disappears and despite honourable and numerous dishonourable efforts to sort this out they have been left uncovered. The first time someone falls ill there is going […]

    A Dutch Mermaid March 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Dutch Mermaid

    Beachcombing recently stumbled on this semi-mermaid story: if that is what it is. At that time there was a great tempest at sea, with exceeding high tides, the which did drowne many villages in Friseland and Holland; by which tempest there came a seawoman swimming in the Zuyderzee betwixt the towns of Campen and Edam, […]

    Perrottet: Sinners’ Grand Tour March 23, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Perrottet: Sinners' Grand Tour

    Tony Perrottet, The Sinner’s Grand Tour: Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe (2011 in paperback) Broadly-speaking all humans have three reactions to forms of sexual activity: (i) frenzy, (ii) comic indifference or (iii) disgust. Beachcombing, for example, has to (i) contain himself when confronted with sultry Mediterranean beauty. He finds it (ii) amusing that […]

    Escaped Lions March 22, 2012

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

    ***Dedicated to Andy the Mad Monk*** Lions are striking animals and it is only natural that, through the ages, zoos and circuses have kept them to impress their clientele. They are also hardy creatures that makes them easier to keep alive than, say, the giraffe or a rhino. But they are dangerous and if they […]

    St Patrick and Confusion March 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    St Patrick and Confusion

    Beach has always been fascinated by questions of uncertainty in history, in part because these teach modesty, in part because they are a useful way to annoy colleagues. And, in tribute to question marks past, he thought that he would celebrate St Patrick’s day – finally a correct date for an anniversary! – by concentrating […]

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