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  • Richard and Saladin’s Swords March 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Richard and Saladin's Swords

    One of the pleasures of writing a history blog is revisiting certainties, some picked up in infancy, and exposing them for the callow lies that they are. Many moons ago when Beach was learning to read he had a ladybird book on Richard the Lionheart. In those revered pages there was an image of a […]

    For the Birds? Francis and the Feathered Tribe March 23, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    For the Birds? Francis and the Feathered Tribe

    This brilliant illustration is from Hark The curious episode when St Francis preaches to the birds is one of those famous (everyone knows it) but little read (well have you?) experiences in western hagiography. Today Beach tracked down an English translation from this site and more importantly the Latin from Thomas of Celano, Francis’ first […]

    Penis Nests March 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Penis Nests

    We have previously visited a remarkable passage in Malleus Maleficarum (1485) where that work’s author, Heinrich Kramer, describes a penis theft: or rather a penis illusion, because Kramer claims the penis is still ‘there’ but hidden. That account was apparently based on a witness: this account sounds like folklore. Finally, what shall we think about […]

    Review Theory of Irony: How Jesus Led to Moon Golf March 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review Theory of Irony: How Jesus Led to Moon Golf

    A subtitle like How Jesus Led to Moon Golf promises a swish historical read. Beach immediately, in fact, thought of some of Graeme Donald’s history writing and books like Mussolini’s Barber and other stories of the unknown players who made history happen. This proved naïve. Mussolini’s Barber offers some cute episodes from recent history and Graeme […]

    Romans in Nineteenth Century Wales?! March 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Romans in Nineteenth Century Wales?!

    There is lots of enjoyable nonsense about the Welsh and the Romans. The medieval Welsh genealogies are full of supposed Welsh connections to Caesar and other luminaries of the Empire. If memory serves correctly Gerald of Wales claims that the Welsh of his time sported Roman hairstyles (or was it their clean beardless faces that […]

    Ergot Madness in Historians March 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Ergot Madness in Historians

    Ergot is a fungus that grows on some crops, particularly rye, and is most common in northern temporal climes. When ingested by humans or animals it can cause hallucinations, temporary neurological disorders and circulation difficulties including burning limbs and, in serious cases, gangrene: there are records of peasants who lost all four limbs to ergot poisoning […]

    Index Biography #27: Prize a book February 29, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Index Biography #27: Prize a book

    ***Seb got this, scroll down for the answer*** 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 […]

    Witches and Paganists: In Search of a Term February 22, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Witches and Paganists: In Search of a Term

    A terminological problem that readers might be able to help with: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com. Historians of witchcraft break down into two categories. The vast majority believe that the witch craze was essentially all a horrible misunderstanding and that the men and women found guilty of crimes were innocents. A small minority, but not […]

    Bogeys, Snot and Monsters February 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Bogeys, Snot and Monsters

    A few weeks ago Beach had the very great pleasure of looking at the genealogy of various words with a root in bugge: these related to such monsters as bogeyman, boggles and boggins (all nasty fairies). That post was dedicated to following an almost pathetically inadequate trail of breadcrumbs through the Indo European forest. This […]

    The Last Crusade, 1996-1999 February 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Last Crusade, 1996-1999

    Beach is always curious about the present’s manipulation of the past and there are few subjects that have been manipulated more than the Crusades. Those men and women who set off towards the Holy Land, in 1095 have been cast in almost every imaginable role in the last two hundred years. They have been made into […]

    The Realm of the Assassins February 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Realm of the Assassins

    This particularly forgotten kingdom was to be found in a small area of medieval northern Syria near Antarados (marked on white on the map above). At its height it included ‘ten strong castles with the villages and environs’ and perhaps 60,000 citizens: its real centre was at Kadmous and Masyad. So what, thinks the reader, […]

    Red Fairies #4: Added in Translation? February 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Red Fairies #4: Added in Translation?

    Perhaps the real key to the Red Fairies problem is language. As we have established they are referred to as y Gwilliaid Cochion Mowddwy in Pennant our first extensive source. Let’s work backwards. Mowddwy refers to their region, modern Mawddwy. No problem there. Cochion refers to a deep red colour. Again no problem or controversy. (Some […]

    Red Fairies #1: The Fairy Bandits? February 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Red Fairies #1: The Fairy Bandits?

    Imagine the scene: 1555, Lewis Owen, vice-chamberlain is passing down the road with a small bodyguard and his son-in-law, on the edge of Powys in central Wales. As they pass down the track, they come to several felled trees across their way in the midst of ‘thick woods’. Are the men anxious? Perhaps not at […]

    Film, History and Memory January 23, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Film, History and Memory

    ***Dedicated to David*** In a recent reflection about the way we remember the past, this blogger made the case that after about two hundred years we cease to ‘own’ history. ‘For Beach Waterloo seems, somehow, ‘present’. Anything before that date seems, meanwhile, completely out of reach, as if the historical imagination falls down into a […]

    Frederick II: Medieval Multiculturalism? January 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Frederick II: Medieval Multiculturalism?

    Frederick II stands as one of the most fascinating figures of the Middle Ages. Not the least interesting aspect of his personality was his entirely unmedieval attitude to God and to matters religious, perhaps partly a result of his upbringing in a still residually Muslim Sicily: he had a disconcerting habit of acting like an enlightenment […]

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