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  • Interview: Invasion Scares (Harry Wood) February 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Interview: Invasion Scares (Harry Wood)

    I am very happy today to be able to invite Harry Wood of the University of Liverpool, historian and blogger, to talk about his speciality, British invasion scares, something we looked at last month. Harry, thanks so much for joining us for this brief discussion. You run a very enjoyable blog, Island Mentalities, and you […]

    Submarine Weapons Before Torpedoes: Gloves, Javelins and Greek Fire February 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Submarine Weapons Before Torpedoes: Gloves, Javelins and Greek Fire

    Even the first submarine pioneers recognised that there would be a military applications for crafts glidingly silently unnoticed under the water. But the question was how on earth do you get to blow up the enemy flagship? On land there was everything from machetes to canons, and rocks to catapults. But under the waves human […]

    Review: Return of the Ancestral Gods February 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Medieval, Modern
    Review: Return of the Ancestral Gods

    When this blogger thinks ‘neo-paganism’: he conjures up images of well-meaning Wiccans dancing nude in the New Forest or Californian ‘fairies’ sitting earnestly in a circle around a lonely pine and talking gnomes. But neo-paganism is not a uniform phenomenon as Mariya Lesiv’s wonderful new book, The Return of the [Ukrainian] Ancestral Gods, shows all […]

    Small Pox: the Native American Version February 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Small Pox: the Native American Version

    The greatest weapons that European colonists had at their disposal when they disembarked in the Americas in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries were not their muskets or their swords or their armour. They were, of course, their viruses (and those of their animals) with which they inflicted (at least at first unknowingly) devestation on […]

    Magic Bathing in the Far North February 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Magic Bathing in the Far North

    This was a story that came up in the search for nineteenth-century superstitions relating to Loch Ness. We are c. 1870. The lake in question is apparently Loch mo Naire (which might be the Serpent’s Lake or the Lake of Shame) aka Lochmanur just on the northern tip of Scotland. Dipping in the loch for […]

    Britain’s First Glider: Charles Spencer February 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Britain's First Glider: Charles Spencer

    ***an important correction to this article from Nathaniel below*** In 1868 the Aeronautical Society put up a stand at the Crystal Palace exhibition and prepared to show the nation their wares. There were many of the usual suspects: a miniature version of Stringfellow’s aerial steam carriage, for example, and prizes for anyone who get a […]

    Where Are the American Fairies? February 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Where Are the American Fairies?

    First of all a nod to an interesting article that has appeared in an interesting blog: ‘Turn your cloak for the Fairy Folk’ (New England Folklore). The author (Peter Muise) asks a fascinating question: why is it that fairylore never caught on in the New World? He quotes Owen Davies (a wanw British scholar) to […]

    From the Grenadier to the Beer Shop (via Mickey Mouse and Pussy Cat) February 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    From the Grenadier to the Beer Shop (via Mickey Mouse and Pussy Cat)

    ***Thanks to Mike L for drawing my attention to this classic series*** In Henry Carey’s Namby Pamby published in 1726 there is the following verse Now he acts the Grenadier, Calling for a Pot of Beer: Where’s his Money? He’s forgot: Get him gone, a Drunken Sot. Now consider, instead, this rhyme collected two hundred […]

    Did You Hear the One About Nessie, the Sceptic and the Water Horse? February 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Did You Hear the One About Nessie, the Sceptic and the Water Horse?

    Two of the most interesting Christmas books this year were Roland Watson’s The Water Horses of Loch Ness and Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero’s Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids. As is evident from the titles these books take opposite sides of the crypto argument: in fact, the authors […]

    In Search of the Lamia in Ethiopia? January 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    In Search of the Lamia in Ethiopia?

    This passage appears in an 1863 book about a Briton’s residence in Abyssinia. The author seems to be in two minds about the monster he is describing. Is it real or is it a figment of the locals’ imagination? In the text he seems to account for it as legend, but note that he had […]

    How To Create A Golden Age: Instructions for Use January 27, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    How To Create A Golden Age: Instructions for Use

    There are grey moments in history and there are black moments and, then, every so often there are wonderful conflagarations as the very paper that the past is written upon catches fire. Think the sheer brilliant evenescence of Athens in the fifth-century B.C.; Baghdad in the ninth century; or, indeed, Florence in the fourteenth and […]

    The Dragon’s Tail! A Continent or a Ghost? January 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Dragon's Tail! A Continent or a Ghost?

    La cola del dragón (the Tail of the Dragon), was a book published in 1990 by Paul Gallez (obit 2007), a Belgian/Argentinean historian. In this book Gallez alleged that a map by Martellus (obit 1496), dating to 1489 showed South America. If you are trying to understand why this should matter read the last sentence again: […]

    Condoned Torture and Revenge in Eighteenth-Century New Orleans January 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Condoned Torture and Revenge in Eighteenth-Century New Orleans

    ***Warning this post has some very unpleasant material: if you are having a bad day, do yourself a favour and just click away…*** ‘The west’, that monolith to which most readers of this blog belong, has gradually over the centuries, shied away from torture. But there are moments in history when societies return on themselves […]

    Horror and Scarcity: Reading Supernatural Fiction January 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Horror and Scarcity: Reading Supernatural Fiction

    Yesterday the postman brought three beautiful volumes of Sheridan Le Fanus’ short stories (Ash Tree Press). They are exquisitely made, not so much books as orgasms between covers, and they have exceptionally good introductions by Jim Rockhill. They were also expensive, particularly once you factor postage to another continent and the Italian’s government’s banditry in […]

    Pre-Columbian Trips to America? Ballast! January 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Pre-Columbian Trips to America? Ballast!

    Imagine the excitement of the archaeologists who had gathered at NA-57 off the Florida coast near Fernandina in 1972. In some offshore piles they had found various bits of ‘rubbish’ from European settlers: ceramics, pipes, glass fragments… Nothing special you might think. But what was unusual was the dating. British settlements began in the area in […]

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