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  • Remembering and Forgetting Robert Herrick June 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Remembering and Forgetting Robert Herrick

    Robert Herrick is famous today for his bit part in The Dead Poet’s Society, where he makes Robin Williams look good (briefly). But he had a much greater range, writing about sex, alcohol, sex, death, sex, folklore, sex and (rather unconvincingly) God. Basically, his poems smelt of semen and noone who has ever read his […]

    A Travelling Chair June 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Travelling Chair

    Beach has recently been trying to explain to his daughters the meaning of an heirloom. Interesting how children lack the essential measure of time – Beach’s eldest is 5, and doesn’t really do ‘centuries’. ‘This ring was in our family before Granddad’s granddad was born’ cue blank expression and ‘Let’s watch Tom and Jerry’. Anyway […]

    Dragons in Sixteenth-Century Devon? June 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Dragons in Sixteenth-Century Devon?

    Challacombe is a small village to the west of Exmoor in Devon in the south-west of the UK. On the edge of the moor there are many ‘hillocks of earth and stones, cast up anciently in large quantity’, i.e. prehistoric burial mounds. So far so normal, this is a classic landscape in a marginal agricultural area, that […]

    Islands, Epidemics and Local Knowledge May 30, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Islands, Epidemics and Local Knowledge

    Human beings have immune systems. These immune systems are supposed to protect us from illnesses. Usually the immune system is up to the job, but every so often a new virus comes along that can skip around all defences with fatal consequences. The ‘new’ Black Death, for example, killed perhaps a third of medieval Europeans […]

    Historical Barbies: Warning Shallow Post! May 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Historical Barbies: Warning Shallow Post!

    Barbie  is an American doll that has been marketed across the globe since 1959 and that was based on an earlier German ‘sexy’ doll Bild Lilli (another post, another day). Barbie was, of course, an instant success and continues to outsell all rivals – there is a Barbie doll purchased every three seconds somewhere in the world – […]

    Johnny Norton: Electric Boy! May 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Johnny Norton: Electric Boy!

    Electriticy proved endlessly fascinating to the general public in the second half of the nineteenth century. Take the electric boy, Johnny Norton. Johnny gave off constant electricity from his body, so much so that if you went up and shook his hand you would receive a shock. Nor was this just a spark after walking […]

    The Non-Discovery of Shuck May 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Non-Discovery of Shuck

    Shuck (aka shock) was a demonic hound that haunted much of East Anglia in the early modern period: and in the absence of satisfactory ancient and medieval records may have been running around with blazing red saucer sized eyes, since the time when the druids were the new kids on the Neolithic block. However, in […]

    Love Goddess #10: Lactating German Virtues May 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Love Goddess #10: Lactating German Virtues

    Another love goddess, though this time from Germany. If you go to Nuremberg and make sure you don’t get distracted by recent traumatic events there (trials, fire storms etc) you will discover a beautiful medievalish city in the heart of Bavaria. On the edge of Lorenzer Platz you will find perhaps the most curious fountain in Western […]

    Religious Mania at Torrox May 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Religious Mania at Torrox

    Every so often rural communities take on acts of high religious eccentricity. There was, for example, Datten in Germany where in 1901 a fit of dancing mania broke out (another post another day). There was the case at Kherson in Ukraine in 1896-1897 of a religion sect allowing its members to be buried alive (wth! […]

    Science, Neurology and Being Misled by Fairies May 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Science, Neurology and Being Misled by Fairies

    All European fairy traditions have two features: kidnapped children (the changeling tradition) and misled travellers (the pixy-led tradition). Being pixy-led (a Cornish or Devon term originally but one that has come to apply to a much wider area) varies in different parts of the continent. But typically, it unwinds as follows. A man or a woman […]

    A Duel in the Middle of a Battle! May 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Duel in the Middle of a Battle!

    Du ***Thanks to Chris S for sending this story in*** Attentive readers may have noted that StrangeHistory has recently been indulging in duel stories.  Today’s duel comes from the American Civil War and involves a confederate and a union soldier. Of course, the first reaction to any such story is the sheer redundance of this […]

    The Fortune Teller and the Children Tax May 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Fortune Teller and the Children Tax

    This appeared in a news report from 1888 A remarkable trial has been opened in the city of Mexico [i.e. Mexico City]. During the past year an old woman, living in a little town near the capital, has been exacting a monthly tax trom the fathers of families to prevent her from taking the lives […]

    Swearing Fetuses and the English Sausage Seller May 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Swearing Fetuses and the English Sausage Seller

    A nasty little episode from the late 1860s and London with a most curious annex. A sausage seller gets roughed up by a group of young London Jews, after saying something anti-semitic. This led to a trial. When his wife or ‘missus’ was called into the witness box though, something rather peculiar happened. To corroborate […]

    The Cuckold’s Horns May 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Cuckold's Horns

    ***Thanks to Ricardo and Neil for help with this post*** The cuckold’s horns is a sign, usually indicated by two fingers placed over the head, of a man whose wife has been unfaithful. In many countries – not least the UK, see photo – the actual symbolism has been forgotten and only the offence remains. […]

    Telegraph Wire and Oasis Jewellery May 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Telegraph Wire and Oasis Jewellery

    Governments and multi-nationals have long had problems with locals (particularly criminally-inclined locals) stealing their wire. Most collectors get out their pliers because, say, copper is worth a lot of money. But in the early years of electricity and telegraph wire there were other reasons for stealing: more principled and practical reasons. Take Thomas Stevens’ description […]

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