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  • 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% […]

    The Safe Battle at Burnley, 1860 September 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Safe Battle at Burnley, 1860

    When we think of vicious advertising campaigns today the chances are we think of burger chains and the cola fraternity. However, back in the nineteenth century across the Western world, the most intense rivalry was perhaps between different safe makers. This was, after all, a period when technology in locks and metal making had grown […]

    The Cha-Cha of the Dahomey August 31, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Cha-Cha of the Dahomey

    While reading up on the Amazons of the Dahomey kingdom (Benin) a long month ago, Beach came across a fascinating if little known figure, Francisco Felix De  Souza (obit 1849). De  Souza was a Brazilian merchant who came to the West Coast of Africa in the early nineteenth century and set up a huge slave […]

    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 […]

    Irish Fairies in New Hampshire August 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Irish Fairies in New Hampshire

    About ten days ago Beachcombing put up a post celebrating funny fairy stories, a way, he noted, ‘to kill the fairies with kindness’. Since then he has come across a further fairy story from the other side of the Atlantic. As he is particularly interested in American fairies at the moment – a long and […]

    Mystery Discovery on the Isle of Dogs August 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern

    Mysterious golden spurs discovered on Isle of Dogs, London about 1800: do they perhaps have a Celtic origin?

    Cornish Mermaid – Half Priest, Half Fish August 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

      First the good news. Robert Stephen Hawker (obit 1875) was the eccentric’s eccentric: a vicar who lived most of his life in the wild Cornish parish of Morwenstow. This was a man who hung a mouse for breaking the sabbath, believed that birds were ‘the thoughts of God’ (Beachcombing adores the sentiment) and, yes, […]

    The Oak of Fairlop August 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Oak of Fairlop

    One of little Miss B’s favourite films – a Japanese fable – includes a line about the time when ‘men and trees were friends’. Beach has his doubts that there ever was, in fact, friendship between the human race and the arboreal ones. But there are occasional instances when special trees and nearby human community’s […]

    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 […]

    Funny Fairy Stories August 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Funny Fairy Stories

    Beachcombing wants to start this post with an apology. He has been writing madly on fairies the last few days, hoping to get some ‘real’ work done before term begins and while Mrs B and the kids are away at the sea. The result is that he has not had time to deal with emails […]

    An Ecclesiastical Harem from Eighteenth-Century Spain August 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    An Ecclesiastical Harem from Eighteenth-Century Spain

    The Inquisition  it can’t have been that easy. Mass in the morning, torture in the afternoon and, yet another blasted auto da fe in the evening… Who can blame the good men with the blood red cloth if sometimes they decided to create, let’s call it, ‘recreational space’ for themselves. This extraordinary – and apparently […]

    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 […]

    The Famous Benbecula Burial of a Mermaid August 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Famous Benbecula Burial of a Mermaid

    Beach hopes this summer and autumn to offer several obscure mermaid texts from the North Atlantic. However, he could hardly do other than include with the most famous of them all: the Benbecula sighting of c. 1830. He also hopes to shed some more light on this sighting with an obscure second source in September. […]

    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, […]

    Fairies Investigated in Irish Court August 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairies Investigated in Irish Court

    Beach has been enjoying himself with fairies these last few months, looking at late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century news-reports from Britain and Ireland. What is curious is that fairies very often appear in the law pages of the newspapers. They do so typically in one of two guises: (i) child abuse because parents believe the child […]

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