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  • Garibaldi’s Worst Hours September 24, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Garibaldi's Worst Hours

    Giuseppe Garibaldi had been, in the late 1830s, an insurgent in Brazil: think Che Guevara with a good barber and bourgeoise decency. He had played the rhetorician who talked up Italian irregulars as they retreated from Rome in 1849: ‘Where we are Rome will be!’ He was the genius general who, in 1860, conquered half the peninsula […]

    Baron Munchhausen and Jack the Ripper September 21, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Baron Munchhausen and Jack the Ripper

    Beachcombing has long had a secret nemesis: Donald McCormick aka Richard Deacon, a British author. McCormick (1911-1998) wrote entertainingly on a bewildering series of topics including the Hell Fire Club, Mossad, Ian Fleming, the Kempa Tai and the death of Kitchener. Many of these books included doubtful elements: extremely valuable sources that no one else had ever […]

    ‘English As She is Spoke’ September 16, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    'English As She is Spoke'

    Beachcombing offers today not a review but a celebration of Pedro Carolino’s O Novo Guia da Conversação, em Português e Inglês, em Duas Partes, [A New Guide to Conversation in Portuguese and English in Two Parts] (1855). This was a translation of an earlier and absolutely competent Portuguese French conversation guide by José da Fonseca […]

    Life on Mars and Other Stories September 14, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Life on Mars and Other Stories

    Beachcombing has always had a bit of a thing about Percival Lowell (1855-1916) word-smith, Orientalist (author of Noto, 1891) and Ivy League rebel. And of all Lowell’s accomplishments none stand as high in Beachcombing’s estimation as Lowell’s  theories on Mars set out in three books – all happily now available in pdf form: Mars (1895), Mars […]

    The Tiv and Hamlet September 12, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Tiv and Hamlet

    Laura Bohannan (aka Elenore Smith Bowen) was an anthropologist who came out of Oxford in the late 1940s. She did research with her husband Paul among the Tiv of Nigeria and the pair published several books on this federation over the next two decades. However, Bohannan also gave a remarkable BBC radio talk entitled, depending on […]

    Review: A Handbook on Hanging September 10, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: A Handbook on Hanging

    Beachcombing recently stumbled upon and cannot now shut up about Charles Duff’s A Handbook on Hanging: Being a Short Introduction to the Fine Art of Execution (1928) in a Nonsuch reprint.*  Yes, it gives a caricature of the history of hanging, while also communicating the case for and against abolition back in the days when the […]

    Tally-ho: From Fighter Planes to Norman Knights? September 2, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Tally-ho: From Fighter Planes to Norman Knights?

    Beachcombing has indulged himself in the last two months with a total of six RAF posts: all in commemoration of the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain. He knows though that enough is enough and thought that he would start to wind down with ‘tally-ho’: he promises no more than a couple new air posts […]

    The Last ‘Battle’ of the Revenge August 28, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last ‘Battle’ of the Revenge

                          Beachcombing is not a great one for anniversaries but for Flores, 31 August 1591, a naval ‘battle’ – if a fire-fight between a solitary ship, the Revenge, and three dozen enemy can be so called – he will make an exception. (Actually we are […]

    Churchill’s Dream August 27, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Churchill’s Dream

                                            Beachcombing wanted to offer today an obscure bit of Churchilliana, ‘The Dream’, that, incredibly, has never been published on the internet. Whether or not it is the best thing that Churchill ever wrote is to […]

    Numbers and the White Slave Trade August 25, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Numbers and the White Slave Trade

                              Numbers are hobgoblins in history, especially prior to the beginning of grown-up records in the late nineteenth century. How many people lived in Roman Britain? Well, in the last forty years estimates have ranged from a couple of hundred thousand to six million. […]

    The South Will Rise Again…in Brazil August 17, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The South Will Rise Again...in Brazil

    Carl Sandburg once wrote that the American Civil War was fought over a verb: ‘the Unites States IS’ or ‘the United States ARE’ and there can be no doubt which verb won. The South struggled with every nerve and muscle in its body. But, by 1865, the Confederate States had  lost and were dragged kicking […]

    Unicorns in Sixteenth-Century Arabia? August 11, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Unicorns in Sixteenth-Century Arabia?

    And so we role the dice of history again and this time three words, interesting alone, delectable in combination, appear on the table: ‘Mecca’, ‘unicorn’ and ‘Varthema’. Beachcombing will begin with the least known of these words. Varthema, first name Ludovico (c. 1465-1517) was an explorer from Bologna who in the sixteenth century made his way into […]

    Republic of Indian Stream August 8, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Republic of Indian Stream

              Beachcombing has an entire filing cabinet given over to the theme of ‘Forgotten Kingdoms’: a name that is fairly self explanatory, and that, in the last years, has come to include Forgotten Republics as well. This brings Beachcombing to one of the most unlikely and sparsely populated states of the past, the Republic […]

    Victorian Poacher Sparks Will o’ the Wisp Scare August 3, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Poacher Sparks Will o' the Wisp Scare

            About six weeks ago Beachcombing gave space to a Victorian gamekeeper’s description of a Will o’ the Wisp (or something similar) seen in a wood one night. Tonight Beachcombing gives, instead, an account from the other side of the tracks. A poacher whose tricks might explain several nineteenth-century accounts of floating lights […]

    A Column of Burning Snakes August 2, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    A Column of Burning Snakes

                    Beachcombing has before him on his desk a volume from Frazer’s Golden Bough, perhaps the most famous work of comparative mythology ever written. In it Frazer quotes from Athenaeum (1869) concerning a difficult to forget and cruel bonfire. At Luchon in the Pyrenees on Midsummer Eve: a […]

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