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  • On First Looking Into Lucas’ Star Wars October 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    On First Looking Into Lucas' Star Wars

    Most father’s have a tic list of things that they long to do with their children: riding on bikes, playing Risk, collecting horse chestnuts… And Beach is pleased to say that he and his four-year-old  daughter have just achieved the most important of them all: watching Star Wars together while eating caramelized popcorn. Star Wars has […]

    Church Porch Devilry October 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Church Porch Devilry

    Midsummer’s eve doubtless had significance to our distant pagan ancestors, yoked to the land and to the seasons like oxen. What is striking is how often these traditions survived Christianity, the Reformation and even industrialisation. Take one of Beach’s favourite: looking for the dead-to-come on Midsummer’s Eve. Tradition claimed – traditions that still survive in […]

    Cartooning the Great War October 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Cartooning the Great War

    ***Dedicated to KR*** Beach wasted a couple of hours this morning thanks to KR who got him interested in online Great War cartoon books. There are the first and second volume of Raemakers’ Cartoon History of the War and perhaps more to Beach’s taste Punch’s History of the War. Can he also advertise this little […]

    Roman Empire vs Caliphate in Sub-Saharan Africa October 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Roman Empire vs Caliphate in Sub-Saharan Africa

    By the mid first century AD the Roman Empire had run against four limits, limits that its subjects would never overcome: in the west, the Atlantic; in the north, the German tribes (thanks Varus); in the east, the ‘Persian’ Empire and its successors; and in the south, the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert beyond. […]

    Mud, Blood and Poppycock October 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Mud, Blood and Poppycock

    Beach has a question that he always enjoys asking first year American university students:  did World War One/World War Two/the Cold War represent a fight between good and evil? Class after class, semester after semester the pattern repeats itself. The Second World War is almost universally held up as such a war. Usually a quarter […]

    A Phantom Inventor: Flavio Gioia October 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Phantom Inventor: Flavio Gioia

    Who invented the compass? The Chinese, of course. Sometime between 800 and 1000 that people began to use their lodestones to navigate at sea. But the compass also appears in Europe in the eleventh or twelfth centuries and do we have a case of borrowing (from the far orient, as with playing cards) or independent […]

    Transit of Venus October 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Transit of Venus

    Beachcombing had some fun earlier in the summer with the most famous act of nineteenth-century spiritualism: Daniel Home’s floating escapade back in 1868. He recently came across this description of a rival levitator, Agnes Nichol Guppy (obit 1917) and her famous ‘transit of Venus’.  Note that this took place some three years after Home’s own […]

    Holy Gunpowder October 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Holy Gunpowder

    ***Thanks to Chris*** Beach was recently sent a link to Io9 and a remarkable couple of late renaissance images of devils and angels using gunpowder. As the Io9 writer notes – a writer who deserves most of the credit for what follows – the devil ‘packing heat’ is particularly delicious. We include below the wood cut and […]

    The Queen of Cuba, Mermaids and a Far-Swimming Slave October 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Queen of Cuba, Mermaids and a Far-Swimming Slave

    ***Thanks to Invisible for the gem below*** 7 August 1871 this appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle, having apparently been excerpted from the Richmond Dispatch. The story’s title was Saved by Mermaids: A Story which Lacks Confirmation, one way of being polite about an enjoyable farrago. Apologies ahead of time for the racist tone of parts […]

    Beachcombed 28 October 1, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed
    Beachcombed 28

    Dear Reader, Difficult month here among the Beachcombings as news of ill health haunts the family and term kicks up all the dust imaginable: think dry sand stretch after a motorbike race. Fairies have been placed on hold after an  intense elfen summer and Beach himself has turned back to more conventional history: you can […]

    The Origins of One-Foot September 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Origins of One-Foot

    ***Dedicated to Leif*** Humanity has the habit of peopling the edges of its maps with unusual creatures: the ‘there-be-dragons’ phenomenon. We have previously on this blog looked at dog-heads, for example, both in relation to India and Ethiopia. Dog-heads can be explained, as perhaps can unicorns and even dragons and cyclops. But how do you […]

    Suicide at Saipan: How Many? September 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Suicide at Saipan: How Many?

    The most famous act of mass suicide in the twentieth century, are probably the extraordinary deaths that followed on the fall of Nazi Germany and the Jones Town massacre. However, one localised example from the Second World War in Asia trumps both of these in horror and intensity. Though not a ‘home’ island, Saipan had […]

    Lord Ferrers and the Silk Rope September 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Lord Ferrers and the Silk Rope

    Beach read the following description of an execution this summer and it has remained in his mind so vividly that he thought that he would share it here. Lord Ferrers (obit deservedly 1760) was a bad lot who used to put fireworks in his wife’s bed (he loathed her) and eventually shot a steward who […]

    Child Sacrifice in Carthage September 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Child Sacrifice in Carthage

    Beach is getting dangerously topical. First, there was the discovery of Richard III’s bent body, next to Jesus’s wife and now an old obsession of his, Carthaginian child sacrifice is breezing through the newspapers. In fact, the right of the ancient Carthaginians to sacrifice their children has just, it seems, been outlawed by some Pittsburgh […]

    Hell Fire and Death Bed Cobblers September 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hell Fire and Death Bed Cobblers

    ***Thanks to Tom W*** Beach has lived through a couple of death bed scenes and what he remembers most from those dreadful occasions is the immense sense of peace. But in history, it seems, there is anything but peace in the final minutes of life. Indeed, the most extraordinary things are always happening to the dying. […]

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