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Meteor Destroys Pub September 25, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

Several months ago Beachcombing became interested in incidents of meteors intervening in history or, at the very least, scaring the eeby jeebies out of humankind. He was particularly interested in the way that the perception of meteors changed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. This text comes from the key period when scientists […]

Alan Turing’s Breasts September 24, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Alan Turing's Breasts

Alan Turing’s efforts at code-breaking at Bletchley Park 1939-1945 led to Enigma decrypts and gave Britain and later the US a window into Hitler’s parlour in crucial years, allowing, inter alia, victory in the Battle of the Atlantic. Indeed, it is sometimes said that Turing was one of three or four individuals without whom Britain […]

Hildegard’s Headaches September 23, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Hildegard's Headaches

***Dedicated to Moonman who got Beach thinking about this*** Hildegard of Bingen, monastic reformer, abbess and all round good egg, regularly had visions. These visions were at the very centre of her intellectual and spiritual existence. They gave her the courage to share her unique theology of the world with others: she believed that they […]

Secret Weapons September 22, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Secret Weapons

Ideas for books very often begin with nagging questions that compulsively irritate authors and that they then work through – think of it as therapy – by writing tens or even hundreds of thousands of words. Beach suspects that the nagging question that saw Brian Ford pen Secret Weapons: Technology, Science and the Race to […]

Burning a Shed in Wales September 21, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Burning a Shed in Wales

(Image Alan Fryer) For Beachcombing, the Welsh are one of those elect nations who, along with the Maoris and the Finns, stand at the right side of the throne of God. Yet Welsh history in the last century has been quiet and uninspiring: in marked contrast, say, to that country’s Gaelic neighbour, Ireland, which sweated […]

In the Margins September 20, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
In the Margins

Marginalia: things scribbled in margins. There is a lot to be said for this form of literature that, to date, has been little studied: there are only a handful of books including Robin Alston’s Books with Manuscript: A Short Title Catalogue of Books with Manuscript Notes in the British Library (1994) and Henry Richards Luard’s […]

Deviant Burials September 19, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Deviant Burials

The dead are prepared for the after life in almost every way imaginable. In some cases they are eaten, in some cases they are burnt, in some cases they are fed to animals, in some cases they are embalmed and in some cases they are buried in the ground. Beach has not yet come across […]

Plagiarism, Sock Puppets and Wikipedia September 18, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
Plagiarism, Sock Puppets and Wikipedia

Here follows one of those contemporary japes which may have escaped the attention of Beach’s non-British readers: excuse the lack of history, bizarreness there is though a plenty. The story so far: Johann Hari, gifted English journalist jobbing for the rather boring but worthwhile Independent has been caught taking quotations from other authors and inserting […]

Men and Women Out of Balance September 17, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
Men and Women Out of Balance

A bit of a cookie-dough post today as Beachcombing tries to make sense of something that has being going around and around in his head. Last week, during the infamous hacker attack of Sept 2011, Beach noted the extraordinary gender imbalance in modern China where perhaps – the numbers are much contested – 119 boys […]

A Dragon in Medieval East Anglia September 16, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A Dragon in Medieval East Anglia

Beach had a fabulous evening trying to convince his elder daughter (3) that dragons do exist. This involved placing a small bean bag draco at various inaccessible points of the house and creating a domestic dragon mythology: dragons only eat salted foods; dragons hate men; dragon baby’s mothers steal keys etc etc. The picture above […]

Strange Historical Personal Names September 15, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Strange Historical Personal Names

Full crisis here. A think tank that Beachcombing sometimes works for needs some urgent help with a text: in a format that no program on his computer can open… And Mrs B has a pressing deadline – more help needed – with a project she has worked up about what good Europeans (ha!) the young […]

Last Witch Killing? September 14, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Last Witch Killing?

There is some argument about when the last witchcraft killing took place in Western Europe, but this, for what it is worth, is Beachcombing’s candidate dating from 1861: he fully expects to be proved wrong, drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The name of the victim was Dummy. It is true that he was not killed […]

Death in the Garden September 13, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Death in the Garden

It is a gentle summer evening in York in 1108. Archbishop Gerard nods his head at a couple of monks, smiles beatifically at the veiled wife of a local well-to-do and then passes into the cathedral rose garden. Here, however, his expression changes. He now has the face of a man who knows what he […]

Bartering Chinese Women: Mao and Kissinger September 12, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Bartering Chinese Women: Mao and Kissinger

The honour! Strange History is, as we speak, being hacked by a bunch of Chinese ruffians. If the fairies and mermaids disappear under a swelter of fake Tiffany bags you’ll know why. To celebrate this epoch-making event Beachcombing thought that he would bring China centre stage and also throw Kissinger into the mix. It is […]

Thinking of Flying in the Eighteenth Century September 11, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Thinking of Flying in the Eighteenth Century

It is always curious to compare the reality of the future with the way that future was viewed in the past. Take speculations over flying. There seems to have come a point in the eighteenth century when the bien pensants realised – perhaps a bit like deep space exploration for the modern world – that […]

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