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  • Population Games and Rorschach Tests September 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Population Games and Rorschach Tests

    Beachcombing had some fun the other day writing about ancient history and population estimates. Last night reading in the ‘wee hours’ he came across another lovely example of this: the insane modern debate about the population of Roman Britain. Now post-war estimates for the population of Roman Britain  have gone as low as 200,000 and […]

    Eccentric British Funerals September 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Eccentric British Funerals

    Given Beach’s almost constant obsession with death – we’ve done capital punishment, human sacrifice, wills and last words in the past year… – the funeral had, sooner or later, to make an appearance. Here then is a small collection of last rites from the eccentric side of the English nineteenth century: actually one is from […]

    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% […]

    Favourite Historical Cities September 3, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Favourite Historical Cities

    And so it begins… Three hours sleep, arguments about syllabi, a terrifying public-speaking engagement, a walk in the wood (six snakes spotted – an omen?), sleep and stress. In short, the students are back and the cycle of sow/reap/harvest (lesson/field-trip/exam) is starting up once again. They look (as always) like nice kids. But in an […]

    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 […]

    Beachcombing 15 September 1, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed
    Beachcombing 15

    1 September Dear Friends, this month has been an insane period as Beachcombing wrote, sleeping four hours a night, various academic tomes and articles. Apologies for late and short replying to emails then. However, it’s all ending. Tomorrow he has to go to speak to 200 students: the terror is mounting. Then just eight days […]

    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 Sausage War August 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary

      Beachcombing has been paying perhaps too much attention to Finland in the last two months: the result of a long infatuation with Mannerheim, the aristocratic military commander who twice saved his young country from the Soviets. He kicked off with the tale of Mannerheim’s cigar. He moved  onto a WIBT moment in the court […]

    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 […]

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