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  • Jesus Christ and an Egg from Leeds March 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Jesus Christ and an Egg from Leeds

    Beachcombing has recently become curious about a passage in Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (160). ‘A panic terror of the end of the world seized the good people of Leeds and its neighbourhood in the year 1806. It arose from the following circumstances. A hen, in a village close by, […]

    Coke-head Spiders March 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Coke-head Spiders

        Beachcombing is having a bad day. First Little Miss B keeps on waking up with the screaming eejey weejees and second, Gary V, writes in to tell Beach that he meant Frederick I (Barbarossa) rather than Frederick II in yesterday’s post. The shame, the shame… The worst single accuracy disaster since Beachcombing misquoted […]

    Frederick to Saladin: Roman Fantasies March 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Frederick to Saladin: Roman Fantasies

      Politics is supposedly the art of the possible, but, in medieval times,  politics was more often the art of the barely believable. Beachcombing has long loved the particularly incredible tones that the Middle Ages throw up and had a particularly pleasant memory – recently refreshed by Ostrich – of a letter exchange between Frederick I and Saladin  around […]

    Image: Murder Inc March 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Image: Murder Inc

    This picture is taken from David King’s brilliant The Commissar Vanishes (another post, another day) and shows the 228 men and women (this online version is cropped) who ran the prosecutor’s office of the Supreme Soviet. Their task was to break the ideological enemies of the regime, understood not, of course, as enemies of communism, but […]

    Immortal Meals #1: Keats, Wordsworth, Haydon, Lamb, Monkhouse, Ritchie and the Comptroller March 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortal Meals #1: Keats, Wordsworth, Haydon, Lamb, Monkhouse, Ritchie and the Comptroller

    Beachcombing spent yesterday looking for modern food-tasters and, in so doing, found himself inspired by another question. What meal  in history would he most want to have eaten at? Now, of course, there are two ways that the best meal might be judged: either in terms of the food eaten or in terms of the company. […]

    Deciding Canadian Policy with Seances? March 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Deciding Canadian Policy with Seances?

    Numerous politicians have dabbled in spiritualism in and out of office. There are claims, for example, that Lincoln in the US, Arthur Balfour and possibly Gladstone in the UK, not to mention Alfred Deakin in Australia all went to mediums and possibly were influenced in their decisions by séances. However, in this catalogue none come […]

    Killer Ice-Cream! March 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Killer Ice-Cream!

    Beachcombing’s friends over at foodinitaly (Zach and SY) have put up a post from that magical period 1880-1900 when ice-cream was leaving the dining rooms of the super-rich and reaching the streets of northern Europe and North America. As with all new foods there is a period of chronic anxiety when the food in question is given unreasonable […]

    The Last Foodtaster in History? March 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Last Foodtaster in History?

      Beachcombing has long thought that food tasting must have been among the very cushiest jobs to have had in the Middle Ages. Why? (i) No one is going to be stupid enough to kill a monarch or a duke by poisoning their food if they know there’s a taster around. You are safe. Beachcombing doubts there’s […]

    Review: Behind the Palace Doors March 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: Behind the Palace Doors

                          Behind the Palace Doors: Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery and Folly from Royal Britain by Michael Farquhar has a title that threatens scandal and titillation. But it is fortunately much more than that. It is a brilliantly-written psycho-history of Britain’s royal family […]

    Floating Yogis in the Fourteenth Century March 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Floating Yogis in the Fourteenth Century

    Here is a text that has long got on Beachcombing’s nerves. A fourteenth-century Arab traveller finds himself invited to the court of an Indian sultan and there has an encounter with some local yogis. *The Sultan sent for me once when I was with him at Delhi, and on entering I found him in a […]

    Nationalising Women on the Volga March 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Nationalising Women on the Volga

      Beachcombing has been remiss in picking on the Soviet Union recently, his last efforts came in October of last year. However, yesterday’s post on Women Service sparked a memory within a memory and sent Beachcombing running to his book shelves. The work in question was Frederick Bailey’s brilliant Mission to Tashkent. Bailey – a British spy […]

    Transvestite Knights in the Thirteenth Century March 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Transvestite Knights in the Thirteenth Century

    Ulrich von Liechtenstein (obit 1278) was a standard thirteenth-century knight. He had castles (three of them). He fought – above all, in Eastern Germany. And he also dressed up as a woman and rode from Maestre (Venice) up to Vienna. Yes, yes, Beachcombing stopped too when he first read this many years ago. But now […]

    Mass Hysteria and Ancient Theatre March 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Mass Hysteria and Ancient Theatre

    Another birthday party visit for Little Miss B this afternoon: birthday parties are rapidly becoming, along with potty training, bad Disney and the satanic Little Miss Kitty, the worst things about parenthood. Beachcombing is forced, in any case, to limit himself to a quick post on Lucian of Samosota today. Now, to get down to […]

    The Problem of Pygmy Fairies March 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    The Problem of Pygmy Fairies

    Beachcombing has been having a bit of a fairy phase recently, played out in his evening readings after he’s put little Miss B to bed. And he has particularly been interested at the different explanations that our ancestors – distant and recent – offered to explain the fact that ‘little folk’ lived in the cairn […]

    Cobblers: a UFO in Palazzo Vecchio? March 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Cobblers: a UFO in Palazzo Vecchio?

    The Madonna col bambino e san Giovannino was painted in a hazy month sometime at the end of the fifteenth century. It hangs today in a corner room on the highest story of Palazzo Vecchio. Its artist – the work is ascribed to Sebastiano Mainardi, Jacopo del Sellaio or one of half a dozen other […]

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