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The Dual Death of Harold II August 16, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Dual Death of Harold II

Beachcombing had an argument at dinner tonight about the Battle of Hastings and the fate of the Anglo-Saxon battle leader Harold (c. 1022-1066) and wants to get rid of his angst. Hastings, 1066, was, of course, the battle with which British history begins (or, according to a minority opinion, ends). William soon to be Conqueror (aka […]

The Soccer War of 1969 August 15, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Soccer War of 1969

Beachcombing, po-faced, has to note that most modern historians do not like to refer to the Soccer War of 1969 (La guerra del fútbol) as, well, ‘the Soccer War’. ‘The Hundred Hours War’ or better still ‘the Salvador–Honduras War’ is preferred with a lot of attendant Marxist bilge about poor Salvadoran peasants engaged in class conflict in Honduras. […]

Review: Off the Beaten Track in the Classics August 14, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Review: Off the Beaten Track in the Classics

Beachcombing has to go and prepare a birthday surprise for a beloved niece and so decided that, today, he would limit himself to a quick write up of one of his favourite ancient history books: Carl Kaeppel’s Off the Beaten Track in the Classics (Melbourne 1936). If the name does not excite you then the […]

Image: First light August 13, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Image: First light

Beachcombing has recently being putting together a series of photographs for his WIBT (‘Wish I’d been there’) series. He decided that he would open this series with an extraordinary shot from the Battle of Britain that teases him out of thought. Four Spitfires are taking off in the morning from an airfield: the early light and the […]

The Mystery of Hanno’s Fiery Streams August 12, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
The Mystery of Hanno's Fiery Streams

Regular readers will know that Beachcombing has visited the Voyage of Hanno before and that this text, written in Hellenistic Greek, purports to describe a Carthaginian expedition down the western coast of Africa in the early centuries B.C., in an age when good Mediterranean folk had as little to do with the sub-Saharan side of the continent […]

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 […]

Latin or Celtic Arthur? August 10, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Latin or Celtic Arthur?

Beachcombing has that distinctive ringing in his inner ear: the sure sign that he has an Arthurian post coming on. In fact, he is being drawn, ‘like a dog returning to its vomit’ (Prov 26, 11), to an early obsession of his, the origin of the name Arthur. First, for those lucky folks who do not […]

A Hitlerian Invisible Library August 9, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
A Hitlerian Invisible Library

            Many documents went missing as the Third Reich came crashing down in flames in 1945, documents that would be of the greatest interest to historians today. What, for example, would a modern museum pay for Hitler’s letters to Eva Braun or his letters, for that matter, to Himmler. Millions […]

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 […]

Sex and Roman Coins August 7, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Sex and Roman Coins

          Beachcombing has waited for the family and some houseguests to vanish into the local countryside before addressing this particularly delicate theme. Spintria was a rare Latin word, used most vividly by Suetonius to describe the sexual acts of that old goat, the Emperor Tiberius on the island of Capri (43). But the […]

Dowsing for Machine Guns August 6, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Dowsing for Machine Guns

          The desperate straits to which Britain was reduced in the first year of the Second World War and Churchill’s maverick character thereafter, meant that many ideas were considered in the British military establishment, c. 1940-43, that would not normally have been whispered at an old women’s séance. Beachcombing recalls the […]

Romans on the Shores of the Caspian Sea August 5, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Romans on the Shores of the Caspian Sea

Beachcombing has looked in a previous post at supposed direct contact between the Roman Empire and China in the second century. Today he will not be attempting to take the Romans so far to the east – but he will still be going an impressive way into Central Asia. Azerbaijan to be exact. It should […]

The Battle of the Somme in London August 4, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Battle of the Somme in London

                  Britain historically – before that dread day in 1973 when the United Kingdom signed the Treaty of Rome – prided itself on its splendid isolation. But simple geography meant that Britain was far closer to Continental Europe than Japan, say, was to Asia. And no amount of […]

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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