jump to navigation
  • Thirteenth-Century French Envoys in Mongolia February 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Thirteenth-Century French Envoys in Mongolia

    As Beachcombing plunges into his spring flu a short but sweet post on an extraordinary diplomatic mission that Louis IX (obit 1270) sent to the King of the Mongols in the thirteenth century. There is something necessarily surreal about any contacts between such distant realms, though this did not stop the two monarchs plotting. Indeed, there had already […]

    Bierce’s Second Act February 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Bierce's Second Act

    Poor F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed, in a novel that he could not finish, that there are no second acts in American lives. However, Beachcombing has always wondered about a possible exception in Ambrose ‘Bitter’ Bierce ‘the Devil’s lexographer’, short-story writer, journalist, poet, sceptic and general stand-up guy. Bierce had, by any standards, an undeservedly crappy […]

    Third-Century Indian Coins in Twentieth-Century Ethiopia February 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Third-Century Indian Coins in Twentieth-Century Ethiopia

      In 1940 a thrilling discovery was made at the Ethiopian monastery of Dabra-Dammo in northern Ethiopia. In the remains of a gold encrusted box in the holy house 104 Indian coins were identified. The coins were extremely valuable: the possibility that a practical joker – perhaps an Italian squaddie – brought these across in […]

    The Last Unicorn in Medicine February 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Last Unicorn in Medicine

    One of the most important things about mythical animals is that they are ‘rare’. Being rare means that anything to do with them is valuable and in previous ages that meant that their body parts were (a) good for showing off and (b) dragged into the world of medicine. Unicorns were particularly appreciated in medicinal […]

    Childhood, Memory and Lies February 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Childhood, Memory and Lies

      Beachcombing usually limits autobiography in this blog to the absolute minimum: just enough to give a blurred soap opera of his life. However, today, in part to celebrate his ninth anniversary with Mrs B and in part because, as previous posts have shown, he is obsessed by the limits of memory, he has decided […]

    Cabinet of Curiosities from Eighteenth-Century London February 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Cabinet of Curiosities from Eighteenth-Century London

      One of the sheer joys of bizzarism is collecting disparate lists and just enjoying the sound of them or the look of them on the page. In this spirit Beachcombing offers today a collection of curiosities brought together in an eighteenth-century London coffee house. He has included perhaps one in fifteen of the marvels gathered there. […]

    Prospero the Etruscan and Lying Historians February 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Prospero the Etruscan and Lying Historians

    Liars and history go together like a horse and carriage. Beachcombing gave a chance reference to Herodotus as ‘Father of Lies’ in yesterday’s post. ‘Pseudo-’ and ‘Mythic-History’, typically found in tribal societies, are porkies by modern standards. But most interestingly, at least for Beachcombing, are the scholars/antiquarians who betray the very rules that they claim themselves to […]

    Total Eclipse February 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Total Eclipse

      A reader – Moonman to friends – has written in to remind Beachcombing of the old ‘cover thy face’ trick whereby ‘the civilised’ with knowledge of an eclipse, show their power over the elements by ‘ordering’ the sun to disappear in the presence of the unenlightened. Beachcombing knows this trick from Hergé’s Prisoners of […]

    America Come Lately: Why? February 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    America Come Lately: Why?

    Forget Moses praying in the Desert, Luther getting temperamental at Wittenberg, the sword of Islam lifting above Medina, the signing of the Bill of Rights, the opening of the Bridgewater Canal and the explosion of Little Boy at Hiroshima. In the last three thousand years by far the most important historical event was the discovery of America […]

    Diodorus’ Island February 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Diodorus' Island

    Perhaps next to Forgotten Kingdoms Beachcombing should set up a tag on Invisible Kingdoms: realms that very likely only ever existed in the imagination of ancient and medieval writers. There would be Atlantis, of course, the land of Prester John, the Seven Cities of Gold and El Dorado. And to these it would be a cinch […]

    Review: Myth or Legend? February 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Review: Myth or Legend?

    C.E. Daniel et alii, Myth or Legend? (New York/London 1956) What is the difference between myth and a legend? Well, according to this little BBC miscellany from the 1950s a myth is ‘invention and fancy’, while legend is ‘some kind of history’. This distinction gets right at our main concerns with so many of those […]

    Painted Snowballs February 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Painted Snowballs

    For various reasons beginning with health and ending with this blog, passing through children, changing interests and daily walks in the woods Beachcombing has not sat down to write an academic article for two years. And when he thinks of the two or three pieces on his hard drive that just need some work and […]

    Atlantean ‘Flying Boats’ February 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Atlantean 'Flying Boats'

    Beachcombing sometimes likes to jot down contents lists for books that he will never write: a further rather melancholy contribution to his Invisible Library collection. He has recently been playing around with Old Atlantis: A Miscellany of Atlantean Madness. The work would have three parts: a bibliography of every book every written on the lost Continent – […]

    Lavoisier Blinks February 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Lavoisier Blinks

    Today a continuation of the decapitation series with the life and unusual death of Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1794). Lavoisier was a dreamy French chemist responsible, in part, for the metric system and a few other crimes against humanity (‘hydrogen’, the elementary table…). The facts of Lavoisier’s death are, meanwhile, suitably enough, a mix of brutal […]

    Sex Life of Unicorns February 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Sex Life of Unicorns

    Unicorns have a claim, in Beachcombing’s mind, to be the most interesting of all mythical creatures. There is, after all, a fascinating combination of the mundane – the unicorn is surely based on the rhinoceros? – and the fantastic: think of all that nonsense about a dilating horn and floating hooves. Then there is the […]

    Page 96 of 113« First...102030...9495969798...110...Last »