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  • 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 […]

    Pietro Montini: A Tribute September 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Pietro Montini: A Tribute

    First, sincere apologies for not yet getting the comments up this month. Beach has written about 30,000 words on fairies and is still getting over it. Sunday night is his self-imposed deadline and then he’s going to forget the red-capped ones ever existed and think about making our young into better citizens (ahem). Today though […]

    Did You Hear the One about the Fairy and the Alien? September 9, 2011

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

    Beachcombing has never bothered to write them down, but he has a mental list of irritating academic titles ranging from ‘The Erotics of Medieval Backgammon’ to the ‘Semiotics of Transgression in Aquitanian Saints Lives’ etc etc etc. When he recently then stumbled across ‘Between One Eye Blink and the Next: Fairies, UFOs and Problems of […]

    Vivoo in Naples September 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Vivoo in Naples

    Beach has spent a few minutes this evening reading through the Economist’s exposé of modern Italy entitled: Oh for a new Risorgimento, and this got him thinking of his own favourite Risorgimento moment and a first-rank wibt (wish I’d been there) scene. The year is 1848 and mobs around Europe from Tipperary to Prague are […]

    Eighteenth-century Scandinavian Merfolk September 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Eighteenth-century Scandinavian Merfolk

    Here are a number of largely overlooked Scandinavian reports of mermaids dating from the first half of the eighteenth century. The account is rather long so these are the witness statements. Historians of cryptozoology might be interested to know that the earlier part of the text includes a reference to mermaids being ‘sea-apes’, an idea […]

    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 […]

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