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  • Zombie Planes May 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Zombie Planes

    ***Dedicated to Ricardo*** Beach is properly modest about his knowledge of aeronautics – apart from perhaps the prehistory of flight. But he is as moved as the next man to see the spitfire test in First of the Few or (1.37.40)  or, for that matter, Corky sweating in Tales of the Golden Monkey as a […]

    Singing Enemy Songs: Lili Marleen April 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Singing Enemy Songs: Lili Marleen

    One of the most moving moments in cinema is the extraordinary ending of Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. A young German girl is pulled in front of a crowd of French soldiers and forced to sing. The poilu mock her but as she nervously begins  the mood changes. The soldiers join in and drown her anxious, […]

    Force Feeding Queens April 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Force Feeding Queens

    One of Beach’s most able students this term did a paper on ‘cultural variance in female beauty’: the fact that what makes a woman attractive varies from society to society. This is rarely truer than with weight. After all, here should we trust the modern American model of the waspish, almost boyish woman or the […]

    The Republic of New Afrika April 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Republic of New Afrika

    The Forgotten Kingdoms series continues with an interesting and ultimately bloody recent experiment in nationhood: the Republic of New Afrika [sic]. Created 31 March 1968 the RNA was a post Malcolm-X attempt to create a homeland for Afro-Americans who could not be, the founders believed, represented or protected by the US government. The brain-child of […]

    From North Carolina to Chad: Families and Food March 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    From North Carolina to Chad: Families and Food

    An ‘ill’ day with interesting complications in the throat area  so Beach is going to go off topic with this  extraordinary book he recently stumbled upon: Hungry Planet: What the World Eats (Peter Menzel 2005). This exercise in photo-journalism has a fair bit of manipulation behind it: but the idea itself is an extraordinarily simple […]

    Witchcraft Murder in Modern London March 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Witchcraft Murder in Modern London

    Beachcombing has spent rather more time than is good for him over the last year looking at cases of, what are in legal terms, child abuse. Nineteenth-century Irish families who (to use an inadequate word) ‘punished’ children because they believed that they were fairies or ‘changelings’: the real child had, the families believed, been spirited […]

    Cato’s Sword February 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Cato's Sword

    Beachcombing usually plans about two days ahead with his posts. But every so often something emerges from out of the depths of the subconscious and will just not leave him in peace. This morning it was the death of Cato the Younger that tapped like a woodpecker on his inner skull. It had already been […]

    Electrocuting African Tribal Hosts January 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Electrocuting African Tribal Hosts

    One of the great challenges of any nineteenth-century explorers was to make friends with the ‘primitives’ in such out of the way places as an equatorial rain forest, the upper peaks of the Andes and through much of Darkest Africa. And, of course, to do so they brought gifts along with them: a sensible enough […]

    The Everliving Child December 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Everliving Child

    Exams are pressing and so a short African post from an early nineteenth-century British adventurer: In Cromantine [Ghana?] there exists a tradition, or rather a tale, to deceive strangers, that they have still in their possession a male child, who has existed ever since the beginning of the world. This child, they declare, neither eats, […]

    The Zambian Space Programme of 1962 December 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Zambian Space Programme of 1962

    One of the problems of looking for the bizarre in history is that, after a while, you’ve read everything before: mermaid funerals in the Hebrides, tick; bats used in bombs against Japan, tick; Roman legionaries in China, tick… But then every so often something comes along that is fresh and that has completely escaped your […]

    John Goodman Household: Africa’s First Flier November 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    John Goodman Household: Africa's First Flier

    Beach has now spent a year looking at legends and stories about early pre-Wrightian fliers. Essentially they fall into three categories. The Tower Jumpers, 3000 BC to 1500 AD: lunatics who jumped from heights, hoped for the best and typically died. The Renaissance Gliders, 1500-1800 AD: men who sketched out flying contraptions but for the […]

    Cocaine, Nicotine and Ancient Egypt October 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Cocaine, Nicotine and Ancient Egypt

    As regular readers of this column will attest Beachcombing is your typical small-minded historian. He doesn’t much like novelty and if there is a controversy he will float effortlessly into the orthodox camp. But with the argument over cocaine use in the ancient world he risks, however briefly, going the other way: if only to […]

    From the Mahogany Ship to Mons Badonicus: An Archaeological Fantasia October 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    From the Mahogany Ship to Mons Badonicus: An Archaeological Fantasia

    Inspired by thoughts of Nag Hammadi, Howard Carter and Leslie Alcock at Cadbury Beachcombing spent an  evening wondering about archaeological fantasias, discoveries that he hopes will be made before he  himself becomes an archaeological subject and is put into the ground. Boudica’s grave. Boudica was, of course, the queen of the Iceni who gave Nero […]

    Hearts, Genies and Gnosticism at Nag Hammadi October 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    Hearts, Genies and Gnosticism at Nag Hammadi

    Howard Carter whispering ‘wonderful things’, Leslie Alcock finding Dark Age timber at Cadbury (‘that was Camelot’), Bedouin shepherds investigating a complex of caves at the Dead Sea… All wonderful, of course. But for Beachcombing none of these quite match the thrill of the discovery at Nag Hammadi in 1945. In that year, possibly in December, […]

    Women Warriors of Benin July 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Women Warriors of Benin

    Having tested the limits of masculinity yesterday Beach feels obliged to pay tribute, today, to the fairer sex. He will pass through time to the late nineteenth century and through space to Dahomey (today part of Benin) in Africa where several thousand women formed an important part of the royal army there. Now, of course, […]

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