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  • The Mystery of Ghost Riots January 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Mystery of Ghost Riots

    This blog has reported many historical ghost stories over the year. Now it is time for a bit of reflection. Let’s pretend that your neighbour John Smith on Treacle Row in London, has reported that he has seen a ghost in a flowing gown running up and down the stairs. Now think carefully about this […]

    Seven German Mistakes that Lost the Great War January 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Seven German Mistakes that Lost the Great War

    Germany went to war in August 1914 to bloody Russia, put Britain back in its place and break France’s back. Looking at their war record, after a century, what is striking is just how close Germany came to achieving at least a relative victory. Yet Germany’s leadership was not up to the job: this is clearer […]

    Chime Hours and Chime Children January 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Chime Hours and Chime Children

    The ‘chime child’ was born at a magic time of the night (the times varied but involved bells). She or he had psychic abilities; think of it as a temporal version of the seventh son or the caul. The idea of chime children has become an increasingly popular one in recent years. Beach typed in […]

    For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow and WW2 December 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    For He's a Jolly Good Fellow and WW2

    A painful moment from 1939, at least for any Britons reading this post. Neville Chamberlain and his capable foreign minister, Lord Halifax, have travelled, 11 January, to Rome for a meeting of minds with Mussolini. In fact, Britain is just nine months away from a World War and a year and a half away from […]

    Binoculars, Wanted Posters and Green Dresses: Irish-British Relations Post Independence December 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Binoculars, Wanted Posters and Green Dresses: Irish-British Relations Post Independence

    By the end of 1916 the British establishment and the establishment in waiting of a future Irish state had come to loathe each other. The cause for this was not only the long history of rebellion and suppression (‘Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag…’), nor was it just the fighting of the Easter […]

    Earth Light in Norfolk December 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Earth Light in Norfolk

    This site has sometimes given space to earth light stories. This particular example is perhaps the best Beach has come acros read. The author is rather verbose – ‘the hours sped by on rosy wing until the humming tongue of the great church clock told all the drowsy Market-town that it was midnight’ – and […]

    When Churchill Came Within Twenty Yards of Hitler November 27, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    When Churchill Came Within Twenty Yards of Hitler

    Historians have made a great deal between that all-too often drunk British genius Churchill and his abstemious German rival, the murderous Hitler. The two gradually came to loathe each other. Hitler loved to blame Churchill for many of the disasters of the war (sometimes correctly); while Churchill went on the record as saying that when […]

    Sunk Three Times in an Hour November 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Sunk Three Times in an Hour

    Beachcombing’s grandfather was sunk three times in the last World War. But the three times in question were spread out over seven years… Imagine, instead, being sunk three times in just under an hour, not only that, we are not talking about lonely frigates or minesweepers, these were three British battleships: HMS Cressy, Aboukir and […]

    Written Gibberish and Magic November 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Written Gibberish and Magic

    Keith Thomas includes in his classic Magic and the Decline of Religion a few precious pages on gibberish charms that were sometimes given out by ‘cunning men and women’ (aka witches) to those who wanted protection. These were typically worn about the neck of someone who wished for help against demons or better health. Some […]

    The Joys of Historical Ignorance November 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    The Joys of Historical Ignorance

    For a student from the west the basic sign of historical literacy is whether or not you can put the following periods in their correct order: antiquity, ‘dark ages’, middle ages, renaissance and modernity. Beach has the privilege of teaching perhaps two hundred American students a year and probably ten percent would be capable of […]

    The Dominions and WW2 November 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Dominions and WW2

    The Dominions were a precise administrative category within the British Empire. They referred to the territories that had reached, according to omniscient London, the ability to govern themselves with minimum interference from the motherland. With many of the racist assumptions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was believed that only white populations […]

    Roma Fairies at Blackpool November 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Roma Fairies at Blackpool

    There is not much to comment on here, just a very unusual passage in a classic Roma book, The Book of Boswell: Autobiography of a Gypsy (1970). The edition referred to here is the 1973 Penguin. Now to the fairies. Notice how they jump in rather matter of factly. Our author is remembering an idyllic […]

    Bombing Roulette October 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Bombing Roulette

    In the early part of the Second World War the bombing of cities was deadly but piecemeal. The result was a ghastly kind of lottery as a split second of difference in letting the bombs away would decide the difference between the destruction of this street or that street: Roald Dahl has some fine short […]

    Anne Boleyn Loses It October 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Anne Boleyn Loses It

    Anne Boleyn was, of course, the second wife of Henry VIII, who ended her short life with French steel interposing between her chin and her shoulders, 19 May 1536. Her execution came after a travesty of a trial in which she was found guilty of high treason against the king (a man of unusual psychology): she […]

    The Poison Duel 6#: The Poisoned Draught October 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Poison Duel 6#: The Poisoned Draught

    There follows a story that appeared during research into poison duels. As with many duel stories it is thrilling: ref Hartlepool Mail, 18 Dec 1888, 4. Herr Karl von Krulhanser— the Professor, he was called— was an eccentric man of science. With the exception of a few students, to whom he gave private lessons, he […]

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