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  • Twin Countries July 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Twin Countries

    This is an idea that has been going around and around in Beach’s head for a few years, the way that certain pairs of countries seem to have a strange sense of reciprocated fascination with each other. Three examples from Europe: Ireland and Germany; France and Poland; Italy and Britain. All these pairings include an […]

    Snowball Atrocities #2: Snowball Deaths June 24, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Snowball Atrocities #2: Snowball Deaths

    You can’t go far in snowballing history without dealing with the deaths. European and American newspapers (Beach’s source for most of what follows) are full of snowball fatalities in the nineteenth and twentieth century. For those of us who have perhaps played with snow and lovingly lobbed loose white balls in the direction of family […]

    Mysterious Balaclavas on South Georgia May 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Mysterious Balaclavas on South Georgia

    In 1982 Argentina invaded two British possessions the Falklands (2 April) and South Georgia (19 March). The British, under a determined Margaret Thatcher, sent a task force to retake the islands, something that was finally achieved 14 June of that year. The deadly struggle between the two sides included many moments of tragedy: all too […]

    Photo: The Four (and Ciano) at Munich February 26, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Photo: The Four (and Ciano) at Munich

    One of the great twentieth-century photographs. The four men who dominate Europe in late September 1938 stand side by side. On the left, looking as if he has an umbrella up his bottom, there is Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister and pioneer of Britain’s disastrous experiment with appeasement. Connoisseurs of the British national character will […]

    Worst Career: the Knocker Up February 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Worst Career: the Knocker Up

    He knocks at doors wheer new-born babs Hev kaled him throo t’ black heawrs o’ dark; He knocks wheer deoth stalks in an’ grabs, Or age hes thrown fooak eawt o’ wark. He knows heaw mony raps ‘ll rouse Young lusty Dick, or sleepy Nan. He knocks ’em eawt o’ t’ second snooze, ‘Rat-tat, rat-tat, […]

    Why Did Germany Screw Up in 1940? January 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Why Did Germany Screw Up in 1940?

    The survival of Britain from May to October 1940 is one of the most stirring stories of the Second World War. Britain as Lukacs noted could never have won the war alone but in the first summer of the war Britain could have lost it. From 1936 to early May 1940 the UK had made […]

    My Name Writ on Glass January 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    My Name Writ on Glass

    One of the eternal human problems is how to transmit facts – history, fame, infamy, love… – from one generation to another. We have tried to do it on calf skin, on papyrus, on the tongues of the tribal singers and on stone. But never forget we have also tried to do it on glass. […]

    Lovers Leaping, Shooting and Drowning January 11, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Lovers Leaping, Shooting and Drowning

    Love suicides are happily today a rare thing. But they were common enough from 1700 to, say, after the Second World War to enter folklore: many places in the English-speaking world have their ‘Lovers Leaps’. (Derbyshire, a small British Midland county has four!) Why were love suicides so popular? Perhaps we can separate the pull […]

    Real Tree Trunk Deaths October 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Real Tree Trunk Deaths

    There are several nineteenth century legends about bodies trapped in the hollow of trees. These seem to be, for the most part, urban legends. But there are some unquestionably factual accounts. It must be quite difficult to die within a tree, but clearly some people managed it. Beach concentrated on Britain. Are there other factual […]

    Gentlemanly Soldiers October 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Gentlemanly Soldiers

    There are lots of different types of soldiers but today Beach wants to put aside the cowards, the sadists, the pragmatists, the survivors and concentrate on perhaps one of the few attractive categories: the gentleman soldier. The cult of the gentleman soldier began amongst the European aristocracy in the middle ages, its values were embodied […]

    British Provincial Swindles in the Nineteenth Century September 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    British Provincial Swindles in the Nineteenth Century

    More in our swindlers series. Bee Trick: X carries bees around in a matchbox and releases them onto young wealthy women. The bee attaches to the dress that X pats down, then Y picks their pockets while they are distracted. Sus Adv, 2 Sept 1851, 8. Betting Man: X goes to working class houses announcing […]

    Flying with the Devil or with the Mind? September 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flying with the Devil or with the Mind?

    This account dates to southern England and 1873, but to judge from some dating clues in the texts the old man who wrote this extract was probably a boy in the early part of the nineteenth century when he heard the story: perhaps in the 1810s or 1820s? It sounds, meanwhile, as if James Carter, […]

    Margaret Murray in Her Own Words September 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Margaret Murray in Her Own Words

    Margaret Murray (obit 1963) was a brilliantly creative and ill disciplined scholar who not satisfied with the mysteries of the pyramids (she was an Egyptologist) decided to sort out European witchcraft in two books: The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921) and The God of the Witches (1931). Modern scholars universally reject her methods, while […]

    Ten Best Second World Statistics September 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Ten Best Second World Statistics

    What are the most telling WW2 statistics? Here are ten that stand out for Beach. Send any others in: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com or correct at will. 1) The population of the first world Allied nations was approximately half a billion, the population of the first world Axis powers was approximately one hundred and fifty […]

    Fantasy Britain by OS Maps September 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fantasy Britain by OS Maps

    OK this is weird little game. Beach has spent many hours in the last two months looking at nineteenth-century OS maps, that is maps produced by the Ordnance Survey, the government body that is responsible for charting Britain, and back in the day, Ireland. The maps are beautiful, they lack the gaudy colours of today […]

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