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  • The Mysterious Erich von Richthofen May 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Mysterious Erich von Richthofen

    The King and Country debate has been described previously on this blog. It was a talk at Oxford Students’ Union 9 Feb 1933, which saw 275 to 153 students vote for the motion ‘that this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country’. This surprisingly pacifist stance from a major British institution attracted […]

    Downey’s Death: Killed by Imagination May 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Downey's Death: Killed by Imagination

    Beach stumbled across this story a couple of weeks ago and thought he’d put it up for the practical jokes tag. There was much interest in the nineteenth century about how the psychological impression of death could cause death. Somewhere Beach has read a French version of this (can anyone help: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT […]

    Wild Man Circus Fakery May 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wild Man Circus Fakery

    The wild man was a staple of nineteenth-century circuses and penny shows. This personality was typically black, mostly undressed and the possessor of a cannibal’s grin. He (and it was invariably a male who took on the role) would stomp back and forth in his cage every so often lunging at some unwary child, allowing […]

    Execution by Cannon May 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Execution by Cannon

    Human beings have long showed remarkable ingenuity at getting rid of their fellow human beings, especially perhaps human beings that they do not like. Once the cannon was invented it was only a matter of time before someone tied a prisoner to the front and lit a fuse, blowing his body into a constellation of pain, the […]

    Balloon Bridge Across the English Channel, c. 1850 April 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Balloon Bridge Across the English Channel, c. 1850

    This story appeared in British newspapers in September of 1850. It was one of several attempts, attempts that had been going on since Napoleon had considered invading England and that would continue until the Channel Tunnel was finally drilled through, to do away with the English Channel. Any dolt can build a tunnel or a […]

    The Failure of Appeasement April 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Failure of Appeasement

    Appeasement is the policy of giving smiles, kisses and gifts to neighbours to prevent war. In some moments of history it has worked (Dane-geld and Roman bribery beyond the frontiers); in some periods it has failed. A conspicuous example of a failure is the attempt by Britain to stroke its European friends and enemies into […]

    Teetotallers Unlucky at Sea March 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Teetotallers Unlucky at Sea

    In 1914, a month into the First World War, a British ship the Fisgard II was lost in a gale (not through enemy action) in the English Channel. Sixteen of the sixty four abroad were drowned. There followed an inquest and inquiries and, as sometimes happens, the crew began to make sense of things in […]

    Books and the Ghost March 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Uncategorized
    Books and the Ghost

    Aspenshaw Hall is an elegant, still standing, eighteenth century home in Derbyshire central England. It came to the attention of this blog because of a rather charming ghost story. A mile distant, and not far from Ollersett pit, is Aspenshaw Hall, which for many years was empty. It is in the middle of a wood […]

    Selling Children in the 1800s March 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Selling Children in the 1800s

    An amazing report from Oldham, 1888: On Monday evening a woman about 40 years of age was seen in Curzon Street with two children, one in arms, and the other, about three years old, walking by her side. From what transpired it appeared that the woman wanted to sell her children, and thereupon a large […]

    Tears and Bows: WW1 Ambassadors and Declarations of War March 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Tears and Bows: WW1 Ambassadors and Declarations of War

    A recent post looked at the tensions created by ambassadors declaring war in WW2. Today, instead, some descriptions of declarations of war from World War 1. The initial impression is that there was more formality and more old world charm. Some of the ambassadors may have believed they would be back in their host capitals by […]

    Historical Ménage a Trois February 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Historical Ménage a Trois

    Beach has recently become fascinated by those who live a ménage a trois, leaving behind the conventional marriage of two and creating something like a marriage of three: a man lives with his wife and lover; a man lives with a gay policeman and his wife… etc etc Such a coupling (tripling) is difficult to pull off today, […]

    European Kings: the Most Dangerous Job in the World? February 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    European Kings: the Most Dangerous Job in the World?

    Last week’s silly post on royal tennis deaths and flashbacks from Game of Thrones got Beach thinking. We all die, but if you were a European monarch what were the chances that someone would kill you? The weekends are short so Beach limited himself to England. From 1000-1700 there were 43 monarchs: obviously there is some […]

    The Hairy Boggart of Weeton February 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Hairy Boggart of Weeton

    ‘Boggart’, it will be remembered, is a British north(-western) word meaning ‘bogey’: it was a promiscuous word and covered everything from a ghost to a troll (and sometimes a scarecrow). Individual settlements in Lancashire, northern Cheshire and northern Derbyshire, parts of the Ridings (particularly the West) and surprisingly Nottinghamshire had boggart haunted areas. Sometimes they were glades, […]

    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 […]

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