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  • 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 […]

    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 […]

    Mystery Discovery on the Isle of Dogs August 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern

    Mysterious golden spurs discovered on Isle of Dogs, London about 1800: do they perhaps have a Celtic origin?

    Cornish Mermaid – Half Priest, Half Fish August 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

      First the good news. Robert Stephen Hawker (obit 1875) was the eccentric’s eccentric: a vicar who lived most of his life in the wild Cornish parish of Morwenstow. This was a man who hung a mouse for breaking the sabbath, believed that birds were ‘the thoughts of God’ (Beachcombing adores the sentiment) and, yes, […]

    Funny Fairy Stories August 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Funny Fairy Stories

    Beachcombing wants to start this post with an apology. He has been writing madly on fairies the last few days, hoping to get some ‘real’ work done before term begins and while Mrs B and the kids are away at the sea. The result is that he has not had time to deal with emails […]

    Taxis in the Mid Atlantic August 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Taxis in the Mid Atlantic

    Haunting scene from the Battle of the Atlantic

    The Famous Benbecula Burial of a Mermaid August 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Famous Benbecula Burial of a Mermaid

    Beach hopes this summer and autumn to offer several obscure mermaid texts from the North Atlantic. However, he could hardly do other than include with the most famous of them all: the Benbecula sighting of c. 1830. He also hopes to shed some more light on this sighting with an obscure second source in September. […]

    Flight in Eleventh-Century England August 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Flight in Eleventh-Century England

    As regular readers will know Beachcombing is one of those irritating sceptics, who looks askance at most historical records of the ‘impossible’. But every so often even he has to shake his head and admit that the evidence for the ‘impossible’ is frighteningly good. Take this record from William of Malmesbury’s Deeds of the Kings […]

    Flight in Seventeenth-Century Warsaw? August 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flight in Seventeenth-Century Warsaw?

    This is an interesting and largely overlooked reference (Frank) to flight from an English newspaper, c. 1650. The newspaper in question, The Moderate, was typically made up of a good many letters from amateur foreign correspondents and one of these came from Warsaw. It would be fascinating to see if there were any other accounts […]

    Dried Cats August 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Dried Cats

    In prehistory there were, by definition, no written records. In antiquity there were few. In the Middle Ages few or several. And, then, from the invention of the printing press onwards, in Western Europe at least, the flood of the written word is almost painful. Yet notwithstanding this deluge, incredibly, there are whole facets of […]

    Battle of Maldon and Overheart August 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Battle of Maldon and Overheart

    Beachcombing has a long tradition of screwing up anniversaries – wrong days, wrong months, wrong years… But just for once he thought that he would get things right and offer his readers a story on the right day – 10 August– and hopefully in the right tone. What we have here is a Weird War, […]

    Late (Pregnant) Witch in Devon August 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Late (Pregnant) Witch in Devon

    Beachcombing has often tried in this column to date the death of traditional beliefs: be that the death of fairy belief in Ilkley or the death of the werewolf faith in Strasbourg. These things are almost impossible to measure of course. Sources are fragmentary and these kinds of beliefs are in the private world of […]

    Last Human Sacrifice in Europe? August 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Last Human Sacrifice in Europe?

    Beachcombing has often set a Guinness-Book-of-Records-style competition for the last cavalry charge, the last head hunters or the last execution by blade in the west. And recently an email from the Sword and the Beast got him thinking about the last human sacrifice. SandB who has travelled extensively in eastern parts writes: ‘I take the […]

    Mermaid Sighting in Caithness July 30, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaid Sighting in Caithness

    Beachcombing is not, to his regret, a mermaid expert: despite occasional forays into Triton’s territory in previous posts. But he suspects that the following is not a particularly well-known mermaid source. It dates to 1809 and was sent by one Ms Mackay, the daughter of a minister no less, and was sent to the Countess […]

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