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  • Declaring War in WW2: National Styles March 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Declaring War in WW2: National Styles

    The characters of countries are reflected in their cuisines, their clothes, and their soap operas, so why not in their declarations of war? Thought it might be fun to see whether this notion stands up and so this morning ran through every WW2 declaration of war that I could find from 1 September 1939 through […]

    Forgotten Kingdom: Inbetween Saddleworth March 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Forgotten Kingdom: Inbetween Saddleworth

    Saddleworth is a late entrant in the Forgotten Kingdoms series. A stupendously beautiful patch of Pennine land in the north of England, it sits uneasily on the border between the White Rose County, Yorkshire and the Red Rose County, Lancashire. Saddleworth is, in fact, a reminder of how differences between communities are messy not clean-cut: […]

    A Strange Camera Obscura at Blackpool March 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Strange Camera Obscura at Blackpool

    The camera obscura was already being written about in ancient times, there is an Italian renaissance illustration of one as well: the best page I’ve found online, if you are new to this, is here. But I’ve recently come across a nineteenth-century example that I simply don’t understand. This comes from a very fine book […]

    Unofficial Law and Order March 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Unofficial Law and Order

    Beach has recently been researching out in the bogs of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ireland so far beyond the pale that children are occasionally incinerated as changelings and there is one alleged case of a legal agent being stoned to death! This was a traditional rural society ruled over as much by priests as by the […]

    British Truth and American Lies? March 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    British Truth and American Lies?

    If you look through the American press from the 1800s you will sometimes come across outrageous stories about ghostly happenings, about strange sightings and about impossible creatures. The most famous example of this is, of course, the moon hoax of 1835. In Britain you have similarly outrageous stories about, say, fairy encounters, about sea serpents […]

    Witch Ducking and Three in a Bed March 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Ducking and Three in a Bed

    This may not be the last witch killing in Britain, that seems to have taken place some months before. But this is my candidate for the last attempted witch ducking in the UK in 1880! Susan Sharpe, the ‘witch’ apparently brought the case to court because she was frightened that the local community, or elements […]

    Immortal Meals #13: Buttock Eating in Milton (Berkshire) March 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortal Meals #13: Buttock Eating in Milton (Berkshire)

    Patriotism is a very fine thing, but it can also make men and women act like asses: or even worse, chop off parts of their rumps and eat their own cooked flesh…. This patriotic feast, the latest in our immortal meals series, took place in 1650 or possibly in 1649 at Milton in Berkshire. Five […]

    McConnel’s Passing: An At Death Encounter? March 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    McConnel's Passing: An At Death Encounter?

    11 December 1918 was a sad day in the McConnel family. Eighteen-year-old David McConnel (aka M’Connel in some publications) had perished four days before in a plane crash: just three months after the end of the worst war in history, at a time when his family might reasonably have hoped that he would be safe. Flying from […]

    The Most Beautiful Folk Cure: An Epilepsy Ring February 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Most Beautiful Folk Cure: An Epilepsy Ring

    ***for Tacitus on sabbatical*** There is a little to be said for many folklore cures in terms of efficacy unless we call out placebo. However, some cures are winners, even spectacular winners in an aesthetic sense. I recently ran across this very curious nineteenth-century Welsh cure for epilepsy (‘the cure of fits’): it appeared in […]

    History and Earthquakes February 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    History and Earthquakes

    I’ve recently been wasting my time reading about earthquakes in British and Irish history. This does not reflect a new interest in geology, or local plate tectonics. It has rather to do with my perennial fascination for the way that historical sources are utterly unreliable and utterly skewed. When do earthquake records begin? Well, as […]

    The Most Exciting School Trip in History: 21 June 1919 February 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Most Exciting School Trip in History: 21 June 1919

    School trips are often fairly maudlin affairs: go to a local zoo, don’t pet the lions; walk through a city park, buddy up as you pass the homeless people; polish the sun-washed floors of the local museum with fifty infant feet… But one school trip that any of us would have wanted to be on […]

    Interview: Invasion Scares (Harry Wood) February 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Interview: Invasion Scares (Harry Wood)

    I am very happy today to be able to invite Harry Wood of the University of Liverpool, historian and blogger, to talk about his speciality, British invasion scares, something we looked at last month. Harry, thanks so much for joining us for this brief discussion. You run a very enjoyable blog, Island Mentalities, and you […]

    From the Grenadier to the Beer Shop (via Mickey Mouse and Pussy Cat) February 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    From the Grenadier to the Beer Shop (via Mickey Mouse and Pussy Cat)

    ***Thanks to Mike L for drawing my attention to this classic series*** In Henry Carey’s Namby Pamby published in 1726 there is the following verse Now he acts the Grenadier, Calling for a Pot of Beer: Where’s his Money? He’s forgot: Get him gone, a Drunken Sot. Now consider, instead, this rhyme collected two hundred […]

    The Royal Navy and Dogs of War January 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Royal Navy and Dogs of War

    Military services are closed societies with their own rules, sensible, silly and bizarre by turn. Few of these military cliques have, however, the traditions to rival the UK’s senior service, the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy, indeed, had everything from the banal (piping officers aboard), to the curious (the different toasts on different nights of […]

    The British and Invasions January 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The British and Invasions

    I watched a few years ago an even then old documentary in which a  celebrated/notorious British Member of Parliament Enoch Powell interviewed (God knows how they pulled this off) a Soviet general and shared with him an unusual geographical philosophy. EP said that Britain and Russia were both protected by geography, one by water ‘as […]

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