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  • The First Sub-Saharan Africans in China? November 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The First Sub-Saharan Africans in China?

    The following extraordinary passage appears in a twelfth-century Chinese text, by one Zhu Yu. The text is entitled Pingzhou Chats on Things Worthwhile – the Chinese have such a way with titles – and has several treasures. Consider though this passage and the wildmen. The wealthy in Guangzho maintain numerous foreign slaves. These slaves are […]

    Was Chess Invented in Ireland or China or India or…? November 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Was Chess Invented in Ireland or China or India or...?

                    There is a general consensus that chess came out of the east, that it arrived in Europe through the Arab Mediterranean and that from there it made its way to the royal courts of France and Germany. Certainly, by the fifteenth century a game that we recognise […]

    Out of Place Artefacts: Eyebrow-Raisers and Eye-Poppers October 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Out of Place Artefacts: Eyebrow-Raisers and Eye-Poppers

    ***Dedicated to Amanda and BFM*** Bad Archaeology, a necessarily quarrelsome but very worthwhile corner of the internet, is presently hosting an article on Out of Place Artefacts: objects that have turned up in places or in times where they would not be expected. As readers of Strange History will know the present author has frequently […]

    A Phantom Inventor: Flavio Gioia October 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Phantom Inventor: Flavio Gioia

    Who invented the compass? The Chinese, of course. Sometime between 800 and 1000 that people began to use their lodestones to navigate at sea. But the compass also appears in Europe in the eleventh or twelfth centuries and do we have a case of borrowing (from the far orient, as with playing cards) or independent […]

    Creative Pretexts for War July 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Prehistoric
    Creative Pretexts for War

    In the good old days when we had spears and lived in tribal societies war was, for much of humanity, a seasonal activity like boar hunting and berry picking. You did not have to explain why you wanted to steal the cattle of the clan on the other side of the hill: you just got […]

    The Eastern Origins of Playing Cards June 23, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Eastern Origins of Playing Cards

    There are few things in history more entertaining than the transference of ideas  from one culture to another and the various misunderstandings that arise as the borrower fails to understands the lender. In our own day it is enough to hear an American university lecturer speak about Derrida or a Saudia Arabian discuss the British […]

    Decapitation Gone Wrong in China, c. 1900 June 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Decapitation Gone Wrong in China, c. 1900

    ***Gruesome post warning*** Bad day? Children sick? Feel a bit depressed? Dog ate your laptop? Then do yourself a favour and move on. The following includes some very unpleasant details from a Chinese execution c. 1900, when medieval lingchi (death by cutting) was still in operation. The following execution was not planned as lingchi but […]

    Two Thousand Infants Sold to Russia for Human Sacrifice May 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Two Thousand Infants Sold to Russia for Human Sacrifice

    ***Dedicated to Wade who sent the relevant passage in*** The custom of burying infant children in the foundations of new buildings was well established in prehistoric, ancient and even (gulp) medieval times. The bigger and more important a building the more likely it was to a have a tot dropped in the cement. It is […]

    Dare-Nots May 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Dare-Nots

    Beach fluttered around the edges of an Italian project a few years ago that affected him profoundly. A series of interviews were collected from families who had suffered violence at the hands of the partisans at the end of the Second World War. The vast majority of these partisans, particularly in Emiglia-Romagna and Tuscany, had been […]

    Marco Polo and Pasta May 21, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Marco Polo and Pasta

    ***Dedicated to Zach Nowak and Beach’s good friends over at FoodinItaly*** The lunatic idea that Marco Polo brought back spaghetti from China to grateful Italians is a modern food myth. There is no proof for this in MP’s writing: though there is an interpolated passage that might have started the confusion. In fact, the idea […]

    Cat Clocks – No Really! February 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Cat Clocks - No Really!

    Cats, it has been a while… Then Beach recently stumbled on this very strange passage in Abbe Huc’s Chinese Empire (1854). Can there be any truth to it? Beach is doubtful but he certainly likes the idea. One day when we went to pay a visit to some families of Chinese Christian peasants, we met, […]

    Anne Frank, Ghost Weddings and Post-Mortem Baptisms February 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Anne Frank, Ghost Weddings and Post-Mortem Baptisms

    A bit of a ragtag post this: the possibilities of post-mortem marriage and baptism (or ‘naming ceremonies’ to remain as broad as possible). Beach got thinking about this after a recent discussion with a priest who had married a teenager to her dead boyfriend. The boyfriend had just passed away in intensive care after a […]

    The Soul Zoo January 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Soul Zoo

    So many interesting replies to recent posts to put up but little Miss B has a nasty flu so she is home from school and Beachcombing will be spending the morning with her – she is a state of such anxiety that the poor kid needs to be held at all times. Saturday seems a […]

    The Future of English December 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    The Future of English

    There have been various ‘world’ languages, beginning with Greek, moving on to Latin, and from there changing rapidly from Portuguese, to Spanish, to French and more recently to English. Beachcombing spent a lazy moment yesterday browsing a nineteenth-century essay on the ‘inevitable’ triumph of English, the author arguing that not only would English become the […]

    Bartering Chinese Women: Mao and Kissinger September 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Bartering Chinese Women: Mao and Kissinger

    The honour! Strange History is, as we speak, being hacked by a bunch of Chinese ruffians. If the fairies and mermaids disappear under a swelter of fake Tiffany bags you’ll know why. To celebrate this epoch-making event Beachcombing thought that he would bring China centre stage and also throw Kissinger into the mix. It is […]

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