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  • The Lie of the Second Sons April 11, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Lie of the Second Sons

    When Beach wrote his university entrance exams, many decades ago, he waxed unlyrical about Europe’s second sons who went on crusade because there was nothing for them at home. There might have been some genuine pent up passion about killing Moors or walking where He walked, but it was really all about filthy lucre. The […]

    WW2 Myths: Forgetting General Winter April 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    WW2 Myths: Forgetting General Winter

    Today a bit of WW2 cobblers: the myth that the German High Command in 1941 forgot that there was a winter in the Soviet Union; thousands of German soldiers on the road to Moscow would be immobilized by ‘General Winter’ and have to face -20 or -30 degrees with nothing but lederhosen. Now as it […]

    Richard and Saladin’s Swords March 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Richard and Saladin's Swords

    One of the pleasures of writing a history blog is revisiting certainties, some picked up in infancy, and exposing them for the callow lies that they are. Many moons ago when Beach was learning to read he had a ladybird book on Richard the Lionheart. In those revered pages there was an image of a […]

    Immortal Meals #26: The Honey Baby March 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Immortal Meals #26: The Honey Baby

    It is a story still told in hushed voices by archaeologists and classicists. Here is a recent version by Ken Albala from his (very good) lecture series on the history of food. So there is this revealing story of this group of Egyptologists and they find this perfectly sealed jar of honey and they open […]

    Pythagoras and His Troubled Biography March 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Pythagoras and His Troubled Biography

    Pythagoras (c. 570-480 BC) is a shadowy figure who stands at the beginning of the Greek philosophical tradition: though we are not sure really whether he ‘did’ philosophy at all. He is also often sold as a kind of long-haired Greek guru: though others have argued that he had little interest in religious matters. Still […]

    Ergot Madness in Historians March 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Ergot Madness in Historians

    Ergot is a fungus that grows on some crops, particularly rye, and is most common in northern temporal climes. When ingested by humans or animals it can cause hallucinations, temporary neurological disorders and circulation difficulties including burning limbs and, in serious cases, gangrene: there are records of peasants who lost all four limbs to ergot poisoning […]

    Killer Cameras March 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Killer Cameras

    When many years ago Beach travelled in Sub-Saharan Africa he was warned by anxious parents, and relatives not to take photographs of the natives. They might believe that their soul had been taken. Where does this idea come from? And did anyone anywhere ever actually believe it? Well, a run through sources suggests that the […]

    The Last Crusade, 1996-1999 February 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Last Crusade, 1996-1999

    Beach is always curious about the present’s manipulation of the past and there are few subjects that have been manipulated more than the Crusades. Those men and women who set off towards the Holy Land, in 1095 have been cast in almost every imaginable role in the last two hundred years. They have been made into […]

    Review: The Truth about Donald McCormick? November 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: The Truth about Donald McCormick?

    Hayek: A Collaborative Biography: Part III Fraud, Fascism, and Free Market Religion (ed) Robert Leeson What in God’s name…!?! This is a website which prides itself on investigating the seedy and bizarre in history. So why bother with reviewing volume three in a series of six on Friedrich von Hayek, an Austrian economist who died […]

    Murder, McCormick, Murray and the Witches October 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Murder, McCormick, Murray and the Witches

    In 1968 Donald McCormick published  Murder by Witchcraft (Arrow Books), it was one of about forty books that he wrote (under his own name or that of ‘Richard Deacon’) and it was, like many, perhaps all of the others, shot through with falsehoods and lies. Beach has examined Donald’s porkies on Jack the Ripper and on Madoc […]

    Why Do We Forget Soviet Murder? October 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Why Do We Forget Soviet Murder?

    Between 1917 when Lenin declared the revolution to 1956 and the invasion of Hungary Soviet massacres of innocents or opponents were frequent, massive and only seriously contested in the West by the small national Communist parties. Yet one of the extraordinary things about these bloody outbursts is that they have been forgotten by all but […]

    Mythologised Suicides? Levi and Turing October 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Mythologised Suicides? Levi and Turing

    Suicides are not always easy to determine. Did the man who drove his car into a bridge support do so as a deliberate act because he had just learnt of his bankruptcy or did he do so because he had not slept for 24 hours and was exhausted and prone to error? Did the woman […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: Bodies in Trees October 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Bodies in Trees

    Kay Massingill has recently offered to readers of Forteana Exchange a series of body in tree stories. The earliest seems to be this one from 1873 and they carry on into the 1920s. The tale typically has it that someone, perhaps escaping from danger, climbs into a tree, then cannot get out. That brings us to […]

    The Churchill Coventry Myth September 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Churchill Coventry Myth

    Did Churchill allow Coventry to be bombed to save the Enigma secret?

    The Chester Cat Hoax of 1815 September 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Chester Cat Hoax of 1815

    This is a short story published some 90 years after the event it supposedly described: Chester is a city on the northern Welsh borders. This story is frequently retold in miscellany of the bizarre, local histories and Francis Wheen includes it in his marvelous The Chatto Book of Cats, 1993. There are three interesting points: […]

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