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  • The Dauphin’s Heart June 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Dauphin's Heart

    Beachcombing is for ever rabbiting on (and on) about how time destroys memory, how everything we are told is unreliable. But the untrustworthiness of history applies not only to memory but also to objects. And what better example of this than the heart of the last dauphin, poor Louis XVII. Louis was collateral damage in […]

    The Impostor June 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern

    For ten years a mother and son are separated – war, a prison sentence, the grand tour… – and then  reunited. Only there is a problem. The son is not actually the son, but an impostor. What are the chances that the mother will be taken in? This scenario and the subsequent question appear asinine. […]

    Blind Mice and Licking Knives May 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Blind Mice and Licking Knives

    Beachcombing is writing this post with a certain anxiety. The moment he finishes it he is going to have to clean out a small priest-hole, hidden at the back of his study, where a family of country mice have settled. The Beachcombing’s don’t have a cat – thankfully – but these mice foolishly refuse to […]

    Against All Odds May 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern

    Another in the Weird Wars series: what victory in military history was achieved against the greatest odds? First some ground rules. 1) The two armies have to have comparable technologies. So the British and Empire troops at Rourke’s Drift (1879) were outnumbered by something like twenty to one by their Zulu adversaries. However, the British […]

    True Lies May 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    True Lies

    Beachcombing has recently been reading and enjoying David Aaronovitch’s Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory has Shaped Modern History. For those who have not heard of the book, AD takes an unremittingly hostile look at the many conspiracy theories that have characterized the last two broken centuries. Beach certainly doesn’t always like DA’s caustic tone. But, […]

    Origins of the Two-finger Insult May 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Origins of the Two-finger Insult

    The sun is in the heaven, term is over and with the good luck that characterises him Beachcombing has come down with a cracking summer cold. Indeed, as he walks up and down the stairs he feels as if his head is banging on the walls on either side. In this emergency situation he thought […]

    Last Words: Last Lies May 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Last Words: Last Lies

    Beachcombing has wasted literally days of his life looking at last words of the famous, the infamous and the simply anonymous. There is something so fascinating about utterances from the edge of the cliff. But how many of these gilded sentences are genuine? And how many simply the blather of post-mortem spin? Take Voltaire (obit […]

    Hill Hill Hill Hill May 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Hill Hill Hill Hill

    Placenames, like history, are as much a product of human incompetence as human genius. Take the phenomenon of pleonastic placenames – an intimidating word signalling the limitations of language and understanding. Rather than explain what is meant it is best to give an example, the Yorkshire placenames of Seamer Water (pictured above). Working backwards, generally […]

    Crowning Corpses in Portugal April 30, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Crowning Corpses in Portugal

    Beachcombing’s site has a long and honourable tradition of screwing up anniversaries and today will be no different: a celebration of the most bizarre royal ceremony in history, a full twenty four hours after the fairly modest William-Kate affair drew to its uncontroversial conclusion. Bizarrists will already have anticipated. Beachcombing is, of course, referring to […]

    A Book about Spitting April 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    A Book about Spitting

                      Jerry Lembcke, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam (New York University Press 1998) Beachcombing was never going to let a book about spitting in history pass him by. And so when he heard that Jerry Lembcke had given over two hundred pages […]

    Vedic History and the Myth of the Golden Age April 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Prehistoric
    Vedic History and the Myth of the Golden Age

    Every so often when Beachcombing writes a post, pastes a text in, finds an inane photograph and presses ‘publish’ there comes the click. It is a noise that means he has just stepped on a pressure bomb and that his next step is going to lead to dissolution: or, in blogging terms, thirty furious emails […]

    Sweet Will of Stratford April 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Sweet Will of Stratford

    One of the great joys of writing posts for this blog in the last ten months has been the experience of coming across new mysteries. And of the many that Beachcombing has tripped over in his sorry excuse for research none has bemused him more than the mystery of Will of Stratford, otherwise known as […]

    Discovering Australia in the Sixteenth Century March 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Discovering Australia in the Sixteenth Century

      Beachcombing has been wondering in the last few days about the various maps from the Age of Discover when Europe was laying claim to the world. These charts are a dream for mystery lovers as there are so many ‘irregularities’ that can be explained in the hushed tones of a conspiracy theory: drbeachcombing is always interested in […]

    Headless Races March 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Headless Races

      After all those head lice (see previous posts) Beachcombing gets back to some decapitation stories, not least because it would be the most efficient way to solve his family’s present problems. In any case, before anyone makes contact with the social workers… In response to an earlier beheading post RR wrote in with the following […]

    Nationalising Women on the Volga March 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Nationalising Women on the Volga

      Beachcombing has been remiss in picking on the Soviet Union recently, his last efforts came in October of last year. However, yesterday’s post on Women Service sparked a memory within a memory and sent Beachcombing running to his book shelves. The work in question was Frederick Bailey’s brilliant Mission to Tashkent. Bailey – a British spy […]

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