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Lloyd’s Head August 6, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Lloyd's Head

In 1864 at Ahuahut in New Zealand a group of Maori warriors defeated a small British contingent led by one Captain Lloyd and seven of the Brits, including Lloyd, were decapitated: the Maoris waited behind a fringe of ferns and shot at close quarters, Lloyds men were outwitted and didn’t stand a chance. The fight […]

Botched Beheadings April 29, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Botched Beheadings

The guillotine was originally invented as an act of humanitarianism to liberate criminal kind from the axe. It made sense, after all, to remove a criminal’s head from his or from her shoulders if that criminal had to be killed. But the procedure was messy. Two important things could go wrong while removing said head […]

Good Executions? December 10, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Good Executions?

Is there such a thing as a ‘good execution’: after all the extinction of human life should never or almost never be a cause for celebration? Well, historians have used the phrase, in the past generation – though it has older antecedents – to refer to the extent to which the criminal cooperates with his […]

Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine November 6, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine

***Dedicated to Laura: for an excellent background to Madame Tussaud follow this link (and look out particularly for Brad Pitt’s knickers)*** Anna Maria Tussaud (obit 1850) came to Britain in 1802 to show her famous wax impressions as an entrepreneur, but she remained in the country as an exile once the Napoleonic Wars had begun. […]

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 […]

Newspaper Archives as Controls or Filters April 18, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Newspaper Archives as Controls or Filters

Beachcombing spent more time than was strictly necessary last summer looking at nineteenth- and twentieth-century newspaper archives. It is an extraordinary world. You constantly find yourself caught up on headlines (‘Sea-monster seen in the Channel’, ‘Germans eat the French’) that cannot easily be ignored and then you take one last look over the page and […]

Misfortunes with Severed Heads: Richard Owen and Lancaster Jail April 17, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Misfortunes with Severed Heads: Richard Owen and Lancaster Jail

Beachcombing regrets that he cannot provide the primary source for the following anecdote from Richard Owen’s early life. Anyone lucky enough to have instant access to mid nineteenth-century periodicals will find it in Hood’s Magazine and Comic Miscellany vol 3 (1845), 294-303. Beach is taking this paraphrase from the excellent Dinosaur Hunters by Deborah Cadbury, […]

Self Decapitation in South East Asia November 13, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Self Decapitation in South East Asia

A short post today as the Beachcombing family celebrates its reunion. The following text comes from the mid fourteenth century and relates to the experiences of a visitor to the court of the Sultan of Mul Jawah (Java or more likely East Sumatra). In this Sultan’s assembly I saw a man with a knife like […]

Last European Headhunters July 27, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Last European Headhunters

Beachcombing has been trying to keep up with decapitation this summer by looking at late examples of head-hunting. Go back to the Celts, the Germanic tribes and even the Romans and there are several striking examples of head-hunting in Europe well into historic times. Then, of course, if you cross the Atlantic there is scalping: […]

Women Warriors of Benin July 23, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Women Warriors of Benin

Having tested the limits of masculinity yesterday Beach feels obliged to pay tribute, today, to the fairer sex. He will pass through time to the late nineteenth century and through space to Dahomey (today part of Benin) in Africa where several thousand women formed an important part of the royal army there. Now, of course, […]

Vikings Vikinged in Dorset UK March 29, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Prehistoric
Vikings Vikinged in Dorset UK

Beachcombing has sometimes confessed in this place that he is not a great fan of the Vikings. Indeed, say ‘Viking’ to your average medievalist and they will get lyrical about sturdy boats and trips to Greenland. Beachcombing, on the other hand, sees burnt monastic libraries, lines of children being brought to slavery in the fiords […]

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 […]

Capital Punishment and Prehistoric Burials March 19, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Prehistoric
Capital Punishment and Prehistoric Burials

    You are a member of the minor nobility in some part of northern Europe found guilty of murder in the fifteenth century. After the capital sentence is passed you are thrown in the back of a cart and driven out to the local place of reckoning.  However, as you are also interested in history […]

Viking Decapitations and the Knife Experiment February 21, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Viking Decapitations and the Knife Experiment

*Post dedicated to Mathias B who inspired it with his readings in Jómsvikinga saga* Beachcombing is down in the flu doldrums and so apologies for any emails to which he’s not yet replied. Several of you though (Ostrich, Swedish Anna, SY) pointed out that yesterday’s request about the letter from a Frederick to Ethiopia was a letter […]

Lavoisier Blinks February 6, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Lavoisier Blinks

Today a continuation of the decapitation series with the life and unusual death of Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1794). Lavoisier was a dreamy French chemist responsible, in part, for the metric system and a few other crimes against humanity (‘hydrogen’, the elementary table…). The facts of Lavoisier’s death are, meanwhile, suitably enough, a mix of brutal […]

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