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  • Hidden Flags August 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Hidden Flags

    There’s a scene in that very good Powell and Pressburger film One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942), where downed British pilots in occupied Holland establish the loyalty of their hosts through a trick commode. A line of orange flowers (the Dutch colour) leads to a swing picture that reveals a disguised portrait of the […]

    Selling Alaska/Louisiana/Manhattan by the Pound December 4, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Selling Alaska/Louisiana/Manhattan by the Pound

    History could be usefully defined as one long territory grab: who has the desire to take these acres, and who has the will and the resources and enough young ready to die on the other side? You can almost see the archangels of history pouring blood and bullets into two sides of a balance. But […]

    Grotesque Mesalliances April 24, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Grotesque Mesalliances

    There is a school of thought that says arranged marriages work and, even for die-hard romantics like Beach, there are millennia of proof that they can. But there are also cases from every static, traditional society that leave you shaking at the potential horror of an institution that allows a father or brother to choose […]

    Inuit as an Unlikely Source for Medieval Charts January 29, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Inuit as an Unlikely Source for Medieval Charts

    Could you draw a perfect, to scale map of the area that you live? Close your eyes, consider the fields, the rivers and streets and then give it a go. After you’ve spent ten minutes with some coloured crayons compare your effort with a professionally produced map, contours and all. The chances are that you […]

    Prison Breaks with Planes September 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Prison Breaks with Planes

    You are in prison and you have a friend with a plane. How can that plane get you out of prison? Well, at Colditz they built a glider in the castle attic; a glider that perhaps fortunately was never used. Then there are the various helicopter escapes, for which Beachcombing recommends an excellent wikipedia page. […]

    Genetics vs Environment among Monarchs July 31, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Genetics vs Environment among Monarchs

    There is a phrase that’s trotted out from time to time that monarchs are simply the descendants of those who killed lots of people and as such deserve little respect and certainly no adulation. Of course, it is true that monarchs are the descendants of those who killed many people. But what really matters is […]

    Suicide and Historical Loopholes April 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Suicide and Historical Loopholes

    Suicide has proved abhorrent to most spiritual traditions. Certainly, the great monotheistic religions and most of the far Eastern religions have condemned ‘self-murder': cue lots of pulpit bashing and descriptions of hell or unpleasant reincarnations. This begs the question though of what you can do if you live in 500 BC or 500 AD or […]

    A Dark Age British Sasquatch? November 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Dark Age British Sasquatch?

    *** This post is dedicated to Adrian S *** One epic poem survives from Anglo-Saxon England: Beowulf. Beowulf, for those who do not know, was a Danish hero who, in the course of said poem fights three monsters: first Grendel, second Grendel’s mother and third a dragon who gets the better of him. Grendel particularly […]

    Eighteenth-century Scandinavian Merfolk September 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Eighteenth-century Scandinavian Merfolk

    Here are a number of largely overlooked Scandinavian reports of mermaids dating from the first half of the eighteenth century. The account is rather long so these are the witness statements. Historians of cryptozoology might be interested to know that the earlier part of the text includes a reference to mermaids being ‘sea-apes’, an idea […]

    Saving and Murdering in the Holocaust May 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Saving and Murdering in the Holocaust

    Beachcombing noted in this place a month ago – death-dealer of Kovno – that an important new book on Germany’s wartime atrocities is coming out: Hitler’s Foreign Executioners: Europe’s Dirty Secret by Chris Hale. CH argues in this work that subject populations of the occupied territories often partook enthusiastically in the Final Solution or ‘Outdoor […]

    A Fifteenth-Century Interest in Scandinavian Plague Rats July 15, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Fifteenth-Century Interest in Scandinavian Plague Rats

                              The Bubonic plague was around a long time before, in 1897, scientists finally discovered what caused the illness: disease-carrying fleas on the backs of rats. Then having taken over five hundred years to work out the plague in scientific terms: these same genius […]