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  • Female Poison Circles July 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Female Poison Circles

    As is well known periodically through history groups of frustrated women have banded together to poison their violent, somnolent, poor or idiotic husbands. Six or sixty or one hundred and fifty would  find a local gypsy who sold tastless, colourless (in short undetectable) poisons and then run home and start dosing gins and tonics or […]

    The Ten Stupidest Duels in History July 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Ten Stupidest Duels in History

    Duelling was a sensible institution that, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, reminded young men, and sometimes women, of a particular social class that – never mind how they had been spoilt growing up – words and actions had consequences. Most individuals who paced around in Hyde Park  slashing the air with their swords, […]

    First World War Began in Restaurant in France? July 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    First World War Began in Restaurant in France?

    ***Dedicated to Ricardo who sent the photos and the story*** The Bibent is a plush restaurant in central Toulouse: on Trip Advisor it had got (at least as of this evening) a very respectable 178 Excellents out of 537. Of course, no place could go 150 years without picking up some history, in the same […]

    Buried In a Fish’s Belly June 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Buried In a Fish's Belly

    This is an almost unbelievable story that made a splash in the UK in the late May of 1833. We quote one G.S.Gowing who was the owner of a ship, but who was not a witness. On Monday last, the 20th inst., a fishing vessel belonging to Lowestoft [Norfolk], Robert Gowing master, engaged in the […]

    First Blood in the Great War? June 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    First Blood in the Great War?

    Lieutenant Albert Mayer of the fifth Baden Mounted Jäger Regiment brought seven German cavalry onto a ridge at Jonchery to the south-east of Belfort close to the French German border. On this ridge the riders ran into representatives of the forty-fourth Infantry Regiment, who had come to intercept them, and fighting broke out. Mayer smashed […]

    A Travelling Chair June 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Travelling Chair

    Beach has recently been trying to explain to his daughters the meaning of an heirloom. Interesting how children lack the essential measure of time – Beach’s eldest is 5, and doesn’t really do ‘centuries’. ‘This ring was in our family before Granddad’s granddad was born’ cue blank expression and ‘Let’s watch Tom and Jerry’. Anyway […]

    The Cuckold’s Horns May 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Cuckold's Horns

    ***Thanks to Ricardo and Neil for help with this post*** The cuckold’s horns is a sign, usually indicated by two fingers placed over the head, of a man whose wife has been unfaithful. In many countries – not least the UK, see photo – the actual symbolism has been forgotten and only the offence remains. […]

    High Noon at Carcassonne April 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    High Noon at Carcassonne

    Carcassonne is a stunning medieval town in the south of France, famous today for the attrocities carried out there against the Cathars, or those who were believed to be Cathars, in the thirteenth century. However, I recently ran across this news story from 1894 and the most recent in our practical jokes series: long time […]

    Madame Caillavah and Her Nineteenth-Century Gold Detector March 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Madame Caillavah and Her Nineteenth-Century Gold Detector

    In that unholy mess of blood and tradition-killing, the French Revolution, there was much sacking of national treasure houses and attempts by ‘reactionaries’ and guardians to keep some of those treasures out of the hands of the Convention. One such event took place in 1793 at St Denis when looters went over the entire Cathedral […]

    Declaring War in WW2: National Styles March 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Declaring War in WW2: National Styles

    The characters of countries are reflected in their cuisines, their clothes, and their soap operas, so why not in their declarations of war? Thought it might be fun to see whether this notion stands up and so this morning ran through every WW2 declaration of war that I could find from 1 September 1939 through […]

    Human Drum at Rennes March 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Human Drum at Rennes

    ***Thanks to Tokyobling for putting me onto this story and too many others like it*** Had a pretty disturbing week looking at the use of human skins in witchcraft and book covers: things that Beach, in his alloyed innocence, just didn’t realize existed. However, of all the human skin stories I ran across the strangest […]

    A Letter Between Enemies, 1915 March 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    A Letter Between Enemies, 1915

    This letter came in the spring of 1915 to the Michon family house in France. It arrived from a Naples address, but it had come ultimately from Berlin: direct letters from Berlin to France where, of course, out of the question by this date. The writer was one Charlotte von Dassel. Very dear Madame, In […]

    Brazen Heads and Medieval Robots? March 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Brazen Heads and Medieval Robots?

    In the Middle Ages there emerged two kinds of artificial humans into the Christian imagination: the real thing needs, unfortunately, to be dismissed with Aztec jet planes and Pharonic nuclear bombs. First there were moving statues, brass and gold figures that were somtimes found guarding treasure hordes or, what might loosely be called, fairyland. These […]

    Interview: Invasion Scares (Harry Wood) February 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Interview: Invasion Scares (Harry Wood)

    I am very happy today to be able to invite Harry Wood of the University of Liverpool, historian and blogger, to talk about his speciality, British invasion scares, something we looked at last month. Harry, thanks so much for joining us for this brief discussion. You run a very enjoyable blog, Island Mentalities, and you […]

    Submarine Weapons Before Torpedoes: Gloves, Javelins and Greek Fire February 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Submarine Weapons Before Torpedoes: Gloves, Javelins and Greek Fire

    Even the first submarine pioneers recognised that there would be a military applications for crafts glidingly silently unnoticed under the water. But the question was how on earth do you get to blow up the enemy flagship? On land there was everything from machetes to canons, and rocks to catapults. But under the waves human […]

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