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  • Crossing the Rhine and Surrendering: 1793 February 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Crossing the Rhine and Surrendering: 1793

    ***Stephen D sent this one in: thanks!*** The following post describes an attempted French invasion across the Rhine at Huningue, just to the north of the Swiss border in September 1793. It goes without saying that amphibious operations are hellishly difficult in modern times. The Huningue operation began with the decimation of the officer ranks. […]

    Immortal Meals #20: The Breakfast That Killed Seven Hundred February 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Immortal Meals #20: The Breakfast That Killed Seven Hundred

    Let us, first, introduce Fort Douaumont. The mightiest of the Verdun forts, Douaumont was captured by the Germans early in the battle for Verdun, 25 February 1915, just four days after fighting had begun. The fort was taken (with hardly a shot being fired) because of unbelievable French carelessness in garrisoning the jewel in their Verdun […]

    Seven German Mistakes that Lost the Great War January 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Seven German Mistakes that Lost the Great War

    Germany went to war in August 1914 to bloody Russia, put Britain back in its place and break France’s back. Looking at their war record, after a century, what is striking is just how close Germany came to achieving at least a relative victory. Yet Germany’s leadership was not up to the job: this is clearer […]

    The Man Who Lost Germany the Great War? December 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Man Who Lost Germany the Great War?

    A couple of indisputable, non-negotiable Great War facts. In early September 1914 the German army came smashing down on the French army at the Marne. In the decisive battle of the first part of the war, the French, with some assistance from the brave but plodding Brits, managed to hold the Germans. However, everyone on […]

    Great War Organ Gun November 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Great War Organ Gun

    The organ gun, also known as the ribadulequin, was one of those crude innovations in military technology that shifted humanity towards the ‘elegant’ killing of the machine gun arc. Organs were basically guns with many barrels and one trigger and were as liable to explode in the gunner’s face as to blast away the opposition. Beach recently […]

    Joan of Arc and the Genesis of Her Voices November 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Joan of Arc and the Genesis of Her Voices

    Joan of Arc has appeared once before on this blog in that fascinating moment where she apparently picked out the Dauphin with psychic antennae. Today, two years on, Beach is turning instead to another part of Joan’s paranormal life, her voices. Joan heard, from her early adolescence onwards, voices. These voices gave her instruction and […]

    Did Joan of Ark see Fairies? October 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Did Joan of Ark see Fairies?

    Anyone who has ever read a book on Joan of Ark will know that the English-hater was supposed to have had some kind of relations with fairies. But what exactly were those relations? The trial at which Joan battled for her life in 1431 included a long list of charges against the Maid. Some of these […]

    Drilling Out Demons in Nineteenth-Century France October 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Drilling Out Demons in Nineteenth-Century France

    Folie a deux was once used by psychologists to describe shared madness. Not just one person, but two or three or many more experience the same unreasonable convictions. Strange History wants to offer a short series of cases of shared madness within households, i.e. people living together, typically families. It should be noted that for […]

    The Poison Duel 4#: The Medical Origins of the Poison Duel? September 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Poison Duel 4#: The Medical Origins of the Poison Duel?

    The earliest nineteenth-century poison duel seems to have been that almost fought in 1821 in Virginia. However, there are pre-nineteenth-century records and strangely they concern doctors. The earliest record anywhere that Beach has been able to dig up was an alleged reference in the Iranian poet Nizami (obit 1209). Nizami in one poem (Treasury of […]

    Napoleon and the Red Man: Selling Your Soul for European Dominion August 27, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Napoleon and the Red Man: Selling Your Soul for European Dominion

    Beach must start this post with a rider: he LOATHES Napoleon. The man who destroyed the Venetian Republic; who murdered (directly or indirectly) hundreds of thousands of innocents; who filled French galleries and museums with plunder; who put the crown (which wasn’t his) on his own head; who perpetuated the worst revolution of all, in […]

    The Last Shot at Waterloo August 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last Shot at Waterloo

    Tomorrow Beach has an appointment to go through a Welsh text for six long hours, translating and puzzling. Today he thought he would post, then, this cute story from the early nineteenth century with a Welsh connection in partial celebration. It will be remembered that the Welsh had a long history of doing good service […]

    The Great War Begins: The 10 Most Resonant Moments August 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Great War Begins: The 10 Most Resonant Moments

    Historical anniversaries are not normally to Beach’s taste. They vulgarise, they trivialise, they misstate…. Like an ardent monarchist who can’t stand royal weddings he would be anywhere but there when the minister appears with the scissors for a ribbon and a vapid speech. But this blogger has been filled with a sense of awe as […]

    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 […]

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