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  • 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 […]

    Starting the First World War Early: The Three Virgins February 8, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Starting the First World War Early: The Three Virgins

    Two years ago Strange History ran a post on the German who accidentally started WW2 five days too early by invading Poland with something resembling a Third Reich version of the A-Team. However, I’ve recently come across a story about the German who accidentally started WW1 a day early. The German in question was one […]

    A French Crusader and A Chinese Sword? February 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A French Crusader and A Chinese Sword?

    Little is known of Jean d’Alluye’s life. He belonged to the nobility of central France and he travelled to the Holy Land as a crusader in 1241 coming home three years later, 1244. Given that it will have taken him many months to get to Outremer and many months to return this was a relatively […]

    Condoned Torture and Revenge in Eighteenth-Century New Orleans January 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Condoned Torture and Revenge in Eighteenth-Century New Orleans

    ***Warning this post has some very unpleasant material: if you are having a bad day, do yourself a favour and just click away…*** ‘The west’, that monolith to which most readers of this blog belong, has gradually over the centuries, shied away from torture. But there are moments in history when societies return on themselves […]

    The Pope and His Tanks January 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Pope and His Tanks

    If you open a book of memorable quotations you will find bon mots and phrases that have been validated by time. You will also often find controversy as to where these sentences come from and because they belong to a given people or nation or, indeed, all of humanity they are altered and reascribed. Beach […]

    A French Bombing Operation in London, 1984! January 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    A French Bombing Operation in London, 1984!

    This is the time of year that UK government records are released, slipping out of the thirty years for which state papers are routinely kept away from the public gaze: freedom of information has changed this situation, but not dramatically. The result is that every year on New Year’s Day British researchers and conspiracy theorists […]

    More, Good Digestion and a Prayer December 31, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    More, Good Digestion and a Prayer

    Beach, in the tradition of rather straitened New Years Day posts wishes his readers the best of 2014 with this little prayer that was sent in by a friend. As always replace ‘Lord’ with ‘Allah’, ‘First Contact’, ‘the Universe’, ‘Historical Materialism’ till your tastes are satisified… Give me a good digestion, Lord, And also something […]

    The Inevitability of the First World War December 26, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Inevitability of the First World War

    And so it begins… 2 August 1914 German troops begin to pour into Belgium and Luxembourg. French troops prepare their border defences. Serbian irregulars are marching towards battle. Austria-Hungary is preparing itself for the inevitable Russian attack. Britain is wringing its hands and calling up its naval reserves. The most horrific war in human experience […]

    The Duke, His Brother and the Locomotive December 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Duke, His Brother and the Locomotive

    Great story, recently found, relating to the Spanish Civil War, presumably 1938. The narrator, of Jewish descent, has fled anschluss and arrived in Paris, en route to more permanent exile in the UK. I had run into Duke Dantin when he was a refugee in Paris, during the Spanish Civil War, he had fled from […]

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