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Silent Fairies January 4, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Silent Fairies

Fairies and silent films… Who would have guessed that our great great grandparents troubled to make shorts about the winged folk? But they did and some are really quite beautiful. The first one that we stumbled upon was Princess Nicotine (aka The Smoke Fairy), a classic of its kind. A smoker falls asleep and then […]

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 […]

Modesty and Killing November 27, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Modesty and Killing

When Benito Mussolini was ‘executed’ (jolted out of a car by some communist partisans and shot in the chest in a ditch) he did not die alone. By his side was his lover and perhaps the most significant woman in his life, Clara Petacci. CP was gunned down a moment before Mussolini himself. The corpses […]

Crowds #6: Bully Crowds November 19, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Crowds #6: Bully Crowds

We have so far shown numerous posts on crowd photographs: crowd art, crowd speeches, August 1914 crowds, POWs in crowds and religious crowds. Here is by far the most unpleasant of the series – you have been warned! – bullying crowds. A group of people with power, perhaps newly acquired power, decides to revenge itself […]

National Symbols and Erotics: the Great War November 10, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
National Symbols and Erotics: the Great War

Nations are often personified: Lady Liberty for France, Uncle Sam for the States, Britannia for the UK. Nor is this new. There is a memorable fifth-century Latin poem that goes through the Roman Empire doling out identities to the different provinces: Gaul, for example, appears as a warrior with two spears. But Beach has recently […]

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. […]

How Big Are Fairies? October 12, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
How Big Are Fairies?

There is a lot of confusion about the size of fairies in tradition and we often read that ‘small’ fairies were the invention of Shakespeare and his hangers on. The proof that small fairies were there all along comes, instead, in Gervase of Tilbury’s Otia Imperialia written and ‘published’ in the early thirteenth century: long […]

Cartooning the Great War October 8, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Cartooning the Great War

***Dedicated to KR*** Beach wasted a couple of hours this morning thanks to KR who got him interested in online Great War cartoon books. There are the first and second volume of Raemakers’ Cartoon History of the War and perhaps more to Beach’s taste Punch’s History of the War. Can he also advertise this little […]

Mud, Blood and Poppycock October 6, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Mud, Blood and Poppycock

Beach has a question that he always enjoys asking first year American university students:  did World War One/World War Two/the Cold War represent a fight between good and evil? Class after class, semester after semester the pattern repeats itself. The Second World War is almost universally held up as such a war. Usually a quarter […]

Crowds #5: POWs September 22, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Crowds #5: POWs

Beach has offered several posts showing crowds: orators, crowd art, off-to-war and religion. Here is the fifth in the series, crowds of men who have just been captured by the enemy. Pictures are mostly from the two world wars, because POWs do not seem to have excited much interest prior to this and because photographs […]

How Cats Create Neurotic Societies September 15, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
How Cats Create Neurotic Societies

***Dedicated to Paschal*** Cats, it has been so long… The last cat tag was about cat clocks back in February, before that it was dried cats in 2011 and then there was cat burial in Iceland, black cats and luck and musical instruments that employ cats. But, thinking of today’s post, how can cats create […]

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. […]

Are Societies What They Eat? September 11, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Are Societies What They Eat?

There is no question that food and drink change us. If you begin to drink two litres of coca-cola a day, instead of a litre of fizzy water or if you start chewing on cocoa leaves instead of making banana smoothies your family will quickly notice a difference. Here there is and can be no […]

Casualties and Memory September 3, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Casualties and Memory

This post was written as a response to a memory that has been whirling around and around in the last few days. The only time Beach ever saw his grandmother – a fine old English matron – weep was when she talked about the First World War. She had, in fact, no direct experience of […]

Eating Prisoners of War? Ten Thousand Years of ‘I Surrender’ August 29, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
Eating Prisoners of War? Ten Thousand Years of 'I Surrender'

***This post is dedicated to A.G. who sent in the following question*** A.G. writes ‘I have often wondered what happened to the wounded left behind during the Napoleonic wars and earlier.  Did the locals come along and kill them for their personal belongings, were they cared for and held for ransom, what? I am speaking […]

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