jump to navigation

‘Psychic’ Joan and the Dauphin October 8, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
'Psychic' Joan and the Dauphin

Joan of Arc has always made rationalist historians – among whom Beachcombing would count himself – a little bit anxious. After all, a voice of God on tap, prophecies, and a telepathic relationship with a sword are hardly going to put an empiricist at ease. Among her several supposed psychic achievements was the moment when […]

Eleanor’s Lovers September 26, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Eleanor's Lovers

Eleanor of Aquitaine (obit 1204) was a powerful and self confident woman living in an age when women were supposed to be anything but. Her home in the south of what is today France gave greater property rights to daughters and wives, property rights that Eleanor knew how to manipulate. She had some wild male […]

Thinking of Flying in the Eighteenth Century September 11, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Thinking of Flying in the Eighteenth Century

It is always curious to compare the reality of the future with the way that future was viewed in the past. Take speculations over flying. There seems to have come a point in the eighteenth century when the bien pensants realised – perhaps a bit like deep space exploration for the modern world – that […]

The Safe Battle at Burnley, 1860 September 2, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Safe Battle at Burnley, 1860

When we think of vicious advertising campaigns today the chances are we think of burger chains and the cola fraternity. However, back in the nineteenth century across the Western world, the most intense rivalry was perhaps between different safe makers. This was, after all, a period when technology in locks and metal making had grown […]

An Ecclesiastical Harem from Eighteenth-Century Spain August 21, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
An Ecclesiastical Harem from Eighteenth-Century Spain

The Inquisition  it can’t have been that easy. Mass in the morning, torture in the afternoon and, yet another blasted auto da fe in the evening… Who can blame the good men with the blood red cloth if sometimes they decided to create, let’s call it, ‘recreational space’ for themselves. This extraordinary – and apparently […]

Head-hunting German Phrenologists August 9, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Head-hunting German Phrenologists

***This post was suggest by Invisible who shares though Beachcombing’s scepticism*** Before plunging into this modern story of head-hunting the reader should be warned. First, the quotations come from a contemporary nineteenth-century English ‘sketch’ (rather than translation) from the French: Jacques Peuchet, Mémoires tirés des Archives de la police de Paris, vol I, 161 ff. […]

Mermaid Sighting in Caithness July 30, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Mermaid Sighting in Caithness

Beachcombing is not, to his regret, a mermaid expert: despite occasional forays into Triton’s territory in previous posts. But he suspects that the following is not a particularly well-known mermaid source. It dates to 1809 and was sent by one Ms Mackay, the daughter of a minister no less, and was sent to the Countess […]

Women Warriors of Benin July 23, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Women Warriors of Benin

Having tested the limits of masculinity yesterday Beach feels obliged to pay tribute, today, to the fairer sex. He will pass through time to the late nineteenth century and through space to Dahomey (today part of Benin) in Africa where several thousand women formed an important part of the royal army there. Now, of course, […]

Impossible Escape from Calais July 14, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Impossible Escape from Calais

In May 1940 the British army achieved many feats of arms and endurance despite the Wehrmacht‘s overwhelming superiority in northern France. And perhaps none of these feats was equal in pathos, drama and sheer futility to the battle for Calais. Here, while the British Expedition Force was being hurriedly evacuated across the Channel to England, […]

Cave Art Cobblers? July 6, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Prehistoric
Cave Art Cobblers?

  Cave art has always been plagued by accusations of fakery or exaggeration: the fate of any discipline that lacks coordinates. So the original discovery of palaeolithic wall art at Altamira in 1879 by Don Marcelino de Sautuola (or rather his daughter Maria – another post another day) was universally decried as a hoax or […]

Fury and Cannibalism July 5, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Fury and Cannibalism

Cannibalism for most of us took place on ‘less happy (is)lands’ in less happy times, when neurologically-challenged Pacific folk loped from side to side suffering from Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. Others might also recall occasional starving humans on boats, in plane wrecks or beseiged cities obliged to eat each other. But cannabilism does not, surely, figure in […]

The Green Devil of Quimper June 19, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Green Devil of Quimper

Beachcombing was taught many years ago not to trust Breton sources: there is (an almost Gaelic) tendency to colour over the terrible monotone of reality with illusory rainbow details. This rule probably holds good if you are dealing with a twelfth-century saint’s life written about a sixth-century saint (many other posts, many other days). But […]

Immortal Meals 4#: Eating a French King’s Heart June 17, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Immortal Meals 4#: Eating a French King's Heart

There are great men among great men (Plato, Galileo, Einstein…)  and great eccentrics among great eccentrics. For this second exclusive club Beachcombing’s candidates would include the charming and irrepressible William Buckland (obit 1856), Victorian geologist and zoophagist and, towards the end of his life, inmate in a mental asylum. Buckland – unlike his more mannered […]

The Dauphin’s Heart June 11, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
The Dauphin's Heart

Beachcombing is for ever rabbiting on (and on) about how time destroys memory, how everything we are told is unreliable. But the untrustworthiness of history applies not only to memory but also to objects. And what better example of this than the heart of the last dauphin, poor Louis XVII. Louis was collateral damage in […]

Last Words: Last Lies May 14, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Last Words: Last Lies

Beachcombing has wasted literally days of his life looking at last words of the famous, the infamous and the simply anonymous. There is something so fascinating about utterances from the edge of the cliff. But how many of these gilded sentences are genuine? And how many simply the blather of post-mortem spin? Take Voltaire (obit […]

Page 7 of 8« First...45678