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  • The Longest Surviving Medieval Heresy August 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Longest Surviving Medieval Heresy

    Imagine this. You wake up one morning in 1216 and say ‘to hell with it’. You walk into the local square of piazza stand on an upturned wheelbarrow and talk to your neighbours about the cosmos. Perhaps you’ve learnt that Christ married Mary Magdalene and had twins; or that the angels are worms in universal […]

    Early Bionic Ear August 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Early Bionic Ear

    Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen (obit 1676) was a seventeenth-century German author with a penchant for fantasy. Here is an invention dreamt up for one of his novels. In Simplicius Simplicissimus (published 1668) he wrote this extraordinary passage. And when I had fancies, and lay awake many a night thinking how might contrive new finds […]

    Gort’s Longest Hour August 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Gort's Longest Hour

    Long before Tolstoy ruined War and Peace with his reflections on the role of great men in history humans sat down and debated the ability of individuals to influence events. Beach is a bit of a heretic in this. He believes passionately that men and women not ‘impersonal forces’ (whatever the hell they are) make […]

    Flying Fairies, Stolen Wine and the Hat Tree August 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Flying Fairies, Stolen Wine and the Hat Tree

    Here is a very modest nineteenth-century Cornish story: it appeared in Robert Hunt, Popular Romances (1865); the piskeys are Cornish fairies (pixies). This tale is not, note, specifically Cornish, there are lots of British versions recorded in the nineteenth century, and one earlier Scottish tale. Our story has especially to do with the adventures of […]

    Nine Moments When the Axis Lost the War August 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Nine Moments When the Axis Lost the War

    The sequel to Beach’s seven reasons why Germany lost the Great War. 1) When Germany didn’t destroy the British Expeditionary Force: at the end of May 1940 about a third of a million British servicemen, the Empire’s entire European army was trapped in a small pocket on the northern French coast. Demoralised, with their equipment […]

    Don’t Blame Germany July 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Don't Blame Germany

    Germany has never been a very popular country. But it is fair to say that Germany is perhaps more unpopular in 2015 than at any time since the bush fire memories of the Second World War started to die down in the mid 1950s. In several countries Germany is loathed: top of the list here […]

    Udder Snakes June 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Udder Snakes

    One of the most curious legends, one that this blogger cannot even begin to account for, is the idea that some animals and particularly snakes and reptiles like to take milk directly from a cow’s udder. Here is a selection of some of these legends. It goes without saying that there is no truth in […]

    Could Germany Have Successfully Invaded Britain, 1940? June 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Could Germany Have Successfully Invaded Britain, 1940?

    The greatest month in German history (militarily speaking) began 10 May 1940 with the attack in the west and ended 14 June when the Wehrmacht entered Paris. Yet that month was clouded by Britain’s survival. Hitler had two ways to pacify Britain: first, he could break Britain militarily (invasion); second, he could convince Britain to withdraw […]

    Death by Bell Ringing May 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Death by Bell Ringing

    In a moment of divine madness, a couple of years ago, Beach asked a question about knights and lightning: basically were sardine cans on horsebacks with long lances natural lightning rods? He has been inspired today to ask another lightning question. The following passage is taken from Wikipedia page on bell-ringers, one of Wiks less […]

    The Mysterious Erich von Richthofen May 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Mysterious Erich von Richthofen

    The King and Country debate has been described previously on this blog. It was a talk at Oxford Students’ Union 9 Feb 1933, which saw 275 to 153 students vote for the motion ‘that this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country’. This surprisingly pacifist stance from a major British institution attracted […]

    The Failure of Appeasement April 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Failure of Appeasement

    Appeasement is the policy of giving smiles, kisses and gifts to neighbours to prevent war. In some moments of history it has worked (Dane-geld and Roman bribery beyond the frontiers); in some periods it has failed. A conspicuous example of a failure is the attempt by Britain to stroke its European friends and enemies into […]

    Death by Joke March 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Death by Joke

    The historical practical joke tag has now reached almost a dozen posts and Beach thought that he would celebrate with a brief survey of a particularly unusual form of practical joke: jokes that ended in the joker or jokee dying. Beach limited himself to British newspapers from 1 Jan 1880 to Dec 31 1899 and […]

    The Lie of the Lie of Christian’s Yellow Star March 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Lie of the Lie of Christian's Yellow Star

    One of the most attractive stories to come out of the Second World is that of Christian X of Denmark and the yellow star. When told that Jewish Danes would have to wear said star the elderly king threatened to wear one himself. The King, adored by his people and a symbol of Danish nationhood, […]

    Tears and Bows: WW1 Ambassadors and Declarations of War March 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Tears and Bows: WW1 Ambassadors and Declarations of War

    A recent post looked at the tensions created by ambassadors declaring war in WW2. Today, instead, some descriptions of declarations of war from World War 1. The initial impression is that there was more formality and more old world charm. Some of the ambassadors may have believed they would be back in their host capitals by […]

    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. […]

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