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  • The Crown of the Queen of Serpents July 21, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Crown of the Queen of Serpents

    A curious little episode from a very obscure English autobiography. The individual being described here is August de Haxthausen (obit 1866), friend of the brothers Grimm.  De Haxthausen ended up in Britain in the 1840s in the house of a little girl, Janet Ross, who would become one of Beach’s favourite cookery book writers: but […]

    Bomber Command and War Guilt July 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Bomber Command and War Guilt

    One of the most terrifying statistics of the Second World War is that more died in planes flying out of British airfields than in British cities. Leaving the US out of this around 60,000 British and Dominion aircrew were killed defending British airspace or attacking enemy territory. About 40,000 British civilians, meanwhile, died in the […]

    Creative Pretexts for War July 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Prehistoric
    Creative Pretexts for War

    In the good old days when we had spears and lived in tribal societies war was, for much of humanity, a seasonal activity like boar hunting and berry picking. You did not have to explain why you wanted to steal the cattle of the clan on the other side of the hill: you just got […]

    Crowds #2: Speaking to Crowds June 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Crowds #2: Speaking to Crowds

    W.B.Yeats once wrote that the most important thing for a ‘man’ was, in his day, no longer a sword but a tongue to speak to the masses. Yeats was living in an age when that was still true. Microphones were allowing the amplification of voices and transport meant that a politician or preacher could travel […]

    Worthless Currencies June 12, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Worthless Currencies

    As Beach writes Mrs B is travelling on a plane to [first destination deleted] to open a bank account in [second destination deleted] to get the Beachcombing family ‘fortune’ (ahem) as far as possible from the Euro Zone. It may or may not work as, while the Italian State has provided lots of identification documents, […]

    Germany über Alles? June 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Germany über Alles?

    According to many paranoid British and French scholars the history of the last century and a half has been the story of Germany’s attempt to dominate continental Europe. It began with Napoleon III giving up his sword to Bismarck in 1870 and has continued down to the present day with Germany’s EU plotting.  Is there […]

    Admiral Byrd and Nazi Cobblers June 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Admiral Byrd and Nazi Cobblers

    ***Dedicated to KMH who, not for the first time, inspired the hunt*** The following is the record of an interview with American admiral Richard Byrd which appeared in El Mercurio, a Chilean paper, 5 March 1947: it was written by a US journalist, Lee Van Atta, but seems never to have been published in English. […]

    Exclaves! June 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Exclaves!

    A strange post today – just for a change… Beach has recently been troubled by the Kaliningrad Oblast, a peculiar bit of Russian territory that stands several hundred kilometres to the west of the Russian frontiers. Now an exclave of Russian life on the borders of Poland and Lithuania, Kalingrad would be just the kind […]

    Welsh Pre-Marital Sex, c. 1850 May 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Welsh Pre-Marital Sex, c. 1850

    A German tourist in Wales in the 1850s. Our hero befriends, Sarah the girl of the house where he is staying and on whom, Beach suspects, he had something of a crush. However, Sarah, who is the only member of the house who can speak English, is walking out with Owen, the elder son of […]

    Aggressive Ghost in Fourteenth-Century Germany May 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Aggressive Ghost in Fourteenth-Century Germany

    Beach is taking a long trip today on a plane with his three-year-old daughter: a first visit to the patria with Little Miss B who is thrilled because she is going to see otters AND eat fish and chips. In this time of holiday and reduced writing he has lined up several reserve posts taken […]

    The Babel of History May 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Babel of History

      The past according to a much worn-line is ‘a foreign country, they do things differently there’. Of course, if this were all then history would be a doddle. It would be enough to fill the Cutty Sark with sabres and give the natives music sheets for their acres. But, unfortunately for those who like […]

    Singing Enemy Songs: Lili Marleen April 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Singing Enemy Songs: Lili Marleen

    One of the most moving moments in cinema is the extraordinary ending of Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. A young German girl is pulled in front of a crowd of French soldiers and forced to sing. The poilu mock her but as she nervously begins  the mood changes. The soldiers join in and drown her anxious, […]

    A Witch’s Secret Letter April 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Witch's Secret Letter

    This is perhaps the most extraordinary ‘witch’ source of them all. In 1628 Johannes Junius, aged fifty five, burgomaster of Bamberg was taken in by the local authorities as a witch. After days of interrogation he writes a secret letter to his daughter explaining his decision to confess to witchcraft. Here is the voice of the victim that […]

    Frau Feie and Jousting April 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Frau Feie and Jousting

    Another book from the burning libraries file, this time from thirteenth-century Saxony. The book is, as the burning library tag suggests, lost but we learn something of its subject matter from a surviving town chronicle. In 1281-1282 Magdeburg decided to hold a jousting tournament with an unusual prize: a woman. Now it must be remembered […]

    Suicide and Historical Loopholes April 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Suicide and Historical Loopholes

    Suicide has proved abhorrent to most spiritual traditions. Certainly, the great monotheistic religions and most of the far Eastern religions have condemned ‘self-murder’: cue lots of pulpit bashing and descriptions of hell or unpleasant reincarnations. This begs the question though of what you can do if you live in 500 BC or 500 AD or […]

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