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More Kopenicks November 23, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
More Kopenicks

Was it only a couple of week’s ago that Beach described the immortal achievement of Wihelm Vogit in Kopenick? A confidence trickster essentially took a German town hostage by putting on a captain’s uniform. At the time Beach noted the way that the British particularly were insufferable in blaming Prussia’s blind obedience to authority. Since […]

The Last Survivor of the Second World War November 15, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Last Survivor of the Second World War

Strange History put up a melancholy post a couple of weeks ago marking the day that the last Battle of Britain pilot died. And this is only the beginning… On that very day the newspapers ran with another story commemorating not the last but the oldest Auschwitz survivor’s death. Now the Battle of Britain and Auschwitz involve […]

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 […]

The Greatest Heist in History? The Captain of Kopenick November 7, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Greatest Heist in History? The Captain of Kopenick

Much has Beach travelled in the realms of criminal gold. But rarely has he come across a villain of the quality of Wilhelm  Voigt (obit 1922): the Captain of Kopenick. Let’s begin with the shocked aftermath and then follow Voigt back through one of the most daring robberies in history. 17 October 1906 the German […]

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 […]

Holy Gunpowder October 3, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Holy Gunpowder

***Thanks to Chris*** Beach was recently sent a link to Io9 and a remarkable couple of late renaissance images of devils and angels using gunpowder. As the Io9 writer notes – a writer who deserves most of the credit for what follows – the devil ‘packing heat’ is particularly delicious. We include below the wood cut and […]

Long-Knife Victims September 24, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Long-Knife Victims

Beach has several times over the years enjoyed the nonsense that historians spout about numbers. How many people lived in Roman Britain. How many witches were dragged to the stake in the burning years. How many Christians were sold in the slave markets of northern Africa in modern times? The sheer range of numbers is […]

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 […]

The Man Who Accidentally Started WW2 Five Days Too Early September 9, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
"El Tercer Reich". Tomo III. La Guerra antes de la Guerra

The last days of August 1939 were particularly painful for the leaders of the western democracies and their allies. Though most Poles, Britons and French citizens out in the streets did not realise it, the signing of the pact between the Soviet Union and Germany, 23 August, meant that the war had as good as […]

Generals, Entrepreneurs or Politicians? September 6, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Generals, Entrepreneurs or Politicians?

Paul Johnson is a journalist and historian who Beachcombing considers the single most irritating Englishman alive. However, and this is perhaps part of why Beachcombing finds PJ so irritating, he can be extraordinarily perceptive: though anyone with their finger hovering over an amazon buy button should know that this is far from an inevitable outcome. […]

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 […]

Prussians in the Frame: Brownies Out August 22, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Prussians in the Frame: Brownies Out

Beach often shows his students WW1 and WW2 photographs in class. He lets the effect wash over them and then breaks that effect by asking them why the photograph is staged. For most of the best shots from the world wars are the invention or, at very best, the ‘reconstruction’ of photographers who were far […]

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