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  • 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 […]

    Highest Placed Spy August 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Highest Placed Spy

    And so it begins… Mrs B woke up at 5.00 am this morning and took darling daughters and aupair to the sea for at least a week. Beach is going to relax today and then from tomorrow do some serious MANLY writing. (He will only really relax when he learns that Italian motorways have not […]

    Genetics vs Environment among Monarchs July 31, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Genetics vs Environment among Monarchs

    There is a phrase that’s trotted out from time to time that monarchs are simply the descendants of those who killed lots of people and as such deserve little respect and certainly no adulation. Of course, it is true that monarchs are the descendants of those who killed many people. But what really matters is […]

    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 […]

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