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  • Witch Oven Near Florence December 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Oven Near Florence

    This story appeared in 1893. It is a witchcraft report from Italy in a period when Leland assures us that there were still many cunning women and planet rulers making their living in the country. What is unusual is the advice given. In any case, first the preliminaries… At Ponte a Ema, about three miles […]

    For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow and WW2 December 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    For He's a Jolly Good Fellow and WW2

    A painful moment from 1939, at least for any Britons reading this post. Neville Chamberlain and his capable foreign minister, Lord Halifax, have travelled, 11 January, to Rome for a meeting of minds with Mussolini. In fact, Britain is just nine months away from a World War and a year and a half away from […]

    The Rights and Wrongs of Killing Mussolini December 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Rights and Wrongs of Killing Mussolini

    After Beach’s recent blog on Mussolini’s death several emails about not so much the circumstances as the justification for killing the Fascist leader. The official version of the story claims that the Allies wanted Mussolini for themselves but that the partisans and particularly the Communist partisans had decided to do away with Mussolini as a […]

    Was Leonardo’s Mother a Slave (Chinese or Otherwise)? December 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Was Leonardo's Mother a Slave (Chinese or Otherwise)?

    Madness on the internet in the last few days with the announcement that Leonardo da Vinci’s mother was a Chinese slave and that she is the Mona Lisa. Many readers will have stumbled upon this theory and enjoyed its improbability, but they may not know that there has been almost ten years of similar theories […]

    The King and Country Debate: Oxford 1933 December 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The King and Country Debate: Oxford 1933

    It is remembered as ‘the King and Country Debate’, the most famous student debate in history. 9 February 1933 Oxford Union (the students of Oxford University in contentious mode) undertook to discuss the proposal ‘that this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country’. The expectations were that the proposal would be brushed […]

    Three Forgotten Democratic Tools from History November 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Three Forgotten Democratic Tools from History

    Western democracies run on a fairly limited model with relatively little variety from country to country. There follow three features that have disappeared from our contemporary democracies but that worked (and worked well) in the three most significant strands of historical democracies: ancient Greece, the medieval Italian communes and Viking ‘controlled anarchy’. Ostracisim Ancient Athens […]

    The Misericordia Polyptych Meets Allied Bombs November 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Misericordia Polyptych Meets Allied Bombs

    The Misericordia Polyptych is a talismanic work of art by Piero della Francesca, today, and for most of its history, kept at Sanselpolcro in eastern Tuscany near the border with Umbria (Italy). It took PF seventeen years to complete the polyptych, yet it would have only taken a second for an Allied bomb to blow […]

    Italy’s World War Disaster November 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Italy's World War Disaster

    Italians and World Wars don’t really get on. A combination of poor military culture and one of the most macho yet incompetent political classes on the planet made for messy interventions, and amputations rather than extrications. However, even by sorry Italian standards, the six weeks beginning 28 Oct 1940 and ending 7-8 Dec 1940 were […]

    Mussolini’s Secret Weapon: Castor Oil November 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mussolini’s Secret Weapon: Castor Oil

    Castor oil is a vegetable oil that in Beach’s parent’s generation was used as a panacea for problems of the digestive tract. Unlucky children who had complained of a poorly stomach, perhaps with the foolish idea of missing school, were given a table spoon. Castor oil has no miraculous effect on the body but it […]

    The Truth about Mussolini’s Death? October 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Truth about Mussolini's Death?

    There is no more controversial minute in Italian history. The sixty seconds took place around four o’ clock in the afternoon 28 April 1945 at Villa Belmonte (picture shows a man tracing bullet holes there). In those seconds a wrecked man, old before his time, and his much younger lover were shot dead. The man was, of […]

    Multi-Dimensional Civil War in Fourteenth-Century Florence October 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Multi-Dimensional Civil War in Fourteenth-Century Florence

    Civil Wars are generally – the American Civil War is a fascinating exception – confusing with there almost inevitably being more than two factions. However, it is arguable whether, with apologies to Syria and Bosnia, the world has ever experienced civil wars quite as confusing as those reported in Florence, Italy in the fourteenth century. […]

    D’Annunzio as Father: the Ballroom Babies September 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    D'Annunzio as Father: the Ballroom Babies

    Motherhood comes naturally, says the sage, fatherhood, instead, must be learnt. That is certainly the experience of the present blogger with two young daughters (soon to be, God willing, three) and he was amused to come across this dream in the works of Gabriele D’Annunzio, Italian genius and cad, one of the most self referential […]

    More On Cauls and Sacs September 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    More On Cauls and Sacs

    Anthropologists have their work cut out for them. Despite the fact that we are all – from the Kalihari Bushman to the Californian surfer – one and the same species, there are so many differences between human societies, as to be almost embarrassing. However, there are a series of important and trivial facts that bind […]

    Preferring Hell to Heaven: Machiavelli August 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Preferring Hell to Heaven: Machiavelli

    We all dream every night – a simple physiological fact – and yet most of these dreams are forgotten by the individual and even those that are remembered rarely enter history. However, on occasion a dream slips through into record, either because it changes the world or because it represents a life. ‘Machiavelli’s dream’ is […]

    Hidden Flags August 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Hidden Flags

    There’s a scene in that very good Powell and Pressburger film One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942), where downed British pilots in occupied Holland establish the loyalty of their hosts through a trick commode. A line of orange flowers (the Dutch colour) leads to a swing picture that reveals a disguised portrait of the […]

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