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  • Forgotten Kingdoms: The Republic of Montefiorino January 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Forgotten Kingdoms: The Republic of Montefiorino

    Another for the forgotten kingdom files, this time a particularly short lived example from Italy: the rulers of the Republic of Montefiorino managed about six weeks in 1944 before history and German flame-throwers intervened. First, some background. In the summer of 1943 Mussolini’s fascist government crumbled and Italy found itself occupied by angry Allies in […]

    Seven German Mistakes that Lost the Great War January 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Seven German Mistakes that Lost the Great War

    Germany went to war in August 1914 to bloody Russia, put Britain back in its place and break France’s back. Looking at their war record, after a century, what is striking is just how close Germany came to achieving at least a relative victory. Yet Germany’s leadership was not up to the job: this is clearer […]

    Gypsies as Children Stealers in Italy: A Modern Myth December 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    Gypsies as Children Stealers in Italy: A Modern Myth

    As noted previously on this blog the idea that gypsies steal children is an old one, at least five hundred years old if one piece of medieval German legislation is to be taken seriously. It is an idea that has died out in most western countries, but one that has survived curiously in Italy where, […]

    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 […]

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