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  • 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 […]

    Animal Sacrifices in Christianity?! August 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Animal Sacrifices in Christianity?!

    Christians don’t sacrifice animals, do they? There is some uncomfortable stuff to do with sacrificing Christ in the mass: particularly if you believe in transubstantiation. But that’s a man/god. Yes, Christians routinely kill animals either directly or as consumers: the growth of vegetarianism in the west in the last century has nothing to do with […]

    Papal Sorceror? July 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Papal Sorceror?

    ***Thanks to an old friend of the blog, Stephen D. for this one*** Urban VIII (obit 1644) was one of the most exquisitely cultured popes ever to sit on the throne of Peter. He is famous today for being the man who brought Galileo to Rome to rap his knuckles very hard: but that is […]

    Female Poison Circles July 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Female Poison Circles

    As is well known periodically through history groups of frustrated women have banded together to poison their violent, somnolent, poor or idiotic husbands. Six or sixty or one hundred and fifty would  find a local gypsy who sold tastless, colourless (in short undetectable) poisons and then run home and start dosing gins and tonics or […]

    Romans and Matron Poisoners: 190 Killed June 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Romans and Matron Poisoners: 190 Killed

    331 BC was a very bad year in Rome. Livy (obit 17 AD) is our only record for the catastrophe. I include here an online translation from 8, 18 (with some slight changes) and the Latin as I hate translating ‘the Padovan’. The foremost men in the State were being attacked by the same illness, […]

    Blue Bottoms and Samurai in 17 C. Spain June 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Modern
    Blue Bottoms and Samurai in 17 C. Spain

    ***This story came from Invisible for which many thanks*** In 1613 a group of Japanese soldiers and diplomats undertook an extraordinary journey that would end with blue spots on the bottoms of babies in Andalucia (Spain). The diplomatic group was led by a northern aristocrat, Hasekura Tsunetaka and a crew of 180 under HT sailed the Pacific landing […]

    Why Did the Axis Fight the US? June 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Why Did the Axis Fight the US?

    One of the neatest sentences about the Second World War is that the Allies won their victory because of ‘Soviet blood, British time and American resources’. This is an approximation, of course, to truth but a pretty effective one. The Soviets lost perhaps 26 million, enough dead to damn the river of German invasion. The […]

    The Cuckold’s Horns May 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Cuckold's Horns

    ***Thanks to Ricardo and Neil for help with this post*** The cuckold’s horns is a sign, usually indicated by two fingers placed over the head, of a man whose wife has been unfaithful. In many countries – not least the UK, see photo – the actual symbolism has been forgotten and only the offence remains. […]

    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware April 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware

    This blog has pioneered a series of burning libraries: books that didn’t make it (23 to date)… But what about real burning libraries? Libraries that, at some point in Antiquity or the Middle Ages, were gutted by fire, accidental or deliberate. I have included here a list of eleven devastatingly bad ‘burning libraries’ or ‘burning […]

    Fiume under D’Annunzio: An Incubator of Evil April 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Fiume under D'Annunzio: An Incubator of Evil

    ***Dedicated to Ray G*** Everyone has dreamed of walking through Kublai Khan’s ice palaces or straying into the outer reaches of Dante’s paradise (after St Bernard has spoken) or, for those with a rural bent, strolling through the wood of Keats’ nightingale. But one early twentieth-century community spent the best part of eighteen months in […]

    A Medieval Brass Robot and the Unutterable Name of God April 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Medieval Brass Robot and the Unutterable Name of God

    This account is given by William of Malmesbury in one of his histories. It is interesting for many reasons, not least because it supposedly came from a doctor in his monastery, who told it to William, when the future historian was a boy. When I [William's informant] was seven years old despising the mean circumstances […]

    Love Goddess #8: Simonetta Vespucci March 30, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Love Goddess #8: Simonetta Vespucci

    Our latest in the love goddess series (for a full list see below) is Simonetta Vespucci (obit 1476), a woman that had the reputation for being the most outstanding beauty of Florence at the apogee of that city’s golden age. We know that she came from Genova (her maiden name was Cattaneo de Candia), we […]

    Totalitarian Leaders, Urban Legends and Motorbikes March 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Totalitarian Leaders, Urban Legends and Motorbikes

    Totalitarian states put their leaders at the very heart of civic life as symbol and reality of fascism/Nazism/communism (or whatever other nightmare a country has fallen into). One of the consequences of the popular focus on the duce/fuhrer/stalin is that the individual citizen comes to feel a special warmth for the head that they might […]

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