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  • Canary Slaves in the Arab World April 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Canary Slaves in the Arab World

    It is sometimes said that the furthest travelled people in the ancient and medieval world were slaves. Consider four points. First, average men and women were not foolish enough to pass beyond the frontiers. Second, when they were foolish enough to travel they often risked becoming slaves (St Patrick, Frumentius… there are many examples). Third, […]

    Espionage Commandments April 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Espionage Commandments

    Beach ran several years ago a series of spying commandments from the end of the Great War. He thought he would follow this up today with some espionage commandments from the Second World War. These come courtesy of Bernard James Barton or (aka ‘Killer’ Barton or John Barton), a twenty-four year-old British major who, in […]

    The Failure of Appeasement April 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Failure of Appeasement

    Appeasement is the policy of giving smiles, kisses and gifts to neighbours to prevent war. In some moments of history it has worked (Dane-geld and Roman bribery beyond the frontiers); in some periods it has failed. A conspicuous example of a failure is the attempt by Britain to stroke its European friends and enemies into […]

    The 5 Greatest Historical Graphic Novels March 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The 5 Greatest Historical Graphic Novels

    Graphic novels must be, surely, the most underestimated genre in the modern arts: perhaps about 40% of the adult population have such strong feelings that, with the exception of Charlie Brown, they could not bring themselves to pick up a comic. This is a tragedy. There are great works out there that have been largely ignored and […]

    Dreadful Homecoming, Italy 1944 March 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Dreadful Homecoming, Italy 1944

    Sometimes when you read descriptions from history, something snags on your imagination and you can’t get loose: in fact the wool on your mental pullover starts to unravel… Sometimes it is hard to explain why. But for what it is worth here is a scene from history that could have featured as a vignette in […]

    Tears and Bows: WW1 Ambassadors and Declarations of War March 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Tears and Bows: WW1 Ambassadors and Declarations of War

    A recent post looked at the tensions created by ambassadors declaring war in WW2. Today, instead, some descriptions of declarations of war from World War 1. The initial impression is that there was more formality and more old world charm. Some of the ambassadors may have believed they would be back in their host capitals by […]

    In Search of Medieval Pain February 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    In Search of Medieval Pain

    First, a small rider. Beach would prefer to spend ten minutes in the company of medieval artists, than two hours in the company of the Renaissance ‘masters’. However, he has recently been disappointed in a search for pain among his favourite twelfth-, thirteenth- and fourteenth-century painters. In his naivety he thought that crucifixion scenes and […]

    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 […]

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