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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 […]

Declaring War in WW2: National Styles March 23, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Declaring War in WW2: National Styles

The characters of countries are reflected in their cuisines, their clothes, and their soap operas, so why not in their declarations of war? Thought it might be fun to see whether this notion stands up and so this morning ran through every WW2 declaration of war that I could find from 1 September 1939 through […]

Unofficial Law and Order March 16, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Unofficial Law and Order

Beach has recently been researching out in the bogs of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ireland so far beyond the pale that children are occasionally incinerated as changelings and there is one alleged case of a legal agent being stoned to death! This was a traditional rural society ruled over as much by priests as by the […]

The Myth of Unbloody Zagonora February 26, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Myth of Unbloody Zagonora

One of the least bloody periods in the history of warfare came in early fifteenth-century Italy. The Italian city states had become a good deal less violent than a century before, and warfare was farmed out to mercenary captains, who proved themselves both greedy and all too often endearingly effete. These mercenary captains were in […]

Tomatoes and Poison: Humanity’s Innate Conservatism February 17, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Tomatoes and Poison: Humanity's Innate Conservatism

Tomatoes are one of the fundamentals of modern cuisine in all continents. Yet just five hundred years ago they were a practically unknown Andean plant of the nightshade family that, when grown in New England or French or Italian gardens, were labelled as ‘ornamentals’: i.e. no one put a tomato near their mouth. Why were […]

Review: Good Italy Bad Italy February 4, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Review: Good Italy Bad Italy

Italy is a total maverick: a country of extremes that breaks all the rules of how a modern western democracy should work and yet that does work and, in many respects, works quite well. Observers from other countries, particularly from the English-speaking world have long  been fascinated by this anomaly. On the one hand, they […]

How To Create A Golden Age: Instructions for Use January 27, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
How To Create A Golden Age: Instructions for Use

There are grey moments in history and there are black moments and, then, every so often there are wonderful conflagarations as the very paper that the past is written upon catches fire. Think the sheer brilliant evenescence of Athens in the fifth-century B.C.; Baghdad in the ninth century; or, indeed, Florence in the fourteenth and […]

More, Good Digestion and a Prayer December 31, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
More, Good Digestion and a Prayer

Beach, in the tradition of rather straitened New Years Day posts wishes his readers the best of 2014 with this little prayer that was sent in by a friend. As always replace ‘Lord’ with ‘Allah’, ‘First Contact’, ‘the Universe’, ‘Historical Materialism’ till your tastes are satisified… Give me a good digestion, Lord, And also something […]

Montanelli and the Martyrs of Spielberg December 20, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Montanelli and the Martyrs of Spielberg

A wonderful story that could probably only come out of Italy. First, some necessary background. Indro Montanelli was perhaps the finest Italian journalist of the twentieth century: he was able to interview and work with Andreotti, Berlusconi, Hitler, John-Paul II, Mussolini and many other notables whose deeds changed the peninsula and Europe (mostly, being notable, […]

Flying Boy Across the Mersey? December 16, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Flying Boy Across the Mersey?

This interesting but very confusing passage comes from Aubrey’s wonderful Brief Lives. It is, more specifically, from the chapter on a Lancastrian mathematician named Jonas Moore who had been taught by one William Gascoigne (this becomes important). Aubrey includes several fascinating facts including the unforgettable sentence that: ‘Sciatica: [Sir Jonas] cured it by boiling his […]

The Gannet Club: Parachuteless in WW2 December 14, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Gannet Club: Parachuteless in WW2

Jumping out of a plane without a parachute is never a good idea. But it is striking that some individuals walk away, or more likely are carried away, with a few token broken bones and a story to dine out on for the rest of their lives. Most modern examples are of parachutists who have […]

Jokes from WW1 November 22, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Jokes from WW1

A recent post included jokes of the Second World War and jokes about the Second World War. Here is a sister post on jokes from the First World War. These are trickier to track down but some are still fun and deserve respect and a reading. Others gratefully received: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Beach […]

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