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  • Why Couldn’t WW2 Italians Fight? July 8, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Why Couldn't WW2 Italians Fight?

    There are endless tales about twentieth-century Italian military ineptitude and more importantly the perception of the same. Churchill said to Ribbentrop of the Italians just before the last war: ‘We had them last time, it is only fair you take them this time.’ In a meeting between British and German WW1 veterans in 1937 or […]

    Counter Factual: Mussolini Doesn’t Roll the Dice June 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Counter Factual: Mussolini Doesn't Roll the Dice

    Hitler tried to persuade Italy to join Germany in 1939. He failed but German arms did their own devilish work in Poland then in France. By late May 1940, when it was clear that France and Britain were on the edge of defeat, Mussolini made increasingly belligerent sounds. It was then Hitler who held the […]

    Enemy Gives Medal for Ship Sinking June 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Enemy Gives Medal for Ship Sinking

    There are very occasional instances of enemy officials reporting on the gallantry and heroism of opposite numbers. The Irish Captain Roope of the HMS Glowworm was, for example, given his Victoria cross in part because of the testimony of a German captain, Heye, whose ship had been rammed by Roope in 1940. However, there is […]

    D’Annunzio and PR May 30, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Uncategorized
    D'Annunzio and PR

    Gabrielle d’Annunzio was one of the most ghastly men to have walked the earth and, yet, he was unquestionably a genius, ‘a talented shit’. He dominated Italy’s literary scene for a half a century and packed more into his lifetime than most of us would manage in ten: a random line from his biography ‘fell […]

    History Journals and Their Limits May 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    History Journals and Their Limits

    There is something rather sinister about Mike Dash’s latest history post. The problem is not the subject, which is fascinating, women poisoning men in seventeenth-century Italy. Nor is the style off-kilter: it is, as always, accessible and fun. The problem is, quite simply, its length. MD’s new essay runs to almost fifteen thousand words: Beach finished the […]

    Credulity and Animal Lore in Italy May 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Credulity and Animal Lore in Italy

    Beach has recently been enjoying serpent folklore. This study has led him to question, as often happens to inadequate human beings when new information comes along, ‘facts’ that has been fed him in his time living in Italy: almost a decade now. Here are six involving reptiles and their relatives. Some of these Beach discounted […]

    Gay Ponte Vecchio and the Office of the Night April 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Gay Ponte Vecchio and the Office of the Night

    Florence was famous in the renaissance for its relative tolerance for homosexuality. True, after one sermon by Bernardino of Siena bonfires were prepared for any ‘sodomites’ and Savonarola and his allies were also violently disposed towards homosexual citizens. However, homosexuals were not, outside of Christian rhetoric, routinely burnt and in many cases ‘the Office of […]

    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 […]

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