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  • 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 […]

    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 […]

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