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  • Why Didn’t the Vikings Bring Disease to the Americas? March 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Why Didn't the Vikings Bring Disease to the Americas?

    It is well known that viruses proved absolutely essential in the colonization of the Americas. Unlike in Africa and Asia native populations died on a massive scale as they came into contact with viruses from animals and people, viruses that had been blunted by human immune systems over several thousand years in Europe. By some […]

    The Most Beautiful Folk Cure: An Epilepsy Ring February 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Most Beautiful Folk Cure: An Epilepsy Ring

    ***for Tacitus on sabbatical*** There is a little to be said for many folklore cures in terms of efficacy unless we call out placebo. However, some cures are winners, even spectacular winners in an aesthetic sense. I recently ran across this very curious nineteenth-century Welsh cure for epilepsy (‘the cure of fits’): it appeared in […]

    Small Pox: the Native American Version February 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Small Pox: the Native American Version

    The greatest weapons that European colonists had at their disposal when they disembarked in the Americas in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries were not their muskets or their swords or their armour. They were, of course, their viruses (and those of their animals) with which they inflicted (at least at first unknowingly) devestation on […]

    Hooping Cough Cures September 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hooping Cough Cures

    We are in 1862 A correspondent transmits the following account of a superstitious ceremony which took place the other day at Neilston [Lowland Scotland]. The jolly blacksmith there is in possession of a fine young she ass, which, with her frolics, has caused great amusement amongst the boys of the town, while some calculating old […]

    Weird Birth Omen and the Youngest Roman Emperor September 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Weird Birth Omen and the Youngest Roman Emperor

    ***Thanks for David M for pointing out this fascinating piece*** Diadumenian was one of the unluckiest Roman emperors. He was made emperor by his father when he was about nine and he was dead within just over a year (obit 218), when one of those apparently endless third-century revolts pulled the rug from under his […]

    Hydropathy: Roby Comes Through August 31, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hydropathy: Roby Comes Through

    Hydropathy was one of Victorian England’s most interesting errors, the belief that by ‘taking the waters’ various serious conditions could be cured. Stuff and nonsense? Well, according to modern medical science, yes: and Darwin in the nineteenth century himself experimented with hydropathy (for his mysterious health condition) concluding that any success was really just a […]

    The Amphibiotic Ablutionists August 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Amphibiotic Ablutionists

    *** Sorry late, Beach family reunited today*** Diving in the freezing water is now a fairly common guarantee of guts and eccentricity. But in early nineteenth-century England it was the height of weirdness. Beach stumbled on these healthy souls while searching for more information about hydropathy.  Beach is going to put up a five dollar […]

    Witches and Brambles May 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Witches and Brambles

    This is a summary borrowed from Owen Davies’ excellent Witchcraft, Magic and Culture. In December 1924, Alfred John Matthews, aged forty-three, a small-holder of Clyst St Lawrence, Devon, appeared at the Cullhompton petty sessions for scratching and drawing blood from Ellen Garnsworthy, a middle-aged, married woman of the same village. Matthews had a sow which […]

    Vision Quest 1#: Blood Loss April 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Vision Quest 1#: Blood Loss

    Around the world different peoples have pioneered different methods to ‘open the doors of consciousness’ through what doctors call hallucinations. Possible keys to said doors include mushrooms, toad poison and smoked grasses (of various descriptions). Beach knew about all these but he was surprised, recently to read about blood loss causing hallucinations. The science behind […]

    CCSVI: The Limits of Placebo January 5, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    CCSVI: The Limits of Placebo

    CCSVI is a medical condition that may or that may not explain one of the most mysterious and debilitating illnesses on the planet, Multiple Sclerosis. We look at it here because it is yet another example of a strange-history theme, the difficulty that new knowledge has in emerging against a strong orthodoxy, something that is […]

    Not Suitable for Engineers: Choking Danger December 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Not Suitable for Engineers: Choking Danger

    Beach is not a huge fan of modern medicine. But when you see what our ancestors had to go through health-wise, every so often he feels a certain warmth towards the white coated ones. Take this horrific account concerning Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s brush with death after a conjuring trick accident (!). Mr. Brunel, the celebrated […]

    A Fourteen-Month Pregnancy in Nineteenth-century Cornwall? October 25, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Fourteen-Month Pregnancy in Nineteenth-century Cornwall?

    Polperro Press is a small publishing house that produces excellent quality monographs on Cornish themes. If every town of this size – Polperro is an idyllic Cornish port – had a book producing company of a third of this quality historians would be able to give up their day jobs: history, at least western history, […]

    How Cats Create Neurotic Societies September 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    How Cats Create Neurotic Societies

    ***Dedicated to Paschal*** Cats, it has been so long… The last cat tag was about cat clocks back in February, before that it was dried cats in 2011 and then there was cat burial in Iceland, black cats and luck and musical instruments that employ cats. But, thinking of today’s post, how can cats create […]

    Are Societies What They Eat? September 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Are Societies What They Eat?

    There is no question that food and drink change us. If you begin to drink two litres of coca-cola a day, instead of a litre of fizzy water or if you start chewing on cocoa leaves instead of making banana smoothies your family will quickly notice a difference. Here there is and can be no […]

    Gluten, Famine and the Slow Crawl of Medical Knowledge August 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Gluten, Famine and the Slow Crawl of Medical Knowledge

    ***Beach wants to salute his readers for a couple of days as he is going on his yearly retreat (hermit’s cave etc): he’ll see you on the other side, if the wolves don’t come*** Wheat is the grain of the west. The crop that has followed Europeans wherever they have gone for the simple reason […]

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