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  • 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 […]

    Capital Punishment Cobblers August 19, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Capital Punishment Cobblers

    A cute little story from France a country which seems to attract a lot of urban myths around judicial execution: the majesty of the guillotine? Many years ago, a celebrated French physician, author of an excellent work on the effects of Imagination, wished to combine theory with practice, in order to confirm the truth of […]

    Protestantism, Statues and Sore Breasts/Fronts August 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Protestantism, Statues and Sore Breasts/Fronts

    A week ago now Beach mentioned the Devon folklorist Miss Theo Brown, a great talent who published in the 1960s. He was particularly interested to read yesterday an article of hers on the effect that the reformation had on religious life and folklore in the West Country in Britain. As ‘the old religion’ Catholicism, got […]

    Mad Cures: Sore Throats and Currents July 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mad Cures: Sore Throats and Currents

    C. 1900 you have a nasty sore throat that won’t go away. A friend tells you that there is a new treatment in town for only three dollars, five if you stay at home and the practitioner comes to your house with ‘the machine’. And what exactly does this  ‘new’ treatment entail, you ask innocently? […]

    Hippocratic Cobblers. February 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Hippocratic Cobblers.

    ***Dedicated to good and honest doctors: a pox on the others…*** Beachcombing has suffered greatly under the tyranny of white-coats over the years: blame a long undiagnosed and thus untreated condition – uncovered eventually after about ten minutes on Wikipedia. He has come then to expect problems in the medical sector. But nothing prepared him […]

    Medieval and Ancient Rats January 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Medieval and Ancient Rats

    One of the mysteries of the Black Death in the Middle Ages is how the victims never – with one curious Scandinavian exception – cottoned on to the fact that rodents, particularly rats were disease bearers. In some cases there were infestations of rats before the disease struck and many rats also died, which should […]

    A Surprise at Apple Down Cemetery January 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Surprise at Apple Down Cemetery

    There is a cute game that academics play where the more exciting the results of your research the more boring your abstract must be. Take the following tedious example from the 2011 American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Read through the miasma of low-key, lead on sentences and consider what an extraordinary discovery has allegedly been […]

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