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  • Forgotten Kingdoms: Africa Town May 30, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Forgotten Kingdoms: Africa Town

    This blog described, a month ago, the horrific experience of a group of African slaves, brought to Alabama (illegally) in 1860. In that post, Beach concentrated on the experience of slavery, remembered by men and women some seventy years later. But not the least incredible part of their experience was their decision to build a […]

    The Last African Slaves to Be Brought to America: Eyewitness Accounts April 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last African Slaves to Be Brought to America: Eyewitness Accounts

    The slave trade to America was banned in 1807, but slaves were still brought to America illegally in the decades that followed. The last known slave ship that brought slaves across the Atlantic was the Clotilde in 1859. What is extraordinary about the Clotilde’s journey is that the young slaves who were sold in Alabama, […]

    Greeks in Buddhist India? March 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Greeks in Buddhist India?

    Basnagoda Rahula argued in his doctorate, written in sometimes shaky English, but full of fascinating ideas, for wholesale Indian influence on Greek culture and above all, Greek philosophy. The arguments are exciting but annoyingly insubstantial: no fault of BR, of course. It would be exciting to have some kind of outside input into the beginning of […]

    Sugar Hell December 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Sugar Hell

    Nutritionists disagree on almost everything. However, if you go and visit several score one of the few points of consensus (along with ‘eat vegetables’) is that sugar is bad for us: in fact, there is far more agreement about sugar than about fat. Humanity’s dalliance with sugar dates back to the first time that a brave […]

    You Have Only Your Chains to Lose (Unless You Are African) June 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    You Have Only Your Chains to Lose (Unless You Are African)

    Karl Marx was a prolific author. The complete works of Marx and (his companion) Engels run to an almost unbelievable fifty volumes (including letters). In these volumes Marx said many clever things, some wise things, a good deal of stupid things, and some utterly, utterly bonkers things. Beach has recently been enjoying a selection 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, […]

    The Eugenics of History? February 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Eugenics of History?

    Eugenics refers of course to the depressing strand of thinking that says that societies (for which read boffins with bow ties employed by the state) should be allowed to decide which of us can and cannot reproduce our genes. Eugenics was briefly fashionable in the 1920s and 1930s then the Nazis came along and, perhaps […]

    The Oldest Record of an Escaped Slave? November 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Oldest Record of an Escaped Slave?

    Consider this record reporting an escaped slave named Hermon or alternatively Nilus. About 18 years old, of medium stature, beardless, with good legs, a dimple on the chin, a mole by the left side of the nose, a scar above the left corner of the mouth, tattooed on the right wrist with two barbarian letters. […]

    Water Thief Watcher January 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Water Thief Watcher

    In distant days I opened a tag on WCIH, ‘the worst careers in history’ and, before things fizzled out, I made the case for precolumbian sacrificial victims and the Galeotti. Here today is a new one to reopen the series, the Water Thief Watcher. Now for those without a degree in timekeeping the water thief […]

    The First Sub-Saharan Africans in China? November 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The First Sub-Saharan Africans in China?

    The following extraordinary passage appears in a twelfth-century Chinese text, by one Zhu Yu. The text is entitled Pingzhou Chats on Things Worthwhile – the Chinese have such a way with titles – and has several treasures. Consider though this passage and the wildmen. The wealthy in Guangzho maintain numerous foreign slaves. These slaves are […]

    Indonesians in Medieval Africa October 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Indonesians in Medieval Africa

    Despite all the excitement about the use of DNA in history, those elusive strands have so far proved surprisingly unhelpful in our text books. The problem is that populations with similar DNA live close to each other and that it is next to impossible to give a chronological breakdown of when a given locality changes […]

    The Queen of Cuba, Mermaids and a Far-Swimming Slave October 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Queen of Cuba, Mermaids and a Far-Swimming Slave

    ***Thanks to Invisible for the gem below*** 7 August 1871 this appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle, having apparently been excerpted from the Richmond Dispatch. The story’s title was Saved by Mermaids: A Story which Lacks Confirmation, one way of being polite about an enjoyable farrago. Apologies ahead of time for the racist tone of parts […]

    Children of the Dung Heap September 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Children of the Dung Heap

    There are some strange surnames if you take care to look around. And the present author knows of what he speaks: being called Beachcombing gets you some very curious looks in post-offices and at border crossings… But Beach’s personal favourite from history is the Greco-Egyptian name Kopr- (with many derivatives) meaning, of course, ‘dung’. These […]

    Eating Prisoners of War? Ten Thousand Years of ‘I Surrender’ August 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Eating Prisoners of War? Ten Thousand Years of 'I Surrender'

    ***This post is dedicated to A.G. who sent in the following question*** A.G. writes ‘I have often wondered what happened to the wounded left behind during the Napoleonic wars and earlier.  Did the locals come along and kill them for their personal belongings, were they cared for and held for ransom, what? I am speaking […]

    The Slave Free Centuries February 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Slave Free Centuries

    Slavery is regrettably everywhere in the past. It underlies all the great achievements of Antiquity: when Plato was discoursing on the immortality of the soul there were Syrian dancing girls and Scythian catamites lining up in the background. European colonialism grew under the shadow of the chain: it used to be said that the streets […]

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