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  • British Truth and American Lies? March 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    British Truth and American Lies?

    If you look through the American press from the 1800s you will sometimes come across outrageous stories about ghostly happenings, about strange sightings and about impossible creatures. The most famous example of this is, of course, the moon hoax of 1835. In Britain you have similarly outrageous stories about, say, fairy encounters, about sea serpents […]

    A Letter Between Enemies, 1915 March 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    A Letter Between Enemies, 1915

    This letter came in the spring of 1915 to the Michon family house in France. It arrived from a Naples address, but it had come ultimately from Berlin: direct letters from Berlin to France where, of course, out of the question by this date. The writer was one Charlotte von Dassel. Very dear Madame, In […]

    The First New Orleans Mardi Gras: Bears and Transvestites February 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The First New Orleans Mardi Gras: Bears and Transvestites

    The relevant Wikipedia page dates the first recorded Mardi Gras to 1835. However, there was certainly a small Mardi Gras held a long century before. Indeed, possibly our earliest Mardi Gras description from the city was written out in 1730. In that year a Company of the Indies official Marc-Antoine Caillot, who had been in […]

    Tomatoes and Poison: Humanity’s Innate Conservatism February 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Tomatoes and Poison: Humanity's Innate Conservatism

    Tomatoes are one of the fundamentals of modern cuisine in all continents. Yet just five hundred years ago they were a practically unknown Andean plant of the nightshade family that, when grown in New England or French or Italian gardens, were labelled as ‘ornamentals’: i.e. no one put a tomato near their mouth. Why were […]

    Submarine Weapons Before Torpedoes: Gloves, Javelins and Greek Fire February 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Submarine Weapons Before Torpedoes: Gloves, Javelins and Greek Fire

    Even the first submarine pioneers recognised that there would be a military applications for crafts glidingly silently unnoticed under the water. But the question was how on earth do you get to blow up the enemy flagship? On land there was everything from machetes to canons, and rocks to catapults. But under the waves human […]

    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 […]

    Condoned Torture and Revenge in Eighteenth-Century New Orleans January 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Condoned Torture and Revenge in Eighteenth-Century New Orleans

    ***Warning this post has some very unpleasant material: if you are having a bad day, do yourself a favour and just click away…*** ‘The west’, that monolith to which most readers of this blog belong, has gradually over the centuries, shied away from torture. But there are moments in history when societies return on themselves […]

    Pre-Columbian Trips to America? Ballast! January 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Pre-Columbian Trips to America? Ballast!

    Imagine the excitement of the archaeologists who had gathered at NA-57 off the Florida coast near Fernandina in 1972. In some offshore piles they had found various bits of ‘rubbish’ from European settlers: ceramics, pipes, glass fragments… Nothing special you might think. But what was unusual was the dating. British settlements began in the area in […]

    ROLFUDRETUS and Last Country Standing January 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    ROLFUDRETUS and Last Country Standing

    This is a bad period in Italy. The self-employed, a quarter of the population, are presently being taxed at about 50%. The public sector is inefficient and weighs the country down. The law – always a relative concept in Italy – has become a simultaneously braying and defecating ass. And the Euro is crushing Italian manufacturing. […]

    The Venkov Lenin: the Bizarre Fate of a Communist Era Statue January 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Venkov Lenin: the Bizarre Fate of a Communist Era Statue

    Picture borrowed from Vacilando, a useful source for information on Lewis Carpenter There are some great stories about Lenin statues and busts, including Lenin in Antarctica, a post featured on this blog a couple of years ago. For now though let’s turn to one of the most travelled of all the statues of the man […]

    Selling Alaska/Louisiana/Manhattan by the Pound December 4, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Selling Alaska/Louisiana/Manhattan by the Pound

    History could be usefully defined as one long territory grab: who has the desire to take these acres, and who has the will and the resources and enough young ready to die on the other side? You can almost see the archangels of history pouring blood and bullets into two sides of a balance. But […]

    Irish and Africans: A Peculiar Nineteenth-Century English Obsession November 26, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Irish and Africans: A Peculiar Nineteenth-Century English Obsession

    The science of ‘race’ is for the most part a series of embarrassing excesses and intellectually dishonst indulgences of contemporary opinions and prejudice, with some requisite skull-measuring and blethering about frontal lobes to make everything sound alright. Even by these particularly sad lows the following picture is an extraordinary achievement. The images come from Ireland […]

    The Wood County Creature!!! November 23, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    The Wood County Creature!!!

    Some very sad news from the US: the death of Nick Reiter. Nick was a paranormal investigator based in Ohio and his website contains a series of investigations of mysterious cases, particularly hauntings. Beach hasn’t got much time for all this ghost-busters stuff, but Nick’s writing gives the phantoms a rare edge and more particularly […]

    Review: The Ghost Wore Black October 30, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: The Ghost Wore Black

    The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past is the latest in Ghosts of the Past series by Chris Woodyard. Anyone familiar with CW’s style will know by now what to expect. There are half a dozen thematic chapters, which takes us from devils, to wild men, to spring-heeled jack wannabees: ‘ghosts’ has to […]

    Jokes From World War 2 October 28, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Jokes From World War 2

    Unlike our previous post on jokes about the World Wars here are a series of jokes from world war two. Beach can’t guarantee that every single one came from the the period between Sept 1939 and the summer of 1945, but they have a contemporary feel. Here are his favourites. Note a factory worker, Marianne […]

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