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  • Declaring War in WW2: National Styles March 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Declaring War in WW2: National Styles

    The characters of countries are reflected in their cuisines, their clothes, and their soap operas, so why not in their declarations of war? Thought it might be fun to see whether this notion stands up and so this morning ran through every WW2 declaration of war that I could find from 1 September 1939 through […]

    The Most Exciting School Trip in History: 21 June 1919 February 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Most Exciting School Trip in History: 21 June 1919

    School trips are often fairly maudlin affairs: go to a local zoo, don’t pet the lions; walk through a city park, buddy up as you pass the homeless people; polish the sun-washed floors of the local museum with fifty infant feet… But one school trip that any of us would have wanted to be on […]

    A Beautiful Korean Water Thief February 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Beautiful Korean Water Thief

    The clepsydra or water thief refers to clocks, typically used in ancient times and even the Middle Ages, that measured time through dropping water: e.g. 300 drips in an hour etc etc. By the European middle ages clepsydra were on their way out but in some other corners of the world they were continually refined […]

    The First Pictured Sub Saharan African? November 19, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The First Pictured Sub Saharan African?

    It would be untrue to say that the woman portrayed above is the first Sub-Saharan African to be reproduced by an artist, as there are various cave paintings pre-dating this work by several thousand years, some in the Saharan desert itself. But this is to the best of my knowledge: drbeachcombing at yahoo dot com […]

    The Longest Sentry Duty August 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Longest Sentry Duty

    Beachcombing is not a huge fan of Bismarck (what’s there to like?), but his memoirs have some great passages. This story is one of those WIBT (Wish I’d Been There) moments and relates to a visit to St Petersburg in 1859. If Beach had read this at second hand he would have pressed the ‘legend’ […]

    Coulrophobia and Cricket July 2, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Coulrophobia and Cricket

    There are many reasons to loathe the English but cricket is not one of them. Cricket, according to the romantics, was the game that the squire would play with their tenants, small time farmers and landless labourers on the village green on distant Sundays in the eighteenth century. Trevelyan wrote with pardonable exaggeration: ‘if the […]

    When Cats Killed Men April 18, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    When Cats Killed Men

    Can a cat kill a human being? In the modern world you would need to invent a rather elaborate scenario involving microbes, extreme allergies or a long flight of stairs to make that one work. But in ancient Egypt cats regularly murdered their human neighbours: though first their human neighbours had to kill them. Diodorus […]

    Is the Pope Catholic? March 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Is the Pope Catholic?

    Here follows a potted biographer of one of those seventeenth-century Quakers who enjoyed riling the world. In fact, this was the period when the Society of Friends was anything but… One case, in London, may be given as an illustration in John Perrot, an Irishman, who during the times of stripping from death or imprisonment […]

    Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine November 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine

    ***Dedicated to Laura: for an excellent background to Madame Tussaud follow this link (and look out particularly for Brad Pitt’s knickers)*** Anna Maria Tussaud (obit 1850) came to Britain in 1802 to show her famous wax impressions as an entrepreneur, but she remained in the country as an exile once the Napoleonic Wars had begun. […]

    Desperate Men: 490 BC June 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Desperate Men: 490 BC

    The Battle of Marathon is one of those events that has been so polished by historians and lyricists that it has become a mirror held up to every age which has cared to look into it. But behind the bumph and the pumph there remains a very real mystery. How did a (then) obscure Greek […]

    Shape-Shifting in a Nineteenth-Century Court-Room May 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Shape-Shifting in a Nineteenth-Century Court-Room

    Beachcombing has visited the Isle of Man on several occasions in this blog (he has only been once physically): there was the mermaid sighting from an early submarine, the drunk Manx buggan, and the early medieval kingdom of Mannau. But he is confident that this story will trump them all. Our author has been describing […]

    Nashville Debutante Fights Imperial Japan May 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Nashville Debutante Fights Imperial Japan

    ***With thanks to Larry*** A wish-i’d-been-there moment from 1941. Cornelia Fort was a twenty-three-year-old pilot and instructor flying a Cadet out of Honolulu in that year. Incredibly though CF had only been flying for a matter of months she was already deemed good enough to work as an instructor, putting a young Hawaiian through his […]

    Cato’s Sword February 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Cato's Sword

    Beachcombing usually plans about two days ahead with his posts. But every so often something emerges from out of the depths of the subconscious and will just not leave him in peace. This morning it was the death of Cato the Younger that tapped like a woodpecker on his inner skull. It had already been […]

    Plotinus Meets a God January 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Plotinus Meets a God

    A WIBT (Wish I’d been there) moment from later antiquity, brought to mind, in part by stories at the end of 2011 about Socrate’s daemon. The subject is Plotinus, a follower of Plato and the thinker who offered the ancient Mediterranean a ‘sensible’ alternative to Christianity: neo-platonism. Plotinus, as all Platonists, had mixed feelings about […]

    Electrocuting African Tribal Hosts January 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Electrocuting African Tribal Hosts

    One of the great challenges of any nineteenth-century explorers was to make friends with the ‘primitives’ in such out of the way places as an equatorial rain forest, the upper peaks of the Andes and through much of Darkest Africa. And, of course, to do so they brought gifts along with them: a sensible enough […]

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