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  • The Soul Zoo January 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Soul Zoo

    So many interesting replies to recent posts to put up but little Miss B has a nasty flu so she is home from school and Beachcombing will be spending the morning with her – she is a state of such anxiety that the poor kid needs to be held at all times. Saturday seems a […]

    2012 and All That January 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    2012 and All That

    The Beachcombings’ last aupair but one wanted to go back to school and get a degree as a midwife (which in itself begs all kinds of questions) but was holding off till 2013: ‘I don’t want to waste my time if the world is about to end’ she usefully explained. Beach should add that she […]

    What Religion did Fairies Follow? January 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    What Religion did Fairies Follow?

    Beach’s endless reading in the literature of fairies has led him to a couple of unusual passages. He honestly doesn’t know that to make of them. In truth, they frighten him. The first is from a south-western fairy tale where a man is reunited with his ‘dead’ fiancé who is actually trapped in fairy land. […]

    Review: The Discovery of Jeanne Baret January 21, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: The Discovery of Jeanne Baret

    In 1766 Jeanne Baret, a young Burgundian, joined a round-the-world trip, a French mission to claim territory in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Her experiences, the subject of a recent book by Glynis Ridley, would have been remarkable in itself given her gender and the date. But as the French navy did not allow women […]

    Hauntings and Technology: the Teflon Effect January 19, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Hauntings and Technology: the Teflon Effect

    Not a month ago Beachcombing reflected on the strange way that Roman ghosts are a modern invention and the way too that there are apparently fashions in which historical periods haunt and which do not. Beach thought that today he would reflect, instead, on a different but surely related phenomenon, the apparent allergy that new […]

    An Eagle, A Basket and A Boy January 12, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    An Eagle, A Basket and A Boy

    Beachcombing probably owes his ever patient readers an apology today. This post hardly counts as bizarre history: but there are eagles (much visited in previous posts, particularly involving children being carried away) and a young man’s hair turning white and a classy illustration to go with it. The story relates to the West of Ireland […]

    Medieval Dog-Heads: An Eye-Witness Report January 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Medieval Dog-Heads: An Eye-Witness Report

    An interesting passage from the Itinerarium of Friar Odoric (obit 1331), a pioneering Italian traveller in Asia: Odoric may have been the first European to reach Lhasa. He certainly stood before the great Khan and penetrated China. He also visited the south seas. The island of Moumoran has never been satisfactorily identified but probably lies […]

    A Six Mile Stride December 30, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Six Mile Stride

    A gentle post today as we near year’s end. Beachcombing has spent an unaccountable amount of time in Cornwall (south-west ‘England’) in the last week, looking at nineteenth-century infanticide (as you do). In his many wanderings through the meadows of Cornish books he stumbled upon the tale of the giant Bolster striding from St Agnes […]

    What do fairies smell of? December 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    What do fairies smell of?

    Beachcombing knows that not everyone appreciates his endless posts on fairies, but here is – he promises – the last one for 2011. He might even wait a week before he starts again in 2012. Anyway, apologies apart, he recently stumbled on a rather beautiful book about Yorkshire in the late nineteenth century, one that […]

    The Bearded Princess December 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Bearded Princess

    A day of freedom: 77 exams graded, course readers prepared, translations refined, goodbyes given… It is all over, at least, until, in January, the whole merry dance begins again. In the meantime, Beachcombing thought that he would go back to an old love of his, some of the more unusual saints in the Christian pantheon. […]

    Cannibalism and Syphilis December 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Cannibalism and Syphilis

    Syphilis (unless, of course, you have the misfortune to be a sufferer) is one of the most interesting of illnesses. Historians still, for example, argue about whether it crossed from Europe to the Americas or whether, on the contrary, it was a gift from the New to the Old World: the balance of opinion seems […]

    Christian Cannibalism in the Middle Ages December 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Christian Cannibalism in the Middle Ages

    Beachcombing sometimes begins his posts with naff excuses about why he can’t write much on this or that occasion, but today the pressure is really on: exams to be marked, the ill to be visited, books to be sent, syllabi to be written, course packs to be checked, the trauma of saying goodbye to much […]

    White Horses, Sex and Sovereignty December 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    White Horses, Sex and Sovereignty

    Inspired by Southern Man’s comment on yesterday’s post Beach thought he would today quote from some of the passages relating to Irish sovereignty. There was in pre-Norman Ireland the idea that the land is a woman, Sovereignty, who must be courted and seduced by the successful king. Take, for example, this rather tame passage relating […]

    The Everliving Child December 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Everliving Child

    Exams are pressing and so a short African post from an early nineteenth-century British adventurer: In Cromantine [Ghana?] there exists a tradition, or rather a tale, to deceive strangers, that they have still in their possession a male child, who has existed ever since the beginning of the world. This child, they declare, neither eats, […]

    The Zambian Space Programme of 1962 December 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Zambian Space Programme of 1962

    One of the problems of looking for the bizarre in history is that, after a while, you’ve read everything before: mermaid funerals in the Hebrides, tick; bats used in bombs against Japan, tick; Roman legionaries in China, tick… But then every so often something comes along that is fresh and that has completely escaped your […]

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