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  • The Tiv and Hamlet September 12, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Tiv and Hamlet

    Laura Bohannan (aka Elenore Smith Bowen) was an anthropologist who came out of Oxford in the late 1940s. She did research with her husband Paul among the Tiv of Nigeria and the pair published several books on this federation over the next two decades. However, Bohannan also gave a remarkable BBC radio talk entitled, depending on […]

    Curse Thy Neighbour September 9, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Curse Thy Neighbour

    Beachcombing was thinking about war today (as you do) and immediately the generations (actually three semesters) fell away and he saw one of his favourite students, a Southern Baptist, giving a passionate and articulate Christian justification for killing: it was a long list that began with Genesis 15 and ended, triumphantly, with Matthew 10, 34 […]

    Tom Wintringham and Lenin’s Tractor September 8, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Tom Wintringham and Lenin’s Tractor

    Of all the intellectual perversions of modern times perhaps none was as bizarre and perhaps none had more serious consequences than the fawning attitude of some western democrats towards the Soviet Union and its satellites from the 1930s to the 1970s. The paeans of nonsense that there were written about Lenin and Stalin now beggar […]

    Eating Roadkill September 6, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Eating Roadkill

    Beachcombing’s village of Little Snoring is on a busy road and Beachcombing has long learnt to avert his eyes as various poor mammals appear inert before him on the tarmac. But knowing the infinite ingenuity of his fellow human-beings Beachcombing was only partly surprised to learn last week that there is a literature dedicated to the […]

    Centaur of Volos September 5, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    Centaur of Volos

    All centaur-lovers with a honeymoon or a sabbatical coming up should buy a ticket to Knoxville, Tennessee and visit the second floor of the Hodges Library at the University there. Still encased in the Greek mud, in which it sank almost two thousand five hundred years ago, is a centaur, the only one you will […]

    Transexual Medieval Irish Abbot September 3, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Transexual Medieval Irish Abbot

    Beachcombing brings you to the south-east of Ireland, very close to where Dublin stands today, in that distant and slightly unreal past when all Irish folk stories are set. Our hero is the abbot of the monastery of Drimnagh. The time Easter. And this, being a fairly loose establishment, the abbot is a young married […]

    The Last ‘Battle’ of the Revenge August 28, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last ‘Battle’ of the Revenge

                              Beachcombing is not a great one for anniversaries but for Flores, 31 August 1591, a naval ‘battle’ – if a fire-fight between a solitary ship, the Revenge, and three dozen enemy can be so called – he will make an exception. (Actually […]

    Numbers and the White Slave Trade August 25, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Numbers and the White Slave Trade

                              Numbers are hobgoblins in history, especially prior to the beginning of grown-up records in the late nineteenth century. How many people lived in Roman Britain? Well, in the last forty years estimates have ranged from a couple of hundred thousand to six million. […]

    Fasting Against God in Medieval Ireland August 23, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Fasting Against God in Medieval Ireland

            Beachcombing begins today with a reference to the medieval Irish belief – winningly surviving in parts of the Irish countryside to this day – that St Patrick not God would judge the Irish on the day of judgement. This makes for pretty awful theology, not least because St Patrick was expected […]

    Centaurs in Deepest Arabia August 21, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Centaurs in Deepest Arabia

                      Phlegon of Tralles is not a Greek author of the first rank. Indeed, he rarely comes up in conversation among students of the ancient except for a reported remark concerning the death of Christ. But this small-time second-century writer, who was born in south-west Turkey and who lived […]

    The Soccer War of 1969 August 15, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Soccer War of 1969

    Beachcombing, po-faced, has to note that most modern historians do not like to refer to the Soccer War of 1969 (La guerra del fútbol) as, well, ‘the Soccer War’. ‘The Hundred Hours War’ or better still ‘the Salvador–Honduras War’ is preferred with a lot of attendant Marxist bilge about poor Salvadoran peasants engaged in class conflict in Honduras. […]

    Sex and Roman Coins August 7, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Sex and Roman Coins

              Beachcombing has waited for the family and some houseguests to vanish into the local countryside before addressing this particularly delicate theme. Spintria was a rare Latin word, used most vividly by Suetonius to describe the sexual acts of that old goat, the Emperor Tiberius on the island of Capri (43). But the […]

    Dowsing for Machine Guns August 6, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Dowsing for Machine Guns

              The desperate straits to which Britain was reduced in the first year of the Second World War and Churchill’s maverick character thereafter, meant that many ideas were considered in the British military establishment, c. 1940-43, that would not normally have been whispered at an old women’s séance. Beachcombing recalls the […]

    Victorian Poacher Sparks Will o’ the Wisp Scare August 3, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Poacher Sparks Will o' the Wisp Scare

            About six weeks ago Beachcombing gave space to a Victorian gamekeeper’s description of a Will o’ the Wisp (or something similar) seen in a wood one night. Tonight Beachcombing gives, instead, an account from the other side of the tracks. A poacher whose tricks might explain several nineteenth-century accounts of floating lights […]

    A Column of Burning Snakes August 2, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    A Column of Burning Snakes

                    Beachcombing has before him on his desk a volume from Frazer’s Golden Bough, perhaps the most famous work of comparative mythology ever written. In it Frazer quotes from Athenaeum (1869) concerning a difficult to forget and cruel bonfire. At Luchon in the Pyrenees on Midsummer Eve: a […]

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