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  • Super-Centenarians in the Roman Empire September 23, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Super-Centenarians in the Roman Empire

    Beachcombing knew that life expectancy in the Roman Empire stood at between twenty and thirty years of age – a figure dragged down, of course, by appalling infant mortality. So he was particularly fascinated to come across this passage in Pliny the Elder. In addition there are the experiences of the last census, held within the […]

    A Kingdom in a London Hotel Room September 22, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    A Kingdom in a London Hotel Room

    Over the last weeks Beachcombing has offered a collection of posts from his Forgotten Kingdoms file. And he thought that today he would add to this with the smallest recognised state known to him: Suite 212 at Claridge’s. First a little background. Claridge’s has long had a reputation as the most exclusive London hotel. And […]

    Baron Munchhausen and Jack the Ripper September 21, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Baron Munchhausen and Jack the Ripper

    Beachcombing has long had a secret nemesis: Donald McCormick aka Richard Deacon, a British author. McCormick (1911-1998) wrote entertainingly on a bewildering series of topics including the Hell Fire Club, Mossad, Ian Fleming, the Kempa Tai and the death of Kitchener. Many of these books included doubtful elements: extremely valuable sources that no one else had ever […]

    Dowsing for Submarines September 17, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Dowsing for Submarines

    Beachcombing, in his hoarding way, has been storing up references to the military use of dowsing over the past months: indeed, he has already posted on the question of British dowsing for machine guns in the Second World War and hopes to come soon to the fraught question of dowsing for land mines this fall. […]

    ‘English As She is Spoke’ September 16, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    'English As She is Spoke'

    Beachcombing offers today not a review but a celebration of Pedro Carolino’s O Novo Guia da Conversação, em Português e Inglês, em Duas Partes, [A New Guide to Conversation in Portuguese and English in Two Parts] (1855). This was a translation of an earlier and absolutely competent Portuguese French conversation guide by José da Fonseca […]

    Life on Mars and Other Stories September 14, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Life on Mars and Other Stories

    Beachcombing has always had a bit of a thing about Percival Lowell (1855-1916) word-smith, Orientalist (author of Noto, 1891) and Ivy League rebel. And of all Lowell’s accomplishments none stand as high in Beachcombing’s estimation as Lowell’s  theories on Mars set out in three books – all happily now available in pdf form: Mars (1895), Mars […]

    Arthur’s Grave at Glastonbury September 13, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Arthur's Grave at Glastonbury

    Beachcombing thought that he would recall tonight the first recorded archaeological dig to take place in the United Kingdom. The place? The magical abbey of Glastonbury on the fringes of the Celtic fringes. The time? Probably 1191, though different accounts give slightly different dating clues. The find? The body of Arthur, Lord of the Round […]

    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 we are […]

    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. […]

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