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Families and the Durability of Memory November 22, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
Families and the Durability of Memory

How long can memories remain in a family? We have played these games before, of course. Just a couple of weeks ago Beach was imagining his daughter telling his great great grandchildren about the time their great, great, great, great grandfather survived an Italian attack in the Mediterranean, a hundred and fifty years after the […]

National Symbols and Erotics: the Great War November 10, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
National Symbols and Erotics: the Great War

Nations are often personified: Lady Liberty for France, Uncle Sam for the States, Britannia for the UK. Nor is this new. There is a memorable fifth-century Latin poem that goes through the Roman Empire doling out identities to the different provinces: Gaul, for example, appears as a warrior with two spears. But Beach has recently […]

Cartooning the Great War October 8, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Cartooning the Great War

***Dedicated to KR*** Beach wasted a couple of hours this morning thanks to KR who got him interested in online Great War cartoon books. There are the first and second volume of Raemakers’ Cartoon History of the War and perhaps more to Beach’s taste Punch’s History of the War. Can he also advertise this little […]

Mud, Blood and Poppycock October 6, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Mud, Blood and Poppycock

Beach has a question that he always enjoys asking first year American university students:  did World War One/World War Two/the Cold War represent a fight between good and evil? Class after class, semester after semester the pattern repeats itself. The Second World War is almost universally held up as such a war. Usually a quarter […]

Crowds #5: POWs September 22, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Crowds #5: POWs

Beach has offered several posts showing crowds: orators, crowd art, off-to-war and religion. Here is the fifth in the series, crowds of men who have just been captured by the enemy. Pictures are mostly from the two world wars, because POWs do not seem to have excited much interest prior to this and because photographs […]

Generals, Entrepreneurs or Politicians? September 6, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Generals, Entrepreneurs or Politicians?

Paul Johnson is a journalist and historian who Beachcombing considers the single most irritating Englishman alive. However, and this is perhaps part of why Beachcombing finds PJ so irritating, he can be extraordinarily perceptive: though anyone with their finger hovering over an amazon buy button should know that this is far from an inevitable outcome. […]

Casualties and Memory September 3, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Casualties and Memory

This post was written as a response to a memory that has been whirling around and around in the last few days. The only time Beach ever saw his grandmother – a fine old English matron – weep was when she talked about the First World War. She had, in fact, no direct experience of […]

Prussians in the Frame: Brownies Out August 22, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Prussians in the Frame: Brownies Out

Beach often shows his students WW1 and WW2 photographs in class. He lets the effect wash over them and then breaks that effect by asking them why the photograph is staged. For most of the best shots from the world wars are the invention or, at very best, the ‘reconstruction’ of photographers who were far […]

Crowds #3: Crowds as Art July 4, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Crowds #3: Crowds as Art

***Dedicated to Andy the Mad Monk*** Beach has previously confessed to a thing about crowd photographs: he has put up posts showing August 1914 madness and orators in front of thousands. However, what if the crowd itself is taken out of its random passions and ordered into a work of art? This was the intuition […]

Creative Pretexts for War July 2, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Prehistoric
Creative Pretexts for War

In the good old days when we had spears and lived in tribal societies war was, for much of humanity, a seasonal activity like boar hunting and berry picking. You did not have to explain why you wanted to steal the cattle of the clan on the other side of the hill: you just got […]

Crowds #1: And so it begins… Images from 1914 March 21, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Crowds #1: And so it begins... Images from 1914

  [students in Berlin, off to enlist] Beachcombing has recently become interested in crowd photography: large groups of people, preferably in rather strange or extreme situations. And as part of this ‘project’ he started collecting photographs from perhaps the dizziest month in western history: August 1914. The war is just beginning and young and not […]

August 1914: Surprise or Countdown? February 14, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
August 1914: Surprise or Countdown?

In western memory, particularly in European memory the guns of August 1914 were a long awaited horror: and while the First World War was so much worse than anyone could have possibly imagined – Beach thinks of an earlier Churchill post on the nineteenth century comparing itself with the twentieth – everyone knew it was […]

Image: Princip’s Conscience February 2, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Image: Princip's Conscience

Beach has several things on his conscience. Aged eight he clumsily trod on a frog breaking its back bone; last summer he accidentally killed a baby adder while trying to get it out of the garden; and then there was a very painful split with a girl who deserved better a decade ago, sorry E. […]

Owen’s Untimely Death January 31, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Owen's Untimely Death

  There are occasional micro moments in history that are so extraordinary painful to read about that they strangely dwarf greater tragedies such as the liquidation of a ghetto, the dropping of an atom bomb or the sinking of a cruise-liner. One of these micro tragedies that has been bobbing in and out of Beachcombing’s […]

Men and Women Out of Balance September 17, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
Men and Women Out of Balance

A bit of a cookie-dough post today as Beachcombing tries to make sense of something that has being going around and around in his head. Last week, during the infamous hacker attack of Sept 2011, Beach noted the extraordinary gender imbalance in modern China where perhaps – the numbers are much contested – 119 boys […]

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