The Duel in Early Modern England

Civility, Politeness and Honour

The Duel in Early Modern England

Arguments about the practice of the duel in early modern England were widespread. Markku Peltonen, the distinguished intellectual historian, examines the debate, and reveals how the moral and ideological status of duelling was considered within a much broader cultural context of courtesy, civility and politeness. Understanding the duel involves knowing crucial issues in the cultural and ideological history of Stuart England. Peltonen's wide-ranging study engages the attention of a significant audience of historians and cultural and literary scholars.


"Markku Peltonen has written a revealing and thoughtful analysis of both the intellectual origins and ideological functions of dueling, arguing taht the practice entered English life as an appropriation of the Italian Renaissance notion of civility and increasingly served to legitimate native political and social values." - Seventeenth-Century News Brett F. Parker, University of South Carolina Upstate

'… we come much closer to an understanding of why it was in early modern England that not only the great but also the humble were prepared to risk all when reputation was on the line …' The Times Literary Supplement

'Markku Peltonen's excellent new book identifies the ideas underpinning the duel in early modern England and relates those ideas to wider cultural debates about civility and politeness. In doing so it casts light on parallel developments in the law of defamation and provides a fascinating account of how English law attempted to respond to a widespread, and widely accepted, practice of unlawful self-help … Apart from the legal aspects given specific attention here, this book includes much of wider interest … In short it is a work of variety and richness with a great deal to offer legal historians.' Journal of Legal History

'… Markku Peltonen's fine study of debates about civility and politeness in early modern England, and the place of duelling within them, makes an important case for long-term continuity by rejecting several of the distinctions that have underpinned narratives of change. … The principal strength of Peltonen's analysis is its combination of meticulous research with a long-term perspective.' Historical Journal

'He has, more generally, in this admirable study, provided a convincing account of the development of duelling in England and offered a sophisticated reading of the contemporary debate on civility, politeness and honour.' James Kelly, St Patrick's College Drumcondra, Dublin


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Historical Manuscripts Commission, Ormond manuscripts
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