Home Browse Imprints and Partners Join Our Email List For Authors About Us Contact Us

A Polite Exchange of Bullets


Availability  Available


Buy E-Book

Add to Wish List

This book, the most comprehensive study of the English pistol duel yet undertaken, examines what it meant to be a man of honour in eighteenth and nineteenth century England. A thorough survey of the incidence and distribution of duelling, both socially and geographically, identifies those sub-groups of gentlemen most likely to duel. The author considers the mores and manners of such groups and asks why it was that within specific professions, minor slights could only be requited by a demand for satisfaction. In doing so, the author rejects those traditional histories of duelling which have failed to engage with the internal dynamics and internal logic of the phenomenon itself.
Too often historians have explained the rise of opposition to duelling in terms of social and cultural change whilst at the same time treating the duel as though its ideological content had become irrevocably fixed in the early seventeenth century. Honour culture too had a social and an intellectual history and the author outlines those conflicts of ideas within the culture of honour itself that did much to hasten the demise of the English duel. A Polite Exchange of Bullets will be welcomed as a fresh approach to an important social phenomenon by all those interested in duelling and in English social and cultural history.

STEPHEN BANKS is a lecturer in criminal law at Reading University Law School and co-director of The Forum of Legal and Historical Research.


The author is to be commended for having written such a comprehensive, persuasive and engaging account. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW

Brings to light many aspects of the duel that have been left unexamined in the past. [...] There is much here that will intrigue. JOURNAL OF MODERN HISTORY


First Published: 18 Oct 2010
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843835714
Pages: 330
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: Boydell Press

Details updated on 01 May 2016


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  Setting the scene: The arrival of the duel and a brief history to 1750
  • 3  Fashion and physicality
  • 4  Politeness, interest and transgression: social interaction and the causes of duelling
  • 5  Controversies and calculations: the incidence and distribution of duelling
  • 6  Guts and governance: honour culture and colonial administration
  • 7  Dangerous friends: conciliation, counsel and the conduct of English duelling
  • 8  The contest in the courtroom: duelling and the criminal justice system
  • 9  The years of decline: The European middle and the domestic duellist
  • 10  The reformation of space, place and mind
  • 11  Dishonourable duellists and the rationalisation of punishment and warfare
  • 12  Conclusion