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Dueling In Early Modern England History Of Early Modern England

3570 words - 14 pages

Dueling in Early Modern EnglandHistory of Early Modern EnglandIf I could summarize the time period between 1485 to 1714 I would choose the word turmoil. During this time period the concepts of honor and the duel would enter into the English culture. The first and most obvious question is; what is a duel and how is it different than a fight. Well I believe Barbara Holland does a pretty good job of explaining the concept in modern terms in her book, Gentlemen's Blood: a history of dueling from swords at dawn to pistols at dusk;If, in a bar, someone offends you, and you wheel and knock him off his barstool, and he snatches up a chair and comes after you, this is simply a fight, or a brawl, and the bouncer will break it up and throw you both out. But if, as is still the custom in punctilious places, you invite the villain out to the parking lot ("I had to ask him outside," your report later, ruefully but pridefully), and some of your friends and some of his come along to hold your coats and see fair play, and you fight there, this is a duel.The second question that must be asked is, what was it about England that made these concepts take such a strong hold there. I believe the answer to that question is that honor and dueling arose as a response to the many changes to English society during this time period. These changes included capitalism, the protestant reformation, and the creation of a new class of people, the gentry. In order to fully understand these changes and why the duel was so quickly accepted by the English citizens we must look at their history prior to the duel's introduction in the 1570's.It is roughly estimated that the middle ages ended around 1500 A.D. So England was just emerging from a period of time in which they had been essentially dormant as a society for about one thousand years. During this time period things remained fairly consistent. Warfare may have changed political boundaries occasionally, but even that the people had gotten used to. Catholicism ruled all over Europe during this time. Government and the economy was essentially the same no matter who was in charge, they were both based on a feudal system. Under feudalism a land owner "rented" their land to peasants who agreed to give the owner the majority of their crops. This landowner had pledged his allegiance to the King. As far as the economy was concerned it was relatively stagnant, the feudal lords set the prices and kept the wealth earned from their land. There was little room for advancement under this system for peasants, but this was all about to change. Under the rule of the next two dynasties, the Tudors and the Stewarts, England would see major changes as they emerged from a feudal system into a more modern capitalistic society. It was these changes that would contribute to the growing practice of honor and dueling. Before we discuss the changes and how they allowed the concepts of honor and dueling to enter into English society, let us first...

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