Conflicts between people


Since the beginning of time, there have been disputes between individuals. It is uncommon to overlook at least one aspect that may spark, despite the many traits that members of a particular group may share. There have been many methods of resolving such disagreements throughout human history, and one of the well-known ones used in the medieval era was dueling. Although it was a barbaric method of settling disputes, dueling was a respectable and fair choice that people had up until the late 18th century. Dueling was a prearranged combat between two people who fought with the use of deadly weapons as defined by a prescribed code of procedure, mainly to settle a dispute between the two. A man asking another man to engage in a battle today as a way of solving a problem is considered immature and absurd. However, for many centuries ago, challenging another person to a duel was considered both a code of honor as challengers were regarded by the society as gentlemen (Hutcheson & McKay). Dueling was used as a ritual to that preserved male honor which was then undoubtedly paramount. The recognition that a man had was a fundamental aspect that defined his identity, and therefore, one had to maintain his reputation untarnished by all means. As events that attracted hundreds of people to attend, duels were as the public way of proving one's manliness and courage.

Personal Achievements and Dueling

Personal achievements in battles defined personality and commanded respect during those days. Challenging another man to a combat showed some respect from the challenger to the challenged (Wilson, 10). It was an honorable way to solve a dispute especially the one arising from an insult and indignity. The practice was developed in 1777 by Irishmen who created the dueling code known as Code Duello which was later adopted widely in Europe and America (Grabianowski, 3). The code defines the rules of dueling to have a fair combat where men fight with honor instead of fighting with brutality especially when one is more powerful than another.

Procedure of Dueling

The combat itself starts by sending a note of challenge. This act alone shows how honorable the practice was as opposed to instances where a man attacks the one who has offended him without notification (Wilson, 12). Sending the note had a defined way of how the response was to be handled. The challenged had the right to accept or decline to the challenge although the challenger also had the right to demand an explanation as to why the note was not accepted or no reply given. In cases where valid reasons were given for the decline, a duel could not proceed.

Etiquette in Duels

Duels were conducted with a defined etiquette because it was not considered a brawl. Participants were expected to show some level of dignity. Rule 13 explained the dignified behavior in a duel (Grabianowski). No duel could be conducted without an offense from one party to another. The challenger could only give a challenge to the offender if there is proof of an offense and the challenged was to offer an apology for his attack before going to a duel. Most duelists only wanted to defend their honor but not die, maim or kill their opponents. Although it seemed like the same rule 13 was frequently broken, it assisted a lot in minimizing killings. It was prohibited to deliver challenges at night unless there was an intention on the party to be challenged fleeing the place of offense before the next morning. The night prohibition was also enforced to avoid hot-headed proceedings.

Role of Seconds

Dueling acknowledges a specific third party referred to as seconds who are allowed to get involved in the fight. The Code Duello is very specific on how the seconds may get involved to avoid confrontations which may spark chaos and violence (Text, 20). Seconds were advised to use their utmost diligence to allay all excitement under which their principals may labor. The second was supposed to look into the cause of the misunderstanding with due diligence. It was known that it is rare to find gentlemen engaging in exchange for insults unless there is a misapprehension. After discovering an error in the cause, seconds were required to observe all the movements until when a note is sent with the hope of restoring harmony without a fight. If a principal could refuse the advice of the second, the later was allowed to cease from acting on behalf of the former and let the opposing second know about his withdrawal. It was a way of ensuring that it is not just the principals who call the shots on what is to be done. Understanding one another was paramount and all errors that would arise in the cause of the dispute would be tackled before a final call for a duel.

Preventing Feuds and Increasing Civility

Duels assisted in preventing family and group feuds. Once a duel was carried, scores were settled, and everything would go back to normal. It was a better way of eliminating such wrangles between groups and families as they nipped their potential at the budding stage (Wilson, 16). A duel would serve to offer a redress to insults and satisfaction to the parties concerned in the dispute. Dueling was also considered a way of increasing civility in society. Gentlemen were very cautious not to insult others so that they are not challenged to a duel. Formal and courtly manners were highly appreciated during this time. Traditions such as toasting, bowing, flowery language were highly encouraged to convey honor and respect to avoid offensive engagements.

Dueling as Education and Class Distinction

Education for men was considered incomplete without dueling lessons. It was a necessary part of training for a man who was ambitious to excel in all aspects of exercises and feats (Hutcheson & McKay). It was mandatory for every young man to exchange shots with one of his acquaintances before he could finish his education. The education was focused mainly on one's qualifications and respectability which were highly valued especially when it came to the time of looking for a lady to marry.

Reasons for Duels

Despite the notion that duels rose from grievous disputes, many duels arose from simple insults like a man telling another that he is smelly or even spilling ink on another chap's new cloth. However, the affairs were never spontaneous whereby once insults are given, the parties march immediately into a battle (Gary, 624). It was a must that duels be conducted calmly and in a dignified manner. Preliminaries could take several weeks or months starting with a letter requesting the offender to apologize to the offended. A series of more letters could be exchanged to find a peaceful solution to the feud. It was only after such a resolution could not be found when plans for a duel would be set. Once a duel challenge was given, there were several issues to settle before resolving the matter. The seconds played crucial roles in ensuring a duel is conducted within honorable conditions.

Restrictions and Class Distinction

Any wound that could sufficiently agitate nerves and necessitate a handshake to end the dispute was allowed. It was never compulsory that duelists maim each other or fight to the death. Dueling was also preserved for the noble-born men in medieval Europe. Although commoners occasionally engaged one another in duels, honor-bound duels were conducted between men of noble rank. The primary reason was that swords were very expensive, and hence commoners could hardly afford them, but it assisted in preventing the noble-born from falsely mistreating commoners. It also distinguished people in the upper and lower classes. Most countries had laws that forbade commoners from fighting but allowed dukes, princes, and kings to duel amongst themselves. Such laws assisted in protecting commoners from the mischiefs of the nobles.


The special rules in Code Duello set to govern how duels would be conducted, and the laws that exclusively allowed only the nobles to engage in duels depict the honor in dueling. Duels contributed to preventing bloodshed between groups or families that had disputes. An end to a duel also marked the end of any feud and grievances that duelists had against one another. Therefore, although we can consider dueling as a crude and barbaric mean of solving disputes, it was done under defined rules and also gave an allowance for an apology before the actual duel could start.

Works Cited

Grabianowski, Ed. "How Duels Work." Dueling Rules - How Duels Work | HowStuffWorks. N.p., 2017. Web. 11 Nov. 2017.

Gary, Brett. "Dueling Deweys: Moralism, Scientism, And American Social Science History." Reviews in American History 23.4 (1995): 623-630. Web.

Hutcheson, Chris, and Brett Mckay. "Dueling History: An Affair Of Honor | The Art Of Manliness." The Art of Manliness. N.p., 2010. Web. 11 Nov. 2017.

Wilson, John Lyde. Duelling, The Code Of Honor, Or, Rules For The Government Of Principals And Seconds In Duelling. [Waiheke Island]: Floating Press, 2009. Print.

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