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"What killed the duel?" Topic

32 Posts

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©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Tango0108 Oct 2018 12:24 p.m. PST

"A&D regulars will probably not be much surprised to learn that I'm something of a topic expert on the history of the duel of honor. This came up over on Slate Star Codex recently when I answered a question about the historical relationship of the duel or honor with street violence.

I've read all the scholarship on the history of dueling I can find in English. There isn't much, and what there is mostly doesn't seem to me to be very good. I've also read primary sources like dueling codes, and paid a historian's attention to period literature.

I'm bringing this up now because I want to put a stake in the ground. I have a personal theory about why Europo-American dueling largely (though not entirely) died out between 1850 and 1900 that I think is at least as well justified as the conventional account, and I want to put it on record…"
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Banana Man Inactive Member08 Oct 2018 1:05 p.m. PST

I think the machine gun killed it. Or probably anyone within range.

mad monkey 108 Oct 2018 2:03 p.m. PST


FoxtrotPapaRomeo08 Oct 2018 2:47 p.m. PST


arthur181508 Oct 2018 2:54 p.m. PST

Armand, I saw a television programme in which late 18th/early 19th century flintlock duelling pistols were demonstrated; they seemed to be very reliable, and accurate over the typical ranges at which duels were fought.
Personally, I doubt many duels would have been held in such inclement weather that the priming powder would have been in danger of getting damp.
Mad monkey has the right of it, IMHO.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2018 3:22 p.m. PST

The government hates infringement on its monopolies--in this case, legal violent death. Yes, in a way, Mad Monkey, that's "lawyers." But if you don't explain who paid the lawyers, it's like saying a bridge fell down due to "gravity"--true, but unhelpful.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Oct 2018 3:31 p.m. PST

Gradual growing cowardice and scissifacation?

Russ Dunaway

Pythagoras08 Oct 2018 3:51 p.m. PST

Slow reaction times….

Lion in the Stars08 Oct 2018 6:49 p.m. PST

"God made man, Sam Colt made them equal, and John Browning made/keeps them free" (or "made them civilized", depending on quote).

I still think this guy is missing the point of the Code Duello. The point was NOT that you were going to go out and kill someone, not even go out and draw blood, your second was supposed to work to prevent things from coming to violence.

I think it was the creation of actual professional police forces, separate from military guards. Because the police don't like it when someone increases their workload.

Kevin C Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2018 7:31 p.m. PST

I believe Alexander Hamilton's father-in-law helped lead the the fight against dueling in the U.S. Remember, he not only lost a son-in-law to dueling, but a grandson as well
(Alexander Hamilton's son Philip who was killed in a duel in 1801). That said, not of this quenched Andrew Jackson's thirst for dueling.

phssthpok08 Oct 2018 8:01 p.m. PST


Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2018 8:21 p.m. PST

Yes, it's those pesky laws, where even when you win, you also lose.

AussieAndy Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2018 8:53 p.m. PST

The spread of middle class sensibilities which looked down on duelling as an absurd upper class indulgence. Governments had been trying to supress duelling for centuries. It is hardly helpful to have touchy officers killing each other.

Personal logo Aurochs Supporting Member of TMP09 Oct 2018 3:50 a.m. PST

Ferdinand Lasalle, who was one of the founders of the SPD (the social-democratic party, which now governs Germany together with the Christdemocrats), was killed in duel 1864.

Personal logo Aurochs Supporting Member of TMP09 Oct 2018 3:58 a.m. PST

In Germany and Austria students who belong to a Burschenschaft, Corps or Landsmannschaft, still fight duels (Mensur). Usually they are supossed to fight at least two Mensuren. Nobody dies but still a lot of blood flows.
I remember when I was a student I saw two guys in the canteen who wore big patches on their faces. And other had bloodstains on their colors, which they wore during a Mensur.

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP09 Oct 2018 4:59 a.m. PST

Sanity, humanity and people grew up.

redbanner414509 Oct 2018 7:52 a.m. PST

If anyone disrespects me or cuts me off while driving I'll shoot them (not really). Like dueling but I shoot first.

Tango0109 Oct 2018 11:22 a.m. PST



Fridericus09 Oct 2018 11:42 a.m. PST

I think, it became obsolete because firearms became too accurate. ;-)

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP09 Oct 2018 2:02 p.m. PST

Pah! All this talk of guns?

Real duelling is done with swords…

Tango0116 Feb 2019 12:40 p.m. PST

Agree! (smile)


Mark Strachan16 Feb 2019 12:44 p.m. PST

Health and safety laws.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian16 Feb 2019 10:04 p.m. PST

Consequences and the disapproval of society.

Winston Smith16 Feb 2019 11:03 p.m. PST

The first time someone was fined for not having a safe dueling pistol or sword put an end to it.

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Feb 2019 11:56 a.m. PST

+1 Winston Smith

Double G Sponsoring Member of TMP20 Feb 2019 4:25 p.m. PST

Video, which also killed the radio star.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2019 8:50 a.m. PST

Dueling Banjos killed it.

Bill N22 Feb 2019 1:45 p.m. PST

In this area the decline is frequently attributed to the decision by two nuts to solve their differences by a duel with rifles. When the smoke cleared one man was dead and the other was mortally wounded.

Cuirassier25 Feb 2019 2:48 p.m. PST

You are absolutely right, Cerdic. Sabres for me.

Btw… Two duels photographed in Paris in 1914. Click on the images to enlarge them!

April of 1914: link

June of 1914… Gottlieb versus Kissling (Polish):




huevans01126 Feb 2019 5:46 p.m. PST

My 0.02 The middle-classes becoming the most powerful element in society and having completely different values than the aristocracy.

When you live in a pre industrial society and your main stock in trade is having a noble pedigree and selling your sword and life to your king or whomever else can pay for it in a violent society, dueling shows off the devil-may-care, psychotically violent little monkey you are and boosts your market value to your paymaster.

When your career prospects involve going into daddy's railway business and doing his accounting or civil litigation en route to inheriting the entire pile, why on earth are you out at dawn shivering on some heath somewhere waiting to kill or be killed by some other rich businessman's son who stands to inherit a brewery or steamship business?!

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2019 11:28 a.m. PST

Actually dueling was the purview of the gentlemen, and while all aristocrats were gentlemen, not all(infact most gentlemen weren't) aristocrats.
So printers, lower officers (even common soldiers) all dueled.
What killed the duel was public opinion, it was seen as old and antiquated.
And during the latter half of the 19th century. Military men did the majority of duels.

von Schwartz09 Apr 2019 7:23 p.m. PST

I still say we should use turnips!

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