Cultures of Gentry Violence in Tudor and Early Stuart England
There is an influential narrative amongst historians of early modern England that sees the violent clashes between nobles and gentlemen that characterised the era of ‘bastard feudalism’ and the Wars of the Roses as becoming far more controlled and restrained in the course of the sixteenth century. Changing notions of noble honour, habits of litigation and ‘civility’, above all the growing reach of the Tudor state, are all seen as contributing to this process. This talk will explore the extent to which this was happening, assess the prevalence of the duel as a substitute for less-organised forms of combat, and analyse the shifts taking place in the culture of elite violence over this period.
Feast and Famine: Duelling and the Problems of Evidence in Early Modern England
This paper explores the question of evidence and elite violence in early modern England through two duels. They were fought in the same place within a year of one another. They both resulted in an unlawful killing. However, our evidential base for these cases is radically different. The killing of Benjamin Barlow by Richard Awsiter in January 1611 is recorded in the briefest terms in the Middlesex sessions rolls. The duel which saw John Egerton die at the hand of Edward Morgan in April 1610, by contrast, produced such a glut of evidence that I have produced a whole book about it. It is problematic for historians that the Awsiter-Barlow case is much more representative of our evidence for early modern duelling in England. The paper considers some of the implications of these evidential disparities and suggests how our understanding of early modern elite violence is often rendered as snapshots of moments rather than as episodes with longer histories and richer contexts.
Display of swords given by Keith Dowen, Assistant Curator of European Arms and Armour at the Royal Armouries (in-person only)
Aristocratic honour and resort to the duel in the autobiography and correspondence of Lord Herbert of Cherbury
Lord Herbert achieved notoriety as a duellist in the Jacobean period and was reprimanded by the Privy Council for duelling on several occasions. This paper will explore his notion of aristocratic honour and his reasons for resorting to the duel to defend it. It will trace his duelling challenges and engagements over several decades and examine the reaction of both admirers and detractors to his duelling exploits in court circles. It will draw brief comparisons with the challenges issued and duels fought by other men from his social circle in England and France.
Elite Violence in Early Modern England in Comparative Perspective
This talk compares elite violence in early modern England with some of its European neighbours. Elite violence exploded across Europe from the 1570s peaking in the mid seventeenth century before declining rapidly in the eighteenth century. The talk explores the evidence for and causes of this parabola. England provides both points of comparison and contrast. While it was likely one of the most peaceable states in Europe, it was still subject to the same processes of historical change as elsewhere.
Concluding Roundtable Discussion