Politics of the Sword: Dueling, Honor, and Masculinity in Modern Italy

TitlePolitics of the Sword: Dueling, Honor, and Masculinity in Modern Italy
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsHughes, Steven C.
PublisherOhio State University Press
CityColumbus
Abstract

Following its creation as a country in 1861, Italy experienced a wave of dueling that led commentators to bemoan a national “duellomania” evidenced by the sad spectacle of a duel a day. Steven C. Hughes argues that this extraordinary increase in chivalric combat occurred because the duel played an important role in the formation, consolidation, and functioning of united Italy. The code of honor that lay at the heart of the dueling ethic offered a common model and bond of masculine identity for those patriotic elites who, having created a country of great variety and contrast for often contradictory motives, had to then deal with the consequences. Thus dueling became an iconic weapon of struggle during the Risorgimento, and, as Italy performed poorly on the stage of great power politics, it continued to offer images of martial valor and manly discipline. It also enhanced the social and political power of the new national elites, whose monopoly over chivalric honor helped reinforce the disenfranchisement of the masses. [Knowledge Bank]

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