A gripping investigative history of one of Europe’s last recorded fatal duels, the social, economic, and cultural history that made duels an acceptable way to resolve disputes, and an exploration of “honour” by a BBC correspondent delving into his own family history
The Last Duel
is the fascinating true story of a Scottish merchant named David Landale who shot his banker to death in a duel in 1826. It was one of the final fatal duels ever recorded in Europe
. Two centuries later, one of the duelist’s descendants, James Landale, a BBC correspondent, begins to explain why two rational, educated men might choose to resolve a minor business dispute by shooting at each other.The Last Duel
reconstructs in vivid detail both the deadly encounter itself and the cultural and social circumstances that gave way to it by using newly discovered archives and the author’s own family records and lore. In an absorbing personal narrative, Landale paints a complete picture of life as a businessman, educated citizen, and man of honor at a time when civil courts all but did not exist and commerce was exploding. Landale also tells the story of dueling itself, explaining where this extraordinary phenomenon came from, and why, in the middle of the nineteenth century, it suddenly lost its social legitimacy. The Last Duel
is an utterly engrossing investigative history that, for the modern reader, renders the personal, social, and historical landscape of the time with an adept and revealing accuracy. It also penetrates this curious concept called honor, which drove so many young men to an early death.