News of the Duels – Restoration Duelling Culture and the Early Modern Press
Duelling’s return to the streets of London in the 1660s was the result of a variety of factors. The Royal Court’s exile in France after the English Civil War meant many royalists were immersed in French manners and habits, not least its rigorously homicidal duelling culture. The Restoration itself brought with it a return of a gentlemanly culture where duelling was seen as much a part of the rejection of Cromwell’s rule during the Interregnum as pronounced loyalty to the recently crowned Charles II. Places such as Hyde Park were even soon known as regular venues for these ritualised fights and the return of the duel, naturally, brought back a return of committed campaigns against it. This then is a significant period in English martial art history, as well as a culturally significant one, as evidenced by Samuel Pepys’ diaries recording several duels throughout the 1660s. One other development, however, was the emergence of the earliest English language newspapers to be published on the British mainland, superseding the ‘news books’ in the middle of the 1660s. How did these publications cover duels during this period, and what does their coverage reveal about martial practice of the time?
Dr Alexander Hay is Lecturer of Digital Journalism at Southampton Solent University, and comes from an eclectic humanities background, his research covering everything from sea monsters to music journalism and reader response theory. His martial arts experience is similarly varied, encompassing Tae Kwon Do, Wing Chun, Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and he is presently studying Boxing, while retaining an on-going interest in Historical European Martial Arts. His research interests include the history of journalism and online media, and how they intersect with a wide range of other topics and disciplines, such as the martial arts themselves.