Canongate U.S.
Canongate U.S.
Canongate U.S.

The Last Duel

A True Story of Death and Honour

by James Landale

“All this rich territory is mined by Landale with great brio, and shrewd selection.” –The Times (London)

  • Imprint Canongate U.S.
  • Page Count 320
  • Publication Date October 31, 2006
  • ISBN-13 978-1-8419-5825-5
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $24.00

About The Book

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.


“Landale elegantly reconstructs the circumstances that forced his ancestor David Landale . . . to challenge his former banker, George Morgan. . . . He has looked in all the right places and read all the right books. . . . Perhaps the most affecting element of James Landale’s The Last Duel is its measured account of how peaceable men living ordinary lives, whose worlds were circumscribed by the flow of business transactions and church functions, could be ensnared by the concept of honor and forced into a situation where extreme violence was meted out with extreme politeness.” –Arthur Krystal, New Yorker

“Landale interweaves into this personal narrative a riveting history of dueling, exploring its origins in the days when knights fought trials by combat and examining dueling customs throughout Europe and the United States. By turns fascinating and perplexing, the story serves as the perfect microcosm of what the “noble” art of dueling had become by the mid-19th century: an outdated custom more likely to be a response to a petty slights than a redress for grievous wrongs.” –Kirkus Reviews

“As the author perceptively traces the history of dueling from its origins in the Middle Ages, he entertains with a host of anecdotes and colorful characters, from a couple of eccentrics who dueled over a dancer while floating over Paris in separate balloons, to a pair of ladies in a “petticoat duel” fighting over the rights to a duke’s bed.” –Publishers Weekly

“Compelling… Landale, a BBC political correspondent, engages us with his own obsessive quest.” –James Srodes, The Washington Times

“A surprisingly amusing and comprehensive history . . . Well-researched . . . The methods of dueling throughout history–often quite gruesome yet occasionally humorous–are covered in detail.” –B. Allison Gray, Library Journal

The Last Duel is a gem, one of those books so delightful to read that you whizz through it in no time before recommending it to all your friends. If I were one of the several publishes who turned down this debut . . . I would be kicking myself very hard. . . . This book deserves to be on every grown-up’s wish list.” –Mail on Sunday

“A gripping narrative. . . . James Landale structures his story skillfully, and brightens it with anecdotes and excerpts.” –The Independent (London)

“All this rich territory is mined by Landale with great brio, and shrewd selection.” –The Times (London)

“An intelligent, gripping read.” –Time Out London

“[A] lively and illuminating book.” –Financial Times

“This absorbing book looks at not just this case, but the culture and history surrounding the utterly bizarre concept of the duel.” –The Daily Mirror