This week’s book examines the history of duelling following its introduction into Russia in the 18th century. Author Irina Reyfman proposes the thesis that duelling served to protect individual rights. As the cover blurb says:
The book argues that the Russian duel acquired its enduring prestige because it served to define and to defend personal autonomy in a hierarchical state that lacked legal guarantees against corporal punishment. To fight a tradition that tolerated superiors’ punching and slapping their subordinates, Russian duelists embraced raw violence and incorporated it into dueling procedure, thus replacing the hierarchical – and therefore humiliating – violence of corporal punishment with the equalizing violence of the duel.