100 books like Politics of the Sword

By Steven C. Hughes,

Here are 100 books that Politics of the Sword fans have personally recommended if you like Politics of the Sword. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic

David S. Parker Author Of The Pen, the Sword, and the Law: Dueling and Democracy in Uruguay

From my list on dueling that explain why people fought duels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social and legal historian of late 19th and early 20th Century Latin America, and the majority of my work is about the emergence of the middle class. I first got interested in researching dueling because I had the idea that the duel probably played a role in creating and enforcing a social dividing line between the upper elite and the middle class. But once I got immersed in the historical documents I realized how wrong my initial hypothesis had been, how little dueling had to do with social class, and how much it was about maintaining—or sometimes gaming for advantage—the norms of decorum in politics and the press.

David's book list on dueling that explain why people fought duels

David S. Parker Why did David love this book?

This is one of the books that inspired and provided source material for the musical Hamilton. Freeman is a Pulitzer prize-winning historian of post-1776 United States. This masterful history of the early American republic shows how dueling needs to be understood as politics by other means, as part of the mad scramble for power and prestige in the context of never-ending “paper wars” in the partisan press. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I’ll never forget how much the cover art captured my imagination, and how brilliantly it reflects what you will find inside.

This book is not just about duels; it also covers political alliances, gossip, insults, and elections.  But that is Freeman’s whole point, that they are all interconnected, and dueling is just one piece of a larger picture.

By Joanne B. Freeman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Affairs of Honor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A major reassessment of American political culture in the days of Jefferson, Hamilton, and Burr

"[A] landmark study of Hamilton and the founders."-Jeff Sharlet, Chronicle of Higher Education

"Demands the attention of everyone with a serious interest in the history of American politics."-Pauline Maier, Washington Post

In this extraordinary book, Joanne Freeman offers a major reassessment of political culture in the early years of the American republic. By exploring both the public actions and private papers of key figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, and Alexander Hamilton, Freeman reveals an alien and profoundly unstable political world grounded on the…


Book cover of Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France

David S. Parker Author Of The Pen, the Sword, and the Law: Dueling and Democracy in Uruguay

From my list on dueling that explain why people fought duels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social and legal historian of late 19th and early 20th Century Latin America, and the majority of my work is about the emergence of the middle class. I first got interested in researching dueling because I had the idea that the duel probably played a role in creating and enforcing a social dividing line between the upper elite and the middle class. But once I got immersed in the historical documents I realized how wrong my initial hypothesis had been, how little dueling had to do with social class, and how much it was about maintaining—or sometimes gaming for advantage—the norms of decorum in politics and the press.

David's book list on dueling that explain why people fought duels

David S. Parker Why did David love this book?

A recognized classic, and one of the first books to bring gender theory, masculinity studies, and the new cultural history to the academic study of dueling. Nye looks at French dueling in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a manifestation of evolving ideals and norms of masculine honor, at a time when France was becoming less aristocratic and more bourgeois. This is the book that first convinced me that dueling could be a legitimate topic for serious historical research, and not just some quirky random sideshow.

By Robert A. Nye,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After a decade of works on women's history, historians are becoming aware of the dearth of literature on men's history. Professor Nye addresses this gap in a study of evolving definitions of masculinity in France since the eighteenth century. He examines specifically the aristocratic ethos of male honour, rooted in a society of landlords, hunters, and warriors, adapted to a society motivated by utilitarian values, urban life, and rational law. He focuses on the
cultural practices and mentality of middle and upper class men and the appeal of their codes to men throughout French society.


Book cover of Pistols, Politics and the Press: Dueling in 19th Century American Journalism

David S. Parker Author Of The Pen, the Sword, and the Law: Dueling and Democracy in Uruguay

From my list on dueling that explain why people fought duels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social and legal historian of late 19th and early 20th Century Latin America, and the majority of my work is about the emergence of the middle class. I first got interested in researching dueling because I had the idea that the duel probably played a role in creating and enforcing a social dividing line between the upper elite and the middle class. But once I got immersed in the historical documents I realized how wrong my initial hypothesis had been, how little dueling had to do with social class, and how much it was about maintaining—or sometimes gaming for advantage—the norms of decorum in politics and the press.

David's book list on dueling that explain why people fought duels

David S. Parker Why did David love this book?

Covers some of the same ground as Joanne Freeman, regarding dueling, reputation, politics, and the press in the antebellum U.S.A. But what I really like about this book is how it makes those historical issues relatable to our contemporary era by drawing parallels and connections between the politicized press of the 19th century and present-day debates about free speech in social media. If modern Twitter warriors had lived in the 1800s, they would have needed to know how to handle a sword. 

By Ryan Chamberlain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pistols, Politics and the Press as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book argues that dueling should be looked at as a fundamental part of the history of journalism. By examining the nineteenth century Code Duello, the accepted standards under which a duel could be conducted, the author examines the causes of combative responses between journalists. Each chapter examines an aspect of this relationship from the nineteenth century until the present, including the connections between the ritualized aggression of the nineteenth century and the feuding among blog journalists today. A comprehensive bibliography as well as an overview of accepted practices under the Code of Honor as faced by nineteenth century journalists…


Book cover of Dueling: The Cult of Honor in Fin-de-Siècle Germany

David S. Parker Author Of The Pen, the Sword, and the Law: Dueling and Democracy in Uruguay

From my list on dueling that explain why people fought duels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social and legal historian of late 19th and early 20th Century Latin America, and the majority of my work is about the emergence of the middle class. I first got interested in researching dueling because I had the idea that the duel probably played a role in creating and enforcing a social dividing line between the upper elite and the middle class. But once I got immersed in the historical documents I realized how wrong my initial hypothesis had been, how little dueling had to do with social class, and how much it was about maintaining—or sometimes gaming for advantage—the norms of decorum in politics and the press.

David's book list on dueling that explain why people fought duels

David S. Parker Why did David love this book?

I was hesitant to include this title because I’m not fully convinced by McAleer’s argument that the persistence into the 20th Century of violent pistol dueling in Germany signals a uniquely German mentality, an intensely caste-conscious and militaristic cult of violence “divergent from that of other Western nations” and “innately antithetical to classical liberalism,” or in other words, the exact opposite of what Steven Hughes describes for Italy. But the book is a brilliantly compelling read, and people have a right to make up their own minds.

By Kevin McAleer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dueling as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The question of what it takes "to be a man" comes under scrutiny in this sharp, often playful, cultural critique of the German duel--the deadliest type of one-on-one combat in fin-de-siecle Europe. At a time when dueling was generally restricted to swords or had been abolished altogether in other nations, the custom of fighting to the death with pistols flourished among Germany's upper-class males, who took perverse comfort in defying their country's weakly enforced laws. From initial provocation to final death agony, Kevin McAleer describes with ironic humor the complex protocol of the German duel, inviting his reader into the…


Book cover of The Fencing Master

Paul Meachair Author Of Belleau Wood - A Marines Story

From my list on serious works of historical fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

Now retired after a full life, I grew up with a passion for history and the people who made it, being very fortunate during over thirty years at sea to visit many locations around the world where the characters I read about lived. I am also fortunate now to write the history novels I like to read.

Paul's book list on serious works of historical fiction

Paul Meachair Why did Paul love this book?

I enjoyed this from the very first page because it brought to me the nostalgia of a past era. It is so well constructed and a refreshing subject that brings the Madrid of 1868 to life.

Jaime Astarloa is the aging, old-school fencing master and survivor of duels who prides himself on loyalty and honor with an obsession to create the perfect sword thrust but is now aware of his physical decline.

When the cunning Adela de Otero appears as a worthwhile opponent who wants to learn from Jaime, he finds himself caught up in political intrigues where his old-time values have no substance. I found it hard to put it down.    

By Arturo Perez-Reverte,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fencing Master as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fencing is not a game but a science. The outcome is invariably the same: triumph or disaster, life or death...

It is 1868; Spain teeters on the brink of revolution. Jaime Astarloa is a master-fencer of the old school, priding himself on the precision, dignity and honour of his ancient art; his friends spend their days in cafes discussing plots at court, but Jaime's obsession is to perfect the irresistible sword thrust. Then Adela de Otero, violet-eyed and enigmatic, appears at his door. When Jaime takes her on as a pupil he finds himself embroiled in dark political intrigues against…


Book cover of Retribution

Bronwyn Hall Author Of The Chasm

From my list on thrillers that weaponise the environment.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a thriller writer with civilian protagonists who find themselves caught in situations way outside their comfort zones. They’re not people to whom guns or regular weapons are accessible or familiar. Consequently, I need my characters to have access to other weapons, and I find these in the environments in which I set my stories – elements that offer both defensive and offensive potential. Whether it be a dangerous natural feature (like a chasm), or a deadly creature, (I love a crocodile or snake), there needs to be something on offer. This is also what I admire in other authors – that harnessing of environmental weaponry that can make stories so exciting.

Bronwyn's book list on thrillers that weaponise the environment

Bronwyn Hall Why did Bronwyn love this book?

Sarah Barrie delivers such a great cast of characters – she mixes police, criminals, ex-criminals, and civilians to deliver a melting pot of quirky and process-driven people destined to clash.

Retribution’s urban environment is familiar to us all, but Barrie’s use of various settings and their respective weaponry is highly skilled. From building sites that combine heights, fragile safety fencing, and sharp impaling points, to dark and dangerous train tunnels, I loved being shifted from place to place and the exposure to each individual setting’s armory.

Even before she introduces the guns, there was always choice, and I was kept in suspense about which weapon would prove to be the deadly one.

By Sarah Barrie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Retribution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Black Brother, Black Brother

Sarah Marie Jette Author Of What the Wind Can Tell You

From my list on for siblings and scientists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been an elementary school teacher for 14 years. In that time, I’ve read a lot of children’s books. In my classroom, science is one of my students’ favorite subjects. Though they love fantasy and magic, they are inspired by the power of science. Each of the books I’ve recommended is part of my classroom library, is used in a read-aloud or as a mentor text in writing lessons. My students connect with the characters and experience the marvels of science along with them. These books are some of their favorites.

Sarah's book list on for siblings and scientists

Sarah Marie Jette Why did Sarah love this book?

Black Brother, Black Brother doesn’t have science as its main focus, unless you consider the sport of fencing as a science. I’m including this book because of the complexity of the sibling relationship. Trey is white, popular, and athletic. Donte is black and bullied at his school. Even though they share the same parents (Civil Rights lawyer mom and, and computer architect dad), their experiences in school and in the world are completely different because of their skin color. Dante finds his place, his confidence, and himself when he takes up fencing with the help of an inspiring coach. 

I am half-Mexican. My siblings present as white, I do not. This story touched on the many complexities faced by siblings who are physically different -- as with me and my siblings, and with the characters in my book.

By Jewell Parker Rhodes,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Black Brother, Black Brother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Donte wishes he were invisible. As one of the few black boys at Middlefield Prep, he feels as if he is constantly swimming in whiteness. Most of the students don't look like him. They don't like him either. Dubbed the "Black Brother," Donte's teachers and classmates make it clear they wish he were more like his lighter skinned brother, Trey. Quiet, obedient.

When an incident with "King" Alan leads to Donte's arrest and suspension, he knows the only way to get even is to beat the king of the school at his own game: fencing. With the help of a…


Book cover of The Well of Loneliness

Carren Strock Author Of Married Women Who Love Women and More

From my list on lesbianism and married women who love women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I believe that creativity has no boundaries and that it is only desire and determination that separate those who succeed from those who don't. I'm equally at home with a paintbrush and canvas, a needle and thread, or a hammer and nails, and am as eclectic in my writing as I am in my other interests. I'm best known for my definitive sociological study, Married Women Who Love Women and More, which began as a catharsis for myself when I realized I was gay. I'm also the author of an autobiographical how-to, an exciting mystery, a lesbian paranormal romance, a rhyming picture book, a cookbook, and a middle grade chapter book.

Carren's book list on lesbianism and married women who love women

Carren Strock Why did Carren love this book?

The Well of Loneliness, written in 1928 was banned upon publication because of its lesbian theme. I think the banning of this book brought it enough publicity to make it a must read. It is the story of Stephen Gordon, an Englishwoman who struggles to be who she knows she is in her upper-class society. Stephen’s strength and compassion, and her courage kept me reading while I was in the early stages of my own discovery.

By Radclyffe Hall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Well of Loneliness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'As a man loved a woman, that was how I loved...It was good, good, good...'

Stephen is an ideal child of aristocratic parents - a fencer, a horse rider and a keen scholar. Stephen grows to be a war hero, a bestselling writer and a loyal, protective lover. But Stephen is a woman, and her lovers are women. As her ambitions drive her, and society confines her, Stephen is forced into desperate actions. The Well of Loneliness was banned for obscenity when published in 1928. It became an international bestseller, and for decades was the single most famous lesbian novel.…


Book cover of Steel

Annie Sullivan Author Of A Touch of Gold

From my list on YA fantasy with pirates.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a young adult fantasy author who’s been in love with pirates since before Pirates of the Caribbean came out…and who then wrote a novel inspired by it. I grew up watching every pirate movie I could and have always wanted to hunt for treasure. I feel my most calm when I’m by the ocean, and I’m a bit of a wanderer myself—having traveled to over 60 countries and to every continent (yes, including Antarctica!). I have a master’s degree in Creative Writing and love sharing my adventures with the world. 

Annie's book list on YA fantasy with pirates

Annie Sullivan Why did Annie love this book?

What’s a pirate story without a little stolen treasure? Well, modern-day Jill doesn’t exactly steal the broken sword piece she finds on the beach, but it certainly is a treasure—one that transports her back in time to the age of pirates. Who hasn’t wanted to be transported to a pirate ship? I know have…and I still do! 

By Carrie Vaughn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Steel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

A mysterious broken sword transports a modern teen through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past, and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate's life is bloody and brief, and as she learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home—one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain!


Book cover of Joseph Mazzini: His Life, Writings, and Political Principles

Dean Kostantaras Author Of Nationalism and Revolution in Europe, 1763-1848

From my list on the spread of nationalism in the modern world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a pretty poor student in high school and college but did reasonably well in my history classes. Much of the credit goes to a few inspired teachers who, at least in memory, made me feel that I was a witness at every turn to some grand Gibbonesque moment of truth. Perhaps they aroused in my mind the wonderful prospect of a life spent roaming unfettered in the realm of ideas. In reality, much else comes with the territory but it is nevertheless true that we academic historians get to use up a fair number of unpoliced hours doing just that. Mine have largely been expended on problems of collective identity and the formation of national movements.

Dean's book list on the spread of nationalism in the modern world

Dean Kostantaras Why did Dean love this book?

This work provides another sample of how the national idea was understood and represented by a leading figure from the European world. Along the way, one gains an introduction to many influential events, people, and ideas from the ‘classical age in nationalism,’ albeit as filtered through the sensibilities of one who was himself a subject of considerable controversy. Certainly, this immersion in the personality of Mazzini (1805-72) is no small part of the work’s appeal, at least for me. Memorable too is the odd little piece at the end in which an acquaintance offers a view of the exiled author as he might be found at home in his London abode: Clad always in black out of mourning for Italy, and puffing away on cigars, the smoke pierced here and there by the flight of a small bird ("He loved these signs of freedom"). I would pair this work with…

By Giuseppe Mazzini,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Joseph Mazzini as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This Is A New Release Of The Original 1872 Edition.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in fencing, duels, and Italy?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about fencing, duels, and Italy.

Fencing Explore 6 books about fencing
Duels Explore 10 books about duels
Italy Explore 380 books about Italy