The Art and Politics of Fence


This paper by Alexander Hay seeks to demonstrate that historical fencing manuals and treatises are worthy of study not merely as historical documents but as works of both philosophy and literary merit, demonstrating, as they do, a clear ideological viewpoint as well as an engagement with the ideological and intellectual shifts of their time. The two texts chosen for this initial study, namely, George Silver’s Paradoxes of Defence (1599) and Vincentino Saviolo’s His Practise (1595), not only contrast with one another, which was Silver’s intention, but also demonstrate an engagement with humanistic and social concerns. We cannot detach these works from the literary and socio-political contexts in which they were written, nor would the authors have intended them to be.


DOI 10.18573/J.2015.10015



Hay, Alexander. 2015. ‘The Art and Politics of Fence: Subtexts and Ideologies of Late 16th Century Fencing Manuals’, Martial Arts Studies 1, 60-71.


Dr Alexander Hay is Lecturer of Digital Journalism at Southampton Solent University, and comes from an eclectic humanities background, covering everything from sea monsters to music journalism and reader response theory. His martial arts experience is similarly varied, 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.

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