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Duel, prearranged armed combat between 2 persons, usually in the presence of witnesses, for the purpose of deciding a quarrel, avenging an insult, or vindicating the honor of one of the combatants or a third party. While the purpose in modern times was seldom to kill the opponent, deaths did occur, and public ourtrage resulted in the banning of duels in most modern nations. The earliest form of duel was trial by battle, which probably originated among the Germanic tribes and became established in Europe in the early Middle Ages. The accuser threw down a gauntlet (glove) in the presence of a judge, and the opponent picked it up as a sign of acceptance of the duel. The belief was that God defended the right cause. Judicial duels died out in France in the 16th century but took place in England as late as 1818. Private duels or duels of honor were particularly common in France, and participants were often killed. Henry IV's edict of 1602 declared persons fighting unauthorized duels guilty of treason, but dueling remained popular, and duels for political reasons were frequent during the 19th century. The most famous duels in the United States took place in 1804, when Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton, and in 1820, when James Barron killed Stephen Decatur. By the time of the Civil War the practice had ended.

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21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Dream to Eijkman, Christiaan