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  1. Etymology, History, and the Eighteenth Century Dagger
  2.  Bayonet
  3. Dirk 
  4. The Criminal Dagger
  5. The Performative Dagger 


Etymology, History, and the Eighteenth Century Dagger



"The dagger has been at most times, and in all countries, the natural companion of the sword, and for obvious reasons: a reversion to "natural fighting," by closing in and wrestling, was always a likely termination to a more civilized and scientific combat" (Castle 244). But daggers were not always the fighting weapons we understand them as today. To better appreciate the significance of the dagger in the eighteenth century, it is important to obtain a grounding in the object's historical journey, to consider how the object has changed before and throughout the period, and to appreciate what notable characteristics are new to the century, and what are common and consistent with previous eras.


For millennia, daggers have played a consistent role in the history of humanity: "The dagger is the simplest stabbing weapon. It is short-bladed, held in one hand, and while used primarily for thrusting, many will also cut in the manner of a domestic knife As one of man's basic weapons it is found in all parts of the world and has been used since the Stone Age" (Harding et al. 26). As succinctly described in Weapons: An International Encyclopedia From 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D. (henceforth, Weapons), the dagger has been a staple of most civilisations. Used for medical purposes, gardening, housework, and defence, the dagger is without doubt one of the most fascinating objects to take a position in the eighteenth century. There are many different definitions of the dagger, despite it at first appearing to be a relatively simple object. First, the OED defines the dagger as: 



1a. A short stout edged and pointed weapon, like a small sword, used for thrusting and stabbing.


     [a1375   Fragm. Vetusta xxiv, in Sc. Acts (1844) I. 388   Habeat equum, hauberkion, capilium de ferro, ensem, et cultellum qui      dicitur dagare.

     a1375   Fragm. Vetusta xxiv, in Sc. Acts (1844) I. 388   Habeat archum et sagittas, et daggarium et cultellum.]

     c1386   Chaucer Pard. T. 502   And with thy daggere [so 4 MSS., 3 dagger] looke thou do the same.

     c1405  (▸c1387–95)    Chaucer Canterbury Tales Prol. (Hengwrt) (2003) l. 113   He bar..on that oother syde a      gay daggere[rhyme spere].

     1440   Promptorium Parvulorum 111   Daggare, to steke wythe men, pugio.

     ?1462   T. Playter in Paston Lett. & Papers (2004) II. 288   Þe same dager he slew hym wyth.

     1535   in S. Tymms Wills & Inventories Bury St. Edmunds (1850) 127   Wt my dagard.

     a1616   Shakespeare Julius Caesar (1623) iii. ii. 153   I feare I wrong the Honourable men, Whose Daggers haue stabb'dCæsar. 

     a1616   Shakespeare Macbeth (1623) ii. i. 33   Is this a Dagger, which I see before me? 

     1719   E. Young Busiris iv. 46   Loose thy Hold, Or I will plant my Dagger in thy Breast.

     1866   C. Kingsley Hereward the Wake I. iii. 126   ‘You have a dagger in your hand,’ said he.


Whilst the Oxford English Dictionary begins records of the dagger around the fourteenth century, the dagger was certainly present before this, but it is difficult to evaluate the records before 1150 as the OED does not store them (OED). As one moves on to look at more specialist collections and archives run by weaponologists and conservationists, the definition of the dagger begins to narrow down to a far more specific definition, moving from a basic pointed-weapon to be used in one hand to a piece of weaponry that requires specific qualities in order to be named "a dagger", such as a a hilt and a defensive guard (David Harding et al. 26). Daggers have been a constantly evolving object since the Stone Age. The period from 2400-1800 BC is sometimes nicknamed the Dagger Period due to the pressure-flaked daggers that have appeared in archaeological findings at the beginning of this period (National Museum of Denmark - The Hindsgavl Dagger). Pictured below is an example of a pressure-flaked Neolithic flint dagger, called the Hindsgavl Dagger. It is important to show a dagger so far removed in time from the eighteenth-century to demonstrate that, even on the earliest examples, we may begin to form a loose definition of a dagger as a sharp-edged weapon. As seen in fig. 1, the earliest daggers also had hilts, therefore it is no wonder that the possession of a hilt is important in order to define a weapon as a dagger (David et al. 26).  


Fig 1. -  The Hindsgavl Dagger, one of the

earliest examples of a dagger


In early fighting manuals, the dagger was certainly considered to be a defensive weapon (Castle, 244). Whilst daggers may have been used as a defensive weapon before this period, it was during the Middle Ages that the dagger became a support for combat at close quarters, and became a weapon to be used as a last resort. In fights that take place in such close proximity, use of a sword would have been incredibly difficult: "It [the dagger] was also employed in personal combats, judicial or otherwise, to give the mercy stroke to a wounded adversary, or to induce him to beg for his life when held helpless on the ground - hence the common name of misericorde formerly given to the dagger by the French" (Castle, 244)


In fig. 2, we may see that the word "dagger" has a rather difficult few centuries before the eighteenth, spiking up and down before petering down to a very minor amount of usage. At the opening of the 1700s, the dagger then steadily picks up in use, before tailing off at the end of the eighteenth-century. This was not a result that was expected as the dagger was used far more widely in earlier centuries. The term "dagger" seems to have dropped significantly by 1700, but the proceeding growing in "dagger" results is unexpected. Perhaps this can be explained by the dagger's rare use as a primary weapon by the eighteenth century. This is not to say that the dagger was never used in this way, as explained by the chapter on dirk daggers. However, at the beginning of the 1700s, people began to find other ways to employ the dagger, and instead of completely disregarding it as a weapon, people developed an understanding of how the dagger might be used to complement other weaponry, such as guns, and so this explains the rise of dagger-like attachments such as the bayonet. This result may appear unexpected, but when considering the resurgence of interest in daggers at the beginning of the eighteenth-century as a different type of weapon, and not simply a less effective blade that would rarely be chosen over a sword or rapier when given the choice, and as these classic weapons were taken over by the gun and pistol, it is no surprise that the dagger would see a slow but steady growth of usage. 


Fig. 2: - Graph depicting use of the term "dagger" in the eighteenth-century (1500-1850)


"The dagger, on the other hand, which is generally to be seen in sixteenth-century male portraits, were abandoned as an article of dress during the first half of the seventeenth century. At the same time the combination of rapier and left-handed dagger, typical of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, also dropped out of fashion. Only in Spain, and those territories which came under Spanish dominion, did the left-hand dagger remain fashionable until the eighteenth century" (Hayward, 1). This analysis of the dagger trend explains the apparent absence of daggers as weapons move into the eighteenth-century As mentioned previously, it was firearms such as the pistol that began to take over, and the popularity of the dagger, once a staple to any gentleman's outfit, was beginning to fade.  Daggers were often used as an addition to a sword or rapier. Pictured is an example of such from a fighting manual written by Captain James Miller titled "A Treatise on Backsword, Sword, Buckler, Sword and Dagger, Sword and Great Gauntlet, Falchon, Quarterstaff", published in 1735:



Fig. 3: - James Miller's Fighting Manual, 1735 - Plate VI depicting the defensive use of a dagger to be used in conjunction with a sword.



Fig. 4: - Description of Plate VI


A transcription of Plate VI follows: 

"Plate VI is the Sword and Dagger, which (together with the reſt of the double Weapons) depends altogether on your Skill in the Back-Sword, only, in the time of engaging, you are to look under your Guard without ſtooping, and keep your Sword behind your Dagger, on which you are to catch your Adversary's Throws, while at the same time, you are anoying him with your Sword." Unfortunately it has been difficult to locate many fighting manuals that instruct on the use of a dagger in the eighteenth century, however the Stoccata School of Defense poses a suggestion as to why there are so few of these dagger fighting manuals in existence: "If the Alehouse dagger was the common form of English dagger from the mid 16th century (accoring to Smythe), surviving perhaps into the mid-18th century (according to Miller), then the lack of English instructional material covering dagger fighting becomes both explicable and expected. The nature of the weapon meant anyone familiar with Backsword or Singlestick play would easily be able to adapt their skills to the Alehouse Dagger without further instruction.". 


The eighteenth-century also saw the rise of the "stage-fight", with Sir W. Hope writing numerous books on fencing including A Few Observations upon the Fighting for Prizes in the Bear Gardens, 1715The stage-fight saw particular prominence in the middle of the eighteenth-century, and according to Castle the object was "to win, not merely glory, but likewise the stakes deposited on the wager, as well as the gate-money, which became the property of the gladiator who "kept the stage to the last"" (Castle, 201). There are records in the Harleain MSS 5,931 50 and 5,931 277 (ref. in Castle 202) regarding the use of daggers within these fights. George Gray, for instance, invited James Harris "to meet and Exercise at these follow weapons, viz.: Back Sword, Sword and Dagger, Sword and Buckler" on July 1709 at two c'clock. Similarly, "A Tryal of Skill to be Performed between these two following Masters of the Noble Science of Defence" were to meet on Wednesday, 5th April, 1710 at three o'clock to "Exercise at these following weapons, viz.: Back Sword, Sword and Dagger, Sword and Buckler". Both duels also specify the use of a single falchon and a case of falchons, with the 1710 stage-fight also permitting use of a quarterstaff. Clearly the sword takes prominence, and the dagger has now come to be a supportive weapon in the eighteenth-century. 


This page will therefore consider different variations on the dagger during the eighteenth-century, and different modes of use in which the dagger became employed. 



The Bayonet Dagger


After looking through primary eighteenth-century sources, it is apparent that there were numerous variations on the dagger by this period. It was in this century, and the nineteenth, that the bayonet dagger rose to prominence and enjoyed its most popular period. Due to the rise of the pistol and the musket, the dagger was becoming an accessory to other weapons, and so the bayonet is an excellent example of the dagger's evolving nature during this period. This is also reflected in archival evidence, for example the Royal Armouries collection has 1,020 results for bayonets, with the next closest number being 832 in the nineteenth-century. This is not to say that bayonets were less popular in the nineteenth century, as depicted below demonstrates a spike in the term's usage in this later century:

Fig. 5: - Graph depicting the use of the term "bayonet" in text from the eighteenth-century (1600-2000)

However this could be explained by the fact that there were more weapons specifically designed for military use around the nineteenth-century, and so the bayonet may not have been needed as frequently, leading to archives having more weapons overall in the nineteenth-century, allowing the bayonet to take up a larger percentage of weaponry in the eighteenth century. This chart does not show the bayonet's lack of popularity in the eighteenth century but rather depicts a growing interest that carries on well into the next century. There may be explained by a large number of major battles that occurred in the nineteenth-century including wider colonial expansion, and so it is not surprising that any military weapon experiences a spike in this period, for instance in the American Revolutionary War of the 1770s, the Crimean War in the 1850s, the American Civil War in the 1860s and the Great War in the mid 1910s. In fact, almost every single spike in the "bayonet" search in fig. 5 can be accounted for by the outbreak of war. Arguably, this shows just how intrinsic the bayonet is with military warfare, which will be explored later in this chapter. 


 Around the eighteenth-century there were two types of bayonets in existence -  a plug bayonet, and a socket bayonet. A plug bayonet was incredibly simple. Defined in Weapons as "a dagger or short sword with a round grip" (Harding et al.64) and as pictured below, the dagger had a tapered down handle in order to clip the dagger into the muzzle of the gun. Unfortunately this not only hindered a soldier's ability to load the musket, but the bayonet dagger could often come loose, or be jammed in too tight, rendering the musket difficult to use (Harding et al., 66)


 Fig. 6 - Plug Bayonet, Spanish, c. mid-18th Century




Fig. 7 - Plug Bayonet, Spanish, c. 1770-1800


However, although the plug bayonet was less advanced than the socket bayonet, it was not considered to be a poor, disregarded weapon. There are numerous instances of these daggers having ornate detailing, so it would be wrong to assume that by its practical use in warfare and its poor design, it was somehow treated as an inferior and common weapon. Pictured below is an example from the Fitzwilliam Museum, showing the detail engraved onto the blade of a plug bayonet, which does not merely focus on the hilt or upper part of the blade, but follows down to the very tip of the weapon. Even in fig. 7 the perhaps more minute detailing on the blade with a single "M" and a crown is more detail than most people around this period would have etched into their daggers (see The Criminal Dagger). Admittedly this is at the opening of the century, when the advanced version of the socket bayonet was yet to be invented, however it would be wrong to assume that the plug bayonet was a rough, useless predecessor; it was not much older than the socket bayonet which, according to Weapons emerged around the 1720s, further explored in fig. 10. The plug bayonet was a beautiful version of a dagger in its own right:



Fig. 8 - Upper blade detail of a plug bayonet. Low Countries, Amsterdam c.1700-30


Fig. 9 - Lower blade detail of plug bayonet, Low Countries, Amsterdam c.1700-30



As pictured below, the socket bayonet had a far more advanced design than the plug bayonet, as it made using the musket less difficult. With the socket bayonet, "a tubular sleeve fits over the muzzle, and has a slot to engage with a stud on the barrel. The socket forms a rudimentary hilt" (Harding et al. p. 64)


fig. 10 - The socket bayonet composition and an example of a standard British infantry bayonet c. 1720 to c.1840

Weapons: an International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D, p 68


fig. 11 - Weapons: an International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D, p  p. 69 

18th century versions depicted in figure a, b, and e


Pictured below is an eighteenth-century example of the socket bayonet. The design is far more sophisticated than the plug bayonet, and at twelve inches long this particular dagger is at the larger end of the scale in terms of length, almost bordering on a small-sword. Despite the absence of a musket in the primary source, it is clear how it would snap onto a musket, leaving the path of the bullet unobstructed: 


Fig.  12 - Socket Bayonet for Land Pattern Rifle, Royal Armouries Collection, Britain c. 1760-1799


The bayonet was a considerable addition to the musket, as it had an incredibly versatile nature. Now the design of the bayonet did not require a soldier to free their hands in order to use it. The secondary source below depicts the numerous ways in which a bayonet may be employed both to defend oneself and to attack one's opponents.

Fig 13. Weapons: an International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D, p. 65


The bayonet's ability to adapt to a variety of situations would explain why this variation of the dagger was used so often as a defensive weapon. A weapon that has many functions would be an excellent addition to a military outfit, preventing a soldier carrying more than was necessary. In fig. 14., a soldier is demonstrating a defensive variation of fig. 13.c


Fig. 14 - Portrait of John Golding, Grenadier by William Baillie, 1753 


The evidence that the bayonet is certainly considered to be an asset to any military outfit is shown by the frequent depiction of the bayonet in a military setting or outfit, as opposed to the regular dagger which can accompany both criminal and captain alike. This has been proven through the diagram in fig. 5 depicting spikes in the word "bayonet" that each correspond with a war or civil unrest. An example of the bayonet's role in the military context is depicted below in a drawing by Jan Anthonie Langendyk, drawn at the end of the century, showing the English and Russian armies in 1799:


Fig. 15 Jan Anthonie Langendyk drawing of the English and Russian armies in September 1799, one of three pictures


The high frequency of bayonets in this artistic scene quite literally illustrates just how common the bayonet was to a soldier's outfit, and how its role became vital in eighteenth-century warfare. The bayonet is certainly considered an advanced and invaluable piece of weaponry. In the satire "Guard Room Tactics",  the satirical observation is the use of heavy military weaponry used entirely inappropriately to eliminate a rather minor foe. In the drawing the volunteer corps, who would be less knowledgeable of their weaponry compared to full-time soldiers, are using muskets and bayonets in order to vanquish the bugs. For such ridicule to be successful, there must be an inherent understanding that bayonets, along with muskets, are considered to be a piece of advanced military weaponry, ill-suited to the context. It also demonstrates the intelligence and training required to use one, as the left-most volunteer appears to be in a potentially lethal situation and at the risk of friendly fire.


Fig. 16 Guard-Room Tactics; Bugs in Danger; or a Volunteer Corps in Action - 23 May 1798 Hand-coloured etching


The Dirk Dagger


Dirks are one of the most popular daggers to have been in use in the eighteenth-century, and prove that whilst in this period the dagger may now be considered a supplementary weapon, the dagger as a weapon in its own right was still very much in use. Many believe that the dirks are a descendant from the bollock dagger due to the rounded haunches that are present on a dirk. A dirk is largely defined as "A short dagger of a kind formerly carried by Scottish Highlanders" (OD dirk), which is interesting as others cite the dirk to be "amply long" of up to about 18 inches (Peterson 60). Taking into consideration numerous variations of the dirk, this type of dagger does tend to have longer blades than a regular dagger may reasonably be expected to have, and so it would perhaps be incorrect to term the dirk as a short dagger, although whilst short dirks are not in the majority, this is not to say that such a definition is entirely incorrect.


As this OD definition suggests, one of the most well-known variants of a dirk is the Scottish or Highlander Dirk. The reason we know that this was a particularly popular variant is not only due to the immense numbers of Scottish dirks available in armoury archives, but due to the eighteenth-century definition of the dirk. In Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language published in 1756, an abridged version of his 1755 dictionary, he describes a dirk as "a kind of dagger". This is later edited in the 1785 edition of the dictionary to include the epithet "ufed in the Highlands of Scotland". Naturally, the popularity of the dirk must have increased throughout the century to require editing the definition in order to represent the wider understanding of the dirk as a national weapon of Scotland. But this rise in popularity is not to suggest that the Scottish dirk hadn't been in a prominent position as a weapon at the opening of the 1700s, as in both the 1756 and 1785 edition Johnson attributes the etymology of the word dirk to "an Earfe word" and "an Erfe word" respectively, which denotes the word's Scottish Gaelic descent. 


Pictured below are the 1756 and 1785 editions respectively:


Fig. 17 -  "A Dictionary of the English Language" Samuel Johnson, 1756



Fig. 18 - "A Dictionary of the English Language", Samuel Johnson, 1785 p. 59


The Disarming Acts


Due to the Jacobite Rising, the English government thought it necessary to strip the Highland clans of any "broad sword or target, poignard, whinger, or durk, side pistol, gun, or other warlike weapon" - (Gibson 26). The particular naming of Scottish weaponry is an example of the racial intolerance the English held against the Scottish. By crippling the Scots of their defences with the Disarming Act of 1715, it was intended to prevent any similar uprising from Scotland. Unfortunately, this was not very effective, as noted by Lord Justice Clerk Thomas Fletcher who wrote a letter to John, Marquis of Tweeddale, the Secretary of State for Scotland between the years of 1742-6. Written on the 16th of September, 1745, Fletcher details the difficulties of ensuring the act was followed, with some clans submitting and others paying no attention to the law:



Fig. 19 - Thomas Fletcher writes to John, Marquis of Tweeddale "Disarming Act - Letter commenting on the political allegiances

of the clans" National Archives, 16th September 1745. Transcription follows:


"By an Act of the 1st of the late King, entitled an act for the more effectual security of the peace of the Highlands, the whole Highlanders without distinction are disarmed forever and forbid to use or bear arms under penaltys.


This act has been found by Experience to work the quite contrary effect from what was intended by it, and in reality proves a mean for more effectually disturbing, the peace of the Highlands, and of the rest of the Kingdom, & his Majestys Government by and through those highlands, and the cause of this operation is now plainly visible. For all the disaffected clans retain their arms, and either concealed them at the fact of disarming, or have provided themselves since, at the same time that the dutyfull and well affected clans have truely submitted to this measure of the Government and Act of the Legislature and are still disarmed or have no quantity of Fire arms amongst them.


The Fatall effects of this difference at the time of a Rebellious Insurrection must be very obvious, & but too clearly seen, and by us in this Country felt at this Hour, I pray God they be felt no further South."


Later acts were deemed necessary in order to properly crush any rebellion, leading to a reinforcement of the disarmament in 1725, and in the Act of Prescription of 1746 although this later act changed this to "arms and warlike weapons" (Gibson 26). 


Fig. 20 - A proposal of regulations to be enforced in Scotland, 28th June 1746. Transcription follows:


The only effectual method for disarming the Highlands appears to be by the proposed annual visitations.

4. A Bill for the following purposes, viz

5. The more effectual disarming the Highlands in order…

Visitations and by inflicting Death or Transportation as the Punishment on all who may be found armed, or to have arms concealed in or near their Habitations, & that every circuit, everyone should be brought to his Tryal, that shall have been seen with arms; This beside the annual visitations.

N.B. Swords to be named particularly, as they won’t understand them to be arms…


In this later act, weapons such as "durks" are no longer included. But according to Peterson, the dirk was little affected by the Disarming Acts "except to make more sword blades available for cutting up into knives. The dirk, after all, did have a civilian function as a general utility knife, and it could easily be concealed". It was even worn by "both privates and officers in the various Highland regiments...as a prominent though unofficial part of their armament" (Peterson, 61)


With the repeal of the Proscription Act in 1782 (Hinderks) the dirk experienced a revival due to the renewed interest in Highland dress (Peterson 61). Peterson argues that this dagger was not only a weapon but due to this revival, became "an object of art" (63) and is still included in traditional Highland dress today.



The Appin Dirk Legend


Scottish dirks remain so ingrained in national memory as representative of the Jacobite risings that there is a legend about such a dagger. Allegedly, in 1746 after the Battle of Culloden which put an end to the Jacobite rebellions, the government troops were ransacking local villages. One evening, the troops travelled through the Strath of Appin and happened across a young milkmaid, Julia MacColl, tending to her cows. After attempts to fight off the advancing redcoats, she runs towards the Appin shore and picks up a large stone, hurls it towards the redcoat and knocks him out, allowing her an opportunity to escape. The soldier who was struck later died from the wound, with people suggesting that the stone had been cursed by the milkmaid. After being buried, locals desecrated the soldier's grave. Removing his body, the men begin to take the corpse to the sea when they are stopped by the brother of the young milkmaid. Pulling out a dagger, the brother skins the corpse and uses the skin to create a sheath for the dirk.


There were claims that this exact dirk had been found by  Rev. Alexander Stewart in 1870 when he found a dirk with the inscription "D.M.C. 1747". Unfortunately this artefact has since been lost, rendering a close analysis of the primary source impossible, however the legend speaks to the mysticism that surrounded such weapons, almost implying that such weapons were intrinsically Scottish and perfect for the desecration of Scotland's violent enemies. It is even suggested that the dagger remains as a family heirloom in the MacColl family, a family that has been proven to be real.


In MacGregor's book of Highland and Scottish myths which tells the story of the Appin Dirk legend, there are twenty-one individual mentions of a "dirk", seventeen of "knife" and yet none of "dagger". Clearly the word was considered to be interchangeable with the term "dagger"



Fig 21: - The opening paragraph to a description of the Appin Dirk Legend from 

The Peat-Fire Flame: Folk-Tales and Traditions of the Highlands and Islands, by Alasdair Aplin Macgregor 1937 p.325


The current OED definition describes the dirk as, secondly, "the dagger of a Highlander". It would appear that, despite historical attempts to rid the Scots of their dirks, the Scottish nationality is now linked to the dirk, defined in the 1700s and forevermore as the Highlander's dagger.


"Daggers Drawing" - The use of daggers within criminal context



1b. Phr. daggers' drawing (fig.): the commencement of open hostilities. at (or to) daggers' drawing, now at daggers drawn: on (or to) the point of fighting or quarrelling; in a state of open hostility. Also (rarely) at daggers' points.

1556   N. Grimald tr. Cicero Thre Bks. Duties i. f. 11v   They..amonge themselues ar wonte to be at daggers drawing.
1576   A. Fleming tr. Hippocrates in Panoplie Epist. 267   That countrie was at defiaunce and daggers drawing with the lande of Græcia.
1652   J. Wadsworth tr. P. de Sandoval Civil Wars Spain 19   The Grandees of the Court were com almost to daggers drawing.
1668   R. L'Estrange tr. F. G. de Quevedo y Villegas Visions (1708) 214   Upon this Point, were they at Daggers-drawn with the Emperor.
1735   Swift Humble Addr. to Parl. in Wks. IV. 232   A Quarrel in a Tavern, where all were at Daggers-drawing.
1800   M. Edgeworth Castle Rackrent 52   Three ladies..talked of for his second wife, all at daggers drawing with each other.
1826   M. M. Sherwood Lady of Manor (ed. 2) IV. xviii. 35   You will be at daggers-drawing..with every order..of persons in the town.
1837   Lady L. Stuart Introd. Anecdotes in Lett. & Wks. Lady M. W. Montagu's I. 77   This lady inherited such a share of her grandmother's imperial spirit, as to..insure daggers drawing as soon as it should find..opportunity to display itself.
1857   Dickens Little Dorrit ii. xxx. 582   Five minutes hence we may be at daggers' points.
1860   R. B. Brough Marston Lynch xxiv. 257   Was Marston still at daggers drawn with his rich uncle?

As demonstrated above, the word "dagger" began to have direct linguistic associations with violence and fighting at least as early as 1556. As mentioned earlier on this page, the dagger was not originally a device used to defend or injure, but was a tool for cooking and building. But by this period, daggers were often used within a criminal context, with variants such as stilettos being easily concealable about a person. and often they were used in conjunction with pistols. For example, records from the Old Bailey show criminals that had a dagger on their person but instead opted for the more fashionable pistol: "John Everett, of Pancras , was indicted for assaulting Martha Ellis , on the Highway, putting her in fear, and taking from her one Guinea, and 2 s. in Money , December 24 ." When Everett was apprehended, he was found to be in possession of a dagger. In this instance the dagger was not used as part of the assault, with criminals tending to favour the use of a pistol, but was on the criminal's person as a back up should the pistol fail. Making the dagger the secondary weapon may be considered surprising, as a dagger would be far quieter a choice of weapon than a pistol, but the pistol certainly had the advantage of distance, allowing the criminal time to run away.


Fig. 22 - Court Proceedings, 16th January 1730, trial of John Everett


Transcription: "Robert Taylor depos'd, (after a long Digression) about the Prisoner's Wife buying her a Hat, next door to him, and he having a Pair of Shoes to make for her, &c. that be desired one of his Neighbours to go with him to the Red-Hart in Fore-Street , where they found the Prisoner, who offer'd to shoot him, but he Jump'd upon him, and prevented it; and that the Prisoner had a Pistol, and a Dagger, and was in a red Rug Coat, and had a white Coat under it, with Metal Buttons." But, rather amusingly, "The Prisoner said, he never had a Coat with Metal Buttons in his Life."


Many of the Old Bailey records show the dagger is used more often in violent theft than in murder, which may be due to the pistol being a more effective method of execution. However, daggers are present in murder cases:


Fig. 23 - Court Proceedings, February 1800, trial of James Hartley 


Transcript follows: "- PLUMMER sworn. - I am a surgeon, I was called in between eleven and twelve, I got to the house about 3 quarters of an hour after twelve; I found the poor man stabbed on the left side of the belly, about two inches from the navel, it appeared to me to have been done with a dagger, he had been dead about an hour and a half.

In this case, the murder weapon was determined to be a dagger by the testifying surgeon."


There are also examples of highwaymen using daggers in order to rob people of their belongings. Depicted below is a court proceeding in which, instead of a typical dagger, a bayonet is believed to have been used. This is especially interesting as the bayonet was typically a military weapon, and as such is a rare object to find used in an illegal act.



Fig. 24 - Court Proceedings, August 1726, trial of Edward Boswell


Transcript follows: "Edward Boswell , was indicted for Assaulting Thomas Rogers on the Highway, and robbing him of a Hat, value 18 d. July 14 . Thomas Rogers thus depos'd. I had been a merry making, and were coming a long Bolton Street in St. Giles's , between 1 and 2 in the Morning, when the Prisoner clap'd me on the Shoulder, ask'd me to give him a Pot. - I told him, there was no Alehouse open, or else I would, - he follow'd me, took my Hat off, and endeavour'd to strike up my heels. I ask'd him what he meant by it, and he drew his Sword or Bayonet I know not which, and Swore he'd stick me, and so I ran away, and he after me a little way - He was taken in another Fact 3 Weeks after. A Watchman depos'd. That he heard the Prisoner ask the Prosecutor for a Pet, and saw him follow the Prosecutor, it being a Moon light Morning. Guilty Death"


Here, the victim was unable to identify whether they were threatened with a sword or bayonet. While this association with the sword may at first this may refute the claim of a bayonet being a version of a dagger, the bayonet would likely have been attached to a musket which would account for a sword-like length, or otherwise the victim only saw the tip of the weapon due to the hour of the day. The hat was the equivalent of £9.19 in today's currency (National Archives Currency Converter), so this seems to have been an unsuccessful robbery attempt, particularly if the criminal was awarded the death sentence.  


Daggers as Performance


Often within pieces of literature, the dagger is referred to only symbolically, which makes research of the dagger in eighteenth-century performance notoriously difficult. There is lengthy research to be done in the field of daggers as a metaphor or symbol in eighteenth-century literature and performance, however this would not shed any light on the use of the dagger as a real object and so pursuing this line of research would be inappropriate for this page.


The Dagger as a Performance of Tragedy


However, the dagger was often used in art in other ways, for instance it was used on stage as a prop to infer or incite violence. The dagger was a small enough prop for anyone to use, including women who would have had less training in the use of weaponry. It was also big enough to do lethal damage, posing a real threat, and big enough for the audience to see from the back of a theatre. Other weapons, such as poison, are difficult to convey to a large theatre and big audiences, and so the dagger was the perfect weapon of choice.  The dagger became a symbol of tragedy, synonymous with death and destruction. This is apparent in fig. 25, as Mrs Siddons performs the role of Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy. 


Fig. 25 - Sarah Siddons performing as Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy, 1784


In this satirical portrait, Siddons appears to drop her dagger in order to reach for a purse full of coins, switching one phallic symbol for another. In such sources, every detail is telling the reader a message, and so the association with the Muse of Tragedy and the dagger is not accidental. Wind appears to whip up her dress to reveal to pockets weighed down with money. She begs dishonestly, as she says:


"Famish’d & spent relieving others woe,

Your poor devoted Suppliant only begs,

This morsel for to buy a bit of Bread"


The dagger is once more associated with criminality, deception, and deviousness. Symbolic of begging and thieving, Siddons' position as a tragic figure is both emphasised and contested by the dropped dagger. The effect of having a dagger present on stage in this period is seen in fig 26, in which a greatly disturbed audience reacts to a tragic murder on stage. The dripping dagger can be seen in the actor's hand, demonstrating, albeit with artistic licence, the audience's ability to see the dagger from their seats and react to the horrifying spectacle:


Fig. 26 - Effects of Tragedy; an audience responding to a murder performed onstage, 1795



The Dagger as a Performance of Masculinity


"While many of the flint implements of the Stone Age such as axes and knives were essential to life, the daggers do not seem to have been usable for everyday activities. They had another function. They were prestige objects that were used to show the owner’s status. In the men’s graves of the Dagger Period the daggers lie by the waist of the body" (What Were the Daggers Used For? National Museum of Denmark) This phallic association towards the dagger has been a continual theme throughout the centuries. For instance, the dagger plays a vital role in the breaching of boys. For the first few years of their life, boys would wear dresses, and only between the ages of four to eight would they be "breeched", which involved giving the boys trousers and a small sword or dagger (Boy's Dress, V&A).  This is referenced, for instance, in The Winter's Tale by Shakespeare (emphasis my own):


How sometimes nature will betray its folly,

Its tenderness, and make itself a pastime

To harder bosoms! Looking on the lines

Of my boy's face, methoughts I did recoil

Twenty-three years, and saw myself unbreech'd

In my green velvet coat, my dagger muzzled,

Lest it should bite its master, and so prove,

As ornaments oft do, too dangerous:

How like, methought, I then was to this kernel,

This squash, this gentleman - Leontes, 1.ii The Winter's Tale


The toy dagger symbolises Leontes' entrance into manhood, although it is tailored for a child. The practice of awarding a boy their first dagger was an event imbued with symbolism, and as the act was an act of analogy for the boy turning into a man, every object will have been tailored towards expressing manhood. In the eighteenth century, this "affair of the breeches" (Tristram Shandy, p.324) was still enacted. Breeching was such an incredibly important event that it is debated at length, perhaps for comic effect, in Tristram Shandy. Therefore, if breeching was still a cultural practice, it is reasonable to assume that the dagger still carried with it implications of masculine maturation.


In the German tragedy Die Mohrinn zu Hamburg, written by Ernst Lorenz Michael Rathlef in 1775, the presence of the dagger and the arrow are both considered to represent phallic symbols, objects "which both women [in the play] bear, marking them as unnatural and unfeminine. A representative of vice through the unfeminine, Orsina embodies a kind of embryonic female potency because she is the inital possessor of the dagger originally meant for the Prince - but because she is a woman, she cannot use the dagger to kill the Prince. Instead, the dagger in the hands of Odoardo Galotti kills Emilia Galotti to avoid the loss of her virtue to the Prince" (Sutherland, 186). The dagger used in conjuction with the implication of sex is used to draw the audience's attention to the parallels between the dagger and the male genitalia, particularly with the placement of the dagger around the waist. The physical presence of the dagger on stage used by the playwright as a way to signify the prevention of sex, and could be read metaphorically as a violent, weaponised manifestation of the male sexual organ, particularly as according to Sutherland "Orsina's dagger, originally meant to kill aristocratic vice, the Prince, instead kills virtue, Emilia Galotti" (186). Set up as an opponent to virtue, the dagger's role as a violent weapon is secured. The dagger's association with the masculine, and therefore in competition with the feminine, is further emphasised through the women's inability to wield it. 


Recommended Pages related to Daggers:





Annotated Bibliography





Fig 1 - The Hindsgavl Dagger, en.natmus.dk/historical-knowledge/denmark/prehistoric-period-until-1050-ad/the-neolithic-period/the-hindsgavl-dagger

Fig. 2 - Graph depicting the use of the term "dagger" in text from the eighteenth-century (1500-1850)

Fig. 3 - James Miller's Fighting Manual, 1735 - Plate VI depicting how the dagger made be used in conjunction with the sword defensively

Fig. 4 - Description of Plate VI

 Fig. 5 - Graph depicting the use of the term "bayonet" in text from the eighteenth-century (1660-2000) books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=bayonet&year_start=1600&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cbayonet%3B%2Cc0#t1%3B%2Cbayonet%3B%2Cc0

Fig. 6 -  Plug Bayonet, Spanish, c. mid-18th Century - Taken at the Fitzwilliam Museum by Elizabeth Champion

Fig. 7 - Plug Bayonet c.1770-1800, Spanish - Taken at the Fitzwilliam Museum by Elizabeth Champion

Fig. 8 - Low Countries, Amsterdam c.1700-30 engraved blade detail- Taken at the Fitzwilliam Museum by Elizabeth Champion

Fig. 9 - Low Countries, Amsterdam c.1700-30 engraved blade detail- Taken at the Fitzwilliam Museum by Elizabeth Champion

Fig. 10 -  Socket Bayonnet composition Weapons: an International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D, p 68

Fig. 11 - 18th century socket bayonet examples Weapons: an International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D, p  p. 69, 18th century versions depicted in figure a, b, and e

Fig. 12 - Socket Bayonet for Land Pattern rifle, Royal Armouries Collection, Britain c. 1760-1799

Fig. 13 - Bayonnet Use Demonstrations Weapons: an International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D, p65

Fig. 14 - Portrait of John Golding, Grenadier by William Baillie, 1753 

Fig. 15 - Jan Anthonie Langendyk drawing of the English and Russian armies in September 1799, one of three drawings.

Fig. 16 - Guard-Room Tactics; Bugs in Danger; or a Volunteer Corps in Action - 23 May 1798 Hand-coloured etching

Fig. 17 - "A Dictionary of the English Language" Samuel Johnson, 1756

Fig. 18 - "A Dictionary of the English Language", Samuel Johnson, 1785 p59

Fig. 19 - Thomas Fletcher writes to John, Marquis of Tweeddale "Disarming Act - Letter commenting on the political allegiances

of the clans" National Archives, 16th September 1745 

Fig. 20 - A proposal of regulations to be enforced in Scotland, 28th June 1746

Fig. 21 -  The opening paragraph to a description of the Appin Dirk Legend from The Peat-Fire Flame: Folk-Tales and Traditions of the Highlands and Islandsby Alasdair Aplin                Macgregor 1937 p.325

Fig. 22 - Court Proceedings, 16th January 1730, trial of John Everett

Fig. 23 - Court Proceedings, February 1800, trial of James Hartley 

Fig. 24 - Court Proceedings, August 1726, trial of Edward Boswell

Fig. 25 - Sarah Siddons performing as Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy, 1784

Fig. 26 - Effects of Tragedy; an audience responding to a murder performed onstage, 1795



Primary Sources - Ordered by chapter for ease of reference:


Etymology, History, and the 18th Century Dagger


B., H. A Few Observations upon the Fighting for Prizes in the Bear Gardens. Linarcre School of Defence 1715, London.  linacreschoolofdefence.org/Library/Hope/ 

 The Linacre School of Defence believes the H.B. to stand for Henry Blackwell plagiarising Hope, or it may be Hope himself, and therefore the attribution to Hope is correctly cited

This was a useful source as it showed me that, despite my presumptions, there were a few accounts of professional fighting that involved the use of a dagger.


"The Hidsgavl Dagger." National Museum of Denmark, en.natmus.dk/historical-knowledge/denmark/prehistoric-period-until-1050-ad/the-neolithic-period/the-hindsgavl-dagger

This source, whilst not directly relating to the eighteenth-century, gave me an understanding of the wider context of my object and recognise what were the defining qualities of a dagger


James Miller, A Treatise on Backsword, Sword, Buckler, Sword and Dagger, Sword and Great Gauntlet, Falchon, Quarterstaff.  Linacre School of Defence, 1735 UK


This manual showed me that the dagger in this period was more used as an additional weapon, demonstrated by this being the only plate with a dagger


The Bayonet Dagger


Baillie, Wiliam Portrait of John Golding, GrenadierBritish Museum 1753 British www.britishmuseum.org/Thisresearch/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3692633&partId=1&searchText=bayonet&from=ad&fromDate=1700&to=ad&toDate=1800&page=1

This search led me to explore the British Museum archives further, and so in that sense has been a helpful source. It was also useful in confirming that my secondary sources were publishing correct information by lining up this portrait to the uses of the bayonet as described in Harding et al.


Fores, S.W. (Publisher) Guard-Room Tactics; Bugs in Danger; or a Volunteer Corps in Action. British Museum Satirical Print, 1789 London. Hand-coloured and etching on paper. www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?assetId=69715001&objectId=1539722&partId=1

This amusing print allowed me to consider the bayonet as a predominantly military weapon, as the satire would not have worked were the bayonet otherwise.


Langendyk, Jan Anthonie British Museum c.1795-1818. .  Pen and brown ink, and grey wash, over graphite. Dutch style. Paper www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=709465&partId=1&searchText=Jan+Anthonie&people=118113&page=1

This source again helped support my conclusion that the bayonet was a predominantly military weapon, as opposed to other daggers that were common amongst peasant and prince alike.


Plug Bayonet Low Countries, Amsterdam c.1700-30 engraved lower blade detail - Taken at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge by Elizabeth Champion


Plug Bayonet Low Countries, Amsterdam c.1700-30 engraved upper blade detail - Taken at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge by Elizabeth Champion

Seeing these bayonets in person allowed me to appreciate the level of detail on the blade, and allowed me to challenge my presumption that most daggers by the eighteenth-century would have been of a lower standard


Plug Bayonet, Spanish, c. mid-18th Century - Taken at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge by Elizabeth Champion


Plug Bayonet Spanish, c.1770-1800- Taken at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge by Elizabeth Champion

These bayonets both inspired me to look at other countries and their weaponry, however the scale was far too great to research in the allotted time, and so allowed me to help refine my page chapters


Socket Bayonet for Land Pattern rifle, Royal Armouries, Britain c. 1760-1799 collections.royalarmouries.org/object/rac-object-19831.html 

The Royal Armouries archive has been invaluable, and has allowed me to open up conversations with conservationists about potentially pursuing the study of historical weaponry further. The archive helped me analyse the popularity of the dagger across different centuries, reflected in the Royal Armouries' numbers of each dagger variation, and also helped me narrow down the types of daggers I wanted to focus on. It was this archive that made me decide to drop my chapter on Stiletto daggers which, whilst incredibly fascinating, simply did not have enough scope for further research.


The Dirk Dagger


"Extracts from a sketch of regulations proposed to be made in Scotland, 28 June 1746" National ArchivesLaws to Control Scotland www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/jacobite-1745/laws-control-scotland/

The proposition for the Disarming Act of 1746 was a wonderful source as, unlike the official act which proved incredibly difficult to get a hold of, it demonstrated the ideas being played with before the act was officially passed. It was also useful to see if there were any significant changes to the official Disarming Act of 1746, which there were not.


Fletcher, Thomas to John, Marquis of Tweeddale "Disarming Act - Letter commenting on the political allegiances of the clans" National Archives, Jacobite Rising of 1745, Disarming Act, 16th September 1745 www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/jacobite-1745/9128-2/

This was a particularly useful source as not only did it lead me onto other primary sources in the National Archives, but it allowed me to explore the anxiety that surrounded any Jacobite uprising and the measures deemed necessary to quash 


Johnson, Samuel A Dictionary of the English Language Consortium J Knapton et al. 1756 London  matrixfiles.com/JerryKirk/SamuelJohnson-Dictionary/Vol1-1756.pdf


Johnson, Samuel A Dictionary of the English Language, The Public Domain Review, J. F. And C. Rivington 1785 London p.598 publicdomainreview.org/collections/samuel-johnsons-dictionary-of-the-english-language-1785/

Samuel Johnson's editions of his dictionary were instrumental in providing me with a basis to explore the dirk as a predominantly Scottish weapon. This led me on to the other primary sources in the chapter, so as a source it has been invaluable.


The Criminal Dagger


Trial of Edward Boswell. Old Bailey Proceedings Online August 1726 ref.  t17260831-51 www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?div=t17260831-51

Trial of James Hartley, Old Bailey Proceedings Online February 1800, ref. t18000219-10 https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?div=t18000219-10

Trial of John Everett. Old Bailey Proceedings Online January 1730 ref. t17300116-35 www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?div=t17300116-35


These court proceedings were particularly interesting as they shed light on how the dagger was used within a criminal context, ranging from highway robbery to murder. The Old Bailey Archives were useful in allowing me to also understand that, in comparison with other crimes, the dagger was not used extensively.


The Performative Dagger


Cruikshank, Isaac "Effects of Tragedy", British Museum 1795, London. Paper www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3005786&partId=1&searchText=dagger+stage&page=1

This source was wonderful as it allowed me to analyse the presentation of tragedy. For a satire to be successful, some widely accepted truths must feature, and so this typical presentation of a tragedy gave me information regarding the use of the dagger onstage


Gillray, James "Melpomene" British Museum Published by James Ridgeway, 6th December 1784, London. Paper www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3022673&partId=1&searchText=dagger+stage&page=1

This satirical drawing allowed me not only to explore the ways in which the dagger was used on stage, but what the dagger symbolised in terms of the tragic genre, and informed me of the public opinions of Mrs Siddons at the time


Rathlef, Ernst Lorenz Michael. Die Mohrinn zu Hamburg: Tragödie. 1775 https://opacplus.bsb-muenchen.de/metaopac/search?View=default&db=100&id=BV001632141

This was a difficult source to access but it gave me a wider insight into Sutherland's arguments


Shakespeare, William The Winter's Tale. The Norton Shakespeare,  General Editor Stephen Greenblatt. Third Edition, W.W. Norton and Company, 2016

This was a text I knew referenced breeching and so illustrated the historical precedent for breeching boys, and the addition of daggers being a common part of the process


Sterne, Laurence. The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. The Project Gutenberg Edited by Ernest Rhys, J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1917, London www.gutenberg.org/files/39270/39270-h/39270-h.htm.

This was quite useful in allowing me to exploring breeching further, but had to be careful to use it sparingly and really focus on the dagger, not breeching in general



Secondary Sources - Ordered by Chapter* 

*Sources may be repeated throughout the page and so have not been repeated in the secondary source bibliography


Etymology, History, and the 18th century dagger


Castle, Egerton. Schools and Masters of Fence, from the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century. George Bell & Sons, 1885 archive.org/details/schoolsandmaste00castgoog

 (Harleain MSS 5,931 50 and 5,931 277 referenced in this chapter proved impossible to get hold of as an undergraduate, and so was forced to quote the primary text through Castle's book)

This secondary text was invaluable in giving me a grounding of the dagger across numerous centuries.


"dagger, n.1." OED Online, Oxford University Press, www.oed.com/view/Entry/46875

This was a good source to start my page with, as it mapped out the use of the term throughout the centuries.


"Google NGram Viewer - Dagger" Google Books 1500-1850 books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=dagger&year_start=1500&year_end=1850&corpus=15&smoothing=20&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cdagger%3B%2Cc0#t1%3B%2Cdagger%3B%2Cc0

Seeing this source used on previous years' pages, I entered my own search and found this source very helpful in allowing me to appreciate the wider context of my term. Unlike other archives, searching on Google Scholar allowed me to access a wider number of results and so led to a more accurate search, despite the prejudice against Google as an academic resource.


Harding, David, editor. Weapons: an International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D. St. Martins Press, 1991. Archive.org/archive.org/details/Weapons_an_International_Encyclopedia_from_5000_BC_to_2000_AD_the_Diagram_Group

This was perhaps the most useful secondary source for this project. Having looked at this in the middle of creating this page, I dropped previous chapters I had been writing which had slowed down as this book opened up far more prosperous avenues to write about.

Hayward, John F. Swords and Daggers The Curwen Press, 1963, Second edition

This was an entirely useless source for daggers specifically, however it did show me bladed weapon trends around the 1500s-1800s which was useful in helping me gain an understanding of the wider context.


Marsden, Lloyd. "The OED In Two Minutes | Oxford English Dictionary". Oxford English Dictionary, 2014, public.oed.com/blog/the-oed-in-two-minutes/.

When considering why the OED results were not going back very far considering how long the dagger has been used, I found this page helpful in explaining why this was the case.


Wagner, Paul. English Knife Fighting – The Alehouse Dagger. Stoccata School Of Defence,  June 2015 stoccata.org/2017/05/14/english-knife-fighting-the-alehouse-dagger/

This was not a key source, but useful in analysing why there were so few manuals on fighting with daggers in England, and led me to James Miller's manual


The Bayonet Dagger

"Google NGram Viewer - Bayonet" Google Books 1600-2000 https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=bayonet&year_start=1600&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cbayonet%3B%2Cc0

Once again, this map of a term's usage allowed me to draw the conclusion that the bayonet was a military version of the dagger, and so inspired me to look at sources in the British Museum that focused on the bayonet in a military context.


The Dirk Dagger

"dirk, n." OED Online, Oxford University Press, www.oed.com/view/Entry/53349

"dirk" Oxford Living Dictionary, Oxford University Press en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/dirk

By comparing these two definitions from the same dictionary, I was able to identify that some parts of the dirk definition varied, such as physical attributes, but the nationality of the dagger, arguably a less clear feature, was consitent.


Gibson, John G, Traditional Gaelic Bagpiping, 1745 - 1945 McGill-Queen's University Press 1998

Despite its name, this book allowed me to explore the Disarming Act, and led me on to explore the later editions of the act.


Hinderks, Victoria The Politicization of Scottish Dress: A Study of Highland GarbConstellations5(2) 2014 journals.library.ualberta.ca/constellations/index.php/constellations/article/view/22033

This source gave me information on the Act of Proscription, an act I knew existed but had no evidence for.


Macgragor, Alasdair Alpin. Folk Tales of the '15 and the '45 - The Appin Dirk "The Peat-Fire Flame: Folk-Tales and Traditions of the Highlands and Islands." The Moray Press, 1937. The Ossian Collection, National Library of Scotland digital.nls.uk/early-gaelic-book-collections/archive/81146066

This was an excellent secondary source, as the only evidence of the Appin Dirk Legend I knew was through word of mouth, an infuriatingly uncitable source. The only physical evidence I could find were webpages which I was reluctant to use. It also, once more, tied the dirk to Scotland.


Peterson, Harold L., Daggers and Fighting Knives of the Western World: from the Stone Age till 1900. Herbert Jenkins Ltd, 1968.

This source was the bane of my research. This text was almost impossible to find. It was not even available to buy off the internet, and was not available in any print library I tried. However, I managed to contact Warwicksire Council and obtained a copy, which was delivered to the Leamington Spa Library for me to peruse. This source, along with Harding et al., was the most useful secondary source I used. Many weaponologists I spoke to recommended I find a copy as it is considered one of the leading resources for fighting daggers. For instance, Peterson led me to the Johnson dictionary, which allowed me to analyse the terms that were not explored in detail in this text. I am indebted to the librarians at Leamington Spa Library for finding me a copy.



The Criminal Dagger

"dagger, n.2." OED Online, Oxford University Press, www.oed.com/view/Entry/46875

This gave me linguistic evidence of the trend between daggers and violence


1s7d conversion. The National Archives, www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency-converter/#currency-result

This source put a highway robbery and the death sentence awarded into perspective


The Performative Dagger

“Boy's Dress.” V&A Museum of Childhood, www.vam.ac.uk/moc/collections/boys-dress/.

An excellent source that allowed me to explore how long breeching boys was practiced, and if it involved a dagger as I had presumed


Sutherland, Wendy. "Race, Homosocial Desire, and the Black in Ernst Lorenz Rathlef's Die Morhinn zu Hamburg (1775)" Staging Blackness and Performing Whiteness in Eighteenth-Century German Drama. Routledge, 2017.

This source led me to an eighteenth-century german play that had a lot of symbolism that linked daggers with masculinity, and so helped support a lot of this section


What were the daggers used for?, National Museum of Denmark en.natmus.dk/historical-knowledge/denmark/prehistoric-period-until-1050-ad/the-neolithic-period/the-hindsgavl-dagger/what-were-the-daggers-used-for/

This page allowed me to explore the earliest form of the dagger and their uses, which eventually led me on to a section on the dagger's role in the performance of masculinity.




he opening paragraph to a description of the Appin Dirk Legend from The Peat Fire Flame by Alasdair Aplin Macgregor, 1937 p325
Extracts from a sketch of regulations proposed to be made in Scotland, 28 June 1746
Wagner, Paul. "English Knife Fighting – The Alehouse Dagger". Stoccata School Of Defence, 2019, https://stoccata.org/2017/05/14/english-knife-fighting-the-alehouse-dagger/.

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