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Five Legal Revolutions Since the 17th Century

An Analysis of a Global Legal History


  • Proposes an original analysis of a global legal history in Modern Times (since the 17th century)

  • Constitutes a unique study, testing the concept of "legal revolution" on an historical basis through to the present

  • Provokes new debates in legal philosophy about the rule of change


Part of the Studies in the History of Law and Justice book series (SHLJ, volume 1)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvi
  2. Jean-Louis Halpérin
    Pages 111-149
  3. Jean-Louis Halpérin
    Pages 151-191
  4. Back Matter
    Pages 193-194

About this book


This book presents an analysis of global legal history in Modern times, questioning the effect of political revolutions since the 17th century on the legal field. Readers will discover a non-linear approach to legal history as this work investigates the ways in which law is created. These chapters look at factors in legal revolution such as the role of agents, the policy of applying and publicising legal norms, codification and the orientations of legal writing, and there is a focus on the publicization of law.   

The author uses Herbert Hart’s schemes to conceive law as a human artefact or convention, being the union between primary rules of obligations and secondary rules conferring powers. Here we learn about those secondary rules and the legal construction of the Modern state, and we question the extent to which codification and law reporting were likely to revolutionize the legal field.  

These chapters examine the hypothesis of a legal revolution that could have concerned many countries in modern times. To begin with, the book considers the legal aspect of the construction of Modern States in the 17th and 18th centuries. It goes on to examine the consequences of the codification movement as a legal revolution before looking at the so-called “constitutional” revolution, linked with the extension of judicial review in many countries after World War II. Finally, the book enquires into the construction of an EU legal order and international law.   

In each of these chapters, the author measures the scope of the change, how the secondary rules are concerned, the role of the professional lawyers and what are the characters of the new configuration of the legal field.   This book provokes new debates in legal philosophy about the rule of change and will be of particular interest to researchers in the fields of law, theories of law, legal history, philosophy of law and historians more broadly.​


Codification and Law Reporting Consolidation to codification Constitutional revolution outside the United States Definition of a legal revolution European Law Federative Law Historical foundations of American constitutionalism Impact of international law International Law International legal order Legal Rationalisation Legal Revolution Legal construction of Modern States Legal field Modern State Political and a legal revolutions Reconfiguration of the legal field Reconfiguration through constitutional law Systematization through law reports and precedents The European Law Two historical models of Federative Law

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesEcole Normale SupérieureParisFrance

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