One of the principal purposes of a system of law is to maintain peace and order in society and thereby to help prevent the kind of radical, violent, rapid change that is characteristic of great revolutions. Moreover, in the Western legal tradition a major element has been the emphasis on the gradual evolution of law, that is, its incremental growth over generations and centuries. Yet it is precisely in the history of the West, in contrast to other cultures, that the gradual evolution of legal institutions has been interrupted periodically by radical, violent, rapid, revolutionary change. Indeed, every major Western nation traces its legal system back to a great revolution.

One can trace the modern use of the word revolution to the outbreak of the ...

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