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This is a history of the privilege in law against self-incrimination, demonstrating that what is sometimes considered an unchanging tenet of the legal system has actually encompassed many different legal consequences.
The book seeks to uncover what the privilege meant in practice, and traces its history from its origins in the medieval period to its first appearance in English common law; and from its translation to the American colonies to its development into an effective protection for criminal defendants in the 19th century.
The authors aim to show that the modern privilege, ""the right to remain silent"", is far from being a basic civil liberty.;The book also questions how well an expansive notion of the privilege accords with commonly accepted principles of morality. This study seeks to provide a revision of our understanding of an important aspect of both criminal and constitutional law.