Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A civil code is a systematic compilation of laws designed to comprehensively deal with the core areas of private law.
The idea of codification emerged during the age of enlightenment, when it was believed that all spheres of life could be dealt with in a conclusive system based on human rationality. The first attempts at codification were made in the second half of the 18th century, when the German states of Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony began to codify their laws. In Austria, the first step towards fully-fledged codification were the yet incomplete Codex Theresianus (compiled between 1753 and 1766), the Josephinian Code (1787) and the complete West Galician Code (enachted as a test in Galicia in 1797). The final Austrian Civil Code was only completed in 1811.
Meanwhile, the French Napoleonic code was enacted in 1804 after only a few years of preparation, but it was a child of the French Revolution, which is strongly reflected by its content. The French code was the most influential one and was adopted in many countries standing under French occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, but it has lasting influence much beyond that. In particular, countries such as Italy, the Benelux countries, Spain, Portugal, the Latin American countries and all former French colonies base their civil law systems to a strong extent on the Napoleonic Code.
The 19th century saw the emergence of the School of Pandectism , whose work peaked in the German Civil Code (BGB), which was enacted in 1900 in the course of Germany's national unification project, and in the Swiss Civil Code of 1907. Those two codes had a great deal of influence on later codification projects in countries as diverse as Japan and Turkey.
In Europe, apart from the common law countries of the British Isles, only Scandinavia remained untouched by the codification movement. The particular tradition of the civil code originally enacted in a country is often thought to have a lasting influence on the methodology employed in legal interpretation. Scholars of comparative law and economists promoting the Legal Origins Theory of (financial) development usually subdivide the countries of the civil law tradition as belonging either to the French, Scandinavian or German group (the latter including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea).
Contents of a civil code
A typical civil code deals with the fields of law known to the common lawyer as law of contracts, torts, property law, family law and the law of inheritance. Commercial law, corporate law and civil procedure are usually codified separately.
- Law of Persons (personae)
- Law of Things (res)
- Issues common to both parts (actiones).
The newer codes such as the ones of Germany and Switzerland are structured according to the Pandect System::
Pandectism also had an influence on the earlier codes and their interpretation. For example, Austrian civil law is typically taught according to the Pandect System (which was discovered by German scholars in the time between the enactment of the Austrian and the German Codes), even though this is not consistent with the structure of the Code.
Important civil codes
Civil Codes with Year of Enactment (codes written in bold letters are still in force):
- Bavarian Codex Maximilianeus bavaricus civilis (1756)
- Prussian Allgemeines Landrecht (1792 -- "General Law of the Land"; an incredibly casuistic and thus unsuccessful code of 11000 sections)
- French Code civil des Français (1804) (later Code Napoléon and today Code civil)
- Austrian Allgemeines Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (1812)
- Canadian Civil Code of Lower Canada (1865)
- German Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (1900)
- Swiss Zivilgesetzbuch (1907)
- Quebec Code civil du Québec - Civil Code of Quebec (1991)
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