The Code Napoleon
Napoleon's most lasting effect on France and much of the world was the set of civil laws that he instituted that still bears his name to this day. This code was so impressive that by 1960 over 70 different states either modeled their own laws after them or adopted them verbatim. The Code Napoleon took the over 14,000 decrees that had been passed under the Revolutionary Government and simplified them into one unified set of laws. The Code had several key concepts at its core:
The Code in effect did several things:
Despite these strengths, in the eyes of the modern world the Code had several weaknesses, particularly when it pertained to women and minors:
In balance, the Code Napoleon survived for many many reasons, in spite of its flaws. "The Code contributed greatly to Napoleon's achievement of helping France turn away from the past. It cemented the ideas of freedom of person and of contract (including the right to enter any occupation), equality of all Frenchmen, and freedom of civil society from ecclesiastical control. As the first truly modern code of laws, the Code Napoleon for the first time in modern history gave a nation a unified system of law applicable to all citizens without distinction. By providing uniformity of laws it further promoted the national unity fostered by the Revolution. Its entire outlook gave a further impulse to the rise of the bourgeoisie. A threatened disintegration of the family under the Convention and the Directory was sharply halted, and the family once again became the most important social institution." (Holtman; p.98)
For more information about this topic, read:
Napoleon Series. Full Translation of the Civil Code.
Hicks, Louis. Women and the Code Napoleon.
Bruun, Geoffrey. The Rise of Modern Europe: Europe and the French Imperium 1799-1814. Harper Torchbooks: New York; 1963.
Chandler, David G. Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. MacMillan: New York; 1979.
Holtman, Robert B. The Napoleonic Revolution. J.B. Lippincott: New York; 1967.