French Civil Code - LAW 260

Napoleon in his later life considered the Civil Code to be the most significant of his achievements. The Code represented a comprehensive reformation and codification of the French civil laws. Under the “ancient regime,” more than 400 codes of laws were in place in various parts of France, with Common Law predominating in the north and Roman Law in the south. The French Revolution overturned many of these laws. In addition, the revolutionary governments had enacted more than 14,000 pieces of legislation. Five attempts were made to codify the new laws of France, during the periods of the National Convention and the Directory. Through the efforts of Napoleon, the drafting of the new Civil Code in an expert commission, in which Jean-Etienne Marie Portalis took a leading role, took place in the second half of 1801. Napoleon attended in person 36 of the commission’s 87 meetings. Although the draft was completed at the end of 1801, the Code was not published until March 21, 1804. The Civil Code represents a typically Napoleonic mix of liberalism and conservatism, although most of the basic revolutionary gains (equality before the law, freedom of religion, and the abolition of feudalism) were consolidated within its laws. Property rights, including the rights of the purchasers of the biens nationaux were made absolute. The Napoleonic Code was to be promulgated, with modifications, throughout the Empire. The Civil Code has served as the model for the codes of law of more than twenty nations throughout the world. This course will provide a systematic study of the French Civil Code. The course will start with a historical overview of the Code, and then focus on the legal concepts developed by the Code:
• Preliminary Title: The publication, effect, and application of the laws in general;
• Book 1: Persons;
• Book 2: Property and the different modifications of property;
• Book 3: Different modes of acquiring property;
• Book 4: Personal and Real Guarantees.

Language of Instruction: French (legal terms, however, are also given in Arabic and English).