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From the 16th to the 18th centuries French private law was very different in the various parts of the country. In Northern and Central France, there were as many as 65 general customs in force, as well as over 300 local customs, often differing from them in detail. As the feeling of nationhood grew, so did the idea of replacing the existing variety of laws by a single private law, possibly a code, common to all of France.
'A single body of law, called the Code civil is to be created.' So proclaimed the Law of 21 March 1804 (30 ventse year XII). It was to be created by the amalgamation of 36 texts recently adopted. This was the culmination of an enterprise started many years previously. The idea of unifying French private law, conceived under Louis XI, had been frequently repeated since then, but under the ancien rgime lawyers never got beyond sketching and planning. Proper drafts of a civil code were put to assembly after assembly under the Revolution, but in ten years none of them was ever adopted.
This book charts the formation of the French Civil Code, examining both the public and private effects. It analyses the Code using contemporary and modern sources, including very beautiful and concise extract from H.A.L. Fisher's "History of Europe", which gives an English historian's appraisal of Napoleon's contribution to the Code civil.