Document Type



Presented at Cornell Law School on Sept. 27, 2004 as part of the Berger International Speaker Series.


The French Civil Code (still called the Code Napoleon) is now two hundred years old. Its bicentennial has been celebrated this year in many countries. The reason is that is Code has experienced an extraordinary expansion throughout the world during the XIXth and XXth centuries. But how influential is it today? A certain weakening of its positions is due to a number of factors : legal (the abundance of models now available) and cultural (the regression of the use of French as an international legal language as well as the declining attraction of our universities in the formation of foreign lawyers). Yet, even after the last two centuries have brought so many changes in society, it remains as a model in many countries, because of its qualities in form and in substance. In fact, it is not only a monument of the past. It still has a great capacity of influence. And the present search for a jus commune in Europe can give it a new chance on the international scene.

Date of Authorship for this Version

September 2004


Code Napoleon

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Civil Law Commons