Civil code

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Countries with a collection of laws named 'Civil Code' or similar Countries with a collection of laws named 'Civil Code' or similar.svg
Countries with a collection of laws named 'Civil Code' or similar
The Napoleonic code Speyer (DerHexer) 2010-12-19 051.jpg
The Napoleonic code

A civil code is a systematic collection of laws designed to deal with the core areas of private law such as for dealing with business and negligence lawsuits and practices. [1] A jurisdiction that has a civil code generally also has a code of civil procedure. In some jurisdictions with a civil code, a number of the core areas of private law that would otherwise typically be codified in a civil code may instead be codified in a commercial code.

Private law is that part of a civil law legal system which is part of the jus commune that involves relationships between individuals, such as the law of contracts or torts, and the law of obligations. It is to be distinguished from public law, which deals with relationships between both natural and artificial persons and the state, including regulatory statutes, penal law and other law that affects the public order. In general terms, private law involves interactions between private citizens, whereas public law involves interrelations between the state and the general population.

In law, a commercial code is a codification of private law relating to merchants, trade, business entities, commercial contracts and other matters such as negotiable instruments.



The concept of codification dates back to ancient Babylon. The earliest surviving civil code is the Code of Ur-Nammu, in . 2100–2050 BC. The Corpus Juris Civilis, a codification of Roman law produced between 529-534 AD by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, forms the basis of civil law legal systems.

In law, codification is the process of collecting and restating the law of a jurisdiction in certain areas, usually by subject, forming a legal code, i.e. a codex (book) of law.

Babylon a kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia from the 18th to 6th centuries BC.

Babylon was a key kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia from the 18th to 6th centuries BC. The city was built on the Euphrates river and divided in equal parts along its left and right banks, with steep embankments to contain the river's seasonal floods. Babylon was originally a small Akkadian town dating from the period of the Akkadian Empire c. 2300 BC.

Code of Ur-Nammu oldest known law code surviving today. It is from Mesopotamia and is written on tablets, in the Sumerian language

The Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest known law code surviving today. It is from Mesopotamia and is written on tablets, in the Sumerian language c. 2100–2050 BC.

Other codified laws used since ancient times include various texts used in religious laws, such as the Law of Manu in Hindu law, the Mishnah in Jewish Halakha law, the Canons of the Apostles in Christian Canon law, and the Qur'an and Sunnah in Islamic Sharia law to some extent.

Religious law refers to ethical and moral codes taught by religious traditions. Examples include Christian canon law, Islamic sharia, Jewish halakha, and Hindu law.

Hindu law, as a historical term, refers to the code of laws applied to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs in British India. Hindu law, in modern scholarship, also refers to the legal theory, jurisprudence and philosophical reflections on the nature of law discovered in ancient and medieval era Indian texts. It is one of the oldest known jurisprudence theories in the world.


The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions known as the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic literature. The Mishnah was redacted by Judah the Prince at the beginning of the third century CE in a time when, according to the Talmud, the persecution of the Jews and the passage of time raised the possibility that the details of the oral traditions of the Pharisees from the Second Temple period would be forgotten. Most of the Mishnah is written in Mishnaic Hebrew, while some parts are Aramaic.

European codes and influences on other continents

The first edition of the Swiss Civil Code (around 1907). In 1911, it became the first civil code to include commercial law (Swiss Code of Obligations). Swiss civil code 1907.jpg
The first edition of the Swiss Civil Code (around 1907). In 1911, it became the first civil code to include commercial law (Swiss Code of Obligations).

The idea of codification re-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, following from the experience of the early codifications of Roman Law during the Roman Empire.

Age of Enlightenment European cultural movement of the 18th century

The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy".

Rationality is the quality or state of being rational – that is, being based on or agreeable to reason. Rationality implies the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons to believe, and of one's actions with one's reasons for action. "Rationality" has different specialized meanings in philosophy, economics, sociology, psychology, evolutionary biology, game theory and political science.

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–395 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization. An Iron Age civilization, it had a government headed by emperors and large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. From the constitutional reforms of Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, the Empire was a principate ruled from the city of Rome. The Roman Empire was then divided between a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople, and it was ruled by multiple emperors.

The first attempts at modern codification were made in the second half of the 18th century in Germany, when the states of Austria, Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony began to codify their laws. The first statute that used this denomination was the Codex Maximilianeus bavaricus civilis of 1756 in Bavaria, still using the Latin language. It was followed in 1792 by a legal compilation that included civil, penal, and constitutional law, the Allgemeines Landrecht für die Preussischen Staaten (General National Law for the Prussian States) promulgated by King Frederick II the Great. 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 (enacted as a test in Galicia in 1797). The final Austrian Civil Code (called Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, ABGB) was only completed in 1811 after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire under the influence of the Napoleonic Wars. One of the very first countries to follow up through legal transplants in codification was Serbia, the Serbian Civil Code (1844).

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country in Central Europe comprising 9 federated states. Its capital, largest city and one of nine states is Vienna. Austria has an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi), a population of nearly 9 million people and a nominal GDP of $477 billion. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other regional languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

Prussia state in Central Europe between 1525–1947

Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital in Königsberg and from 1701 in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.

Meanwhile, the French Napoleonic code (Code Civil) 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 because it was introduced in many countries standing under French occupation during the Napoleonic Wars. In particular, countries such as Italy, the Benelux countries, Spain, Portugal (with the Civil Code of 1867, later replaced by the Civil Code of 1966, which is strongly influenced by the German BGB), the Latin American countries, the province of Quebec in Canada, the state of Louisiana in the United States, and all other former French colonies which base their civil law systems to a strong extent on the Napoleonic Code.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

French Revolution social and political revolution in France and its colonies occurring from 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Napoleonic Wars Series of early 19th century European wars

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813), and the Seventh (1815).

The late 19th century and the beginning 20th 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 (Zivilgesetzbuch) of 1907. Those two codes had been most advanced in their systematic structure and classification from fundamental and general principles to specific areas of law (e.g. contract law, labour law, inheritance law). While the French Civil Code was structured in a "casuistic" approach attempting to regulate every possible case, the German BGB and the later Swiss ZGB applied a more abstract and systematic approach. Therefore, the BGB had a great deal of influence on later codification projects in countries as diverse as Japan, Greece, Turkey, Portugal (1966 Civil Code) and Macau (1999 Civil Code).

Since 2002 with the First law of the Civil Code of Catalonia, Parliament of Catalonia's several laws have approved the successive books of the Civil Code of Catalonia. This has replaced most of the Compilation of the Civil Law of Catalonia, several special laws and two partial codes. Only the Sixth book, relating to obligations and contracts, has to be approved.

In Europe, apart from the common law countries of the United Kingdom and Ireland, 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).

Civil codes in the Americas

The first civil code promulgated in Canada was that of New Brunswick of 1804, inspired by the 1800 project of the French civil code, known as the Projet de l'an VIII (project of the 8th year); nevertheless, in 1808 a Digeste de la loi civile was sanctioned.

In the United States, codification appears to be widespread at a first glance, but U.S. legal codes are actually collections of common law rules and a variety of ad hoc statutes; that is, they do not aspire to complete logical coherence. For example, the California Civil Code largely codifies common law doctrine and is very different in form and content from all other civil codes.

In 1825, Haiti promulgated a Code Civil, that was simply a copy of the Napoleonic one; while Louisiana abolished its Digeste, replacing it with the Code Civil de l'État de la Louisiane the same year.

The Mexican state of Oaxaca promulgated the first Latin American civil code in 1827, copying the French civil code.

Later on, in 1830, the civil code of Bolivia, a summarized copy of the French one, was promulgated by Andrés de Santa Cruz. The latest, with some changes, was adopted by Costa Rica in 1841.

The Dominican Republic, in 1845, put into force the original Napoleonic code, in French language (a translation in Spanish was published in 1884).

In 1852, Peru promulgated its own civil code (based on a project of 1847), which was not a simple copy or imitation of the French one, but presented a more original text based on the Castillan law (of Roman origin) that was previously in force on the Peruvian territory.

Chile promulgated its civil code in 1855, an original work in confront with the French code both for the scheme and for the contents (similar to the Castillan law in force in that territory) that was written by Andrés Bello (begun in 1833). This code was integrally adopted by Ecuador in 1858; El Salvador in 1859; Venezuela in 1862 (only during that year); Nicaragua in 1867; Honduras in 1880 (until 1899, and again since 1906); Colombia in 1887; and Panama (after its separation from Colombia in 1903).

In 1865, the Code Civil du Bas-Canada (or Civil Code of Lower Canada) was promulgated in Lower Canada (later the Canadian province of Quebec). It was replaced in 1991 by a new Civil Code of Quebec, which came into effect in 1994.

Uruguay promulgated its code in 1868, and Argentina in 1869 (work by Dalmacio Vélez Sársfield). Paraguay adopted its code in 1987, and in 1877 Guatemala adopted the Peruvian code of 1852.

Nicaragua in 1904 replaced its civil code of 1867 by adopting the Argentine code. In 1916 Brazil enacted its civil code (project of Clovis Bevilacqua, after rejecting the project by Teixeira de Freitas that was translated by the Argentines to prepare their project), that entered into effect in 1917 (in 2002, the Brazilian Civil Code was replaced by a new text). Brazilian Civil Code of 1916 was considered, by many, as the last code of the 19th century despite being adopted in the 20th century. The reason behind that is that the Brazilian Code of 1916 was the last of the important codes from the era of codifications in the world that had strong liberal influences, and all other codes enacted thereafter were deeply influenced by the social ideals that emerged after World War I and the Soviet Socialist Revolution.

Panama in 1916 decided to adopt the Argentine code, replacing its code of 1903.

Cuba had the old Civil Code of Spain until the year 1987 when the National Assembly of People's Power approved the Cuban Civil Code, Law 59.

Civil codes in Asia

The Portuguese Civil Code of 1868 was introduced in the Portuguese overseas territories of Asia (Portuguese India, Macau and Portuguese Timor) from 1870, with local modifications being latter introduced. It continued to be in effect in the former Portuguese India even after the end of the Portuguese rule in 1961. It is still in force in the present Indian territories of Goa (locally referred as the Goa civil code), Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. As Macau and Portuguese Timor were still under Portuguese rule when the Portuguese Civil Code of 1868 was replaced by that of 1966, this later was adopted by these territories. In East Timor (ex-Portuguese Timor), the Portuguese Code was replaced by the Indonesian Code when Indonesia occupied that territory in 1975. Macau adopted its own Civil Code in 1999, although this being based in the Portuguese Code of 1966. [3]

Also the civil code of Spain of 1889 would be enforced in its colony, the Philippines, and this would remain in effect even after the end of Spanish rule until the Philippines enacted its own Civil Code in 1950 after almost fifty years of U.S. rule.

Many legal systems of other countries in Asia are within the civil law tradition and have enacted a civil code, mostly derived from the German civil code; that is the case of Japan, Korea, Thailand (the Civil and Commercial Code), Taiwan and Indonesia (which is influenced by the Dutch Civil Code, Burgerlijke Wetboek).

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.

The older civil codes such as the French, Egyptian, Austrian and Spanish ones are structured under the Institutional System of the Roman jurist Gaius and generally have three large parts:

The newer codes such as the ones of Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Portugal, Romania and Catalonia are structured according to the Pandectist System:

The civil code of the state of Louisiana, following the institutions system, is divided into five parts:

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 devised 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

The following is the list of national or regional civil codes by alphabetic order of names of countries or regions:

Country/RegionNameYear of PromulgationStatusNote
Flag of Austria.svg  Austria Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch 1812In force
Flag of Armenia.svg  Armenia Armenian Civil Code 1998In force
Flag of Bavaria (lozengy).svg  Bavaria Codex Maximilianeus bavaricus civilis 1756Defunct
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil Código Civil (1916 Civil Code)1916
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil Código Civil (2002 Civil Code)2002In force• Replaced the previous 1916 Civil Code
Flag of Cuba.svg  Cuba Código Civil (1987 Civil Code)1987* Replaced the previous Spanish Civil Code
Flag of Catalonia.svg  Catalonia Codi civil de Catalunya (Civil Code of Catalonia) [4] [5] • First Book: 2002

• Second Book: 2010

• Third Book: 2008

• Fourth Book: 2008

• Fifth Book: 2006

• Sixth Book: 2018 [6]

• Replaced most of the Compilation of the Civil Law of Catalonia, several special laws and two partial codes

• See: First Book (official consolidated text in Catalan and text in English),
• Second Book (official consolidated text in catalan and text in English),
• Third Book (official consolidated text in Catalan),
• Fourth Book (official consolidated text in Catalan and text in English),
• Fifth Book (official consolidated text in Catalan and text in English)
• and the bill of the Sixth Book (text in Catalan)

Flag of Chile.svg  Chile Código Civil (Civil Code)1855Drafted mostly by Andrés Bello and the basis of the codes of Colombia, Ecuador and other Latin American countries
Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czech Republic Občanský zákoník (Civil Code)2012

• On 1 January 2014 was replaced by new Občanský zákoník (Civil Code) enacted in 2012
• Replaced an earlier code from 1964
• English translation by Ministry of Justice of Czech Republic available ()

Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark Codex Holmiensis 1241Defunct
Flag of Egypt.svg  Egypt Egyptian Civil Code 1948In force
Flag of France.svg  France Code civil des Français (French Civil Code)1804Later Code Napoléon and today Code civil. Replaced the Custom of Paris.
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (Civil Code)1900
Flag of Greece.svg  Greece Αστικός Κώδικας (Civil Code)1946 [7]


Replaced the Hexabiblos and the Civil Law of 1856; also locally the 1841 Ionian Civil Code, 1899 Civil Code of Samos, and the 1904 Cretan Civil Code [8]
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy Codice Civile (Civil Code)1942 [9]
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan 民法, Minpō (Civil Code)• Parts 1-3: 1896

• Parts 4-5: 1898

Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea 민법, Minbup (Civil Code)1958
Flag of Latvia.svg  Latvia Civillikums (Civil law)1937
Flag of Louisiana.svg  Louisiana Louisiana Civil Code 1825Replaced the Louisiana Civil Code Digest of 1808
Flag of Macau.svg  Macau Código Civil (Civil Code)1999Replaced the 1966 Portuguese Civil Code
Mesopotamia Code of Hammurabi c. 1780 BCDefunct
Flag of Nepal.svg    Nepal Muluki Ain (Civil Code) Act, 2018 (Civil Code)2018In force
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands Burgerlijk Wetboek (Civil Code of 1838)1838In forceStill in force in Indonesia since 1848, as the Indonesian Civil Code . It was also applied in Timor-Leste, de facto from 1976 to 2002 and de jure from 2002 to 2011.
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands Nieuw Burgerlijk Wetboek (Civil Code of 1992)1992Replaced the 1838 Civil Code in its entirety; came into force in 1992, replacing the Napoleonic-based code with a German-influenced code
Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines Civil Code of the Philippines 1950Replacing the Civil Code of Spain which had been in force from 1889 to 1949
Flag of Poland.svg  Poland Kodeks cywilny (Civil Code)1964 Official text in Polish
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal Código Civil (1868 Civil Code)1868Replaced in Portugal itself by the 1966 Civil Code. However, it is still in force in the territories of the former Portuguese India (now part of the Republic of India), since it was introduced there in 1870, namely in Goa (referred as the Goa civil code), Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. It was proposed to serve as the basis for the establishment of a common uniform civil code of India.
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal Código Civil (1966 Civil Code)1968 [10] Replaced the Civil Code of 1868 in Portugal and its overseas territories. Besides being in force in Portugal, it is also in force in Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe. It also has a marked influence in the Macau Civil Code of 1999, the Brazilian Civil Code of 2002 and the Timor-Leste Civil Code of 2011.
Flag of Prussia (1892-1918).svg  Prussia Allgemeines Landrecht (General Law of the Land)1794DefunctAn incredibly casuistic, and thus unsuccessful, code of 11000 sections
Flag of Puerto Rico.svg  Puerto Rico Puerto Rico Civil Code 1930In forceReproduction of the Spanish Civil Code, with the inclusion of some articles from the Louisiana Civil Code. Title 31 of the Laws of Puerto Rico.
Flag of Quebec.svg  Quebec Civil Code of Lower Canada 1865DefunctIn force in Quebec until being replaced by the Civil Code of Quebec in 1994. Replaced the Custom of Paris.
Flag of Quebec.svg  Quebec Code civil du Québec (Civil Code of Quebec)1994In forceReplaced the former Civil Code of Lower Canada
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania Civil Code of Romania 2011Replaced the Civil Code of 1865
Flag of Serbia.svg  Serbia Грађански законик, Građanski zakonik (Civil Code)1844Drafted by Jovan Hadžić
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain Código Civil (Civil Code)1889
Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland Zivilgesetzbuch (Civil Code)1907
Flag of Thailand.svg  Thailand Civil and Commercial Code • Books 1-2: 1923

• Book 3: 1925

• Book 4: 1930

• Book 5: 1935

• Book 6: 1935

Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine Civil Code of Ukraine 2004[ clarification needed ]

See also

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