Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition
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Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition

Edited by Jan M. Smits

Written by leading authorities in their respective fields, the contributions in this accessible book cover and combine not only questions regarding the methodology of comparative law, but also specific areas of law (such as administrative law and criminal law) and specific topics (such as accident compensation and consideration). In addition, the Encyclopedia contains reports on a selected set of countries’ legal systems and, as a whole, presents an overview of the current state of affairs.
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Chapter 29: France

Bénédicte Fauvarque-Cosson and Alice Fournier


France (France) is officially named the French Republic (République française). Its legal system can be qualified as a ‘civil law’ system or as ‘continental law’. France is among the first countries in the modern period dating from the end of the 18th century to have adopted a codified legal system. The structure of principles and values are set out in the codes, notably the Civil, Criminal and Commercial Codes as well as the Codes of Civil and Criminal Procedure (Bell, Boyron and Whittaker, 2008, pp. 7 ff). The French Code Civil, enacted in 1804, is a masterpiece from the point of view of content, style and language (the spirit and essential features of the Code Civil are well described in Zweigert and Kötz, 1998, pp. 85 ff). According to Jean Carbonnier, one of France’s most famous private lawyers, the important text structuring French society is not the Constitution but rather the Civil Code. In a comparative perspective, the historical importance of the Civil Code as well as of France’s legal system is undeniable. French law is dominated by the idea of France as a Republic (the republican motto ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ has its influence in contract law, civil procedure, family law, labour law etc.). It is a constitutional and non-religious regime, acknowledging the importance of individual fundamental rights.

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