What is the Napoleonic Code and its antivirus effects on Europe?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Even though I am quite confused as to your use of the word "antivirus" in your question, because your question has been posted in the topic of "History," I can certainly tell you about the Napoleonic Code and its effects on Europe as a whole.

First, let's delve into the definition of the Napoleonic Code.  Put simply, the Napoleonic Code was a set of laws that guaranteed equality under French law to all citizens (at least those who were male) not only in France but also all countries of Europe occupied by France.  The Napoleonic Code was one of Napoleon's more positive domestic reforms and included equality of religion (for both Catholics and Protestants!). 

[The Napoleonic Code] is the French Civil Code established under Napoleon I in 1804. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs should go to the most qualified.

The caveat was that, in order to gain this equality, the countries had to admit that Napoleon truly was the self-proclaimed "Emperor of France."  Another further caveat was that suddenly all citizens were proclaimed "guilty until proven innocent."

Quite simply, this affected all of Europe because, when Napoleon ordered these laws published during the Napoleonic Wars, they became "true" for Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Poland, France (of course) and any other French-occupied country.  In this regard, they formed the basis of all systems of private law.

Just fyi, the Napoleonic Code not only influenced Europe, but traversed the Atlantic Ocean, where it influenced Latin America as well! Suddenly, the legal system in all of these places involved civil law!  Suddenly people were "guilty until proven innocent"!

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