What Is the Napoleonic Code?

The Napoleonic Code is the French system of laws first put in place by the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and made effective on March 21, 1804. The laws abolish noble privilege, grant freedom of religion and direct that government jobs be given to the most qualified.

The Napoleonic Code replaced the patchwork system of feudal laws in place prior to the French Revolution. The intent of the replacement was to create a system of easily understood laws. They are based largely on the codified Roman laws set forth by the emperor Justinian in the sixth century. As of 2014, elements of the Napoleonic Code are still in force in French law, albeit highly amended and reinterpreted a number of times by various judiciaries.