The German Civil Code 1900 German Empire
German Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, or German Civil Code, is a corpus of codified private law that came into force throughout the German empire in 1900. It is still in effect, notwithstanding the changes. The code arose from a desire for a truly national legislation that would supersede the frequently contradictory traditions and rules of Germany’s different areas.
The code is broken down into five sections. The first is a broad term that includes personal rights and legal personhood. Obligations, including notions of sale and contract; objects, including immovable and moveable property; domestic relations; and succession are the topics of the other four sections.
The gemeines Recht, or common law, was the notion of law represented in the code, which was based on the emperor Justinian’s 6th-century codification of Roman law. Some parts of Germanic tribal law impacted the code in family law and to some extent in property law.
Although feudal law had influenced customary law to some extent, it was again influenced by Roman law in the 15th century, when Roman law was imported into Germany in an attempt to organize traditions and legal structures. It supplanted custom in certain regions, especially where there was no conflict between the two; in others, Roman and customary law coexisted, with custom prevailing when irreconcilable disparities remained.
The Napoleonic Code, which remained in effect throughout most of western Germany, including Alsace and Westphalia, throughout the 19th century, provided a major impetus to the codification effort, which began in the 18th century with the Bavarian Code of 1756 and the Prussian Civil Code of 1794. There was a desire in Germany, as there had been in France at the time of the French codification (1804), to reconcile the great inconsistencies in the law across various towns and areas.
Even inside cities, there were two separate bodies of private law in existence at times. Some parts of Germany were governed by the Napoleonic Code, while others were governed by the Prussian Civil Code, and still others were governed by local rules and traditions.
German legal experts debated the sort of national code that should be produced, and whether one should be written at all, throughout the nineteenth century. The debates were heated enough to cause codification to be postponed. It was only after the foundation of the Reich (“empire”) in 1871 that a national codification effort could begin. Commissions were formed, and the first draft of the code was rejected as being too Roman when it was given for critical review in 1888. In 1896, a second draft was issued, which took effect in 1900.
Other nations’ private law has been influenced by the German Civil Code, especially Japan, Switzerland, and Greece. It has affected Austrian law, as well as the law of Russia and the Scandinavian nations, when combined with the Swiss Civil Code. Prussian Civil Code vs. Napoleonic Code
The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)