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How did France's legal system evolve in the 19th century?

France's legal system in the 19th century evolved from an absolute monarchy to a more democratic system.

In the early 19th century, France was under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte, who introduced the Napoleonic Code in 1804. This was a significant shift from the previous feudal laws and was heavily influenced by Roman law. The Napoleonic Code was a comprehensive set of civil laws that dealt with property, family, and individual rights, replacing the patchwork of local laws that had existed before. It was a significant step towards a more uniform legal system in France and is considered one of Napoleon's most lasting contributions.

The Napoleonic Code was not without its critics, however. It was seen by some as a tool of oppression, particularly in its treatment of women and its lack of provisions for political and civil liberties. Despite these criticisms, the Code remained largely in place throughout the 19th century, with some modifications and additions over time.

The French Revolution of 1848 brought about significant changes to the legal system. The Second Republic was established, and a new constitution was adopted, which included provisions for universal male suffrage and the abolition of slavery. This marked a shift towards a more democratic legal system, although the Second Republic was short-lived and was followed by the Second Empire under Napoleon III.

Under the Second Empire, the legal system became more centralised, with the state taking on a greater role in the administration of justice. The Code of Criminal Instruction was introduced, which established the rules for criminal proceedings and was a significant step towards the modernisation of the French legal system.

The end of the 19th century saw the establishment of the Third Republic, which further democratised the legal system. The constitution of 1875 established a bicameral parliament and guaranteed civil liberties, marking a significant departure from the autocratic rule of the past.

In summary, the 19th century was a period of significant change for the French legal system. It evolved from an absolute monarchy under Napoleon Bonaparte to a more democratic system under the Third Republic, with the introduction of the Napoleonic Code and other reforms playing a key role in this transformation.

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