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Article

Abstract

throughout the world. Legal scholars, however, have focused attention on the history of codification in continental Europe, while the role codification has played in the common-law world remains unclear. This Article seeks to change that. Exploring the role of codification in the common-law regimes not only helps us to understand the similarities and differences between the world's legal systems, it has immediate relevance as well. In 1989, and again in 1994, the European Parliament suggested that preliminary work towards a European civil code should be undertaken. Within the European Union, the center of the common-law world-England-meets the centers of the civil-law world, such as France, Germany, Austria, and Italy. A European civil code would thus inevitably bring codification to both major legal systems. However, there are concerns that common-law history argues against such plans. It is time to look more closely at the common-law experience with codification. This Article begins by explicating the concept of codification on the European continent. It analyzes its core features: authority; completeness (in the sense that a code is exclusive, gapless, and comprehensive); system; reform; national legal unification; and simplicity. Using this concept of codification as a template, the Article then turns to common law, providing an overview of the histories of codification in England and the United States. This history illustrates the persistent impact of the idea of codification and the wide appeal that it has maintained for centuries in England and America. It shows that a future European civil code would not import a completely novel idea as a legal transplant into a common-law system. Objections to such plans based on common-law history are not compelling. Active consideration of European codification should continue.

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