American University Washington College of Law
In civil law the sources recognised as authoritative are, primarily, legislation—especially codifications in constitutions or statutes passed by government—and custom. Codifications date back millennia, with one early example being the Babylonian Codex Hammurabi. Modern civil law systems essentially derive from legal codes issued by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century, which were rediscovered by 11th century Italy.
Japan was the first country to begin modernising its legal system along western lines, by importing parts of the French, but mostly the German Civil Code. This partly reflected Germany’s status as a rising power in the late 19th century. Similarly, traditional Chinese law gave way to westernisation towards the final years of the Qing Dynasty in the form of six private law codes based mainly on the Japanese model of German law.
- So the law ought to pre-empt what would happen, and be guided by the most efficient solution.