Copyright (c) 2005 by the Southwestern University School of Law
Southwestern Journal of Law and Trade in the Americas
ARTICLE: INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCE IN LEGAL CHANGE: EXPLORING A NEGLECTED FACTOR IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY LATIN AMERICAN CODIFICATION
11 Sw. J.L. & Trade Am. 301
M. C. Mirow*
It was an academic's nightmare. In a lecture hall in the French Senate building, laughs and chuckles rose from roughly 300 distinguished law professors and lawyers. While commenting on several papers dealing with the influences of the French Civil Code of 1804 (Code Napoleon) on Latin American law, I remarked that the famous nineteenth century codifier of Chilean law, Andres Bello, was the father of fifteen children. 1 I found the audience's response somewhat surprising. I was not sure if the laughter stemmed from their lack of historical appreciation of nineteenth century family structure, from the daunting task that such parental responsibility would present today, or from a nervous reflection of French notions of Latin American virility. Throughout the conference, other speakers made reference to Bello and his children, but I was never sure they fully appreciated the importance of this fact from my perspective. Being a father of fifteen children meant that Bello would approach the task of codifying civil law in a certain way.
Codes reflect their authors. This is particularly true in the examples of codes drafted by individuals. 2 The choice of sources and selection of substantive rules are profoundly influenced by the codifier's particular experiences. Thus, when seeking to understand the nature of nineteenth century codification in Latin America, a legal historian ignores, at his or her peril, the individual personal, familial, economic, educational, political and social experiences of the drafter. 3 Indeed, some very drastic departures from the expected range of ...
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