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Between Penal Revolution and National Resistances. The Influence of the Napoleonic Judicial Model in Continental Europe (1808-1814)


My research project aims to define the principles of the Napoleon judicial model and to evaluate their influence in the European regions annexed by the French Empire: Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Rhineland. By using a comparative approach, I intend to reexamine the image of imperial justice, which has been conceived as an invariable mass of granite, universal and inflexible, founded on an utilitarian, centralized and authoritarian application of law. Such a sanctification of imperial justice corresponds perfectly to the image promoted by the Napoleonic political system. As we approach the bicentenary of the Codes of 1808 and 1810, it seems necessary to assess the viability of this traditional image by revisiting the practice of imperial justice. Belgium, the Netherlands, the Rhineland and Italy, all show a very different acceptance of the Napoleonic model. Such divergence indicates that the foreign departments did not apply French law in any unilateral way and throws into question the generally propagated representation of a monolithic imposition of the Napoleonic Codes. The aim of this project is, therefore, to evaluate the successes and failures occasioned by the model’s exportation. This question is essential to understand the reasons why Napoleonic justice lastingly influenced numerous European countries, even until the present day. The study of these issues is composed of two aspects: documentary research about the practice of penal jurisdictions in the chosen regions and an organization of international and interdisciplinary meetings on the theme of this research. Through formal discussions with fellow researchers and the organization of an international conference, I wish to deepen and facilitate a common reflection on the heritage and influence of the Napoleonic judicial model in the construction of national penal justices in Continental Europe.

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Via Dei Roccettini 9
50014 Fiesole
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 164 526,89
Administrative Contact
Serena Scarselli (Mrs.)