Napoleonic Code Lesson Plan

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson plan provides your class with key terms, discussion topics, a quiz, and an activity that will help them learn more about the Napoleonic Code.

Learning Objectives

Once students have gone through this lesson, they should be able to:

  • describe the reasons for why the Napoleonic Code was established
  • identify the alternate names for the Napoleonic Code
  • discuss what was right and wrong with the Napoleonic Code, especially by modern standards


1-1.5 hours


Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

Key Vocabulary

  • Napoleon Bonaparte
  • Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès
  • Jean-Etienne-Marie Portalis
  • Civic Code (define this once using a general definition and another time with respect to how it pertains to the lesson topic)


  • Get a feel of the class's familiarity with this topic with a couple of questions:
    • Who was Napoleon?
    • What is a civil code?
  • Now, place the key terms and their definition up on the class board for students to copy down. They should ask questions as you do so if something doesn't make sense. Once everyone has copied the information down, erase the board.
  • Pass out a copy of the Napoleonic Code: The Civil Code of 1804 lesson text for each student. They should read the text quietly on their own and take notes. They should ask questions if something doesn't make sense.
  • Now play the video lesson, pausing at 0:50.
    • What was the state of France's legal system circa 1800?
    • Provide examples of Roman law and medieval common law that prevailed in some parts of France at the time.
  • Pause after 2:58.
    • Who was Napoleon Bonaparte?
    • Describe Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès role in Napoleon's desire to revamp the legal system in France.
    • Who was Jean-Etienne-Marie Portalis?
    • When was the Civil Code published? What are its alternative names?
    • Discuss the various topics this code encompassed.
  • Pause after 3:36.
    • Discuss what rights French citizens had thanks to the Napoleonic code.
  • Pause after 4:53.
    • What were some of the many problems of the Civil Code?
  • Pause after 6:03.
    • How did the Napoleonic Code influence other countries around Europe?
    • Compare and contrast who would've welcomed the Civil Code or not (why or why not).
  • Play the rest of the video lesson now, answering any remaining questions.
  • After the discussion has been completed, place just the vocab terms back up on the board and have students come up and write a definition for each term in their own words. Other students should feel free to voice any correction they feel should be made to the definitions.
  • Now take the lesson quiz in-class. Once everyone has finished, you should review all of the questions and all of the answers to ensure students have understood the lesson and to clear up any lingering misunderstandings.

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