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CB27
721627.  Mon Jun 21, 2010 7:44 am Reply with quote

I don't expect there to be a programme about identities, but having read an article about passports the other day, I thought this would make a Qi entry.

These days, when someone mentions identity cards people forget that we already own several, and that one of the most important ones is your passport.

We're used to passports now, and we know they've been around for a while, but it's only in the last generation or so that they've really become so acceptable to everyone.

If you go back to ancient times, passports weren't issued, but some travellers would be given special letters affording the bearer safe passage, these are even mentioned in the Bible.

The practice continued right through to the medieval age, butn the word passport was already in use to describe these documents (Shakespeare's Henry V declares "He that hath no stomach for this fight, let him depart; his passport shall be made.". However, these documents didn't link the individual to their nationality, but merely ensure safe conduct.

It was not until the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 that several countries started issuing something similar to the modern passport as a way of keeping an eye on their citizens as well as those abroad, because they fearde the mood of revolution in Europe.

In Britain it was still a privilege to obtain a British passport, so if you were travelling to France or other countries, it was easier to go to their embassies and get a a passport in that nationality, and even when the rules were relaxed it was still easy to get passports issued from the country you were travelling in as opposed to the country you came from.

This anomaly helped create one of the major scandals of the mid 19th century, when Felice Orsini, an Italian revolutionary, travelled to Paris on a British passport and tried to assassinate Napoleon III in 1858. Within days of the attempt, when it was clear he not only travelled on a British passport, but had made and tested his bombs in Britain, relations between France and Britain had deteriorated and Britain's PM (Lord Palmerston) tried to rush the Conspiracy to Murder Bill made it a felony to plot in Britain to murder someone abroad. He lost the vote and was forced to resign, which handed the Government to Lord Derby. Immediately there were calls to tighten passport regulations so that only british nationals could be given British passports.

Ironically, within a couple of years the expansion of the railways in Europe made international travel a lot more accessible, and the vast number of passengers combined with the lack of resources in many countries, meant that several European countries dispensed with the need for passports, and this became so widespread that by the eve of WWI only Russia and the Ottoman Empire required passports for travelling across borders, no other European country did.

WWI saw the need to introduce passports to help catch spies and improve security, but they weren't popular and after the war there were many people calling for them to be stopped. They continued to be unpopular, even after WWII, and as late as 1949 the then Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin declared he should be able to "go down to Victoria station here, take a ticket and go where the hell I like without anyone pulling me up for a passport.".

 
Jenny
721707.  Mon Jun 21, 2010 9:34 am Reply with quote

Less than a third of Americans have passports, but that is actually not as surprising as you might think. See http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2008/10/20/debunking-passport-myth/

There is also the factor that Americans used until very recently to be able to travel to Canada and Mexico without passports, and also to the fact that American workers in general have much shorter holidays than Europeans - two weeks a year vacation time in addition to public holidays is not at all unusual - which rather puts a damper on foreign travel involving major time zone changes during which you are going to be time-challenged for a few days.

And of course the USA incorporates quite big differences in climate and culture within its own boundaries, so many Americans are quite happy not to travel outside them.

 
CB27
721732.  Mon Jun 21, 2010 9:45 am Reply with quote

Bah, if I didn't have my 33 paid annual leave days I don't think I'd bother working :)

 
suze
721815.  Mon Jun 21, 2010 11:33 am Reply with quote

The argument put forth in that article ought to imply that few Canadians have passports either - Canadians too get short leave allowances as compared to Europeans, and we too have a great big country (an even bigger country, in fact) to explore before needing to venture further afield.

But in fact, 54% of Canadians have a passport as against 30% of Americans (Passport Canada, 2009). How do we explain this, other than in terms of Americans "happily isolating themselves from the rest of the world in the laziest of ways", the argument which Ms Steinmetz seeks to oppose?

Oh, and Ms Steinmetz, there is no such word as "Innuits"; you may perhaps have meant Inuit, which is a plural. Mind you, there aren't any in Alaska - the indigenous people who live there are Aleut, Iņupiat, and Yup'ik. It would appear that you do, in fact, "revel in cultural ignorance".

 
CB27
721825.  Mon Jun 21, 2010 11:45 am Reply with quote

Now, now, if we're going to setlle this in a civilized manner, we must bring in some jelly and an inflatable wrestling pool...

 
Jenny
722248.  Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:01 pm Reply with quote

Suze - maybe more Canadians want to travel to the US than Americans wanting to travel to Canada?

 
CB27
722386.  Wed Jun 23, 2010 6:53 am Reply with quote

I'm reminded of Canadian Bacon...

 
djgordy
722412.  Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:53 am Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:
WWI saw the need to introduce passports to help catch spies and improve security.


Which, if we substitute the word "terrorists" for "spies" is exactly the same reason that our recent right wing Labour government tried to introduce ID cards. Nopthing really changes does it?

 
CB27
722424.  Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:21 am Reply with quote

{rolls eyes}...

 
Izzardesque
722430.  Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:44 am Reply with quote

When I was working in the NHS in Derby, we stumbled across a false identity crime syndicate. Basically the person we hired had purchased the identity of a British citizen who had been murdered in Russia. Apparently this group were either deliberately killing tourists and the poor for their passports or collecting thopse that were dead already.

 
suze
722463.  Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:44 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
Suze - maybe more Canadians want to travel to the US than Americans wanting to travel to Canada?


That is undoubtedly true - I don't think that I know a Canadian who has never visited the USA. But until last year one didn't need a passport to cross the 49th (and incidentally, the change was at the US's behest, much as Americans seem to complain about it more than Canadians do). As Jenny will know, until then one's driver's license was the usual documentation for travel between Canada and the USA. (I'm unsure on this point; was a driver's license also formerly sufficient for Americans traveling to Mexico?)

But even then, a greater proportion of Canadians than Americans had passports - quite simply, Canadians do travel to (especially) Europe more than do Americans. Undoubtedly that's partly because a fair proportion of Canadians have right of abode in either the UK or France, and a lower proportion of Americans do. I don't think that can be the whole explanation though.

 
CB27
722474.  Wed Jun 23, 2010 11:16 am Reply with quote

You also have the Commnowealth element. Being a Western economy with links to the commonwealth they have a lot of academic and cultural tie ups which the Americans miss out on.

And let's not forget the sight of Sarah Palin standing on the border with her gun at the ready, that's make me want to take more foreign trips...

 
Posital
722529.  Wed Jun 23, 2010 2:22 pm Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:
I'm reminded of Canadian Bacon...
Always wondered what CB stood for...

 
nitwit02
722922.  Thu Jun 24, 2010 8:44 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
But even then, a greater proportion of Canadians than Americans had passports - quite simply, Canadians do travel to (especially) Europe more than do Americans. Undoubtedly that's partly because a fair proportion of Canadians have right of abode in either the UK or France, and a lower proportion of Americans do. I don't think that can be the whole explanation though.





And of course, Canadians far more than Americans are actually interested in seeing other cultures and peoples.

 
CB27
723031.  Fri Jun 25, 2010 8:23 am Reply with quote

Talking of identity, I was thinking about people who's identity became famous, but wrongly attributed.

One such person was John Hetherington, who is attributde by many as the designer of the top hat even though they'd been around a few short before his name comes onto the scene.

What does seem to be the case is that Mr Hetherington did become one of the first people to wear the top hat in public in 1797 and that this caused such a sensation that he was arrested for breach of the peace on account that he "appeared on the public highway wearing upon his head what he called a silk hat (which was shiny luster and calculated to frighten timid people)..... several women fainted at the unusual sight, while children screamed, dogs yelped and a younger son of Cordwainer Thomas was thrown down by the crowd which collected and had his right arm broken". He was fined Ģ50 and a by law introduced for the City of London banning the wearing of top hats.

This John Hetherington may well have been the father of Henry Hetherington who was a leading Chartist and published a number of radical newspapers during the 1830s.

 

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