Feb 4, 2012

Book Review- The Passport: A History of Man's most Traveled Document

The document of the passport has evolved in function and design, but it has always been linked with travel, whether an enabler of travel or a restrictive document. Everywhere that a developed society existed that engaged in trade with others of the same, the passport has existed. In Martin Lloyd’s book, The Passport: the history of man’s most traveled document, the author traces the history of the passport from its beginnings as a document of introduction for travelers in Egypt during Pharaonic times, to a writ of protection, or safe conduct from a powerful lord in potentially enemy lands or a restrictive document to prohibit the emigration of skilled labor in Middle Age Europe, to its present incarnation as an electronic and analog document of declaration of the users nationality, physical attributes (in the form of a photograph), gender, country of birth, and age for international travel. And wherever and whenever it has existed, a unique organizational culture has arisen to create, store, record, and validate passports for travel. Lloyd’s book concerns itself with a subject that is quite timely in this age of stricter travel controls due to threats from terrorism. The author clearly enjoys chronicling the history of this document with his effusive anecdotes and winding narrative, peppered with witticisms and cleverly named chapters. This results from a self confessed love of the passport, despite his acknowledgement of its flaws, and from his twenty-three years in the HM Immigration Service in Britain.
Unfortunately in the final tally the passport is more of a restriction to travel than an enabler.

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