In the last decades, a growing body of literature organized around the works of Jane Caplan, Edward Higgs, and John Torpey has opened up the historical inquiry of state identification procedures . In tracing the emergence of a “politics of registration”, as Szreter and Breckenridge defined it, scholars have considered a variety of practices for describing the individual, including passports, identity cards, signatures, censuses, civil registers, photography, tattoos, fingerprints, and biometric technologies.
These identification practices owe their validity to specific laws. The following table includes some of the most important statutes concerning registration in the British Empire during the nineteenth century. Click on the Reference Link to access a PDF copy of the original statute.
|1801||Public Notaries Act||41 Geo. III, c. LXXIX|
|1812||Parochial Registers Act||52 Geo. III, c. CXLVI|
|1819||Registry, etc., of Colonial Slaves Act||59 Geo. III, c. CXX|
|1823||Registering of Vessels Act||4 Geo. IV, c. XLI|
|1836||Births and Deaths Registration Act||6 & 7 Will. IV, c. LXXXVI|
|1837||Births and Deaths Registration Act||7 Will. IV & 1 Vict., c. XXII|
|1843||Public Notaries Act||6 & 7 Vict., c. XC|
|1856||Marriage and Registration Act||19 & 20 Vict., c. CXIX|
|1858||Births and Deaths Registration Act||21 & 22 Vict., c. XXV|
|1864||Registration of Burials Act||27 & 28 Vict., c. XCVII|
|1874||Births and Deaths Registration Act||37 & 38 Vict., c. 88|
|1885||Registration Act||48 & 49 Vict., c. 15|
|1888||Local Government Act||51 & 52 Vict., c. 41|
 Jane Caplan and John Torpey, eds, Documenting Individual Identity: The Development of State Practices in the Modern World(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); John Torpey, The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship and the State(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000); Edward Higgs, The Information State in England: The Central Collection of Information on Citizens, 1500-2000(London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).
 Keith Breckenridge and Simon Szreter, eds, Registration and Recognition: Documenting the Person in World History(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 3; Ilsen About, James Brown, and Gayle Lonergan, eds, Identification and Registration Practices in Transnational Perspective: People, Papers and Practices(London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013); Simon Cole, Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001); Valentin Groebner, Who Are You? Identification, Deception, and Surveillance in Early Modern Europe(New York, NY: Zone Books, 2007); Xavier Crettiez and Pierre Piazza, eds, Du Papier à la Biométrie: Identifier les Individus(Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2006); Gérard Noiriel, ed, L’Identification: Genèse d’un Travail d’État(Paris: Belin, 2007).