Professor Edward Higgs – The History of Identification, and the Identification of an Historian
Date: Monday 15 December
Venue: Dreyfus Room
“In the seminar I will look at how I came to write about the long-run history of the deployment of technologies of identification, in terms of my own career trajectory and my intellectual concerns. I will then take the seminar through the issues that I raise in my paper ‘ID in One Country – long term trends in personal identification in England’. My central argument is that changes in the relationships between state and citizen, and business and consumer over the past 500 years, explain more about changes in techniques of identification than technological change or sociological theories of urban anonymity.”
Biography: Edward Higgs completed his doctoral research at the University of Oxford in 1978. He was an archivist at the Public Record Office, now the National Archives in London, from 1978 to 1993, where he specialized in the public use of census returns. He was then a senior research fellow at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at the University of Oxford, 1993-1996. After being a lecturer at the University of Exeter from 1996 to 2000, he moved to the History Department at the University of Essex, where he is now Professor in History and Head of Department. His main current research interests are in the history of state information gathering, personal identification and the development of biometrics. He is the author of such books as The Information State in England; Identifying the English: a History of Personal Identification 1500 to the Present; and Making Sense of the Census: the Manuscript Returns for England and Wales, 1801-1901. He has also never had a sub-atomic particle named after him.