3. The Passport

In order to travel safely while crossing the national boundaries, a person must have a Passport. It is an official document confirming the person’s identity and authorizes him to travel safely from one country to another. The modern passport is younger than 20th century but its origin dates back to thousands of years ago!

Before the modern transport facilities like ship and air planes became available, very few people went on international and intercontinental tours. The diplomats and merchants, who took up such long journeys, carried tokens of recommendation from their Kings and Queens.

Ancient Egyptian couriers were given a small oblong shield, called a “cartouche”, on which the Pharaoh’s name was inscribed. In the Middle East, a ring bearing the official seal was used as the passport by the travelers.

Roman came closer to the modern form of passport by issuing a certificate of safe conduct throughout their empire a well as in other countries.

In Medieval Europe, the person in authority gave a hand written letter to the travelers, as a means of identification and assurance of personal protection.

Pilgrims who traveled across countries carried “Testimoniale” issued by the Church authorities. As recently as 1890, very few countries like Persia, Romania, Russia and Siberia required foreign traveler to possess some kind of passport.

No nation required its citizens to have a passport to travel abroad. Until 1918 any one could enter U.S.A without a passport. After World War I, the number of countries issuing passports to its citizen and demanding one from the travelers from other countries, increased rapidly.

Thus the passport became an authentic state document, confirming the identity and nationality of the bearer. To control the immigration, some countries insist on a Visa as well.

Different styles and words were used by different countries until The League of Nations introduced a uniform format in 1921. The booklet form of today may take the form of a computer-readable- plastic card in future.

But what ever be the form or size or shape, the passport will have the same force as the official rings and Cartouches of the past!

Visalakshi Ramani


2 Responses to 3. The Passport

  1. A.R.RANGANATHAN says:

    I am from ooty family vishakapatnam. nice to know many things through your website. try to meet you personally when at coimbatore.



    • Dear Sir,
      Nice to know that you are from Ooty – close to where I live now and your family is in Visakhapatnam-where I used to live.
      Surely it will nice getting to know new people and making new acquaintance and new friends.
      Thank you for your feedback regarding this blog.
      looking forward to your visit to Ooty/ Coimbatore.
      with warm regards,
      Visalakshi Ramani.

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