21 July 2014

Identity and Identification

Professor A Jane Caplan introduces a series of four lectures from Gresham College

You may know who you are, but how do I know that you really are who you say you are?  How are you going to prove to me, a sceptical stranger or a suspicious official, that you are telling me the truth? How, in other words, can you be identified as an individual, and how are you going to prove this identity? The answer to these questions has a long history, and that history is the subject of this series of four lectures.  These days we are bombarded by information and warnings about identity documents and identity theft: scarcely a week goes past without some lurid story in the press or blogosphere. But these news stories are not so good at telling us why we should be more concerned now than we were in the past: they usually lack any historical perspective. In these lectures, I hope to persuade you that learning what identification meant and how it was recorded in the past will give you a better understanding of what it means in the present. And rest assured that I am not just going to tell you the history of the passport – even if some of us think that is quite interesting enough. No, I am going to talk to you about your name, your signature and your tattoos, and why they have mattered.
The lectures, available as video, audio and transcripts, are:
1.  Identity and Identification - http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/identity-and-identification
2. What's in a Name? More than You Might Think - http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/whats-in-a-name-more-than-you-might-think
3. Your Hand: Signatures and Handwriting - http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/your-hand-signatures-and-handwriting
4. "Speaking Scars" - The Tattoo - http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/speaking-scars-the-tattoo

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