Professor Jane Caplan and Dr Edward Higgs in the history faculty common room at the University of Oxford

Professor Jane Caplan and Professor Edward Higgs in the history faculty common room at the University of Oxford

Professor Jane Caplan
History, University of Oxford [UK]


My work so far has concentrated on the emergence and stabilization of what I call the ‘protocols of identification’ in nineteenth-century Europe. My assumption is that the elements of identity assembled on a document are not so much parts of a pre-existent totality as a series that is abstracted and recombined from disparate, historically contingent sources into a unit that has only a factitious authenticity. I’ve been less interested in the functions of the document itself than in the historicity of these disparate elements and in the juridical debates prompted by the circulation of paperized identifications. My publications and work-in-progress have addressed the legal stabilization of the personal name; the interpretation of the tattoo as a mark of identity; and the legal debate about ownership of the facial image in late nineteenth-century Germany. I am currently moving back into more empirical research, combining my dual interests in the history of identification and the history of Nazi Germany into an investigation of the remaking and proliferation of ‘identificatory identities’ and documentary proofs of identity in this period of intensive coercion.

Professor Edward Higgs
History, University of Essex [UK]


My research interests include the statistical representations of society; the social construction of knowledge; state surveillance of the citizen; the impact of communications on state and society; and the history of information. My current research project is the production of a book on the history of identification in England. This will attempt to look at the rather different, but intertwined, histories of the identification of three types of personality – the juridical person, the citizen, and the deviant. Although I originally specialized in the nineteenth century, I have recently tried to cover broad themes in early modern, modern and contemporary history (see, for example, my The Information State in England: The Central Collection of Information on Citizens since 1500 [Basingstoke & New York, 2004]). This partly reflects my experience of working with a wide range of sources as a former archivist at The National Archives in London. However, I am also convinced that we need to look at historical processes over the longue durée in order to challenge some of the fallacies of modernization theory. I am mainly interested in British history but increasingly try to place this within the context of international and imperial comparisons.

Back to top

Post Categories


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: