The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity

Civil Registration Centre for Development, The Hague and the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, Johannesburg

Simon Szreter

St Johns College Cambridge and History and Policy

My publications have focused on a) further supporting the argument made by Peter Solar (Economic History Review 1995) that the Poor Law of 1601 (a parish-based precocious social security system) was a more important contributor to England’s early economic development than has been realised b) arguing that the equally early parish registers played an important role in maintaining the viability of that early welfare system over two centuries, along with a system of accessible justice c) exploring the original motives for the creation of the parish registers in the reign of Henry VIII and d) exploring why this package of institutions appears not to have become established elsewhere among British settlements in North American and the Caribbean. Secondly, I have also been involved in policy-engaged advocacy publications i) pointing out that development policies premised on notions of human rights need to address practical issues of citizen registration if the abstractions of rights are to be turned into practical policies benefitting the poor ii) engaging with the long-standing professional interest of public health in vital registration systems as providing the crucial basis for epidemiological intelligence, in order to point out to this constituency that the exclusive promotion of this sectional interest should not be allowed to substitute for also backing the importance of universal civil registration systems iii) to emphasise the importance of registration as a voluntary, not compulsory civic act, which requires trust on the part of citizens in their state and trustworthiness on the part of the state, along with careful attention to issues of security and ownership of the registered information. Selected publications in this field:
1991d ‘The G.R.O. and the public health movement in Britain, 1837-1914', Social History of Medicine IV,3, December 1991, 465-94.
2007a 'The right of registration: development, identity registration and social security - an historical perspective' World Development, Volume 35, Issue 1 (January 2007), pp.67-86.
Reprinted as ch.13 in H.J. Cook, S. Bhattacharya and A. Hardy, eds, History of the Social Determinants of Health (Hydebad: Orient Black Swan 2009), 248-78.
2007b ‘A scandal of invisibility- making everybody count by counting everyone’ (co-authored with P. Setel et al) Lancet Oct.29, DOI: 10.1016/S0140- 6736(07)61307-5.
2007c ‘Civil registration systems and vital statistics: successes and missed opportunities’ (co-authored with P. Mahapatra et al) Lancet Oct.29, DOI:10.1016/S0140- 6736(07)61308-7.
2007d ‘The Way Forward’ (co-authored with C. Abou Zahr et al) Lancet Oct.29, DOI:10.1016/S0140- 6736(07)61310-5.
2010b ‘The WHO and the Social Determinants of Health Report 2008: Social Justice, Economics, Health and Politics’, ch.8 in S. Bhattacharya, S. Messenger and C. Overy, eds, Social Determinants of Health. Assessing Theory, Policy and Practice (Orient Blackswan), 114-39.
2011c ‘Children with a (Local) State: Identity Registration at Birth in English History since 1538’, ch.14 in J. Bhabha, ed, with Foreword by Mary Robinson, Children Without a State. A Global Human Rights Challenge (The MIT Press 2011), 331-51.
2012e Registration and Recognition. Documenting the Person in World History, co-edited with Keith Breckenridge; Foreword by C.A. Bayly. Proceedings of the British Academy 182 (Oxford University Press 2012)
2012f ‘Editors’ Introduction: Recognition and Registration: the Infrastructure of Personhood in World History’ (with K.Breckenridge), in Registration and Recognition. Documenting the Person in World History, edited by K. Breckenridge and S. Szreter (Oxford University Press), 1-36.
2012g ‘Registration of Identities in Early Modern English Parishes and amongst the English Overseas’, in Registration and Recognition. Documenting the Person in World History, edited by K. Breckenridge and S. Szreter (Oxford University Press), 67-92.
2013a ‘The parish registers in early modern English history: registration from above and below’, ch.7 in I. About, J. Brown and G.Lonergan, eds, Identification and Registration Practices in Transnational Perspective (Palgrave), 113-31.