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A brief history of the passport

From a royal letter to a microchip

The concept of being under one ruler’s protection, while in the lands of another, has probably existed since rulers and lands were first invented, but the earliest mention of an object we might recognise as a passport appears in the Bible, in the often overlooked boo of Nehemiah.

In the month of Nisan in the 20th year of the ancient Persian king Artaxerxes (around 450BC in new money), the prophet, who was working as a royal cup-bearer, is granted letters from the king requesting the governors of the lands beyond the Euphrates to grant him safe passage to Judah. The purpose of Nehemiah’s visit, incidentally, was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

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