An early experiment in national identity cards: the battle over registration in the First World War

Elliot, R. (2006) An early experiment in national identity cards: the battle over registration in the First World War. Twentieth-Century British History, 17(2), pp. 145-176. (doi: 10.1093/tcbh/hwl006)

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.

Publisher's URL:


The current debate on issuing identity cards to the British population was foreshadowed during the First World War, when the National Registration Act of 1915 provided for a register of all men and women between 15 and 65, later used to aid conscription. The National Register was produced by Bernard Mallet, the Registrar General of England and Wales. The information demands of the war also provided an opportunity for Mallet to press forward his pre-war agenda of reforming the system of routine registration of births, marriages and deaths. His desire for reform was shaped by the pressing eugenic questions of the day—infant mortality and national efficiency—and as the war progressed, he developed his ideas to include a permanent universal register of all individuals. This article examines the fate of Mallet's proposals, and shows how lack of political consensus and lack of support, even from colleagues in the General Register Office for Scotland, prevented his proposals coming to fruition.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Elliot, Dr Rosemary
Authors: Elliot, R.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D501 World War I
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > Social Scientists working in Health and Wellbeing
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Economic and Social History
Journal Name:Twentieth-Century British History
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1477-4674

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record