New passport rankings show world is opening up – but not for everyone

By Patrick Bixby
Photo: Pakutaso

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Rushdie viewed the Indian passport he had held as a boy in the 1950s as “a paltry thing.”

In the 1950s not every Indian national could even procure a passport. Passport in those days was considered a privilege, not a right and the criteria of bestowing a passport included one's educational qualifications and also one's record as a responsible citizen (read - no criminal record).

Passports were only for people from privileged backgrounds but later these rules got struck down because they were deemed as 'undemocratic'.

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Googling the history of the passport is fascinating.

The Old Testament mentions letters granting safe passage to the Kingdom of Judah, in 445BC.

The Han Dynasty in 206BC began controlling movement across its territories with a document.

The Medieval Islamic Caliphate issued a travel document to tax-paying citizens.

King Henry V of England issued "safe-conduct documents," or letters granting passage through the port, to traders seeking to travel inland.

The first American passport was issued in 1775, and the first Japanese passport was issued in 1866.

An effort to standardize a passport system was started in 1920, by the League of Nations.

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