History of Accounting - Introduction: Why Study Accounting...

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Introduction: Why Study Accounting History? Unlike most other modern professions, accounting has a history which is usually discussed in terms of one seminal event, the invention and dissemination of the double-entry bookkeeping processes. But a view of accounting history that looks first at Luca Pacioli overlooks a long evolution of accounting systems in ancient and medieval times. More fundamentally, why should we care about the history of accounting at all? Certainly a glimpse back in this area helps illuminate our past generally, and it is the sort of winding, twisted path that makes an entertaining story. Perhaps the most compelling reason, however, is to help explain the phenomenal growth that the profession of accountancy has enjoyed worldwide since the first royal charters were granted to the Society of Accountants in Edinburgh less than 150 years ago. In 1904, fifty years after the emergence of the formal profession as chartered accountants, about six thousand practitioners carried this title. In 1957, there were 38,690 chartered and incorporated accountants (Scottish, British and Irish). Today, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales alone has a membership of over 109,000 worldwide. This is to say nothing of the many professionals in the other allied institutes in Canada , New Zealand , Ireland , Australia , Scotland and South Africa , and American certified public accountants - comprising a vast worldwide network of professional accountancy dominated by several mammoth worldwide accounting firms. How and why did this relatively new profession develop? Its history is that of human commerce, and even more fundamentally, of writing and the use of numbers and counting. Some argue that accounting developed purely in response to the needs of the time brought about by changes in the environment and societal demands. Others claim that the development of the science of accounting has itself driven the evolution of commerce, since it was only through the use of more precise accounting methods that modern business was able to grow, flourish and respond to the needs of its owners and the public. Either way, the history of accounting throws light on economic and business history generally, and may help us better predict what is on the horizon as the pace of global business evolution escalates. Obviously this presentation is only a glancing blow at a subject whose complete bibliography would itself be massive. It was undertaken as an educational project of ACAUS, the Association of Chartered Accountants in the U.S. , because there were so few online resources available on accounting history as 1999 began. It is intended only as a brief introduction, to whet the appetite for a more in-depth look that more reading can provide. See the conclusion of this "virtual history" for a small collection of some good books on the subject, as well as a history selection from the ACAUS Bookstore. Ancient Accounting: Dawn Of Man Through Pacioli
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This note was uploaded on 03/27/2012 for the course ACCT 3312 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi.

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History of Accounting - Introduction: Why Study Accounting...

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