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Sunday, August 9, 2009


The history of accounting is as old as civilization, among the most important professions in economic and cultural development, and fascinating. That’s right, fascinating! Accountants invented writing, developed money and banking, innovated the double entry book Fra Luca Pacioli keeping system that fueled the Italian Renaissance, were needed by Industrial Revolution inventors and entrepreneurs for survival, helped develop the capital markets necessary for big business so essential for capitalism, turned into a profession that brought Fra Luca Pacioli credibility for complex business practices that.............. continue from previous page........

Accounting history is summarized in seven chapters. An overview places accounting in perspective. In some ways accounting hasn’t changed since Paciolli wrote the first textbook in 1494. On the other hand, accounting has led the information revolution. Many aspects of 21st century accounting will be unrecognizable by today’s professional leaders. Understanding the role of financial needs today and in the future requires an understanding of the past. The role of accounting in the ancient world is coming into clearer focus with new archaeological discoveries and innovative interpretations of the artifacts. It is now evident that writing developed over at least five thousand years—by accountants. The roles of trade, money, and credit also have long and complex histories. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of double entry bookkeeping. It was central to the success of the Italian merchants, necessary to birth of the Renaissance. The Industrial Revolution depended on inventors and entrepreneurs, not accountants. It is the survival of their firms that required innovative accounting and, later, the development of a profession. Big business, particularly the railroads, required capital markets that depended on accurate and useful information. This was supplied by the expanding accounting profession. The earliest of the Big Eight started in mid-nineteenth century London. Turn of the century America saw the rise of really big business, governable because of improvement in cost accounting. But the Crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression demonstrated problems with capital markets, business practices, and, yes, considerable deficiencies in accounting practices. Many aspects of current accounting practices started with the flood of business regulations from the Roosevelt administration. The earliest electronic computers were funded to assist the World War II efforts. By 1950 massive efforts were begun to automate accounting practices, a continuing process. A global real-time integrated system is a near reality, suggesting new accounting paradigms replacing double entry and generally accepted accounting principles.

Why read this book? What we do today in accounting is based on a 10,000-year history. Understanding this history is necessary to comprehending the linkages of accounting to career potential, financial regulation, tax, accounting systems, and management decision issues. This history also is a powerful tool to predict the accounting of the next generation.

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