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War or the business of God: Sacred mission, accounting and Spanish military hospitals in the 18th century

Juan Banos Sanchez-Matamoros (School of Accounting, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain)
Warwick Funnell (Kent Business School, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 16 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to establish the importance of accounting in the management of Spanish military hospitals by the St John’s Order (SJO) of the Roman Catholic Church in the eighteenth century, a time of crisis between the Church and the State. The sacred mission of the Order required that they had a significant role outside the Roman Catholic Church in the care and treatment of the sick and infirm which required them to establish hospitals throughout Spain and across the lands that it had conquered. The study establishes that accounting played a key role in ensuring the success of the unconventional commercial relationship between the SJO and the government and the military.

Design/methodology/approach

Niebuhr’s typology is used to help understand how accounting practices were consistent, indeed essential, expectations of the sacred mission of the SJO and not something which represented a denial of the Order’s religious beliefs. The paper relies primarily on documents and other material located in Spanish archives.

Findings

The SJO accepted that secular accounting and accountability processes were relevant to their search for God’s love and to showing this love to others. The need for the Order to be accountable to the State was not regarded as profane and antithetical to their religious beliefs. Adopting Niebuhr’s typology of religion and society, this study concludes that the Order was an extraordinary example of Christ the transformer of the culture.

Originality/value

This study recognises the need to deepen the understanding of the way in which accounting practices have often played a critical role in the activities of religious organisations by examining an extraordinary example of one organisation which was engaged in an unusual, ongoing, highly complex commercial relationship with the Spanish State.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research has been supported (partly) by SEJ-4129.

Citation

Banos Sanchez-Matamoros, J. and Funnell, W. (2015), "War or the business of God: Sacred mission, accounting and Spanish military hospitals in the 18th century ", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 434-459. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-01-2014-1588

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited