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Article
Publication date: 21 January 2022

Angélica Vasconcelos, Alan Sangster and Lúcia Lima Rodrigues

The main aim of this paper is to illustrate the importance of avoiding Whig interpretations in historical research. It does so by highlighting examples of what may occur…

Abstract

Purpose

The main aim of this paper is to illustrate the importance of avoiding Whig interpretations in historical research. It does so by highlighting examples of what may occur when this is not done. The paper also aims to promote interdisciplinarity, in the form of working with those from other disciplines, as a means to avoid this occurring.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper includes an in-depth study of the bookkeeping and financial reporting of two 18th century Portuguese state-sponsored companies using archival sources. The companies were selected because of conflicting insights across disciplines concerning the quality of their bookkeeping and financial reporting – historians have been very critical, while accounting historians have seen little wrong. These differences of opinion have never previously been investigated. The authors demonstrate how information was distributed among the account books and other records of the two companies. The approach adopted enabled a reader to fully understand the recorded economic events. The authors also present and explain the procedures, criteria and accounting terminology used in their annual reports.

Findings

This paper demonstrates how easy is to inadvertently adopt a Whig interpretation of accounting history when the focus of interest is something of which the principal researcher has insufficient understanding or expertise. It also illustrates how important it is to embrace interdisciplinarity by working with those from other discipline to avoid doing so.

Research limitations/implications

The conclusions from the case study are company-specific and cannot be generalised beyond those companies. However, the implications of this study go beyond the companies in its illustration of the importance of fully understanding historical evidence within its own context.

Originality/value

This paper unveils primary archival sources never previously presented in the literature. It also contributes to the literature by providing an evidence-based justification for the calls previously made to accounting historians to study accounting in its social context and engage with historians from other disciplines.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 35 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 5 October 2020

Bradley Bowden and Peta Stevenson-Clarke

Postmodernist ideas – most particularly those of Foucault but also those of Latour, Derrida and Barthes – have had a much longer presence in accounting research than in…

Abstract

Purpose

Postmodernist ideas – most particularly those of Foucault but also those of Latour, Derrida and Barthes – have had a much longer presence in accounting research than in other business disciplines. However, in large part, the debates in accounting history and management history, have moved in parallel but separate universes. The purpose of this study is therefore one of exploring not only critical accounting understandings that are significant for management history but also one of highlighting conceptual flaws that are common to the postmodernist literature in both accounting and management history.

Design/methodology/approach

Foucault has been seminal to the critical traditions that have emerged in both accounting research and management history. In exploring the usage of Foucault’s ideas, this paper argues that an over-reliance on a set of Foucauldian concepts – governmentality, “disciplinary society,” neo-liberalism – that were never conceived with an eye to the problems of accounting and management has resulted in not only in the drawing of some very longbows from Foucault’s formulations but also misrepresentations of the French philosophers’ ideas.

Findings

Many, if not most, of the intellectual positions associated with the “Historic Turn” and ANTi-History – that knowledge is inherently subjective, that management involves exercising power at distance, that history is a social construct that is used to legitimate capitalism and management – were argued in the critical accounting literature long before Clark and Rowlinson’s (2004) oft cited call. Indeed, the “call” for a “New Accounting History” issued by Miller et al. (1991) played a remarkably similar role to that made by Clark and Rowlinson in management and organizational studies more than a decade later.

Originality/value

This is the first study to explore the marked similarities between the critical accounting literature, most particularly that related to the “New Accounting History” and that associated with the “Historic Turn” and ANTi-History in management and organizational studies.

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 27 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 1 October 1996

Warwick Funnell

Points out that traditional conceptions of accounting history and its achievements are being challenged by new accounting historians who are informed by radical…

4261

Abstract

Points out that traditional conceptions of accounting history and its achievements are being challenged by new accounting historians who are informed by radical philosophies and approaches to history. Suggests that this is a belated reflection of movements within the wider discipline of history which can be traced to the annalists in the 1930s and more recently to the influence of postmodernism. Observes that at issue between the traditional and new history are the importance of facts and the pursuit of truth by traditional historians, noting that new accounting historians have decried the reactionary effects of traditional history, which they propose to overcome by substituting accounting as an interested discourse for accounting as a neutral, socially sterile technique. Explains that, as the conventional form of historical writing, the narrative form also has been disparaged. Concludes by arguing that accounting historians should be tolerant of different approaches to accounting history.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 9 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 29 April 2014

Garry D. Carnegie

The purpose of this paper is to examine the historiographic writings for accounting concerned with the craft of researching and writing history, published in the…

1391

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the historiographic writings for accounting concerned with the craft of researching and writing history, published in the English-language, across a period of 30 years from 1983 to 2012. The study's aim is three-fold: first, to review the literature pertaining to the writing of accounting history and to identify key developments and trends; second, to identify the contributors to this literature and their publication outlets and third, to analyze citations to identify individuals or groups who have gained traction in accounting historiography.

Design/methodology/approach

An essay focusing on developments in the accounting historiography literature as well as a review of some key thoughts or issues in present-day accounting historiography.

Findings

The study shows that a key development in the accounting historiography literature during this period has been the advent of new accounting history, which has contributed much theoretical and topical diversity in historical accounting research and an acceptance of the role of oral history as a means of expanding the archive.

Research limitations/implications

The present study, with its focus on contributions on the craft of researching and writing history, does not itself examine actual research studies which have been undertaken on accounting's past across the same period of time.

Originality/value

The study may assist in making the contributions examined more generally assessable and comprehensible to researchers to both explore and re-explore and may even contribute to the development of further contributions on accounting historiography to guide the approaches to, and direction of, historical accounting research in future.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 27 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 2 October 2014

Garry D. Carnegie

The purpose of this paper is to outline some personal reflections, based on recent published accounting history research and methodological contributions, on the state of…

4336

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to outline some personal reflections, based on recent published accounting history research and methodological contributions, on the state of the art and future directions in interdisciplinary research on accounting's past.

Design/methodology/approach

An essay focusing on recent developments in the accounting history specialisation and outlining some possible future research developments.

Findings

The paper points to the growing literature in the accounting history specialisation; the conduct of historical accounting research across an array of institutions, including business, social and religious institutions; the diversity of theoretical perspectives which have been applied during the past 15-20 years, essentially on the premise of accounting as social practice, and the prospects of theoretically-informed investigations continuing to offer the greatest potential insight into both accounting's present and future. Reflections rendered on possible future directions of historical accounting research may provide some motivation for future research or at least stimulate some discussion and debate on the subject.

Research limitations/implications

The analysis and critique represents the author's perspectives as a longstanding academic in the field.

Originality/value

The paper may assist in generating some new ideas, topics and approaches for future historical accounting research in any given country or region and may even stimulate “comparative international accounting history” (CIAH) studies in different locations around the globe.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 27 no. 8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 10 February 2012

Garry D. Carnegie and Christopher J. Napier

The purpose of this paper is to revisit the special issue of Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal published in 1996 on the theme “Accounting history into the…

12046

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to revisit the special issue of Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal published in 1996 on the theme “Accounting history into the twenty‐first century”, in order to identify and assess the impact of the special issue in shaping developments in the accounting history literature, and to consider issues for future historical research in accounting.

Design/methodology/approach

A retrospective and prospective essay focusing on developments in the historical accounting literature.

Findings

The special issue's advocacy of critical and interpretive histories of accounting's past has influenced subsequent research, particularly within the various research themes identified in the issue. The most significant aspect of this influence has been the engagement of increasing numbers of accounting historians with theoretical perspectives and analytical frameworks.

Research limitations/implications

The present study examines the content and impact of a single journal issue. It explores future research possibilities, which inevitably involves speculation.

Originality/value

In addressing recent developments in the literature through the lens of the special issue, the paper emphasises the unifying power of history and offers ideas, insights and reflections that may assist in stimulating originality in future studies of accounting's past.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 25 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 1 August 1996

Theresa Hammond and Prem Sikka

Much of the historical research in accounting continues to mimic idealized scientific methods in which written and official evidence is privileged. This research advances…

3896

Abstract

Much of the historical research in accounting continues to mimic idealized scientific methods in which written and official evidence is privileged. This research advances the narrative that the institutions of accountancy and major personalities are engaged in a heroic process of “progress”. Such a view ignores the impact of accounting on the lives of ordinary people. Thus, there is little understanding of the lived experiences of ordinary people who are affected by accounting and shape its development. This is in contrast to the currently dominant approaches to writing accounting history. Calls for the use of oral histories so that those marginalized and neglected by conventional history can be given a voice and problematize the narratives of “progress” dominating accounting research.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 9 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 9 May 2008

Stephen P. Walker

This paper aims to make an assessment of the contribution made by accounting histories of women produced since 1992 and the current state of knowledge production in this…

3503

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to make an assessment of the contribution made by accounting histories of women produced since 1992 and the current state of knowledge production in this subject area.

Design/methodology/approach

The study is based on a review of published sources on accounting history and women's, gender and feminist history.

Findings

Whereas feminist historians and historians of gender boast substantial advances in research and transformative impacts on the wider discipline of history, similar momentum is less evident in accounting history. It is argued that over the past 15 years scholarship has remained substantially in the “recovery” phase, has not “defamiliarized” the sub‐field and is yet to engage with developments in feminist and gender historiography which offer regenerative potential.

Research limitations/implications

The paper argues that sex and gender differentiation persist in both the past and the present and their study should feature large on the accounting history research agenda.

Originality/value

Core themes in feminist and gender history are explored with a view to identifying research questions for accounting historians. These themes include the oppression and subordination of women, the public‐private divide, restoring women to history, devising new periodisations, investigating socio‐cultural relations, and the construction of identities.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 21 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 1 August 1996

Joni J. Young and Tom Mouck

Considers what role history plays in the US accounting standard‐setting process and how this role may be constrained by an emphasis on objectivity and an adherence to a…

4948

Abstract

Considers what role history plays in the US accounting standard‐setting process and how this role may be constrained by an emphasis on objectivity and an adherence to a positivistic view of bureaucratic decision making. Explores the role history could play in the development and review of accounting standards and, in particular, how history might contribute to pluralizing the past, problematizing the present and revisioning the future.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 9 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 1 August 1996

Garry D. Carnegie and Christopher J. Napier

Accounting history has a long tradition, but in recent years it has expanded its interests and approaches. Early literature of accounting history that sought to glorify…

9273

Abstract

Accounting history has a long tradition, but in recent years it has expanded its interests and approaches. Early literature of accounting history that sought to glorify the practice of accounting and the status of accountants has been supplemented first by a more utilitarian approach viewing the past as a “database” for enhancing understanding of contemporary practice and for identifying past accounting solutions that might be relevant to current problems, and then by a more critical approach, which seeks to understand accounting’s past through the perspective of a range of social and political theories. A tension has developed between those historians whose first loyalty is to the archive and those who look primarily to theory to inform their historical investigations. As accounting history matures, open debate between practitioners of different modes of history making can only be beneficial, not only to the development of the discipline, but also towards our own self‐understandings as accountants, including the impact we have on organizational and social functioning. Suggests that accounting history without a firm archival base is likely to lose direction, but that our notion of what constitutes the archive, and our ways of communicating, explicating and interpreting the archive, should not be taken as fixed. To illustrate this, examines a number of approaches to the writing of accounting history where recent research has begun to demonstrate a critical and interpretive tendency, and suggests directions in which this research might develop as accounting and its history enters the twenty‐first century.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 9 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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