UNA CONTABILIDAD PARA EL IMPERIO BRITÁNICOProliferación de tratados a comienzos del Siglo XIX

  1. Juan J. Lanero Fernández 1
  1. 1 Universidad de Salamanca

    Universidad de Salamanca

    Salamanca, España

    ROR https://ror.org/02f40zc51

Proyecciones: (La Plata)

ISSN: 2618-5474

Year of publication: 2015

Volume: 9

Issue: 9

Pages: 103-124

Type: Article

More publications in: Proyecciones: (La Plata)



  • Social Sciences: C


Both the accounting treatises published before the 19th Century and those which appeared in its first decades are presenting us a double entry system based on the organization of the accounting entries arranged in three books: Waste-book, Journal and Ledger. Accounting history shows that this distribution was, from a pedagogical perspective, efficient in spite of the fact that many companies had adopted other ways for keeping the accounting books which, to a greater or lesser extent, departed from the classic orthodoxy. Those alterations were introduced to save efforts in order to distribute the work among clerks and, in so doing, satisfying the characteristics of a particular company or fulfilling the uses of a determined book-keeper or merchant. Therefore it is not surprising in British authors from the end of 18th Century/beginning of 19th Century to add to their treatises frequent book-keeping examples and practices usual in the renowned businesses of the moment.Another novelty we observe in most of the accounting treatises published in the first decades of the 19th Century is the presentation of a short history of the accounting methods previously published. Without being aware of the fact, the accounting historiography took its first steps forward, which shows the inaccuracy of those who consider it started in the later decades of the second part of the 19th Century.The study here presented starts with a reference to Cronhelm, manager, confidant and, above all, accountant of a family of merchant drapers from Halifax. His accounting treatise, which should be considered a pioneering one, sets up a tight knot between double entry and algebra. At least partially, his work is the forerunner of certain accounting developments that nowadays are put into practice.The accounting treatises listed in this paper speak of the mercantile quality of the British people, the industrial revolution and the emerging British Empire in need of businessmen with a solid academic background to satisfy a growing commercial practice and to handle the vast Imperial administration. Innovative answers were required by the Imperial structure which eventually were bound to affect the whole society.The germ of this proliferation of accounting treatises finds its starting point in 1704 with Matthieu de la Porte’s La science des négocians et teneur de livres which knew many editions. The French author has his British peer in the Scot John Mair with his Book-keeping Methodiz’d that reached seventeenth editions, either under this title or under Book-keeping Moderniz’d. Therefore it should be concluded that such a big number of editions can only be the answer for a huge demand in constant economic growth.Teachers and merchants had undertaken a frenetic activity in order to provide professionals and students with fair and reliable tools free from useless processes in order to keep their business accounts both efficiently and quickly.Cronhelm’s treatise, published in 1818, talks about the Principle of Equilibrium. It has an algebraic foundation which later on was developed by the great Glaswegian Professor Augustus de Morgan. The method presented by Cronhelm was perhaps too innovative compared with the traditional technique and art of book-keeping which for him was mainly a science.The constant appearance of accounting treatises shows that the double entry system was essential for the expansion of commerce and the power and wealth it created.William Murray wrote in 1862 a wonderful paragraph about the double entry system which could serve as the epilogue to this revision of accounting treatises which is presented in this bibliographical evaluation: “Wether we view the science of double entry abstractly, or in combination with material wealth, we cannot but admire the intrinsic beauty of its principles and construction; and the further its detail, its analytical and synthetical power is studied, the more prolific in new beauties will it be found."

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