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Accounting History http://ach.sagepub.com Strategies in the development of accounting history as an academic discipline Alan J. Richardson Accounting History 2008; 13; 247 DOI: 10.1177/1032373208091528 The online version of this article can be found at: http://ach.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/3/247 Published by: http://www.sagepublications.com On behalf of: The Accounting History Special Interest Group of the Accounting and Fina nce Association of Australia and New Zealand Additional services and information for Accounting History can be found at: Email Alerts: http://ach.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Subscriptions: http://ach.sagepub.com/subscriptions Reprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Permissions: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav Citations (this article cites 75 articles hosted on the SAGE Journals Online and HighWire Press platforms): http://ach.sagepub.com/cgi/content/refs/13/3/247 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Accounting History Strategies in the development of accounting history as an academic discipline Alan J. Richardson York University, Canada Abstract Accounting history has emerged as an academic discipline over the last 40 years within English speaking countries.There is now a critical mass of researchers, dedicated journals and conferences, and a significant body of literature that is increasing in scope and depth.This article exam- ines the strategies that, ex post, can be seen as important in developing accounting history as a discipline. Three strategies are identified: (1) making accounting history relevant (to education, standard-setting, and organizational memory/identity), (2) making accounting history contro- versial (by identifying positive and negative exemplars, providing histor- ical critiques of mainstream research, and encouraging methodological/ theoretical pluralism within accounting history), and (3) institutional- izing accounting history (by developing academic associations, journals and conferences, and embedding accounting history within a network of supporting organizations including universities, professional associ- ations, libraries, research centers and publishers). The article concludes by identifying the weak points in the disciplinary project. Keywords: Disciplinarity; disciplinary evolution; institutionalization Copyright © 2008 SAGE Publications 247 (LosAngeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore) andAFAANZ Vol 13(3): 247–280. DOI: 10.1177/1032373208091528 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Accounting HistVol 13, No 3 – 2008 Introduction There are very good reasons to study accounting history.Accounting is not only as old as written language; there is reason to believe that written language may have evolved out of the desire to create accounts (Schmandt-Besserat, 1992, 1996; Ezzamel & Hoskins, 2002). Sombart (1916/1969) suggested that accounting may have given rise to capitalism by providing a technology that allowed the recogni- tion and monitoring of wealth.Yamey (1989) demonstrated that accountants and accounting technologies have been featured in many famous works of art through- out the ages, illustrating the close relationship between accounting and those who had the wealth to patronize artists.Accounting is a set of skills and techniques that have been the platform for the creation of the world’s largest professional service firms and high profile professional associations that have existed for almost 200 years (for example Jones,1981;Allen & McDermott,1993).It is not surprising that the history of accounting has been discussed by archeologists,linguistic histor- ians, economic historians, sociologists and historically minded practitioners for many years. There is a clear distinction,however,between accounting history as a subject worthy of study and the emergence of accounting history as an academic discip- line. Although the study of accounting history dates to the 1500s in Italy (Zan, 1994) and significant accounting history books were written in English prior to the SecondWorldWar by R. Brown,A.C. Littleton, H.R. Hatfield, R. de Roover, and B.S.Yamey,these forerunners of modern accounting historians did not develop an institutional structure that would facilitate the emergence of an academic discip- line.The place of accounting history within academe – for example,the creation of specialist journals and academic associations – is an achievement of t▯ he last 40 years. Fleischman and Radcliffe (2005) identify the “roaring nineties” (that is the 1990s) in particular as the decade in which accounting history “came of age” in terms of its intellectual diversity and volume of published research.The process by which accounting history emerged as an academic discipline has not been subject to historical analysis.1 The purpose of this article is to provide a baseline for understanding the cur- rent place of accounting history within the academy and to identify some o ▯ f the “strategies”used to carve out a space for accounting history as an academic discip- line. The discipline of accounting history is treated as a professional “project”, which Larson (1977, p.xvii) describes as an attempt, “to translate one category of scarce resources – special knowledge and skills – into another – social and e ▯ co- nomic rewards”. In particular, the social and economic rewards of interest are the creation of a place for accounting history and accounting historians within aca- demic institutions and the system of disciplinary knowledge. The term “strategy” is used loosely to refer to the patterns of activity that, ex post, may be seen as 248 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Richardson: Accounting history as an academic discipline contributing to the emergence of accounting history as an academic discipline. While some of the strategies were implemented self-consciously by accounting his- tory associations or other organizations, others reflect a pattern of individual choices by accounting historians trying to develop their careers within a discursive space dominated by other approaches to understanding accounting phenomena. The article begins by discussing the concept of“discipinarity”within academe. The emergence of accounting history as an academic discipline is then traced through three strategies: making accounting history relevant, making accounting history visible/controversial, and institutionalizing accounting history. It concludes with an assessment of the likely trajectory of accounting history within the academy and the areas where further disciplinary development is needed. The discipline of accounting history The organization of academic institutions, such as universities and academic asso- ciations, according to defined bodies of knowledge is both a simple administrative convenience and profoundly constitutive of a range of phenomena.As universities have grown larger, it has been necessary for internal divisions to allow efficient administrative processes. Stigler (1951) made the basic observation that the div- ision of labor is limited by the size of the market or, to reverse the premise, labor will become more specialized as the market grows larger. It is not surprising then that specialties within academic accounting emerged with the growth of business and accounting education since the 1960s (Bricker, 1991). While the need and opportunities for specialization within the university▯ can be understood in administrative and economic terms, the form that this special- ization takes is not predictable on these bases.The fact that different universities tend to use administrative structures based on knowledge specialization rather than,for example,clients or products,suggests that more is going on than a simple administrative expediency. The divisions within universities reflect the organiza- tion of professional knowledge in society and the ability of the “disciplines” to influence their own fate. The“disciplines”are the organizational and cognitive reflection of the struc- ture of academic knowledge. They are the means by which knowledge is legit- imated and the search for new knowledge is directed. Foucault (1972, p.224), for example, refers to an academic discipline as“a system of control in the production of discourse”. This control is exercised through disciplinary gatekeepers and through the structure of the knowledge itself. Kuhn (1970) refers to science occur- ring within a“disciplinary matrix” consisting of agreement among researchers on: (1) symbolic generalizations (theory); (2) metaphysical presumptions (assump- tions); (3) values (epistemology); and (4) exemplars (tacit knowledge). The aca- demic disciplines act as“tribes”fiercelyprotecting “territory”(Beecher& Trowler, 249 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Accounting HistVol 13, No 3 – 2008 1989/2001). They create and maintain a boundary that affects who has access to resources and status. Academic disciplines are thus part of a complex division of expert knowledge that reflects a consensus among participants on key dimensions of ontology and epistemology reinforced by institutions, such as peer review and career evaluations based on publications, which provide an epistemic community with the ability to establish and protect a domain of knowledge (for an excellent introduction to the literature on disciplinarity, see Shumway & Messer-Davidow, 1991; for a further review of models of the development of disciplines, see Beattie & Davie, 2006). Pragmatically,the emergence of an academic discipline is partly a question of identity and partly a question of resources.For an academic discipline to exist,aca- demics must identify themselves as being members of that discipline –▯ they must say “I am an accounting historian” – and they must have the resources – such as courses,conferences,research grants and journals – to allow them to live as an aca- demic accounting historian rather than doing accounting history as a hobby. Academic disciplines are thus academically recognized (legitimate) fields of knowledge supported by an infrastructure capable of maintaining the discipline’s boundaries and developing the body of knowledge in that field. This view of disciplines is relational rather than essentialist. It parallels Abbott’s (1988) view of professions as a negotiated set of work roles within a sys- tem of expert knowledge and Beecher and Trowler’s (1989/2001) ethnographic view of universities being divided among“academic tribes and territories”.A dis- cipline does not exist because of some unique characteristics of the knowledge claimed but because of the ability of a group of knowledge workers to negotiate a discursive space within which to operate and to develop a supporting institutional structure. From a relational perspective, the key strategies for an emerging discip- line concern developing affiliations with others in order to establish the legitimacy of the field, conducting “boundary work” (Gieryn, 1983) to map and defend the cognitive domain claimed,and institution building to provide temporal and spatial support for the field.The precise strategies used will depend upon the context in which a discipline emerges and the resources available for its use. This article traces the strategies and institutions through which accounting history has emerged as an academic discipline,laid claim to a domain of knowledge,and nego- tiated boundaries with cognate disciplines. Strategies in the development of the discipline of accounting history In retrospect, the development of the accounting history discipline can be traced to the late 1960s and particularly to the first World Congress of Accounting Historians and the release of the report of theAmericanAccountingAssociation (AAA) Committee on Accounting History, both in 1970. These marker events, 250 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Richardson: Accounting history as an academic discipline however, occurred in the context of the general growth in business studies after World War Two, the change in emphasis of business schools from practice to research in the 1960s, and the differentiation of business research based on para- digm diversity. The broader events surrounding the development of accounting history as a discipline provides a set of potentialities, a framework within which scholarship could have flourished or withered away.The fact that it flourished rep- resents the success of a concrete set of activities implemented by a particular set of people.This section identifies the strategies used (these may not have been seen as strategies at the time but in retrospect may be identified as a coherent set of activities). I will summarize these strategies under three headings: (1) making history relevant, (2) making history visible/controversial, and (3) institutionalizing accounting history.Within the disciplinary model sketched above these strategies represent, respectively, an attempt to legitimize an emerging discipline by associ- ating it with other activities that are already seen as legitimate; an attempt to bracket a space,or claim a territory,within the system of knowledge for the discip- line; and, finally, creating institutions that can provide and defend the resources that the discipline needs to flourish. Making accounting history relevant … if history is to be valued by others it needs to be made relevant to one’s principal audience, the users of your historical knowledge product. These include students, policy makers, colleagues and other scholars … not only yourself. (Previts, 2000, p.14) The study of accounting history can be undertaken for its own rewards (antiquar- ianism) or because it provides unique insights into phenomena (history as method). The study of accounting history, at its best, provides a perspective on change processes and on the relationship between accounting and environmental contingencies (Napier, 2006). But in the development phase of the discipline it may be easiest to demonstrate the relevance of accounting history by connecting it to other,more legitimate pursuits.In particular,accounting history sought status by developing its links to accounting education,accreditation and standard setting processes, and the creation of organizational memory/identity. Accounting history and business education Accounting is taught within Business Schools and Schools of Accountancy. The core body of accounting historians works within this context and needs to estab- lish the relevance of its research to accounting and business education at various levels. There is evidence that accounting history was included in early accounting courses and a separate course in accounting history is mentioned as early as 1931 (Myer, 1931).The early use of accounting history, however, reflected the model of 251 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Accounting HistVol 13, No 3 – 2008 classical education common in universities of that period and the view of accounting as a fixed body of knowledge with a classical heritage. The real issue for accounting history as an academic discipline is the return of accounting history to the curriculum after the concerted effort to move business education from a basis in practice to a basis in“science”following the recommendations of the Ford and Carnegie Foundation reports in the late 1950s. These recommendations, coupled with the boom in business education following the Second World War, resulted in business schools built on a social science model in which clas ▯ sical history played little role. The re-entry of accounting history into the business curriculum was facilitated by the resurgence of interest in business history based on Chandler (1962).Chandler provided a way out of the moralistic dichotomy of business as“robber barons” ver- sus “industrial statesmen” in business history (see Nevins & Josephson, 1954). He coupled business history with strategy; using historical research to demonstrate the role of the “visible hand” (Chandler, 1977) in crafting successful enterprises. Chandler refocused business history on why large-scale organizations emerged,and what administrative innovations were necessary to support them,rather than focus- ing on individual companies or businessmen and their personal foibles. The call to add accounting history to the curriculum also came from various academic commissions set up to recommend responses to repeated accounting and business failures.Accounting history is seen as providing perspective on account- ing,raising it above its technical base to understand accounting as a dynamic▯ prod- uct of culture and economics (e.g. AAA, 1970; Accounting Education Change Commission [AECC],1990).TheAcademy ofAccounting Historians established a committee in 1976 with the mandate of developing accounting history courses (Coffman et al., 1989, p.167). In 1982, this focus was amended to consider ways of integrating historical material into the curriculum, in recognition that it was unlikely that a full course in accounting history could be accommodated in mos ▯ t business programs (Coffman et al., 1989, p.170). In the late 1980s, the large accounting firms recognized that students gradu- ating from business schools and schools of accounting were not meeting their needs as professional service providers. They released a “white paper” (Big-8 Accounting Firms,1989) outlining what they saw as the key skills for success in the profession and pledged $4.5m to create theAECC to provide leadership and fund demonstration projects.TheAECC (1990) recommended,among other things,that accounting students gain a sense of world history and specifically the hi▯ story of the accounting profession and accounting thought in order to better understand the dynamics of financial reporting and auditing. In spite of these efforts, the number of accounting history courses offered by universities in the USA declined in the 1990s (Slocum & Sriram,2001).Williams and Schwartz (2002) found that less than 10 per cent of their survey respondents had incorporated accounting history into 252 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Richardson: Accounting history as an academic discipline their curriculum and typically this amounted to less than two classes of material.In general, accounting history has been incorporated into accounting theory courses rather than being given a stand-alone course. The call for accounting history to be used in accounting education extends ▯ beyond undergraduate studies to Masters and PhD programs in accounting. Homburger (1958),for example,saw the study of accounting history as a necessary antidote to the focus on current regulatory requirements in accounting Masters Programs. The AAA Committee on Accounting History (AAA, 1970) recom- mended that,“doctoral candidates should be required to demonstrate an appreci- ation of the historical dimension of current thought and practice …”. The Academy of Accounting Historians reinforced this idea through their “second chapter” project. Every PhD thesis requires a literature review to place the thesis in perspective and to identify the contribution that the thesis makes to the field. This “second chapter”, the “first chapter” serving to motivate and define the research question, is essentially a historical chapter.The Academy of Accounting Historians,primarily through the leadership of Gary Previts,sought to elevate this literature review into a true history of ideas/intellectual history. The Accounting History International Conference (discussed later) added a doctoral colloquium to its program in 1993 when the conference was held in con- junction with the University of Siena, Italy.The fact that research centers are now looking for doctoral students specifically to engage in accounting history research acknowledges that this discipline has become accepted as a legitimate par ▯ t of the academic research culture. 3 Contrary to these encouraging signs, however, accounting history, and in fact most non-financial-market-based specialties in accounting, are only included in “non-elite” US doctoral programs (Slocum & Sriram, 2001; Schwartz et al., 2005). Accreditation, accounting standards and tenure standards Accounting is a highly regulated field of practice (Richardson, 1997).This regula- tion is asserted through controls over entry to the field (for example in the USA through the CPA exams), controls over the curriculum given to aspiring account- ing students (particularly through accreditation requirements),and over the stand- ards of practice in the field (for example in the USA through the standards set by the Financial Accounting Standards Board [FASB] and Public Accounting Oversight Board).In addition,academic accountants are subject to promotion and tenure standards that affect their access to positions and resources within the acad- emy.Accounting historians have taken actions to embed their knowledge as part of each dimension of regulation but with little success. Professional examinations have frequently included reference to the history of the field.For example,the Pennsylvania CPA examination examiners produced a booklet in 1907 outlining the knowledge required for the examination. This 253 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Accounting HistVol 13, No 3 – 2008 included “ … the history of bookkeeping with reference to its form and use in ancient time; origin of double-entry bookkeeping and its gradual development down to the present time” (Webster, 1945, p.79). After World War Two, the New York Society of Certified Public Accountants formed a “committee on his- tory”that actively promoted the importance of accounting history for the develop- ment of professionalism (for example New York Society of Certified Public Accountants [NYSCPA], 1954; Grant, 1995, provides an edited collection of the Committee’s publications). In spite of this connection between accounting history and professional examinations, Nelson (1995) noted the increasingly technical nature of professional examinations and, derivatively, accounting curricula.There is a constant tension in accounting education and professional requirements between the need to cover the ever increasing technical requirements of account- ing and assurance while maintaining candidates’ broader perspective on the social purpose of accounting.Throughout the late-1900s,technical requirements won out with the historical and other perspectives being pushed to the sidelines. One potential source of pressure to incorporate accounting history into the curriculum is through the accreditation standards for business schools. Miranti (1993, p.114) notes: “Indeed, the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the accrediting body for bachelors and masters level pro- grams, while affirming the relevance of a business history elective, does not recog- nize the need for the specialized study of the past experience of accounting, finance or marketing”. Coffman et al . (1998) reports that the Academy of Accounting Historians liaised with the AACSB to ensure that accounting history would be considered in the accreditation standards for schools of accountancy. There is no evidence, however, that this intervention was successful.TheAACSB began accrediting accounting programs in 1980 and significantly revised their standards, including adding a peer review program, in 1991. The 1991 AACSB standards introduced the concept of“mission based”evaluation rather than focus- ing on curriculum per se. This approach removed the potential for lobbying the AACSB to add specific disciplinary knowledge to their standards. Several early notable accounting historians were intimately involved in accounting standard-setting – for exampleW.Paton,A.C.Littleton,H.Hatfield,J.D. Edwards and R.M. Skinner – and undoubtedly brought a historical perspective to bear on their work. Ross Skinner (1987), for example, published a book entitled Accounting Standards in Evolution that emphasized the contingent and evolution- ary nature of standards. A natural use of accounting history would be to support standard-setting activities. The process of developing an accounting standard requires the initial release of an exposure draft and a request for comments.Through the Academy of Accounting Historians, Shenkir (1975) suggested that members should prepare histories of the issues underlying proposed standards to inform decision makers of previous manifestations of the issue and attempts to deal with it 254 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Richardson: Accounting history as an academic discipline (Shenkir was a sitting member of the FASB at that time).There is no evidence that this proposal resulted in specific studies. Finally, the crucial standards for most academics are the requirements for promotion and tenure. Since the 1960s, and the redevelopment of business as a social science, the expectations of business and accounting faculty research and publication have been increasing. In some cases, research expectations are tied to publication in a limited number of journals as a measure of research quality (although these norms are not always formalized, Reinstein & Calderon, 2006). The most highly rated journals,all US based,are seen by many as creating barriers to entry based on nationality (Brinnet al.,2001),research method,or type/location of doctoral training (Lee, 1997). The demand for refereed publications as part of the academic assessment process, 4 and the barriers to entry of existing journals, promoted an explosion of accounting journals during the 1980s and 1990s (Zeff, 1996). Accounting history journals responded to these market conditions.They pro- vided comparatively lower barriers to entry while being well regarded among cer- tain schools particularly outside the USA (for example Carmona, 2002, p.187; Beattie & Goodacre, 2005). In general, however, accounting history journals are not highly ranked in studies of journal reputation,in part reflecting the dominance of “empirical” (large database), economics-based, positivist approaches to accounting research. In addition, accounting history journals have not been listed in the major citation databases that are frequently used in ranking studies.The edi- torial boards of the three specialist accounting history journals have an insignifi- cant 5 representation from the “elite” universities that are regarded as the gatekeepers within academic accounting research (Lee, 1997) suggesting that 6 accounting history has not entered the mainstream of US university research. The ability of accounting history journals to remain relevant to promotion and tenure decisions is a continuing concern, as is the range of schools that will give tenure and promotion based on accounting history publications. Accounting history and organizational memory/identity History is memory. Organizations frequently lose their memory as documents are destroyed and people leave. Historians play an important role in organizations by archiving key documents and/or providing histories that capture the events and myths on which the organization was founded.These activities are also important means of creating and reinforcing the organization’s identity in the minds of stake- holders.A history provides a sense of stability, a link with tradition, and, typically, a story of“progress”. Historians have been called upon to help commemorate key anniversaries for accounting organizations including accounting firms (for example Jones, 1981;Allen & McDermott, 1993), professional associations (Carey, 1969a,b), and standard-setting bodies (Camfferman & Zeff, 2007). Although these forms of 255 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Accounting HistVol 13, No 3 – 2008 history may be disparaged as“Whig histories” (Butterfield, 1965) designed simply to market and celebrate the organization, from the perspective of the discipline they do provide an important link to potential patrons of accounting history. Gary Previts, for example, through the Academy of Accounting Historians, was involved in creating a special issue of the Journal ofAccountancy to celebrate the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) 100th anniver- sary in 1987 (Flesher et al., 1996) (and again to commemorate the Journal of Accountancy’s own 100th anniversary in 2005).Academy members also helped to promote an AICPA commemorative postage stamp issued by the United States Postal Service and organize a rare book exhibit (Coffman et al ., 1989, p.176; McMickle & Vangermeersch, 1987). These types of activities bring the value of accounting history to the attention of key decision makers and, at a minimum, establish the public relations value of historical material. More generally, the discipline of accounting history has been advanced by creating archives and providing improved access to historical data.The University of Michigan, for example, created a series of videotaped interviews with notable accountants during the 1960s and 1970s.These were transferred to theAcademy of Accounting Historians in 1980.Dale Flesher secured a grant from theTouché Ross Foundation to reformat the tapes to current technology to ensure that they were more widely accessible (Coffman et al., 1989, p.169).This became the first archive maintained by the Academy and has subsequently been expanded with further interviews conducted by members of theAcademy. TheAcademy ofAccounting Historians has developed a set of research cen- ters in accounting, tax and Electronic Data Processing (EDP) audit that provide a focus for donations of materials by accounting firms and individuals. The first accounting history research center was formed at the Georgia State University in 1982 under the leadership of Norman X. Dressel, Elliott L. Slocum and Alfred R. Roberts. This was followed in 1988 by the Tax History Research Center at the University of Mississippi under Tonya K. Flesher (Coffman et al., 1989, pp.202–3). This framework of research centers allowed the University of Mississippi to accept a donation of the entire print collection of theAICPA library to form the National Library of theAccounting Profession in 2004.The donation capitalized on the pres- ence of the NationalTax History Research Center (established in 1987 sponsored by the Academy of Accounting Historians), the National EDP Auditing Archival Center (established in 1992), and the McMickle Accounting History Library (created by a donation of rare accounting books by Peter McMickle in 1996). The reach and efficiency of the Internet also provides an opportunity to pro- vide access to accounting history. The National Library of the Accounting Profession at the University of Mississippi has begun digitizing its collec▯ tion, mak- ing it possible for historians to work with original materials from a distance. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) undertook 256 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Richardson: Accounting history as an academic discipline a project to create a web-based portal to accounting history (codenamed the SUMMA project – after Paciola’s “Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni, et Proportionalita”, Venice, 1494). The Institute has a collection of works from 1492 to 1914.TheTaxAnalystsAssociation created a tax history web- site in 1995 (http://www.taxhistory.org) that has now expanded to include a virtual tax history museum,archive of US Presidential tax returns and is digitizing tax his- tory records under a project called“The Price of Civilization”.The ease of digital image creation and storage is opening historical source documents to a wider audi- ence and is likely to have a positive influence on historical scholarship in many fields including accounting. Making accounting history visible/controversial An important part of creating a discipline is to establish boundaries around the field claimed. For a new discipline, this requires raising the profile of the field in general and identifying exemplars. Accounting history has been given impetus by both “heroes” and “villains” who provide a human face to historical facts and motivate the reassessment of our history. This approach has been particularly effective among students and lay readers of accounting history. Within the aca- demic community the boundaries of accounting history have been defined by: the emergence of citation classics that provided models of accounting history scholar- ship; the creation of edited collections that identify key methods, questions and results; historical critiques of mainstream research that deals with historical subjects in an ahistorical manner; and, by debates between traditional and new historians.The debate over method and theory in accounting history,in particular, has given the discipline increased vitality in recent years. Heroes and villains (positive and negative exemplars) Exemplars play two important roles in the disciplinary project.First,they are used to raise the profile of accounting history among a general audience.By focusing on specific people or events,accounting historians allow the development of account- ing to“come alive”, providing a bridge between personal experience and the past. This raises the profile of and interest in accounting history as a pedagogically use- ful tool.Second,exemplars,particularly academic exemplars,serve to reinforce the boundaries of the discipline.They provide concrete examples of the type of schol- arship to which the discipline aspires or, in some cases, examples of historical myths that can be debunked by accounting historians. Without doubt, the iconic accounting hero is Friar Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan monk,who wrote a book on mathematics in 1494 that included a chapter on double- entry bookkeeping as an illustration of practical applications of mathematics. The book was “discovered” in 1869 (Luchini, 1 869) and reintroduced into academic circles sparking an industry tracing the diffusion of double entry bookkeeping techniques from Pacioli through time and across borders (Previts et al., 1990). 257 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Accounting HistVol 13, No 3 – 2008 Pacioli’s image was captured by the artist Barbari and has adorned Journal covers (for example the Australian accounting journal, Abacus), postage stamps (for example issued by Italy on 2 May 1994 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of publication of the Summa) and websites (for example The Italian Accounting History Web site, http://sisr.netlife.it/index.aspx). The combination of a link to the Church and Pacioli’s association with other renaissance figures including Leonardo DaVinci (who illustrated Pacioli’s book De Devina Proportione),make him a useful symbol of the historical significance of accounting: a“creation myth” that personalizes the origins of accounting. He con- tinues to be cited as the“father of double entry bookkeeping”in spite of historical work clearly demonstrating that the work was not original but merely reproduced the work of other authors and the practices ofVenetian merchants, and in spite of archeological work that demonstrates the antiquity of accounting procedures (for example Lauwers &Willekens, 1994; Sy &Tinker, 2006). 7 On the “villain” side of the equation, accounting history has been “helped” by high profile accounting frauds and audit failures such as Enron andWorldCom that have caused the accounting profession to ask “how we got to where we are” (Zeff, 2003) and have encouraged historical re-examination of financial reporting practices and standards (King, 2006). Similarly, older frauds have provided oppor- tunities for accounting historians to demonstrate the way that accounting stand- ards protect investors (for example Flesher & Flesher, 1986). In addition to the increase in demand for explanations of the current state of accounting from an his- torical perspective, recent accounting frauds had the unexpected effect of increas- ing the demand for accountants and hence the demand for accounting course ▯ s. These audit failures provided an opportunity, with 20/20 hindsight, to illustrate to students the warning signs reflected in the accounting reports of those companies that experienced failure. 8 While the focus on “heroes” and “villains” serves to raise the public profile of accounting history,the disciplinary boundaries are developed through the iden- tification of more mundane role models and exemplars. This is particularly true before a disciplinary matrix has developed to provide normative and coercive models (to use DiMaggio & Powell, 1983, institutional categories). In the early phase of the discipline,there is a need to provide role models for practitioners and scholars to emulate when the“rules” of good work in the discipline are not clear. Individuals who have made lifetime contributions to the profession (broadly conceived) are recognized in theAccounting Hall of Fame at Ohio State University. The Hall of Fame has been in operation since 1950 and has recognized 80 account- ants. The Hall of Fame publishes a monograph series of the collected works of inductees (edited by Daniel Jensen and Edward Coffman). In the same vein, the Academy of Accounting Historians sponsored Givens (1987) and Agami’s (1988/1989) collection of biographies of notable accountants that was distributed 258 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Richardson: Accounting history as an academic discipline free-of-charge to accounting instructors by McGraw-Hill. The AAA’s Public Interest Section gives an“accounting exemplar” award to recognize an accounting academic or practitioner who has “made notable contributions to professionalism and ethics in accounting education and/or practice”. These awards draw attention to biographical history and to the role that individuals play in the evolution of accounting. For academics, highly cited papers and long-lived books provide role models. For example, two of the three top cited papers fromAccounting Organizations and Societyare history papers that served to introduce Foucault’s historical methods and theory to the accounting literature (that is Hopwood,1987;Miller & O’Leary,1987). Kaplan’s (1984) highly cited article,“The evolution of management accounting”, in The Accounting Reviewencouraged the reconsideration of cost accounting history from an economic rationalist perspective. Each of these works has generated add- itional accounting history research critiquing and/or extending the original work. In addition, there are a number of notable books on accounting history with long publication histories. In 1905, Brown produced A history of accounting and accountants.This provided a descriptive account of the development and spread of accounting focusing particularly on the Commonwealth countries. The book was reprinted in 1968 and continues in print,most recently being released in paperback in 2003. In 1979, Previts and Merino published A History of Accountancy in the United States; a second edition of this book was released in 1998; it has also been released in paperback. Johnson and Kaplan’s (1987) book on the history of man- agement accounting, Relevance Lost: the rise and fall of management accounting , has won major awards, been reprinted nine times and is heavily cited in academic work. These works have legitimated accounting history and provided research questions and models of analysis that continue to be reflected in accounting his- tory scholarship. There have also been edited collections and encyclopedias that have re- printed or summarized the key findings in the field. For example, Chatfield and Vangermeersch (1996) produced an encyclopedia of accounting history with over 400 entries and Edwards and Walker (2008) edited a Companion to Accounting History for Routledge as part of that publisher’s series of works to introduce new researchers and students to academic disciplines (see also the multi-volume co ▯ l- lections edited by Edwards, 2000; Fleischman, 2006). These works condense and systematize the field and, in so doing, help to refine the discipline’s understanding of its key research questions, methods and results. Historical challenges to mainstream research If disciplines are conceptualized as components of a system of expert knowledge, then an important aspect of developing a discipline is to manage the boun ▯ dary between the emerging discipline and cognate areas of knowledge.The accounting 259 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Accounting HistVol 13, No 3 – 2008 history literature had a base in economic history, business history and various social sciences that had commented on accounting records from linguistic,anthro- pological or bibliophilic perspectives. It was necessary to provide a focus for accounting history literature distinct from these sources. It was also necessary to bracket accounting history within the broader accounting literature.This was done, in part, by debates within the mainstream literature that established the need for a sophisticated understanding of historical data. The early work in accounting history was often published in the economic history literature. Johnson (1975) pointed out that this changes when dealing with subjects more recent than 1850. He suggests that the complexity of accounting issues and accounting records after 1850 makes the more recent period relatively inaccessible to economic historians, giving accountants a comparative advantage. This comparative advantage allowed accounting history to develop as a specialist literature within accounting.It is a measure of the success of a discipline,however, when it can make contributions to the disciplines from which it was derived. The Accounting Historians Journal has recognized the need to both establish and transcend disciplinary boundaries to ensure the success of the discipline.The Accounting Historians Journal introduced the “Interfaces” section in 1991 to address this issue.This section seeks to bring to the attention of accounting histor- ians the relevant developments in other fields while, hopefully, encouraging accounting historians to contribute to these literatures. This expansion suggests that accounting history has established a core domain and is now able to consider expansionary plans back into areas already considered by economic historians (see also Gaffikin, 1998). In the first issue of the Accounting Historians Journal , Gary Previts (1974, p.8) points out historical myths that have been restated as facts in accounting text- books,and comments on issues that are raised in the accounting literature without recognition of the historical debates on the same issues years before. His intent was to ensure that the historical record was treated seriously in pedagogy and research. He went on to say: historical statements made by non-historians,in particular,must be challenged by historians. Further, historians should provide contemporary topic writers with the “ammunition”of historical precedent to enable them to evaluate their work from validated premises rather than contrived ones. (Previts, 1974, p.8) These types of debates worked in both directions. Merino and Neimark (1982) used historical data to comment on the emergence of disclosure regulation in the USA.The following year Cooper and Keim (1983) challenged this interpretation using neoclassical economic rationales.This in turn was rebutted by Tinker (1984), who examined the voluntaristic and atomistic biases underlying neoclassical the- ory and the inconsistency between these theories and the historical record. 260 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Richardson: Accounting history as an academic discipline Chee Chow (1983) won theAAA competitive manuscript award with an art- icle entitled “The Impacts of Accounting Regulation on Bondholder and ShareholderWealth:The Case of the SecuritiesAct”.The award is available to jun- ior academics (in the first seven years of their careers) and results in a highlighted publication in The Accounting Review. The article used the 1933/34 US Securities Acts to examine the impact of accounting regulations on wealth transfers.Merino et al. (1987) presented a devastating critique of this article in the guise of a cau- tionary tale about the importance of historical scholarship in the testing of con- temporary issues. Similarly, Previts and Bricker (1994) commenting on Sivakumar and Waymire (1994), first at the Contemporary Accounting Research Conference and then in the journal,highlighted the dangers of“present-mindedness”in the use of historical data to test contemporary models. In one sense all data are historical but there is a danger in using data from specific institutional contexts to test “scientific” theories (that is theories that are intended to generalize across time and space). These data may have arisen from processes or within structures of meaning that are contrary to the assumptions and methodologies of current science. In the two examples earlier, the researchers were both concerned with testing the social impacts of market phenomena that assumed that the structure and function of historical markets are consistent with current markets.These studies serve both to reinforce the boundaries of account- ing history as a discipline by demonstrating the skills needed to produce quality accounting history, and to provide work that is of direct relevance to topics covered by mainstream journals. Tinker (2005), however, has expressed concern that the criticism of the mainstream has become muted over time. Encouraging pluralism in accounting history The development of a discipline, following Foucault, refers to the emergence of a system for controlling discourse.These controls are exercised by gatekeepers who enforce a paradigm or“disciplinary matrix” that defines the core questions of the field,establishes acceptable meta-narratives to explain results,bounds the range of methods that may be applied, and identifies exemplars of the discipline for stu- dents to emulate. In accounting history, the emergence of the discipline has coin- cided with a broadening of the debate rather than convergence but along very specific lines that define a range of acceptable alternatives within the literature. A key controversy in the accounting literature has been the debate between traditional and “new” history (for example Miller et al., 1991; Funnell, 1996). The new histories differ in their form of presentation (Funnell, 1998), reliance on spe- cific forms of data (Carnegie & Napier, 1996; Fleischman &Tyson, 1997) and, par- ticularly, the relationship of historical work to social and economic theory (Foucauldian versus Marxist versus economic rationalist).The journalAccounting, Organizations and Society has been a focus for the development of histories of 261 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Accounting HistVol 13, No 3 – 2008 accounting drawing on the work of Michel Foucault (Gendron & Baker, 2005). These histories have attempted to draw out the disciplinary roles of accounting:for example, creating“governable subjects” (Miller & O’Leary, 1987). Other journals have provided space for the exploration of critical histories (Merino, 1998) bring- ing to bear different/silenced perspectives on accounting history (for example Lehman, 1992; Cooper & Puxty, 1996). There have also been calls to expand the focus of accounting history to earlier time periods and non-Anglo-Saxon settings 11 (Carmona, 2004;Annisette, 2006). The new accounting history has dramatically increased the volume of historical writing and widened the issues deemed amenable to historical research. The theoretical and topical diversity in new accounting history has been matched by a debate over empirical methods (Gaffikin, 1992). There have been notable efforts to provide methodological guidance to those considering accounting history research.Parker and Graves (1989),for example,published a bibliography of research methods for accounting historians. This was originally assembled by the Accounting History Research Methods Committee of theAcademy ofAccounting Historians. Other efforts to keep accounting history research methods in view include Richardson (1996) and Fleischman et al . (1996, 2003). The interest in methodological issues resulted in new forms of historical data being used by accounting historians (for example oral histories:Collins & Bloom,1991;Hammond & Sikka,1996;McKeen & Richardson,1998) and a more self-conscious approach to writing accounting history (Bryer, 1998; Keenan, 1998a,b; Napier, 1998). The debate over ontology, epistemology, methodology and rhetoric within accounting history has not been resolved. Its value to the disciplinary project has been to sharpen accounting historians’ understanding of their methods and assumptions (MacDonald & Richardson,2002).The debates have also encouraged re-examination of archives and the refinement of our understanding of complex phenomena. The openness of accounting history to pluralist methods and under- standings continues to provide an infusion of energy and creativity into the accounting history literature. Institutionalizing accounting history The key to creating an academic discipline is to institutionalize it within the aca- demic system/community. This involves creating a discursive space within which accounting history can develop, providing institutional support and outlets for accounting history research, and, finally, embedding accounting history within broader social, organizational and institutional networks. Creating a discursive space: the role of the World Congress There is a long tradition of national and international meetings of accountants (Forrester, 1998): for example, the World Congress of Accountants that has been 262 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Richardson: Accounting history as an academic discipline held 17 times since 1904. These Congresses are important points of intersection between practitioners and academics and play a significant role in creating an epi- stemic community that is reflected in global accounting firms and international standard-setting. The history of accounting history is also linked to these events. On several occasions exhibits of historical accounting materials were included inWorld Congresses ofAccountants for the interest of the practitioners and aca- demics in attendance.These exhibits were precursors to the first formal meeting of accounting historians (formally the Premier Symposium International des Historiens de la Comptabilite ) organized by Ernest Stevelinck, in Brussels, Belgium, in 1970. Stevelinck practiced both as a management accountant with a chemical company and a public accountant. 13 During World War Two, his services as an accountant were in reduced demand and he turned his attention to accounting his- tory as a recreation. His work was initially published in Belgian professional jour- nals.After the war he was involved in the rebuilding of the profession and began a history research series in 1958 (in collaboration with Robert Haulotte) on behalf of the Belgian accounting profession (“ Commission des Études Historiques et Théoriques de l’Union Belge des Professionnels de la Comptabilité ”). By 1970 his status as an accounting history scholar and his network of academic colle ▯ agues provided the nucleus of the accounting history group. The first conference involved about 50 people from 15 countries (Guvemli & Guvemli, 2006; Coffman et al., 1989 put attendance at 20 but the earlier number may include guests).While this was a relatively small conference, it was important because it began with the premise that it would be the first of many (to be held every five years) and that it would be an international conference moving from country-to-country each time. It is an interesting anomaly in the development of accounting history that the first major conference of the emerging discipline should be international rather than national.This was a crucial factor in the devel- opment of the discipline at a time when the number of accounting historians in any one country was too small to support a disciplinary infrastructure. The next World Congress would be held in the USA (delayed by one year from the original five-year plan to coincide with the anniversary of US independ- ence). As part of the organization for this event, the Americans created the Academy ofAccounting Historians in 1973.A similar genesis of the Italian Society of Accounting History is reported; 14 the society was created to support the 1984 World Congress in Pisa and has continued since that time. The location of the World Congress was determined by a committee of past convenors (initially Chaired by Stevelinck) but as theAcademy grew in administrative capability and the originators of the World Congress retired from active involvement, the Academy of Accounting Historians has taken over effective control of the World Congress (Coffman et al., 1989, p.193). 263 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Accounting HistVol 13, No 3 – 2008 After the Academy of Accounting Historians hosted the second World Congress of Accounting Historians, it began promoting domestic venues for the presentation of accounting history research, for example, it organized a series of seminars – the Charles Waldo Haskins Accounting History Seminars – between 1977 and 1979.TheAcademy also encouraged accounting history sessions atAAA national and regional conferences.This approach had mixed results depending on the openness of AAA conference organizers to sessions sponsored by an organ- ization that was not a section of theAAA.After a series of its own successful but irregular accounting history conferences, the Academy added an annual research conference in 1992. Since the creation of the World Congress and the Academy of Accounting Historians Annual Research Conference, two other significant English-language 15 accounting history conferences have arisen. The Accounting History International Conference has been in operation since 1999 and is sponsored by the journal Accounting History and theAccounting History Special Interest Group of theAccounting and FinanceAssociation ofAustralia and New Zealand.The other conference is the Accounting Business and Financial History Conference. This 16 annual conference has been organized by the Accounting and Business History Research Unit of the University of Cardiff since the creation of the unit in 1989. As can be seen above, there is a mutually supportive relationship between conferences and journals. In the case of Accounting History and Accounting Business and Financial History,the conferences are an integral part of the process of generating quality submissions.While theWorld Congress does not have a for- mal connection to a journal, the involvement of the Academy of Accounting Historians makes theAccounting Historians Journala natural outlet for papers ini- tially presented there (the first issue of the journal relied heavily on papers pres- ented to the SecondWorld Congress ofAccounting Historians); further details on the development of the journals is given later. The World Congresses were crucial to the development of the discipline. They provided high profile opportunities to present historical research at a time when other approaches to accounting research dominated major conferences.The shifting international venues for the Congress encouraged the creation of account- ing history associations in several countries and the Congress facilitated the cre- ation of international networks of accounting historians who could provide mutual support during the formative years of the discipline. The development of the accounting history associations and journals Accounting history emerged as a formal part of academic accounting in the 1970s. In 1968, the AAA created a committee on accounting history. It called for more funding of accounting history research while simultaneously giving a rather dismal analysis of its status compared with“empirical” and modeling work in accounting 264 Downloaded from http://ach.sagepub.com by yasin mahmood on August 6, 2008 © 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Richardson: Accounting history as an academic discipline (AAA, 1970). When the report of the committee had no effect within the AAA, Gary Previts and S.Paul Garner began the process of building an alternative venue for accounting history research.At the annual meeting of theAAA in 1973 a steer- ing group met and created theAcademy ofAccounting Historians. The Academy initially coordinated their meetings with the AAA annual conference to econo- mize on travel costs for participants but the Academy remains independent (Coffman et al., 1989, p.159). The Academy became the organization behind the 18 World Congress held in the USA in 1976. One notable role of theAcademy was to maintain a relationship with stake- holder groups. The accounting firms Arthur Andersen and Touché Ross, for ex- ample, provided funds for such projects as the creation of a seminar series and taping and archiving oral history interviews with senior members of the profession (Coffman et al., 1989, p.169). Similarly theAcademy developed close relationships with several universities in the southern USA,notably the Universities of Georgia (1982),Mississippi (1987) andAlabama (1995),where research centers were creat- ed. The General Motors Foundation provided funds to support a tax history research center at the University of Mississippi.The University of Mississippi now houses the largest collection of accounting history materials in NorthAmerica. TheAcademy also developed relationships with various publishers including Random House, which published and distributed free of charge a booklet of biog- raphies of notable accountants (Givens,1987) and the University ofAlabama Press, which reprinted notable historical accounting books for sale to libraries (this was continued by Garland Press after 1986 until the company’s demise in the late 1990s). The Academy established the Accounting Historians Notebook (1978), Working paper series (1976), monograph series (1976) and the Accounting Historians Journal(1977;continuing a newsletter entitledThe Accounting Historian beginning in 1974).TheAccounting Historians Journalhas now been fully digitized. The oldest versions of the journal have been digitized as part of the National Library of theAccounting Profession digital collections;more recent versions of the journal are available digitally through commercial distributors (Kurtzet al., 2006). In the same year that theAcademy ofAccounting Historians was formed, in Australia there developed a special interest research group within the organization now known as the Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand under the influence of Robert Gibson.The inspiration for this group was also theWorld Congress ofAccounting Historians in 1970.The group sta
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