Accounting’s past, present and future: the unifying power of history

Table 1 Citations of special issue articles

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Table 1

Citations of special issue articles

Names of authors

Total citations


Total English citations

Carnegie and Napier




Hammond and Sikka




Fleischman and Tyson




Boyns and Edwards




Walker and Mitchell




Young and Mouck








Source: Based on Google Scholar as at 7 February 2011

Table 2

Citations of Carnegie and Napier paper: subjects of interest

General contribution to historiography in accounting

Contrast between traditional and new accounting history/historians

Agenda for/advocacy of critical and interpretative historical research

Comparative international accounting history

Public sector accounting

Institutional history

Oral history

Studying accounting in its contexts – local in both space and time

Setting research firmly in the archive/expanding range of source materials

Warning against viewing the past as a shadow or simulacrum of present

Conceiving accounting as an instrument of power and domination/control

Identified research directions/approaches/themes (i.e. taxonomy)

Recognition of many plausible histories of the same events



Applied the taxonomy of themes in undertaking research

Growth in accounting history research and publication

Justification for accounting history – intellectual and utilitarian

Presented surveys/reviews of recent works

Relationship between accounting history and status/legitimacy the profession

Influence/views of Littleton on accounting history

Citations/reproductions in anthologies

Emphasis on studying accounting in specific countries or regions

Emphasis on the oldest/earliest/strangest

Historians have long recognised the international dimensions of accounting

Other (all single citations)





























Source: Based on Google Scholar as at 7 February 2011

1 Details of financial crises may change, but the main features are remarkably constant across the centuries (Reinhart and Rogoff, 2009; see also Soros, 2008).

2 Mills (1993, p. 802) warns against the limitations that a social science approach can impose on historical accounting research, “whenever the researcher permits a ‘grand’ theory, method or ideology – whether it be positivist, Marxist, or Foucaultian – to dominate their work, to bind their research with a predetermined framework.” Tosh (2010) provides a discussion of the interfaces between history and social theory from the perspective of the historiographer.

3 Mattessich (2003) has noted how pioneering researchers writing in German or Italian were not always academics – some were antiquarians and collectors with a fascination for early accounting records and texts.

4 Subsequently published as Carnegie (1997). Some results from the research were published in AAAJ in Carnegie (1995).

5 The call for papers, which had been distributed at conferences in 1994 and 1995, and circulated among prospective contributors, was reproduced in Vol. 8 No. 1 of Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal (1995, p. 7).

6 This may explain why nearly all citations of the papers in the special issue lie within the accounting literature: an interesting exception is the citation of H&S in an oral history study of radiographers (Decker and Iphofen, 2005). We have not undertaken a detailed quantitative analysis of how papers other than C&N were cited in subsequent literature, given the relatively fewer number of citations to the other papers. Citations of H&S occurred most commonly in papers discussing research methods and in applications of oral history in an accounting context, while the other papers were cited in further discussions on the topics that they had addressed.

7 Bisman (2011, p. 170) has recently identified C&N as the most influential paper in the English-language accounting history literature over the past 15 years. She also notes (2011, p. 171) that the annual rate of citations to this paper has been increasing steadily over this period.

8 For example, Napier (2006) cited C&N but was not listed in the database as doing so even though this later published work itself appears in Google Scholar.

9 This has been described as “the taxonomy offered by Carnegie and Napier (1996)” (Carmona, 2006, p. 249), although the eight areas were intended only as a selection of potentially fruitful areas and topics, not as an exhaustive classification or taxonomy.

10 Five of these works were written by Mark Christensen, based on his PhD research and including the dissertation (Christensen, 2009).

11 Each of these investigations related to public sector accounting developments in Australia.

12 Certain European scholars, often from France, Italy, Portugal or Spain, are becoming increasingly prominent in the English-language accounting history literature (see, for example, Carmona, 2007).

13 Ville and Fleming warned of the dangers of applying the conclusions of integrated accounting and business history studies conducted outside Australasia because of the distinctive aspects of local experience in this Southern hemisphere region. The authors referred to “the importance of primary industries, high levels of concentration, a close state-big business relationship and the influence of multinationals” (1999/2000, p. 178) as factors that combine to differentiate Australasian experience from that in other Western contexts.

14 The contributions of Fayol and Urwick have also been studied by Boyns (Boyns and Smith, 2003; Matthews and Boyns, 2001).

15 More recently, Richardson and Young (2011, p. 135) pointed to the “need to better understand the effect of personalities and social networks on the development of programs of accounting research”.

16 This may be mitigated if the scholar has left extensive personal archives, for example Chambers (Dean, Clarke and Wolnizer, 2006) or Goldberg (Parker, 1994).

17 This comprehensive study followed earlier works by the author (for example, Lee, 2001, 2002) on the migration of UK accountants to the USA.

18 Walker (2008, p. 304) referred to the “continuing fascination” with the formation of the modern accounting profession in Scotland in the middle of the nineteenth century and noted the counter-factual investigation by Lee (2006a).

19 Also see Rahaman (2010) for an overview of the published critical research on the advent and development of the accounting profession that has been conducted in Africa.

20 Walker (2008) indicated, for instance, that certain researchers are prone to comment on the lack of development of the profession in certain non Anglo-American countries against the implicit progress of the profession in western countries (see, for example, Dyball and Valcarel, 1999, Sakagami, Yoshimi and Okano, 1999, Yapa, 1999).

21 In another recent New Zealand study concerned more particularly with women and accounting education, Lord and Robb (2010) reported upon the experiences of women in their roles as accountancy students and staff at the University of Canterbury.

22 This volume is based on West’s PhD research which was undertaken at Deakin University under the supervision of Peter Wolnizer and Raymond Chambers.

23 This theme underpinned the sixth Accounting History International Conference held in Wellington in August 2010 with the call for papers highlighting the diversity of research projects which may fall under the theme ( accessed 16 December 2010).

24 Nikitin (2001) also examined developments in public sector accounting in Britain given the “mutual French-British influence” of the time.

25 Moussalli (2008) also reviewed the literature relating to State government accounting.

26 Richardson and MacDonald (2002) also addressed the comparative dimensions of accounting history research by linking international business history to accounting history.

27 Further elaboration of oral history as a narrative research methodology is found in Haynes (2010), James (2010) and Kim (2008).

28 See Napier (2006, p. 450) for a brief discussion of the emergence of this term to describe accounting research using data about the past stored in computer records.

29 For example, since 2009, the Annual Congresses of the European Accounting Association have not included a separate category for Accounting History, but rather have encouraged historical researchers to present their work within what they consider to be the most appropriate research track.

30 Aho’s study was stimulated in part by an accounting academic, Kerry Jacobs (Aho, 2005, p. xix), while the subject matter of Soll’s study had been anticipated in the accounting literature twenty years earlier by Peter Miller (1990).

31 Although one recent attempt to survey the history of corporate governance (Morck, 2007) does not include any form of the word “accounting” in its index.

32 Recently, Gaffikin (2011) has revisited the work of various theorists of history, from classical pioneers such as Herodotus and Thucydides to more modern contributors,such as E. H. Carr, and contemporary historiographers such as Dominick LaCapra and Alun Munslow. Gaffikin is sceptical regarding the historiographical rigour of much current historical accounting research.

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