Scottish Company Accounting, 1870 to 1920: Selected Case Studies of Accounting in Its Historical Context

Stewart, Ross Ernest (1986) Scottish Company Accounting, 1870 to 1920: Selected Case Studies of Accounting in Its Historical Context. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The research presented in this thesis has been carried out in response to recent calls for a new awareness of the role of accounting history in increasing the present understandings of accounting and its role in society. The research takes the perspective that the historical approach can give a much needed insight into the processes of accounting change and can show how accounting is intertwined in its organisational and social contexts. The aim of the thesis has been to examine the emergence and development of accounting in two Scottish companies from 1870 to 1920. This has been done by employing the in-depth case study research strategy. Although such a research strategy is inevitably a more modest enterprise than the narratives and syntheses of traditional historical accounts, it has enabled a more rich, complex and nuanced description of accounting change to be given. The historical case studies have been ideally suited for studying accounting as a contextual phenomenon. The contextual approach to the emergence and development of accounting has meant that the historical accounts presented are more holistic and interdisciplinary; and it has enabled accounting to be examined as it was practiced. Prior research on accounting practices has generally examined, with some notable exceptions, how accounting practices have either preceded or have reacted to accounting regulation. This research has emphasised the processes of accounting change and has examined both financial data and non-financial data which has brought about a broader, contextual study of accounting. A benign continuity has not been assumed between accounting and changes in its environment; rather such changes have been seen as a complex interplay of individuals and organisational and societal structures. The view of history taken in this thesis has been that there is no pre-determined path of accounting development, where accounting has simply progressed from one stage of development to another. Rather, accounting development has been seen more as a contingent, lurching process which is in the process of becoming. In addition, accounting has been viewed in a sceptical, questioning manner and the constitutive, as well as the facilitating role of accounting, has been recognised. The historical case studies, therefore, have explored the conditions and consequences of the production and use of accounting. It has been found that accounting was not a neutral discipline which provided unproblematic facts about organisational life. Rather, accounting has been seen as an interested activity that was intimately involved in the contexts in which it operated. Accounting was called upon to serve a wide variety of different and changing purposes. It emerged and developed in a domain where strategems and tactics of complicity and compromise ruled.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Accounting, Economic history
Date of Award: 1986
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1986-77390
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2020 09:09
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2020 09:09

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