The state

Authored by: Philip Colquhoun

The Routledge Companion to Accounting History

Print publication date:  April  2020
Online publication date:  April  2020

Print ISBN: 9780815375869
eBook ISBN: 9781351238885
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter discusses histories of the intertwining of accounting and the state, focusing on entities that make up the state. A central theme in any discussion of the relationship between the state and accounting, in both the historical and contemporary accounting literature and in wider public discourse, is accountability. Various notions of accountability are applied to this relationship including constitutional, hierarchical and stewardship accountability. Accountability relationships are evident from the earliest records of ancient civilisations where individuals were accountable to the state and the state was accountable to individuals. During different periods of history, accounting practices are shown to mediate aspects of the accountability relationships between the legislative and executive branches of government; between the elected, their officials and the electorate; and between entities within the state. While accounting technology is a constant, the nature of the technology changes. It is suggested that changes in the nature of accountability are often driven by philosophical and ideological shifts.

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