Thursday, March 04, 2010

Book Review: The Development of Accounting in an International Context (Review by Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta)

The Development of Accounting in an International Context: A Festschrift in Honour of R. H. Parker (Routledge International Studies in Business History)
T.E. Cooke (Editor), C.W. Nobes (Editor) 1997

Accountants are actually High Priests, drawing order out of chaos.

When I read a paper by Mahmoud Ezzamel on how accounting was performed in Ancient Egypt, I could not suppress a chuckle. Once that was done, it made sense to me. So what is Dr. Ezzamel’s argument? In effect, he is saying that the ancient Egyptians in the New Kingdom (1552-1080BC) had a world view which was defined by the Gods, the Pharaohs, the living and the dead. As long as the relationship between these four parties was established and on track, everything was fine and dandy. It was the scribes (read accountants in modern parlance) who were responsible for making sure that the right numbers of wheat ounces, gold weights, cattle etc. were offered to the Gods by the Pharaohs, and were mentioned in the tombs, etc.

Where does accounting come in? Well, accounting as formally defined is a practise of entering in a visible format, a record of items and actions. There is a value attached to these accounts and a way of capturing them and the definition of these values. In Ancient Egypt, this was inextricably linked with religion.


Anonymous said...

This was a fantastic find! I am an accounting major (senior status...finally), so I found this to be quite entertaining. It is very true though. I actually know accountants that do not specifically deal with money. They are inventory accountants. I have long held the opinion that scribes largely held the role of the modern accountant...or rather that accountancy was performed specifically by scribes.


Jr Deputy Accountant said...

This is awesome.

"Accountants are actually High Priests, drawing order out of chaos" - if you've ever peeked at a financial statement, you can't help but understand how powerful a statement that is.