Toward a History of Accounting Histories

Posted: 17 Feb 2008

See all articles by Luca Zan

Luca Zan

University of Bologna - Department of Management


In recent years there has been increasing recognition of the marked national differences in approaches to accounting. What is less clearly appreciated is how accounting historiography is also fragmented into different national traditions, with diverse patterns and frameworks for reconstructing and interpreting accounting's evolution. The prominence given to accounting theory and practice may vary in different historical periods, not least in terms of the emphasis given to the contribution of different scholars and schools of thought in the evolution of accounting theory. This article concentrates on the Italian tradition of accounting from the time of Paciolo, and on how Italian accounting historiography has depicted the evolution of this tradition; it critically questions the periodization generally adopted, the interpretations made of the relative roles played by non-Italians and Italians in the evolution of accounting ideas down to the mid nineteenth century, and the ways in which the contributions of more recent authors and schools of thought have been variously evaluated. It suggests that the emergence of national idiosyncrasies in accounting historiography may be seen as part of a wider process of institutionalization, and the creation of modern disciplinary identities and practices.

Keywords: accounting history, accounting traditions, comparative international accounting

JEL Classification: M10, M20, M40, M41

Suggested Citation

Zan, Luca, Toward a History of Accounting Histories. European Accounting Review Vol. 3, No. 2, 1994, Available at SSRN:

Luca Zan (Contact Author)

University of Bologna - Department of Management ( email )

Via Capo di Lucca 34
Bologna, 40126

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