Accounting history and theorising about organisations

Garry D. Carnegie, Karen McBride, Christopher J. Napier, Lee D. Parker

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    Historical accounting research has a substantial track record of using a variety of theoretical insights to better understand of how and why accounting has contributed to, and been affected by, organisational change and development. The article outlines the emergence of a range of theories that have been employed by accounting historians, against the background of the development of accounting history as a significant disciplinary field within accounting research. From its investigation of accounting historians’ approaches to studying accounting as a central practice in organisational processes, it reveals how historical accounting studies have been informed by and contributed to theorisation of such organisational phenomena. The article concludes that theory is largely used to provide conceptual frameworks for historical narratives, with historical accounting research often focused on case studies of single organisations or organisational settings. However, theory has also been mobilised at more general levels, to provide meta-narratives of the rise of capitalism and the emergence of managerialism. Far from treating accounting as technical practice, accounting historians are revealed as conceiving accounting as social practice, both impacting human behaviour and organisational and social functioning and development. As social practice, accounting emerges deeply embedded and pervasive in organisations and societies.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number100932
    Pages (from-to)1-17
    Number of pages17
    JournalThe British Accounting Review
    Issue number6
    Early online date17 Jun 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


    • Accounting
    • organisations
    • interdisciplinary and critical research
    • accounting history
    • organisation history
    • theory
    • social practice


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