'Fumifugium: or the inconvenience of the aer and smoake of London dissipated’: emancipatory social counter accounting in 17th century London

Jill Atkins, Karen McBride*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Purpose – This paper extends the nature and relevance of exploring the historical roots of social and environmental accounting by investigating an account that recorded and made visible pollution in 17th century London. John Evelyn’s Fumifugium (1661) is characterised as an external social account that bears resemblance to contemporary external accounting particularly given its problematising intentionality.

Design/methodology/approach – An interpretive content analysis of the text draws out the themes and features of social accounting. Emancipatory accounting theory is the theoretical lens through which Evelyn’s social account is interpreted, applying a microhistory research approach. We interpret Fumifugium as a social account with reference to the context of the reporting accountant.

Findings - In this early example of a stakeholder ‘giving an account’ rather than an ‘account rendered’ by an entity, Evelyn problematises industrial pollution and its impacts with the stated intention of changing industrial practices. We find that Fumifugium was used in challenging, resisting and seeking to solve an environmental problem by highlighting the adverse consequences to those in power and rendering new solutions thinkable.

Originality – This is the first research paper to extend investigations of the historical roots of social and environmental accounting into the 17th century. It also extends research investigating alternative forms of account by focusing on a report produced by an interested party and includes a novel use of the emancipatory accounting theoretical lens to investigate this historic report. Fumifugium challenged the lack of accountability of businesses in ways similar to present day campaigns to address the overwhelming challenge of climate change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Early online date7 Dec 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 7 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • 'Fumifugium'
  • pollution
  • social accounting
  • emancipatory accounting

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