It’s no secret that accounting has a reputation for being a bit boring, and we can see how you might be tempted to think that the only thing more boring than modern accounting is the history of accounting. But actually, you’d be wrong on both counts.
While we’ve already tackled some of the misconceptions about accounting in our previous post, the history of accounting is actually really interesting, and much longer than you’d think.
Consider these seven things you probably would never guessed about the history of accounting:
1. Accounting records go back more than 7,000 years.
Just for some perspective, that means that people were doing basic accounting before ancient Egypt coalesced into a civilisation. Most of this early accounting centred on trade and taxation, and it would be years before it advanced beyond drawing out physical representations of all the things that were being traded back and forth.
2. For a long time, most accounting functions were actually carried out by priests.
This was the case in many ancient societies, where temples also sometimes served similar functions to banks.
3. The Romans were great at accounting, especially their military units.
The surviving records show that from the early days of the Roman Empire, many Roman institutions had meticulous accounting. The military in particular was known for this, with records showing that a unit could easily calculate its cash revenues on any given day.
4. The first books on accounting were treated kind of like Sudoku books.
While there was definitely some solid accounting theory and training in the books, they also contained math puzzles, which is one reason that they were popular.
5. External auditing wasn’t really a thing until the 1600s.
Before that time, people weren’t really investing so much in companies outside of their own immediate area. With the advent of new types of companies in the 1600s and the spread of international investment, good auditing suddenly became very important.
6. Modern chartered accounting originated with a group of 49 Glaswegian accountants.
At the time, most people who did accounting were solicitors, not full time accountants. These 49 accountants petitioned Queen Victoria for a Royal Charter, and when it was granted, accounting societies started to use the term “chartered accountant” for their members.
7. Accountants helped make London the financial centre that it is.
During the Industrial Revolution, the financial world expanded hugely and rapidly, with the highly skilled accountants in London playing a big role in making it the financial centre it remains today.