A Brief History of Accounting

Accounting has a long and storied history that extends as far back as the ancient Mesopotamians. The earliest accounting records date back to approximately 5,000 BC, and involved a crude and rudimentary system of keeping track of crops and herds. Bookkeeping also appeared this time, with the ancient Assyrians using a series of clay tokens to keep track of things.



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Accounting evolved over time, with the Roman Empire seeing a boom in accounting practices. In the Res Gestae Divi Augusti (The Deeds of the Divine Augustus), there exists a detailed and remarkable account of the emperor’s public expenditure, which was designed to “highlight his munificence.” Throughout the Roman Empire detailed records have been kept of the state’s financial situation, specifically when it came to the Roman military. With the advent of Islam, the Qu’ran, the Muslim Holy Book, deals with many accounting issues, including estate division after death, the recording and reporting of transactions, and more.

In the early 14th century, double-entry bookkeeping was developed, which allowed for accurate record keeping of debit and credit transactions. The first evidence for this appeared in approximately 1300 in the Farolfi ledger, which was a record of transactions for Giovanno Farolfi & Company, a firm of Florentine merchants. The first known work about double-entry bookkeeping was Luca Pcioli’s “Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalità."

As time passed, accounting and its various practices evolved, and in the modern era have become privy to a number of accounting scandals. Recently these have included the widely known Enron scandal, the scandal involving auditing firm Arthur Andersen, and various other scandals.

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Posted on May 18, 2012 at 9:00 AM