An analysis of the factors influencing the formation and policies of professional accounting bodies in Scotland, 1850-1900
Kedslie, Moyra J. McI.
Thesis or dissertation
- © 1987 Moyra J McI Kedslie. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
Several writers on the development of accountancy in the nineteenth century, such as Jones, have stated that the accounting profession developed as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Another claim, which is made by writers such as Stacey, is that it was the increase in company legislation that was responsible for the formation of the profession; in particular he identifies the 1862 Companies Act as being a major factor. However, the first accounting bodies in the UK were formed in Scotland in 1853, well before Stacey's date of 1862, and, although the Industrial Revolution led to an increase in the number of accountants in Scotland, it was not these accountants who formed and joined the early accounting societies.
The purpose of this thesis is, first. to identify the factors that were responsible for the formation of the first Scottish accounting bodies and the social
background of the early members, and to examine the matters which were of major concern to those bodies during their early years.
Since very few secondary sources are available in this area, it was necessary to use primary sources at the Scottish Records Office, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, British Parliamentary Papers and both private and public legislation. This established the background of the new profession. the reasons for the formation of the Scottish chartered societies, and a social analysis of the accountants who were instrumental in forming them.
The second stage was to examine their development over their first fifty years by, firstly, analysing the population of the three chartered bodies to identify differences between the three groups and secondly, to study how the work of members changed during this period in response to changing legislation and economic factors. A third matter was to identify issues that were of concern to the societies and a final concern was to establish when Scottish accountancy could claim to be regarded as a profession.
The study concludes, firstly, that there can be little doubt of the importance of bankruptcy work to Scottish accountants in the mid-nineteenth century or that the proposed changes in bankruptcy legislation was the most important single factor in the formation of the first Scottish chartered societies. As far as social status is concerned the accountants studied were generally middle class and of a lower status than the older professions. In addition. there were significant differences between the groups in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The issues that are recorded as being of concern to members included protecting their title against competing accounting bodies, protecting the work that they already had and attempting to obtain monopolies in new areas of work which became available. Throughout the period their main professional interest lay in bankruptcy work and they gained new work by their own individual efforts rather than by the efforts of the societies or through legislation requiring that chartered accountants be preferred to others.
The influence of Scottish chartered accountancy spread to London and to the colonies throughout the whole period of study, as significant numbers found that their prospects in Scotland were limited. When they did emigrate they undoubtedly contributed to the formation and development of other accounting societies throughout the world. Although it is difficult to establish the exact date. there is no doubt that by the end of the nineteenth century the Scottish chartered accounting societies could justifiably be described as professional bodies.
- Department of Accounting, The University of Hull
- Briston, Richard J.
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