162 x 240 x 30mm
Whether in waging wars or building cities, leaders from ancient Mesopotamia to the present have relied on financial accounting to shape nations, kingdoms, empires and whole civilizations. Accounting tools such as auditing and double-entry bookkeeping form the basis of modern capitalism. Yet our understanding of accounting and its formative role throughout history remains minimal at best-and we remain ignorant at our peril. The 2008 financial crisis is only the most recent example of how poor or risky practices can shake, and even bring down, entire societies.
In The Reckoning, award-winning historian Jacob Soll presents a sweeping history of accounting, drawing on a wealth of examples from over a millennia of human history to reveal how it has both helped create vast wealth, and caused cycles of destruction that continue to this day.
The Medici family of 15th century Florence used the double-entry method to win the loyalty of their clients, but eventually began to misrepresent their accounts, ultimately contributing to the economic decline of the Florentine state itself. In the 17th and 18th centuries, European rulers shunned honest accounting, understanding that accurate bookkeeping would constrain their spending and throw their legitimacy into question. And in fact, when King Louis XVI's director of finances published the crown's accounts in 1781, his revelations provoked a public outcry that helped to fuel the French Revolution. When transparent accounting finally took hold in the 19th Century, it enabled England to establish a global empire. In the last century, however, inept and willfully misused accounting have led to catastrophic crashes, from the 1929 Crash to the Great Recession of 2008.
A bold retelling of a thousand years of economic history, The Reckoning compels us to see how accounting is an essential instrument of great institutions and nations - and one that, in our increasingly transparent and interconnected world, has never been more vital.