Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance
Drawing together a 15th century Venetian monk, Leonardo da Vinci, Josiah Wedgwood and the rise of corporate capitalism, Jane Gleeson-White argues that double-entry bookkeeping is one of history's best -- kept secrets and most important untold tales. Our world is governed by the numbers generated by the accounts of nations and corporations. We depend on these numbers to direct our governments, organisations, economies, societies. But where did they come from -- and how did they become so powerful? The answer to these questions begins in the Dark Ages, with the emergence in northern Italy of a new form of accounting called double-entry bookkeeping. The story of double entry reaches from the Crusades through the Renaissance to the factories of industrial Britain and the policymakers of the Great Depression and the Second World War. At its heart stands a Renaissance monk, mathematician and magician, and his celebrated treatise for merchants. With double entry came the wealth and cultural efflorescence that was the Renaissance, a new scientific worldview, and a new economic system: capitalism. Over the past century accounting has flourished to an astonishing degree, despite the many scandals it has left in its wake. The figures double entry generates have become a sophisticated system of numbers which in the twenty-first century rule the global economy, manipulated by governments, financial institutions and the quant nerds of Wall Street. They do, however, fall short when it comes to measuring our most precious resources -- health, happiness and the environment -- and Jane Gleeson-White makes a strong case for reconfiguring double-entry bookkeeping to better reflect the needs of our planet.
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Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern FinanceUser Review - Book Verdict
Though a history of accounting might sound like dry reading, that is not the case in this narrative of the birth of double-entry bookkeeping in 15th-century Venice. Gleeson-White (Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works) tells the story of double-entry bookkeeping to show the historical importance of keeping accounts, not only of cash and profits but also of resources. She begins with Italian friar and mathematician Luca Pacioli (1445–1517) and the treatise in which he first codified the concept. His process survived basically unchanged until the Industrial Revolution, when it was tested by the rise of the corporation, which increased demands on record keeping. Gleeson-White tracks double-entry bookkeeping all the way through the economic crisis of 2008 and explains current trends to create more qualitative measures that rate a country or company’s worth. VERDICT With little mathematics or accounting described in its pages, this is not a technical work. The book instead explains how accounting, a natural human instinct, became a profession. Recommended for readers interested in the origins of modern accounting and how that history relates to the recent financial near collapse.—Elizabeth Nelson, Honeywell UOP Lib., Des Plaines, IL ...
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
A surprisingly poor attempt to explore the history of accounting, built around an account of the traditional father of modern accounting leading into a superficial plan for using accounting to advance modern environmental concerns. The author appears to be neither an expert in history or accounting, and this book will not enlighten non-accountants who come to understand the importance of accounting in the modern world.
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