Monday, 8 March 2010
"Accountancy has a reputation for dullness but its history is the history of civilisation itself" according to this article in the BBC News online Magazine published on Friday. The article looks at the almost silent role of "grey" accountants in history. By looking at events such as the Holocaust and Highland Clearances, it demonstrates how the records created by these individuals are a key source for telling the stories of these events.
Financial records are an often neglected record type commonly found in business archives. I don't think this is so much because of a fear of maths or numbers but because of what can seem the baffling relationships between cash books, day books, ledgers and the double entry book-keeping system. So, this light-hearted yet informative article in the BBC News Magazine really brought home the value of these records and their potential.
Double entry booking can seem like a dark art to many, but if you speak to a historian of accounting (they do exist) they'll tell you that it is the most important development in the world. Ever.
Jolyon Jenkins will cover more on this subject in a ten-part series A Brief History of Double-Entry Book-keeping daily on BBC Radio 4 from Monday 8 March at 1545.
A couple of years ago, the Business Archives Council of Scotland ran a training day for archivists on financial records and the double entry system books of accounts. The training materials explaining the main books of accounts and tracing transactions through various documents from this day are available on the BACS website here.