Public accounting system in France: The case of the Great Exhibitions held in Paris during the second half of the 19th century
Following the success of London Great Exhibition of 1851, the French government decided to launch similar exhibitions in Paris. Thus a series of five Great Exhibitions have been held in Paris between 1855 and 1900. Unlike in the British case, it was more difficult to gather financial contributions from private partners in France, so financial resources alocated for French exhibitions came almost exclusively from the French government and the City of Paris. In such a situation the use made of public funds had to be overlooked by codified rules and principles. French Great Exhibitions are thus a very good opportunity to study the implementation of public finance principles (budgetary order and public sector accounting).The objective of this paper is to improve our understanding of a public sector accounting system in the administration of these Great Exhibitions. This will be achieved by focusing firstly on the administrative setting : the budgetary procedure and the public accounting rules ; this financial setting being administered by commissions and staff appointed by the State. Then, we will focus on the accounting model and on financial statements. Our research is based on the documents of the National Archives of France in Paris and on official reports written at the end of each Great Exhibition (recording main aims, stages in the organisation, achievments, figures and financial results). These reports are available at the Bibliothèque des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
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