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Writing masters and accountants in England – a study of occupation, status and ambition in the early modern period


  • John Richard Edwards

    (The accounting and business history research group - Cardiff University)


The purpose of this paper is to address the lack of knowledge of the accounting occupational group in England prior to the formation of professional accounting bodies. It does so by focusing on attempts made by the occupational group of writing masters and accountants to establish a recognisable persona in the public domain, in England, during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, and to enhance that identity by behaving in a manner designed to convince the public of the professionalism associated with themselves and their work. The study is based principally on early accounting treatises and secondary sources drawn from beyond the accounting literature. Notions of identity, credentialism and jurisdiction are employed to help understand and evaluate the occupational history of writing masters and accountants. It is shown that writing masters and accountants emerged as specialist pedagogues providing expert business knowledge required in the counting houses of entities which flourished during a period of rapid commercial expansion in mercantilist Britain. Their demise as an occupational group may be attributed to a range of factors amongst which an emphasis on personal identity, the neglect of group identity and derogation of the writing craft were most important.

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  • John Richard Edwards, 2010. "Writing masters and accountants in England – a study of occupation, status and ambition in the early modern period," Post-Print halshs-00465852, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-00465852
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    history; accountants; bookkeepers;


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