History of Accounting

One can never really understand a subject, unless they know where it came from. Therefore, a short history of the subject of accounting may be of interest to students of accounting. Here is a very brief history of how accounting evolved:

  • Single Entry Accounting System

    Accounting is as old as financial transactions themselves. As soon as credit was invented, humans began to use accounting to simplify their lives. As expected, the oldest system of accounting used single entry accounting. This is the most intuitive form of accounting but is also incomplete. Records have been found on clay tablets in ancient Mesopotamia that show the existence of single entry accounting in that time.

  • Bahi-Khata System

    Prior to rise of European commerce in the Medieval Ages, India was the primary center for bustling trade and commercial activity. Although there has been no record of this fact, but is claimed that Indian merchants had very advanced accounting systems at that time. These systems were called the Bahi Khata system. It is rumored that the westerners designed the double entry system based on the principles of Bahi Khata system but once again there is no conclusive proof.

  • Merchants of Venice

    The birthplace of modern day accounting is Venice. In the Medieval Ages, Venice was a center of trade and commercial activity. Merchants had giant businesses and they were struggling to run these corporations efficiently. It is then that Luca Pacioli developed the double entry accounting system. There is still debate about whether he developed it or just improved it and made it available to the merchants. However, debate or no debate, Luca Pacioli is considered to be the “Father of Modern Day Accounting”.

  • Chartered Corporations

    In the era of colonialism, chartered corporations were common. The government would approve certain companies and give them exclusive rights to trade with certain colonies. Citizens were encouraged to invest in such companies. Shares of a few such companies had paid rich dividends and hence it was common to invest in such companies.

    However, the performance of such companies had to be reported to the shareholders on a periodic basis. Therefore accounting systems were further developed. They were now providing information to external shareholders apart from providing information to internal management.

  • Modern Accounting

    The chartered companies have long gone. The world is now a free market. But information still needs to be provided to the external shareholders about the conduct of operations. Accounting, therefore has been further developed and is highly regulated in most countries.


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