Jane Gleeson-White

Author of Six Capitals: The revolution capitalism has to have – or can accountants save the planet? and Double EntryAustralian Classics and Classics. Jane blogs about books at bookishgirl.com.au.




What critics have said about Double Entry

Unknown-2Lively history … Shows double entry’s role in the creation of the accounting profession, and even of capitalism itself. The New Yorker

Entertaining and informative. The Economist

Elegantly written account … charts the epic journey of the humble device that showed how to count the cost of everything, from the Doge’s Palace to the acrobatics of John Maynard Keynes’s General Theory. Nicholas Wapshott, author of Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Unknown-1Modern Economics

The complexities of accounting are lucidly presented … Double Entry provides an accessible introduction to this key development in the history of capitalism. Wall Street Journal

An exciting book about accounting. Before the snickers turn into full blown laughter, we will add that this work of non-fiction is also brilliantly written … The history lesson itself is worth the price of admission.
Stanley Goldstein, The New York Hedge Fund Round Table

A timely, topical, readable, and thought-provoking look at the history and legacy of double-entry bookkeeping. Elif Batuman, author of The Possessed

The book is the first primer to accounting history and its relevance to the modern world that I have ever seen … The messages it contains are clear and unambiguous and all accountants, practising or not, ought to note the tone of invocation for change. Jane Gleeson-White is to be congratulated for presenting us with clarity of appreciation of the issues facing mankind that accounting could do something about. Alan Sangster, Accounting History

Gleeson-White’s small but perfectly formed Double Entry was my unexpected pleasure of the year. Gideon Haigh, The Australian‘s Books of the Year


22 thoughts on “Jane Gleeson-White

  1. Hi Jane
    Great interview on Kim Hill. Thank you.
    I think we have the answers you seek. We’re promoting a system totally without money, trade or barter. Everything free and all work voluntary.
    It takes a bit of thinking to get ones head around. But it actually fixes everything.
    We’d love to know what you think anyway. You’re very close Jane.
    Very best regards
    Richard Osmaston

  2. Hi Jane,
    I recently won a copy of your Six Capitals book from CAANZ – enjoying immensely. Was just listening to your interview with Kim Hill and you mentioned looking at the influence of the Greeks on modern economic thought. A while back I read Tomas Sedlacek “Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street” which looks at the kind of thing I think you were referring to. If you haven’t read I would highly recommend. Keep up the great work!
    Clive McKegg

    • Thanks Mark. And thank you so much for including the links here, your multicapitalism is extremely interesting to me. I’m looking forward to following it up properly on the weekend. It seems we are definitely on the same page! Many thanks again. best wishes, Jane

      • Hi Jane. Just received your book and am loving it! One thing I think we should all bear in mind is that the IIRC’s Framework is not the panacea it often is made out to be. Indeed, it demonstrably deviates from the original framing of integrated reporting and was misappropriated, in my view, by the very forces it was supposed to counteract: unbridled shareholder primacy. I explain this insidious turn of events here:



      • Hi Mark – thank you so much for your comments about the IIRC’s framework and for the link to your excellent piece about integrated reporting and the IIRC. The distinction you make, between integrated reporting per se and its neutred version in the IIRC framework, is spot on and I’ll be taking it with me. You have put it more forcefully and succinctly than I had it in my mind, and I particularly like your observation that integrated reporting now has two faces – and the official one has let us down. Thanks again very much, I so appreciate your thinking. cheers, Jane

  3. Hi Jane, I heard about your book and your interview on Six Capitals through RN radio while driving. I also found out that you would in Perth for writer’s festival and was hoping to meet you there.

    I am happy to hear more about your work on this as I have published a thesis and papers on how to use this model sustainability assessment after developing the model as part of my PhD in 2007. Now you can also see Integrated Reporting by Association of Chartered Accountants also use this form of framework for reporting business values which is great.

    All the best for your future writing and PhD.

    Biji Kurup, bijirkurup@gmail.com

  4. Dear Jane, have you at any stage tried to address the evolving challenges of accounting (as in Six Capitals) in combination with the seemingly much slower moving pressure to make the Balance of Payments data of the different countries to live up to the illusion they offer of double entry book keeping? Best, Alex

    • Hi Alex – yes, I have, and my book Six Capitals has a substantial chapter on this very subject, called ‘Beyond GDP: the ‘new’ wealth of nations’. I also discussed the problems with GDP accounting at some length in my previous book, ‘Double Entry’. I see the accounting problems of nations and corporations as confluent. All best wishes, Jane

  5. Dear Jane – yes, you have covered the shortcomings of GDP as a measure of sustainable welfare well. What I had in mind, though (and it’s a lot less sexy than getting the accountants to save the world by including externalities into balance sheet and P&L calculations – so it will never be the topic of a popular book!) is the illusion we economists have gone on with/propagated for so long, that the Balance of Payments data of individual countries is also authentically ‘double entry’ – that is, matched by the Balance of Payments data of the countries they are exporting to, importing from or sending capital flows to or from. At this stage, even after 6 iterations on IMF standards for compiling Balance of Payments data, it is far from ‘double entry’. More is the pity, because some people do treat the data as if it really were ‘double entry’ and that errors therefore can be assumed to be malfeasance. Anyway, if you were ever to try to popularise what has happened with Balance of Payments accounting, more strength to your arm! Best, Alex

    • Dear Alex – thank you so much for this comment.
      OK, so are you talking about some global imbalance between the accounts of nations generated by the fact they’re not genuine DEB accounts? As in, they don’t actually balance, so ‘Balance of Payments’ is a misnomer?
      Is it related to the fact that the masses of data required to balance such accounts is not in fact generated, recorded or able to be sourced? Or not able to be converted into terms which would allow it to fit within these enormous (artificial?) schemes that are national accounts? I mean, is it a logistical problem? Or is it, rather, a conceptual one?
      Do you write about Balance of Payments accounting anywhere? Or can you tell me more?
      Thanks again for your thoughtful comments. all best wishes, Jane

      • Jane, all the problems you mention are present. The Balance of Payments for any one country should be close to DEB if the country’s statisticians assiduously measure exports, imports, flows of income, and flows of capital. A couple of problems arise: the value of an export or an import is meant to be measured when ownership changes, but in practice the data is measured when the country’s Customs mark the exports or imports in or out; and it is harder to see/get reports on flows of capital or services than on flows of goods and even the easier-to-see goods vary in quality. If done well, the corresponding International Investment Position of the country (the stock of foreign assets and liabilities to foreigners) should also be close to DEB. But there is always some error or omission. And then you let in the rest of the world … which is where the notion of the Balance of Payments being DEB really begins to fall down. Sources of error multiply: the imports have just spent days or weeks at sea before they are reported to/measured by the foreign Customs (and usually in a different currency) and the flows of services and capital are again hard to see/gather reports on. No doubt some error arises from exporters and importers seeking to minimise taxes. But other errors arise from wrong designations of sources or destinations and transits, quality differences, currency movements, spillages and waste, poor record-keeping or coverage and genuine errors, ‘fat finger’ and other. I am sure these challenges were present when the first sets of DEB were being prepared by the merchants in Venice and Florence.

        Does this matter? On one hand, the mirage of DEB and its beauty in the Balance of Payments of all the countries in the world mean researchers calculating the differences between countries’ Balance of Payments tend to overconfidently assert that observed errors are due to one or other cause (most typically suspected tax evasion). On the other hand, if modern-day advances in ICT were applied, there is no reason why we could not have real-time Balance of Payments reporting when ownership changes and flows actually occur, and then what is currently a sometimes- misleading mirage may become a useful – and beautiful – reality.

      • Thanks (a little belatedly) so much for your comprehensive reply, Alex. I’m interested to hear that you think that it’s possible to have real-time balance of payments reporting, if we improved the technology. That would be amazing, or, as you say, a useful and beautiful reality. I’m having a few conversations at the moment in the context of Six Capitals and integrated reporting about the potential of 21C ICT to vastly improve if not perfect our accounting systems. Thanks again, cheers, Jane

  6. I am reading your book as I heard your interview on Kim Hills’s Saturday programme. I am from Whanganui New Zealand so was interested to see your bit about the Iwi’s success in their claim over the Whanganui river. However I am interested in your theories for another reason. I belong to the Whanganui Restorative Practices Trust and we are in the process of slowly introducing the principles of restorative practice into everyday Whanganui. The underlying theory is that we are all connected, whether we like it or not and how we relate to each other is at the heart of any healthy community. Social capital is just a important as financial capital and this is our selling point to the local District Council. Whanganui is part of a Restorative practice. International Learning Community involving people from Hull and Leeds in the UK and Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada. Iti is very exciting.
    Jenny. Saywood

    • Thanks so much for letting me know, Jenny, this is fascinating. I am so thrilled to hear what you’re doing – slowly introducing the principles of restorative practice into everyday Whanganui – and that social capital is just as important as financial capital in the work you’re doing. Also, that the underlying theory is that we’re all connected like it or not. Hooray! Yes, it is very exciting, how wonderful to be doing such important work. Thank you so much for letting me know. I will follow it with great interest.
      All best wishes, Jane

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