Double Entry

‘Entertaining and informative.’ The Economist

‘Lively history … Show[s] double entry’s role in the creation of the accounting profession, and even of capitalism itself.’ The New Yorker

‘Lucidly presented … An accessible introduction to this key development in the history of capitalism.’ Edward Chancellor, Wall Street Journal

‘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 Modern Economics

Double Entry ‘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.’ Alan Sangster, Accounting History

Winner – Nib Waverley Library Award for Literature 2012
Shortlisted – New South Wales Premier’s Awards for Literature 2013
Shortlisted – Age Book of the Year Awards 2012
Shortlisted – Queensland Literary Awards 2012

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Double Entry tells for the first time the extraordinary untold story of accounting, one which began in Mesopotamia around 7,000 BC and continues today in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash and the unfolding environmental crisis.

Double Entry shows that the world we’ve created – where markets increasingly infiltrate every area of life and the language of numbers and money dominates public debate – is not some arbitrary development made courtesy of neoliberalism and the politics of Thatcher and Reagan, as it is usually portrayed, but the reductio ad absurdum of the 700-year history of double-entry bookkeeping. The present is the outcome of this innovative system of accounting which emerged in northern Italy in the 13th century, was embedded in commercial life during the Renaissance, and now governs our decisions in every sphere of life in increasingly direct ways. Double entry made possible for the first time a new category of wealth, ‘capital’ and its measurement (as profit and loss) in cold, apparently objective quanta: numbers and money. And thus made possible the pursuit of profit as the raison d’être of our commercial lives – and increasingly of human life in general.