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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Is auditing a species of low law?

I think so.

In any event, "Law & Legislation" are among the keywords listed for an article entitled "The First External Auditors of the Hudson's Bay Company, 1866" by Gary F. Spraakman of York University, the notice for which flitted across my screen a couple of days ago. It appeared in the Accounting Historians' Journal last spring. In my innocence  ignorance stupidity, I had no idea there were accounting historians and that they had a journal, but both are obvious and wonderful phenomena. There is an association too, The Academy of Accounting Historians (American, natch) the useful website for which advises that the association has been in existence since the 70s.

Admittedly I don't know a lot about the subject, but I am advised by those who do that accounting practices are not highlighted often enough in business history. When they are they can be quite key. I recall, for example, many years ago Michael Bliss attributing some of Joseph Flavelle's rise to prominence to the latter's innovation in accounting practice in the pork packing industry (note: not a snarky reference to war profiteering.)

Accounting history is certainly something Canadian legal historians would be well to consider, especially when studying issues of corporate law and governance. I haven't yet looked at any of the issues of the AHJ, but the abstract of Spraakman's article sounds as though it is something that would be very relevant to historians interested in the HBC, of whom there are now quite a number.  Spraakman has also written on internal audit at the UBC.

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