A history of industrial accounting in the medieval era

Ancient history[ edit ] Globular envelope known as a Bulla with a cluster of accountancy tokens, Uruk periodB. Louvre Museum Early development of accounting[ edit ] See also:

A history of industrial accounting in the medieval era

Europe, to To the end of the early modern period, Europe remained a preindustrial society.

A history of industrial accounting in the medieval era

Its manufactured goods came from small workshops, and most of its machinery was powered by animals, wind, falling water, or human labor. These two facts reinforced each other, and together they constricted Europe's economic development. Water-powered manufacturing, for instance, could develop only in favored regions and remained constantly subject to weather-related interruptions; with limited supplies of power, there was little reason to concentrate manufacturing processes in large workshops.

Byhowever, these descriptions no longer applied to large areas of western Europe, and by the European economy as a whole was dominated by large factories, many of them employing thousands of workers.

Both manufacturing and transportation now relied on steam power, and gasoline and electric motors were becoming common.

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The quantity and variety of goods manufactured rose accordingly, a transformation suggested by the development of the British iron industry: Britain produced about 30, tons of pig iron inabout one million tons in Contemporary awareness of change advanced even more quickly than the reality.

In his Manifesto of the Communist Partywritten at a time when most Europeans still worked in agriculture and when even British manufacturing was still evenly divided between factories and small workshops, Karl Marx — presented industrialization as the obvious destiny of all European society.

The rapidity of these changes and their far-reaching effects amply justify historians' designation of the period as the " industrial revolution.

Industrialization thus numbers among the most important processes that brought the early modern period to a close, and as such it raises important questions about the period itself. Signs of dramatic economic and technological change were already apparent in later eighteenth-century Britain, prompting historians to ask how this phase of rapid change could have emerged from the relatively stable early modern economy and why it emerged first in Britain.

More broadly, historians have asked why Europe industrialized ahead of other regions of the globe, and what contributions Europe's empires in the Americas and elsewhere made to its industrialization. Answers to these questions have been varied and surprising. Though the concept of industrialization itself remains unchallenged, recent historical research has overturned much conventional wisdom about how the process took place.

In some regions, such as the Netherlands and northern Italy, the percentages might have been even higher, but the difficulties of early modern transportation meant that manufacturing was widely dispersed; with transportation costs high, producers had a strong incentive to establish their workshops near the sources of their raw materials and to focus on meeting the needs of regional markets.

Despite this fragmentation, early modern producers regularly introduced new products and adopted new techniques. In the thirteenth century, for instance, Italian craftsmen learned how to make silk cloth, and their techniques spread north of the Alps in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, so that by the eighteenth century the French city of Lyon numbered several thousand silk weavers.

The technology of silk weaving changed as well, most dramatically with the invention of the Jacquard loom in the s. The new loom had mechanical codes that governed the weaving process, allowing a relatively unskilled weaver to produce a complex product.

In an early version of a process that would be frequently repeated during the industrial revolution, the balance between machine and worker had shifted; knowledge could be embedded in the machine, rendering differences among workers less important.

Likewise, calico cloths from India created a sensation when first introduced in later seventeenth-century England. They were quickly imitated by British manufacturers, who effectively established an altogether new industry.

A stream of inventions thus changed manufacturing over the early modern period, but the most important changes that the period witnessed had to do with the organization of work rather than its technology. Most European cities restricted manufacturing work, limiting access to some trades so that those already established in them could continue to enjoy respectable incomes and controlling the amounts that workshops might produce to prevent any one manufacturer from acquiring too dominant a position.


Impatient with such restrictions, from the seventeenth century on, merchants in many regions organized new forms of production in the countryside. Labor there was cheap and abundant since contemporary agriculture left many peasants underemployed, and economic restrictions were weak. Cloth merchants were especially well placed to take advantage of this opportunity.

They supplied villagers with raw materials, transported goods from one stage of production to the next, and finally marketed the finished product, taking as well the largest share of the profits.

Other goods too could be manufactured in this way: By the mid-eighteenth century, the balance between agriculture and manufacturing had shifted in many regions; for most villagers, farm work had become a supplemental source of income, and they relied mainly on spinning, weaving, and other artisanal activities for their livelihoods.

Historians have applied several names to this process. The term cottage industry accurately captures the fact that this system of manufacturing left unchanged the basic conditions of its workers' lives.

Spinners, weavers, and others continued to live in small villages and continued to work according to their own preferences, as independent contractors who owned their equipment. But historians have also spoken of this process as proto-industrialization, a term that emphasizes the new economic relationships and expectations, as well as the demographic consequences, created by this system.

Though they set their own pace of work, those involved in cottage industry nonetheless depended on far-flung economic networks; their goods were produced for national and international markets, and the workers were subject to the economic power of the merchants who sold what they produced.

A history of industrial accounting in the medieval era

The proto-industrial workforce was in some sense a proletariat, whose economic fate rested with others; some historians have suggested that these workers were in effect learning the habits that they would eventually need to work in the factories of the nineteenth century.

But as important as its implications for work discipline were, the rise of cottage industry also changed European buying.INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION. INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION. To the end of the early modern period, Europe remained a preindustrial society.

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Its manufactured goods came from small workshops, and most of its machinery was powered by animals, wind, falling water, or human labor.

The development, spread, and near universal adoption of double entry accounting helps bridge the late Medieval period with that of early modern Europe and forms a base upon which commercial development and modern management were built. The Energy Racket. By Wade Frazier.

Revised in June Introduction and Summary. A Brief Prehistory of Energy and Life on Earth. Early Civilization, Energy and the . The history of accounting or accountancy is thousands of years old and can be traced to ancient civilizations.

The early development of accounting dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, and is closely related to developments in writing, counting and money and early auditing systems by the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians.

De Roover, Raymond () “Accounting Prior to Luca Pacioli According to the Account-books of Medieval Merchants”, in Littleton A.C. and Yamey, B.S. (eds.), Studies in the History of Accounting, Sweet and Maxwell Limited, London, pp. During the early period of the Middle Ages, Europe was an economic backwater, however, by the later Medieval period rich trading cities in Italy emerged, creating the .

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