The purgatorial shadows of war: Accounting, blame and shell shock pensions 1914-23

Miley, F.M. & Read, A.F. (2015). The purgatorial shadows of war: Accounting, blame and shell shock pensions 1914-23. Paper presented at eighth Accounting History International Conference, Ballarat.

Abstract: This research is a qualitative analysis of the role of accounting in British disablement pensions awarded to men who sustained shell shock during their Army service in the First World War. It suggests that accounting classification of shell shock for pension determination purposes supported a view of shell shock which made men with shell shock scapegoats of a system that was often unsupportive. Accounting classification contributed to the lack of support by distancing pension decision-makers from the moral consequences of pension determinations. This was able to occur because the British government used accounting classification as part of a mechanism to avoid blame for its pension determination choices. This research contributes to an ongoing debate about the role of government by suggesting that the functions of government provide opportunities for accounting to simultaneously serve a neutral role as mere inscription while being a social and moral construct.

Paper available through Andrew Read’s ResearchGate page.

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