The purgatorial shadows of war: Accounting, blame and shell shock pensions, 1914–1923

Miley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2017). The purgatorial shadows of war: Accounting, blame and shell shock pensions 1914-1923. Accounting History, 22(1), 5-28. doi:10.1177/1032373216656648

Abstract:  This research analyses the role of accounting in British disablement pensions awarded to men who sustained shell shock during their Army service in the First World War. In this context, “accounting” refers to the classification of medical conditions when determining pension eligibility and awards. Pension classifications were prejudiced towards men with physical disabilities and against men with shell shock. Accounting classification’s ability to make a medical condition invisible is central to this research. The invisibility of shell shock as a medical condition in the pension classification system led to financial discrimination against men with shell shock. The immorality of this discrimination was hidden by a system of accounting classification that distanced decision-makers from the ramifications of their decisions. In addition, the Minister of Pensions adopted blame avoidance techniques to protect his Ministry and the British government from criticism occasioned by the discriminatory treatment of men with shell shock.

Full paper available from Accounting History

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