Category Archives: History

Their name liveth for evermore: Accounting for the human cost of war

Miley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2017). Their name liveth for evermore: Accounting for the human cost of war. Paper presented at the 40th Annual Congress of the European Accounting Association, Valencia.

Abstract:  The currency of war is human life yet the cost of human life lost in war remains an under-researched area of accounting.  This research uses a qualitative and historical research design to consider accounting for the cost of human life lost in war, contending that war cemeteries are accounting reports.  Through a qualitative and historical approach, the accounting content of war cemeteries built by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and it predecessors, is considered.  The planning and building of these cemeteries is examined to illustrate key features of the cemeteries as accounting reports and the information content they were designed to convey.  In addition, the transformative power of accounting is considered to illustrate how meaning has been transformed over time in the interpretation of the cemeteries as accounting reports.  The cemeteries were built after the First World War.  Three time periods are examined to demonstrate shifts in meaning: in the inter-war period, Cold War period, and contemporary period.  This research suggests the epistemological and ontological boundaries of accounting are already able to accommodate war cemeteries and their construction as accounting reports.  This research highlights the heteroglossic dimensions of accounting provided by the power of users to give meaning to accounting disclosures.

Full paper available from ResearchGate

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

Accounting and medicine: British Army medical units and shell shock during the First World War

Miley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2016). Accounting and medicine: British Army medical units and shell shock during the First World War. Paper presented at the 14th World Congress of Accounting Historians, Pescara.

Abstract: This research enhances our understanding of the role of accounting in creating and enforcing stigma. We examine the accounting practices of British Army medical units during the First World War, focusing on forward medical units which were located immediately behind a battle area to provide the first place for medical evacuation and treatment outside a fighting zone. Inflexible and inappropriate accounting processes placed an onerous burden on these units, causing medical and management difficulties which had a direct impact on the classification, triaging and treatment of men requiring medical attention. While disadvantaging all men requiring medical treatment, the accounting issues surrounding forward line medical units proved particularly problematic for men with shell shock, contributing to their stigmatisation. Our research suggests that stigma can be the unintended consequence of an accounting system.

Full paper available through Andrew Read’s ResearchGate page

In the valley of the shadow of death : Accounting and identity in Thai-Burma Railway prison camps 1942-45

Miley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2016). In the valley of the shadow of death : Accounting and identity in Thai-Burma Railway prison camps 1942-45. Paper presented at the 14th World Congress of Accounting Historians, Pescara.

Abstract: This research uses an historical qualitative approach that focuses on archival information supported by oral testimonies to examine accounting records by soldiers serving in the Australian Army during the Second World War. The unique feature of these records is that they were kept by men who were prisoners of war forced to work as slave labourers in Japanese labour camps to build the Thai-Burma railway. They were not permitted to have supplies that would enable them to keep accounting records, nor were they permitted to make any formal accounting records so these records were made and hidden at great personal risk. The punishment making and keeping these records was torture and/or death. The records are artefacts that were important for supporting a group identity for the prisoners as soldiers, counterbalancing the Japanese construction of the prisoner of war as shameful and worthless. Social identity theory developed from prisoner of war experiences and indicates the importance of artefacts that support positive group identity. We suggest that this example may reveal that accounting records are fundamental to society because they evidence and record social group membership.

Full paper available through Andrew Read’s ResearchGate page

Go gentle babe: Accounting and the London Foundling Hospital 1757–97

Miley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2016). Go gentle babe: Accounting and the London Foundling Hospital 1757–97. Accounting History, 21(2-3), 167-184. doi:10.1177/1032373216644259

Abstract:  The London Foundling Hospital was a charitable institution established to turn children of the poor into virtuous and industrious members of society. Poverty-stricken parents gave their children, known as foundlings, to the hospital which cared for and educated them until they could be placed into employment. Since eighteenth-century Britain stigmatized and marginalized the poor, viewing them as immoral and indigent. An important aspect of the charity’s function was (re)creating stigmatized foundling identities so they could leave the hospital as accepted members of mainstream society. This research examines the role of accounting in supporting the hospital’s efforts to (re)create stigmatized identities. We examine the plethora of records the hospital maintained about every aspect of the children’s lives, which were both mechanisms of surveillance and control and evidence of the hospital’s successful efforts in moulding the foundlings into virtuous and industrious members of society. The hospital did not distinguish between financial and non-financial records, ensuring both were regularly reviewed and audited before being made available to selected members of the public. We contrast the public availability of these records, which evidenced hospital (re)created identities, with the hospital’s secrecy surrounding tokens, small items given by a parent when hospitalizing a child. We contend that the tokens were a form of accounting record that represented stigmatized identities of the poor and had to be hidden so they could be replaced with (re)created acceptable identities. We conclude that examining accounting records maintained by the hospital provides insights into the role accounting can play in supporting the work of charitable institutions seeking to create social acceptability for stigmatized groups.

Full paper available from Accounting History

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.

Talkin’ about my generation : Accounting and pirate radio

Miley, F.M & Read, A.F. (2015), Talkin’ about my generation : Accounting and pirate radio, Paper presented at the eighth Accounting History International Conference, Ballarat.

Abstract: In the 1960s, the British Broadcasting Corporation had a monopoly on radio broadcasting in Britain, controlling what was broadcast. This monopoly was maintained through an alliance among the government, the BBC and the Musician’s Union. This monopoly was challenged by pirate radio stations operating outside British territorial limits. This research examines the use of financial controls by the British Government to suppress the largest pirate radio station, Radio Caroline. Radio Caroline subverted the BBC monopoly through playing rock music and making money through advertising. The government implemented financial control mechanisms that ensured Radio Caroline could not operate profitably. While these controls led to the demise of Radio Caroline, they failed to suppress rock music or the youth culture it represented. Examining the role of accounting and financial control in the suppression of Radio Caroline illustrates how private sector accounting can provide a mechanism for government blame avoidance.

Full paper available through Andrew Read’s ResearchGate page

Hiding who pays: When disaster relief becomes a disaster

Miley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2015). Hiding who pays: When disaster relief becomes a disaster. Paper presented at the Asia-Pacific Economic and Business History Conference, Canberra. http://www.acsacs.unsw.adfa.edu.au/news-and-events/apebh2015/

Abstract

Accounting can be a tool of cultural hegemony. In this research we examine the history of the interplay between the New Zealand government and local governments in the management of the recovery from earthquakes. We examine the management of the recovery from two earthquakes, Murchison and Napier, which occurred prior to the introduction of new public management and compare them to the management of the recovery from the recent Christchurch earthquakes. We conclude that accounting arrangements associated with the introduction of new public management permit the shifting of costs of earthquake recovery from the national government to local government while simultaneously hiding the hegemonic control the national government has over local government.

Link to paper

“Broken and mad”: Accounting, shell shock and the British Army medical unit 1914-18

Miley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2015). “Broken and mad”: Accounting, shell shock and the British Army medical unit 1914-18. Paper presented at the 20th Conference on the History of Management and Organisations Lille, France.

Abstract – English

The purpose of this research is to enhance our understanding of the role of accounting in supporting stigma. We use the example of medical management of men with shell shock in British Army casualty clearing hospitals during the First World War. These men were stigmatised by other soldiers and the British Army because of their medical condition. Accounting processes that contributed to the stigmatisation of shell shocked men included initial classification of their medical condition, rigid mechanisms for determining re-supply quantities to casualty clearing hospitals and the additional accounting burden created for medical units when dealing with men with shell shock. Although stigmatisation of soldiers with shell shock was not due to accounting for the medical management of the condition, our analysis indicates that accounting practices in Royal Army Medical Corps casualty clearing stations supported and may have exacerbated the stigmatisation of the shell shocked and may have delayed recovery from shell shock.

Abstract – French

Cette recherche approfondit notre compréhension de la relation entre la comptabilité et la stigmatisation. Nous étudions les hôpitaux militaires britanniques pendant la première guerre mondiale. En particulier, nous étudions la stigmatisation des soldats britanniques en état de commotion. Les processus de la comptabilité militaire ont contribué à leur stigmatisation. Nous concluons que les processus de la comptabilité ont été un facteur important dans l’allongement de la durée de rétablissement des hommes en état de commotion.

Link to paper

Cartoons as alternative accounting: front-line supply in the First World War

AHR coverMiley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2014). Cartoons as alternative accounting: front-line supply in the First World War. Accounting History Review, 24(2-3), 161-189. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21552851.2014.967932

Abstract

The accounting system that supported the provision of supplies to the Western Front during the First World War had some inadequacies from the perspective of the soldier on the front line. These inadequacies are revealed through the cartoons drawn by Bruce Bairnsfather, a front-line officer in the British Army. Our examination shows that cartoons can provide source material for accounting histories. It also shows that cartoons can be considered as a form of accounting themselves and, in doing so, stretches the epistemological boundaries of accounting.

Link to journal