The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 17, No. 2 December 1990
1990 MANUSCRIPT AWARD
Moyra J. M. Kedslie UNIVERSITY OF HULL
MUTUAL SELF INTEREST — A UNIFYING FORCE; THE DOMINANCE
OF SOCIETAL CLOSURE OVER SOCIAL BACKGROUND IN THE EARLY PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTING BODIES
Abstract: This paper examines the range of activities undertaken in the mid-1850s by the men who formed the early professional accounting bodies. It also highlights the social differences that existed between the founding members of the Edinburgh and Glasgow chartered ac-countants' societies. In spite of the differences that existed both in the work undertaken by and the social differences between the two groups, they responded jointly to any outside threat to their profes-sional body.
By the mid-1850s, Post Office Directories show that Scotland had at least four hundred men calling themselves accountants. The initial membership of the professional accounting bodies in Edinburgh and Glasgow at that time, however, was just one-third of that number. Indeed, it was not until the 1880s that their joint membership reached four hundred. Only a small part of the dis-crepancy can be explained by the geographical location of these accountants, for Glasgow and Edinburgh were by far the most dominant commercial centers in Scotland. The main explanatory factor was the exclusivity adopted by the new bodies immediately upon formation and maintained for at least a century thereafter.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the range of activities which were regarded as accounting in the mid-1850s and to ex-plain the factors which brought about the narrowing of that defi-nition in respect of the new professional bodies. These factors were largely social, yet, given that the Edinburgh and Glasgow societies were the forerunners of similar societies in England and Wales and in many countries around the world which were sub-