The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 11, No. 2 Fall 1984
Gary John Previts CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY
FRAMEWORKS OF AMERICAN FINANCIAL ACCOUNTING THOUGHT: AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE TO 1973
Abstract: The debate among accounting theoreticians as to the content and use-fulness of the Financial Accounting Standards Board's concept statements and its conceptual framework project can better be understood if a perspective of prior "framework" efforts is used. This paper interprets the principal prior efforts to produce a comprehensive conceptual framework for financial reports down to the time the FASB was formed in 1972. It shows that previous efforts were slow to evolve, and to respond to environmental changes. There is also evidence that a continuing "dynamic tension" has existed between the patterns proposed by practitioner groups and those of groups of academics.
The emergence of western market economies can be traced to about 1200 A.D., during the decline of the age of feudalism.
It is from thirteenth century Tuscany, and especially from Florence and Siena, that modern accounting takes it roots. From this period and region came the earliest business accounts in debit and credit form; as distinct from manorial and public accounts in charge and discharge form, whose history goes back to classical Greece and Rome, and even, in some respects, to ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Crete and Mycenae. It was Tuscans also who, by a series of insights and tentative improvements, evolved, probably by 1300, that scheme of double entry bookkeeping which is now in use throughout the civilized world as the basis of every well-ordered accounting system. . .1
The author wishes to acknowledge the helpful comments provided by Edward Coffman, Kenneth Most, and the anonymous reviewers. An early version of this paper was presented at the DR Scott lectures in 1983.