The Accounting Historians Journal
Vol. 14, No. 1
Patti A. Mills INDIANA STATE UNIVERSITY
THE PROBATIVE CAPACITY OF ACCOUNTS IN EARLY-MODERN SPAIN
Abstract: This paper examines the probative capacity of accounting records as explicated in the accounting literature of early-modern Spain. Several early examples of Hispanic legal texts constitute the principal sources. The chief findings to emerge from this study are that legal requirements greatly influenced accounting forms and procedure during this period and that Castilian jurisprudence encompassed a theory and standards of evidence to guide the use of accounting records as evidential matter.
The theory and practice of accounting have over the course of their evolution been profoundly influenced by the law. This relationship is a natural consequence of the social character of accounting activity. As Goldberg has expressed, the fact that accounting practices "are subject to constraints of law is simply a recognition that they are of sufficient significance in the lives of a sufficient number or proportion of people in the community to warrant the attention of the lawmakers" [Goldberg, 1965, p. 9].
The principal sources of legal influence on accounting have been judge-made precedent and, perhaps more obviously, out-right legislation.1 In the common law tradition, precedent exerted the earliest impact, establishing "the foundations as well as many of the specific practices in generally accepted account-ing long before statutory legislation" regulated accounting in the areas of taxation, securities, bankruptcy and elsewhere. Those countries dominated by the Roman law tradition, on the other hand, normally made earlier and more extensive use of legisla-tion in formulating accounting rules. In both cases, the use of accounting records and other business documents as legal evidence has influenced the development of accounting thought and practice. It is the purpose of this paper to explore part of the early history of this use in the European, civil law context.
1 The author is indebted to an anonymous reviewer for providing this insight.