The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 16, No. 2 December 1989
Larry M. Parker CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY
MEDIEVAL TRADERS AS INTERNATIONAL CHANGE AGENTS: A COMPARISON WITH TWENTIETH CENTURY INTERNATIONAL ACCOUNTING FIRMS
Abstract: The International Accounting Standards Committee's (IASC) exposure draft on "Comparability of Financial Statements" has increased the awareness of the need for international changes in accounting standards. Since the IASC cannot mandate these changes, the accounting community needs to learn how to com-municate, adopt and implement changes. This paper discusses an important aspect of the change process, the change agent. The first part of the paper presents an historical example of an important group of international change agents, the Jewish traders of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Parallels are then drawn between the Medieval Jewish traders and modern international accounting firms. Finally, the potential for accounting firms to act as change agents is discussed in the context of concepts from theories of social change.
The internationalization of accounting standards has be-come an increasingly important issue as international financial transactions have increased. International capital transactions have now reached the level of one trillion dollars per day [Cutter, 1989]. International change in accounting has come to a crucial point with exposure draft E32, "Comparability of Finan-cial Statements," issued by the International Accounting Stan-dards Committee (IASC). Prior to E32, IASC sought interna-tional harmonization of accounting standards by recommend-ing alternatives that were most accepted in practice, and by avoiding conflict with the accounting standards of the most influential of its 77 member countries. This approach, while reducing accounting alternatives and providing greater stan-
The author is grateful for the assistance of Professors Michael Cerullo, Lawrence Klein, George McGrail, Don Nichols, Gary Previts and H. Rao in the preparation of this paper.