21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A book of two halves - debit and credit.,
This review is from: Double Entry: How the merchants of Venice shaped the modern world - and how their invention could make or break the planet (Kindle Edition)
This is a fine, well researched (if short) history of double-entry bookkeeping. I was aware of some of the history of the practice before I read it, but this filled the history out to the early 1500s nicely. The chapters on the European adoption of the Indian / Arabic numbers out of the Roman and medieval numbering systems, the evolution of the double-entry system of bookkeeping and the early impact of double-entry were all good reading - and well written. It seems well-aimed at the students of the profession and is the most readable history of this subject I have yet read.
There were two disappointments, though. Firstly I would have liked the author to stick to the actual subject, and write a lot more on the development of bookkeeping from Pacioli through to the improvements, refinements and the development of modern accounting over the last century. A mention of Henry Rand Hatfield or Sir David Tweedie for example might have helped. Covering the modern innovation of legally enforceable standards would have helped more. Pointing out the errors that accountants sometimes make should not be the sole focus of this entire time period.
Instead, and secondly, what was there in the middle to end chapters was a discussion of how economists have obtained some of the data that the bookkeepers and accountants produce and added those to other numbers to create figures for politicians and economists to use to try to manage economies. Quite rightly, the author points out that this process is not necessarily likely to be useful, and can be harmful. How exactly this fits in with double-entry bookkeeping I am not sure. The author seems to be trying to justify some of the hype on the front cover, rather than providing a history of the practice and profession. Developing the first section on would have been much, much better.
The last chapter, covering the development of environmental and social accounting was also good reading, and provides a case for this area to develop further. To be honest, though, after wading through the section on the economists I had lost some of the interest that the early chapters had developed.
In summary - if you are looking for a good, well-written and very easy-to-read history of the practice of double-entry bookkeeping, then this is a very good book. It's not long and provides enough detail for most to understand where it come from. If you just want to learn about double-entry, then stop after the Pacioli section and then perhaps read the chapter on environmental accounting. If you also want a discussion piece on how economists can misuse data, then read the whole book.
This really is a book of two halves. Pity they seem so disjointed.
Another interesting point is all the other books that appear when you search for this one.