Massimo Costa

The great waves of Accounting Thought:

an attempt of comparison between English and Italian literature

A broad field of Accounting History research concerns Accounting Thought. History of Accounting Thought – much as in philosophy – is basically a history of doctrines (Mattessich, 2008); doctrines partly due to the ideas of single scholars, partly due to their historical context.

Within this broad field, in the present speech,  the core idea is that in Italian and English Accounting there have been a number of what we call ‘isomorphisms’, namely parallel waves of thought, at least until a certain point in time, somewhere in the ‘60s/’70s of the last century. These isomorphisms seem too much for being a pure chance, and we suspect that the same could be said also for other prominent literatures, like the French or the German one. They deserve – at least – to be first discerned, and, after, and possibly, be subject to an interpretation: context reasons for their appearance and persistence (and for minor differences within isomorphisms), as well as a justification for their smoothing and disappearing in the most recent times. In the intervention, after a brief methodological discussion, such presentation and interpretation is proposed to the community of accounting history scholars. The parallel waves are: the precepts period, the personal theory of accounts, the ‘old’ assets and liabilities view, the revenues and expenses view. The ‘new’ assets and liabilities view and contemporary first weak signs of critics towards it seem, instead, to escape from this classical pattern.

Carolyn J. Cordery

Aston Business School, United Kingdom

The University and the Chaplaincy – a microcosm of the sacred and secular

It is argued that the Church played a central role in establishment and development of universities across Europe, including the United Kingdom (UK) (Woods, 2005). Indeed, the five oldest universities in England were all established by the Church/granted charters by Popes. Following the English Reformation, existing and new universities limited enrolment to Church of England members, although this was overturned by civic pressure and universities establishing in the nineteenth century. The university of today is considered to be a secular institution.

Yet, of the more than 160 universities listed by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the great majority advertise a ‘chaplaincy’, which supports staff and students, potentially proselytises, and provides links to the community. In many universities, chaplaincies are supported by university funds, affordance of space and other resources. In a small number of universities, Student Union (faith) clubs provide access to chaplains. It is estimated that about a third of the 1000 chaplaincy staff are remunerated, with the balance volunteering (Aune, Guest, & Law, 2019) to minister in the name of a particular faith or denomination who are responsible to ensure they are trained, and communicate the ‘party line’.

The established Church has, over many years, raised concerns that its support of staff and students and proselytising within the university environment is sub-optimal, due to changes in universities and increasing secularisation of society (e.g. Congregation for Catholic Education, Pontifical Council for the Laity, & Pontifical Council for Culture, 1994). Questions about the place of belief in a university have been exacerbated by many citizens stating they have ‘no religion’ (Office for National Statistics, 2017), and increasing UK state neutrality (Cordery, 2019). Certainly, any discussion of belief and an increasingly secular society must acknowledge faith diversity and those who have none (Clines, 2008).

The support of sacred activities (chaplaincies) by a secular institution (a university) raises a number of questions that require historical analysis including: Why do UK universities retain chaplaincies? How have chaplaincies perceived their role over time? Similarly, how have university managers’ perceptions of chaplaincies changed? Who decides how many chaplains are required and which faiths will be represented? How have resource constraints guided these choices? While in the UK, the nationally organised Church of England has traditionally selected, trained and supported university chaplains, to what extent have less centrally-organised faiths able or willing to do so?

Through historical document analysis and oral histories of chaplains from different faiths, this research analyses the rise of ‘multi-faith’ chaplaincies in the UK, from the post-War period (1950s) to 2012. It seeks to locate concerns of the accounting historian in the study of a microcosm of the sacred and secular interface.


Aune, K., Guest, M., & Law, J. (2019). Chaplains on Campus: Understanding Chaplaincy in UK Universities.

Clines, J. M. S. (2008). Faiths in Higher Education Chaplaincy. Retrieved from

Congregation for Catholic Education, Pontifical Council for the Laity, & Pontifical Council for Culture. (1994). The presence of the Church in the University. Retrieved from

Cordery, C. J. (2019). The state relationship with religion: Defined through disciplinary procedures of accounting and regulation. Accounting History, 24(3), 356–382.

Office for National Statistics. (2017). England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales 2011 Census. Retrieved June 26, 2017, from 2011 Census aggregate data. UK Data Service (Edition: February 2017) website:

Woods, T. E. (2005). The Church and the University. In How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (pp. 47–66). Washington DC: Regnery Publishing Inc.



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