Published on January 22nd, 2013 | by Pete0
Accountancy may not be the most exciting of career choices, but it is a lucrative job with an interesting history. While the rumour that accountants invite undertakers to their office Christmas parties to liven things up is likely untrue, it is a fact that Al Pacino’s role in The Godfather Part II was based on real-life mob accountant Meyer Lansky. We have put together a short history of accountancy.
The earliest records of accountancy go back more than 7,000 years, to areas that are now modern day Iraq, Turkey and Syria. Accountancy back then was made up of simple papyrus spreadsheets, used to record crop growth and livestock numbers. The Assyrian people who used these pioneering methods of accountancy were farmers and business men in the Iron Age. Their scholarly and standardised approach to trade made them very influential. They would become one of the wealthiest parts of what was then the world’s largest ever empire, the Achaemenid Empire.
The Assyrians had to pay taxes to the empire they were a part of, hence the vital importance of recording the size of each harvest and how much money they earned and spent while trading. Although these crude accounting techniques would develop over time, as business did, it would be another 6, 400 years until the next big leap in accounting techniques took place.
It was in 14th century Italy where the big leap to modern accountancy took place. Businesses back then were starting to tackle ventures that needed more than one investor. This needed a more complex recording system, so the double-entry accountancy system was invented. This created a system of book keeping designed to be viewed by potential investors, as well as one that could be checked externally.
By the 15th century the Franciscan Friar, Luca Pacioli, had written the modern basics of accountancy, known as the golden rules of Accounting. Pacioli’s book was the first ever to use the plus and minus symbols in print and it was the first book to contain algebra. He also included mathematical puzzles for his readers. These early versions of Sudoku may have helped with this influential book’s popularity.
While book keeping would become more complex over time, it would not change drastically for almost 500 years. It is interesting that the word accountant is derived from the French word compter, whose origin is from the Latin word computare, as the invention of computers would mark the next drastic change in accountancy.
Computers have made all our lives easier in many ways, and they have certainly helped accountants. With the development of reliable and precise accountancy software, keeping financial records has never been simpler (well not since 5,000 BC anyway). If you want to handle accounts for your own business, or are interested in boosting your employability with accounting skills, then one affordable and easy way to do that is to learn Sage accounting software through Kaplan Financial.
Sage is the industry standard accounting software for British businesses and you can get the skills to work as a book-keeper through a course working from home
So now you may know a little more about the history of accounting and the way it works today. The future is up to you.