A History of Corporate Financial Reporting provides an understanding of the procedures and practices which constitute corporate financial reporting in Britain, at different points of time, and how and why those practices changed and became what they are now. Its particular focus is the external financial reporting practices of joint stock companies. This is worth knowing about given the widely held view that Britain (i) pioneered modern financial reporting, and (ii) played a primary role in the development of both capital markets and professional accountancy. The book makes use of a principal and agent framework to study accounting’s past, but one where the failure of managers always to supply the information that users’ desire is given full recognition. It is shown that corporate financial reporting did not develop into its current state in a straightforward and orderly fashion. Each era produces different environmental conditions and imposes new demands on accounting. A proper understanding of accounting developments therefore requires a careful examination of the interrelationship between accountants and accounting techniques on the one hand and, on the other, the social and economic context within which changes took place.
The book’s corporate coverage starts with the legendary East India Company, created in 1600, and continues through the heyday of the statutory trading companies founded to build Britain’s canals (commencing in the 1770s) and railways (commencing c.1829) to focus, principally, on the limited liability company fashioned by the Joint Stock Companies Act 1844 and the Limited Liability Act 1855. The story terminates in 2005 when listed companies were required to prepare their consolidated accounts in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards, thus signalling the effective end of British accounting.
Table of Contents
Part 1. Setting the SceneChapter 1. Nature and Purpose of Corporate Financial Statements 1. Scope of text2. Nature of accounting change 3. Agency theory3.1. Lack of goal congruence3.2. CFS as a social construction4. The British experience5. Objectives of periodic financial statements5.1. Origins of stewardship reporting5.2. Early recognition of decision usefulness 5.3. Changing objectives of CFS6. ReviewChapter 2. Companies, Shareholders and Capital Markets 1. Introduction2. Origin of joint stock3. East India Company4. Speculation and risk5. South Sea Company6. Effect of the ‘Bubble Act’7. Chartered and statutory companies8. Registered company9. Origin of limited liability10. Rise of the limited liability company11. Investors and capital markets 12. Post World War 213. ReviewPart 2. Early Issues in Financial Reporting Chapter 3. Financial Reporting to c.1800. The Theory 1. Introduction 2. Trading environment3. Accounting statements of the early modern period4. Asset measurement procedures4.1. Merchandize4.2. Ships 4.3. Voyages4.4. Estates, land and houses4.5. Household furnishings, movables and valuables4.6. Securities and annuities4.7. Miscellaneous measurement issues 5. ReviewChapter 4. Financial Reporting to c.1800. The Practice 1. Introduction2. Balance sheet 2.1. East India Company balance sheet 17822.2. Languvelack Copper Works balance sheet 17453. Profit and loss account4. Profit measurement and asset valuation5. Fixed assets5.1. Depreciation
J.R Edwards is a professor of accounting at the Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University. His research interests embrace various aspects of accounting history, with outputs published in academic journals, professional journals and in book form.
"This is an authoritative work which deserves to be read widely. Readers with accounting backgrounds who do not regard themselves as historians or even as interested in history will gain from it unexpected insights into the present state of corporate financial reporting and how it evolved, or, to echo Anthony Hopwood’s memorable phrase ‘how accounting became what it was not’." — Geoffrey Whittington (2020), Cambridge Centre for Finance, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, appearing in Accounting and Business Research.