Raymond John Chambers was born just over a century ago on 16 November 1917. It is more than fifty years since his first classic, Accounting, Evaluation and Economic Behavior, was published, more than forty since Securities and Obscurities: Reform of the Law of Company Accounts (republished in 1980 as Accounting in Disarray) and over twenty since the unique An Accounting Thesaurus: Five Hundred Years of Accounting. They are drawn upon extensively in this biography of Chambers’ intellectual contributions, as are other of his published works. Importantly, we also analyze archival correspondence not previously examined.
While Chambers provided several bibliographical summaries of his work, without the benefits of reviewing and interspersing the text with correspondence materials from the Chambers Archive this study would lack an appreciation of the impact of his early childhood, and nuances related to his practical (including numerous consultancies) and academic experiences. The ‘semi-biographical narrative’ codifies article and editorial length exercises by the authors drawing on parts of the archive related to theory development, measurement and communication. Other parts are also examined. This allows us to respond to those critics who claim his reforms were naive. They further reveal a man of theory and practice, whose theoretical ideas were solidly grounded on observations from his myriad interests and experiences. Many of his practical experiences have not been examined previously. This approach and the first book-length biography differentiates this work from earlier analyses of Chambers’ contribution to the accounting literature.
We provide evidence to support the continued push for the reforms he proposed to accepted accounting thought and practice to ensure accounting is the serviceable technology so admired by Pacioli, Da Vinci and many other Renaissance pioneers. It will be of interest to researchers, educators, practitioners and regulators alike.
Table of Contents
1 Growing up: Life on the Fringe – Rebutting Groupthink
2 Chambers the Man
3 Historian: Past, Present, Future
4 Archivist: Classifying, Searching for Order
5 Management Educator
6 Theoretician: New System of Accounting – CoCoA
7 Practitioner: Theoretician-Cum-Practitioner
8 Reformer of Corporate Financial Reporting
9 Unfinished Business
Frank Clarke is Emeritus Professor of Accounting at The University of Newcastle (Australia) and Honorary Professor of Accounting at The University of Sydney, Australia.
Graeme Dean is Emeritus Professor at Sydney University, Australia.
Martin Persson is the J. J. Wettlaufer Faculty Fellow and an Assistant Professor of Managerial Accounting and Control at the Ivey Business School, Canada.
"This book is a sympathetic portrait of one of the outstanding accounting thinkers of the twentieth century, offering new insights, from original sources, into his astonishingly varied interests and activities"
– Professor Geoffrey Whittington, Cambridge University, U.K.
‘Ray Chambers’ Odyssey is a crucial component of the history of accounting thought and your account is both appropriately sympathetic and highly illuminating. So congratulations to you and your co-authors.’
-Phil Brown, UWA Professor Emeritus of Accounting
‘The details and evidentiary matter are based upon a source archival project which is the model for what other universities and faculties should seek to establish in order to preserve significant contributions to our discipline's intellectual heritage, and its origins, in cases such as those involving a leading thinker of an age. That alone is a significant take away from the manuscript.’
- Gary Previts, South Western University Professor of Accounting
"Written by our academic colleagues Frank Clarke, Graeme Dean and Martin Persson, this book outlines the history of Ray Chamber’s contributions across many dimensions, insightfully using original sources."
- Phil Hancock, Professor of accounting UWA
"This well researched scholarly work demonstrates an extensive use and interpretation of a little known archival collection. The use of the personal archive of Professor Ray Chambers, the foundation Professor of Accounting at the University of Sydney, enables the authors to present Chambers’ own voice and comments on his experiences and the development of accounting in Australia. The archives are not used as mere illustrations, but are key to the arguments presented by the authors."
-Judges’ Citation, ASA Awards ceremony