This article does not provide a definitive answer to these questions. Instead, it offers a new empirical framework for the discussion whilst pointing towards a research agenda for an accounting history of Latin America, through the case of Mexico.
The motivation for this project lies in the handful of contributions which explore accounting practices in former Spanish colonies in Latin America before and after their independence. One potential starting point for this analysis is the so-called "Transfer of Accounting Technology" framework. This approach, however, perceives accounting as a technology that is neutral, unchanging and detached from social actors. Instead, we prefer to follow the lead of Tom Misa and Johann Schott in characterizing the international transfer of technology and knowhow as a process of "appropriation".
In other words, culture and context are relevant in researching accounting history in Latin America. However, during the course of our research and as will be shown below, it became evident that there was a need to reinterpret some of the key studies on accounting history in Spain because these studies often tackled the migration of double entry bookkeeping on the back of evidence emerging from accounting manuals and textbooks.
The possibility of appropriation was neglected as these contributions failed to consider accounting as a social and institutional practice that has to be studied in the context in which it operates.
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We will show there was continuity in the use of double entry in Spain and this is the basis for establishing its potential use by public and private enterprise in Latin American colonies. We support this claim through the examination of everyday practices rather than interpreting bibliographic material.
The research focused on developments in Spain and then ascertains the likelihood of its adoption within the viceroyalty of New Spain, a territory whose location, extension and wealth made it a geo-strategic priority for both the Spanish crown and Spanish merchant houses. Most of this territory became a sovereign state after a process of independence that began in Since this republic has been formally known as Estados Unidos Mexicanos henceforward Mexico.
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In order to do so, we revise and offer new evidence of accounting practices in Spain during the colonial period. As a starting point, the second section summarizes established views regarding the introduction of accounting techniques within Spain before and in the early colonial era.
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This is followed by a survey and reinterpretation of contributions published in Mexico dealing with the arrival and diffusion of double entry bookkeeping in public bodies. The third section expands these studies by looking at the context and rationale behind the first attempt to introduce the double entry method in the public management of colonial institutions. It documents in detail the accounting guidelines introduced during Bourbonic reforms in order to identify its influence on colonial and postcolonial accounting practice in the Mexican public sector.
This third section also offers indirect evidence that double entry was known within the Mexican private sector. The fourth section retakes the survey of contributions published in Mexico dealing with the arrival and diffusion of double entry bookkeeping in the Mexican private sector and looks at the possibilities of knowledge transfer amongst private companies across the Atlantic during the colonial era.
However, during the course of the research it became evident that there was a need to revisit the consensus about the evolution of "modern" accounting in Spain and specifically the so called "stage of silence and apparent oblivion in accounting doctrine", 6 which oscillates between the end of the 17th century and the early 18th century. As its name suggests, it claims that double entry bookkeeping was "abandoned" or at least "overlooked" as far as the production of didactic texts was concerned whilst implying the practice was discontinued in private enterprise.
Ascertaining the validity of this claim was important because, if true, it would imply that the actual transfer between Spain and Latin America took place either at the start or the end of the colonial era rather than during a dilated period. Evidence documented in this article emerges from surviving company records.
It details the use of double entry bookkeeping in private organizations based in Madrid and Barcelona circa s and s.
It suggests double entry was very much alive in the everyday practice of business organizations based in key geographies of economic activity in the Spanish mainland. This clarification is the basis for our empirical framework and thus for future analyses of the nature of appropriation of double entry bookkeeping in the Mexican private sector.
Admittedly, we do not resolve the issue but we do provide clarification and a solid basis for future research. The last section offers a discussion and conclusions. Here it is claimed that the future of the study of accounting history in Latin America will emerge from a synthesis based on contrasting contemporary accounting practices as reflected in surviving documents of public and private organizations , trade regulation, contemporary manuals and treaties as well as informal education practices such as apprenticeships and visiting stays.
From pre-modern capitalism circa to to the adoption and diffusion of double entry bookkeeping circa to Rodrigues 7 have noted how academic circles in Spain are one of the handful of non-English speaking spaces characterized by a vibrant research agenda in accounting history. This "maturity" implies that there is a considerable number of systematic studies documenting the overall development of Spanish accounting practices. Its starting point is the period that immediately precedes the development of double entry bookkeeping labelled "pre-modern state", circa to Accounting documents act chiefly as an aide-memoir , due to the number of operations businessmen had to remember or consider.
Vlaemminck states that the single entry method replaced memorial and merchant books as it offered greater order, was much more systematic and methodical and incorporated a greater number of books as this method was responsible for introducing dedicated books to record debits and credits.
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Although interesting, this first stage is of little relevance to the overall purpose of our study given that the Spanish conquerors did not arrive in what was to become Latin America until Interestingly, in the vernacular this method was identified as journal and ledger system libro de caja con manual rather than "double entry". Early developments in the Spanish metropolis were almost immediately followed in New Spain. For one, Cordero y Bernal 14 identifies an initial development taking place in , namely the appointment of the first "accountant" in the Spanish colonies and specifically in the government of the port of Veracruz and in the introduction of an accounting book in the Casa de Moneda Mexico City's mint , the oldest in the new continent and which carried its entries with Roman numerals the so called cuenta castellana.
However, this fact has been neglected by Mexican accounting historiography. See table 1 , which summarizes contributions by Mexican authors and foreign academics studying Mexican accounting history published in professional and academic forums and dealing with the adoption of double entry bookkeeping in Mexico. Two of these studies date back to the colonial period while most of them date back to the second half of the 20th century. A "bird's eye view" seems to predominate in the latter contributions, that is, studies which offer a broad and rather general overview of the development of accounting methods in capitalist societies with a bias towards developments in Western Europe and North America.
A common thread of these contributions is their didactic nature and textbook roots. Most of these sources progressed using prior research rather than through the systematic study of archival sources. Lack of research based on surviving business and government records thus resulted in the perpetuation of myths, errors, omissions and misunderstandings particularly regarding the arrival, diffusion and actual use of double entry bookkeeping.
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The small quantity of systematic studies also reflects a lack of a research program around the history of accounting within Mexican educational institutions. It is possible that table 1 is not inclusive of all studies in the area. It is also possible if not probable that our survey failed to detect dissertations and other published and unpublished contributions that might be of relevance.
However, no other study was identified within the digital catalogues of the aforementioned universities. Nevertheless there are citations within the publications in table 1 to other studies mainly dissertations but these have either not survived or not been catalogued by these universities. The research thus proceeded under the assumption that table 1 encompassed the totality of empirical studies by authors dealing with the adoption and diffusion of "modern" accounting techniques during the colonial and postcolonial eras.
A recurrent theme within the studies summarized in table 1 is a debate regarding the adoption and first use of double entry bookkeeping in Mexico. On the one hand, within this debate there is some consensus as to developments in public accounting. The aim was to 'standardise different practices within colonial public accounting but it was abandoned given the confusion in its application toppled with the problems to eradicate long standing practices".
Alvarado 22 states that it is when the introduction of an unspecified piece of regulation institutes the use of the double entry method across the colonial government. But in the same line as Maniau and TePaske, Alvarado and colleagues claim that Spanish authorities lost the "tug of war" with civil servants who opposed the former's attempts" and the regulation was repealed three years later. To better understand these contributions to Mexican historiography and specifically the first use and derogation of the double entry method in the public accounting of the New Spain one has to consider developments in the Spanish metropolis during the colonial period.
The next section will detail how Bourbonic reforms had an impact on accounting regulation and practice. Double entry in the public Accounting of Spain and New Spain. Early developments and the influence of French Enlightenment. As noted above the double entry system began to be used as part of government records in Spain during the 16 th century. For instance the local government of Seville used this method from onwards, that is, 25 years before the Spanish central Treasury.
Charles ii of Spain, the last of the Habsburgs, died in This was immediately followed by the coronation of Phillip v, who became the first monarch of the ruling Bourbon dynasty. The establishment of a new dynasty introduced several institutional, economic and administrative changes, many of which took more than one attempt to be successfully implemented. The introduction of innovations in the social, economic and political spheres was inspired by the philosophical tenants of the French Enlightenment. These reforms extended to the Spanish overseas dominions.
Bourbonic administrative reforms initially attempted to introduce double entry in the public sector in at the Giro Real or Cross Border Payments Department. But it was unsuccessful as it found resistance from bureaucrats who were unwilling or unable to adopt the method due to a lack of training as well as doubting its usefulness on "ideological" and "conceptual" grounds rejection to which bureaucrats failed to provide detailed arguments.
The pace of the Bourbonic reforms strengthened during the reign of Charles iii The general disorder of New Spain's treasury was considerable. By , when Charles iii ascended to the throne, the Accounts Court had failed to inform the General Accounts Office for many years. In view of the situation, the king immediately ordered a review and audit of all the books and accounts of the viceroyalty between and After a meticulous examination, the General Accountant Office's report criticized the lack of method and procedure determining the order of entries in the accounts as well as the absence of any rigor in the process of checking and verification of these books.
To highlight its importance, the king issued a Royal Order 11 th March In this order he instructed the General Accounts Court to send detailed accounts of all incomes that belonged to the Royal Treasury. This decree basically reinstated the contents of the Royal Order but retroactively, so that the information not yet supplied to the Council of the Indies was forthcoming. This arrendamiento or asiento leasing system had been typical of the Hapsburg administration, where a person or company gained exclusivity in the exploitation of a specific source of income of the Royal Treasury.
However, the leasing system was detrimental to both taxpayers and the Royal Treasury.
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On the one hand, contractors profited from the ignorance of crown representatives regarding the potential of individual leases. On the other, in cases where winning bidders were forced to pay a predetermined canon tax or rent , they would simply pass on these to taxpayers or ultimate consumers.