Locating moral boundaries in the early accountancy profession

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Studies of the accounting profession increasingly suggest the alterability of ethical and moral boundaries over time and space. This paper explores moral delineation in the British accountancy profession at a key juncture during its institutionalisation. The results of a micro-level investigation of the case of David Chadwick are presented. Chadwick, a major contributor to the organisation of the profession and a Member of Parliament, was found guilty of bribery in 1881, shortly after the formation of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. Highly publicised revelations of his misconduct appear, however, to have been received with indifference by the accountancy bodies to which he belonged. The study explores a number of possible explanations for this apparent disinterest at a time when the conduct of accounting professionals was under close scrutiny. It is suggested that in late Victorian Britain, bribery, though a criminal act, was seldom perceived as immoral and was therefore located outside the moral boundaries of the accounting profession.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-198
JournalAccounting History Review
Issue number2
Early online date24 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2019


  • accountancy profession
  • morality
  • bribery
  • elections
  • David Chadwick

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