Pacioli’s double entry – part of an intellectual and social movement

Graeme Dean*, Frank Clarke, Francesco Capalbo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Our research contains unashamedly speculations about Pacioli, and his Renaissance heroes. It seeks to codify prior research which has speculated on many aspects of Fra Luca Pacioli's (1445–c.1517) life. Regarding teaching, not surprisingly, most students are less than enthused by the experience of being taught double-entry bookkeeping (DEB) as a mechanical exercise. The focus on control in many research papers has misplaced emphasis on the origins of DEB, generally ignoring the socio-economic and intellectual contexts in which it was forged. This study speculates on DEB's intellectual foundations, namely perspective, proportionality, harmony, order and balance captured in the Venetian form of DEB. By emphasising DEB's recourse to these aspects, it is placed in Renaissance Italy's fifteenth- and sixteenth-century intellectual and social movement. Academics including Bryer have suggested that a broader notion of financial accountability is appropriate. We concur. Accountability is generally a missing dimension in DEB teaching and related research. A major complaint in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) levelled at the banks, and their shadow banking arms in particular, is that their group accounting failed ‘to tell it how it actually was’ – that is, it failed to truly account. Companies were unaccountable. The ‘morality’ of audited accounting with a lack of corporate accountability, namely its recourse to truth, balance, proportionality of the kind the Renaissance players sought, was certainly absent during the GFC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-24
Number of pages20
JournalAccounting History Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Double-entry bookkeeping
  • Italy
  • perspective
  • proportion
  • proportionality
  • quantification
  • Renaissance


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