In India Chanakya wrote a manuscript similar to a financial management book, during the period of the Mauryan Empire. His book "Arthashasthra" contains few detailed aspects of maintaining books of accounts for a Sovereign State. The modern profession of the chartered accountant originated in Scotland in the nineteenth century. Accountants often belonged to the same associations as solicitors, who often offered accounting services to their clients. Early modern accounting had similarities to today's forensic accounting. Accounting began to transition into an organized profession in the nineteenth century, with local professional bodies in England merging to form the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in 1880.
The history of accounting or accountancy is thousands of years old and can be traced to ancient civilizations. The early development of accounting dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, and is closely related to developments in writing, counting and money and early auditing systems by the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians. By the time of the Emperor Augustus, the Roman government had access to detailed financial information.
When medieval Europe moved towards a monetary economy in the 13th century, sedentary merchants depended on bookkeeping to oversee multiple simultaneous transactions financed by bank loans. One important breakthrough took place around that time: the introduction of double-entry bookkeeping, which is defined as any bookkeeping system in which there was a debit and credit entry for each transaction, or for which the majority of transactions were intended to be of this form. The historical origin of the use of the words "debit" and "credit" in accounting goes back to the days of single-entry bookkeeping, which had as its chief objective keeping track of amounts owed by customers (debtors) and amounts owed to creditors. Debit in Latin means "he owes" and credit in Latin means "he trusts".
The earliest extant evidence of full double-entry bookkeeping appears in the Farolfi ledger of 1299-1300. Giovanno Farolfi & Company, a firm of Florentine merchants headquartered in Nîmes, acted as moneylenders to the Archbishop of Arles, their most important customer. The oldest discovered record of a complete double-entry system is the Messari (Italian: Treasurer's) accounts of the city of Genoa in 1340. The Messari accounts contain debits and credits journalised in a bilateral form and carry forward balances from the preceding year, and therefore enjoy general recognition as a double-entry system.
Ragusan economist Benedetto Cotrugli's 1458 treatise Della mercatura e del mercante perfetto contained the earliest known manuscript of a double-entry bookkeeping system. His manuscript was first published in 1573.
Pacioli saw accounting as an ad-hoc ordering system devised by the merchant. Its regular use provides the merchant with continued information about his business, and allows him to evaluate how things are going and to act accordingly. Pacioli recommends the Venetian method of double-entry bookkeeping above all others. Three major books of account are at the direct basis of this system:
the memoriale (Italian: memorandum)
the giornale (Journal)
the quaderno (ledger)
The ledger classes as the central document and is accompanied by an alphabetical index.
Financial and management accounting
The development of joint-stock companies (especially from about 1600) built wider audiences for accounting information, as investors without firsthand knowledge of their operations relied on accounts to provide the requisite information. This development resulted in a split of accounting systems for internal (i.e. management accounting) and external (i.e. financial accounting) purposes, and subsequently also in accounting and disclosure regulations and a growing need for independent attestation of external accounts by auditors.
The modern profession of the chartered accountant originated in Scotland in the nineteenth century. During this time, accountants often belonged to the same associations as solicitors, and the latter solicitors sometimes offered accounting services to their clients. Early modern accounting had similarities to today's forensic accounting:
"Like forensic accountants today, accountants then incorporated the duties of expert financial witnesses into their general services rendered. An 1824 circular announcing the accounting practice of one James McClelland of Glasgow promises he will make “statements for laying before arbiters, courts or council.”
In July 1854 The Institute of Accountants in Glasgow petitioned Queen Victoria for a Royal Charter. The Petition, signed by 49 Glasgow accountants, argued that the profession of accountancy had long existed in Scotland as a distinct profession of great respectability, and that although the number of practitioners had been originally few, the number had been rapidly increasing. The petition also pointed out that accountancy required a varied group of skills; as well as mathematical skills for calculation, the accountant had to have an acquaintance with the general principles of the legal system as they were frequently employed by the courts to give evidence on financial matters. The Edinburgh Society of accountants adopted the name "Chartered Accountant" for members.
By the middle of the 19th century, Britain's Industrial Revolution was in full swing, and London was the financial centre of the world. With the growth of the limited liability company and large scale manufacturing and logistics, demand surged for more technically proficient accountants capable of handling the increasingly complex world of high speed global transactions, able to calculate figures like asset depreciation and inventory valuation and cognizant of the latest changes in legislation such as the new Company law, then being introduced. As companies proliferated, the demand for reliable accountancy shot up, and the profession rapidly became an integral part of the business and financial system.
To improve their status and combat criticism of low standards, local professional bodies in England amalgamated to form the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, established by royal charter in 1880. Initially with just under 600 members, the newly formed institute expanded rapidly; it soon drew up standards of conduct and examinations for admission and members were authorised to use the professional designations "FCA" (Fellow Chartered Accountant), for a firm partner and "ACA" (Associate Chartered Accountant) for a qualified member of an accountant's staff. In the United States the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants was established in 1887.